Let me start off by saying that regardless of how you feel mass shootings should be handled in the future, it is fair to say that we are all deeply shattered by what happened in Parkland, Florida on Wednesday. As a parent and a brother to two younger siblings, I cannot begin to imagine the pain one endures upon losing a loved one under such horrid circumstances. I, like most of you, want us to all come together to ensure that we are better prepared for any remote possibility of this happening again.
In order for us to do that, we need to assess what is being suggested and determine whether or not these suggestions will affect the possibility of this happening in the future. Before we can decide how to proceed, we need to first look at what we know about the incident.
The gunman, 19-year-old Nikolas Cruz, purchased an AR-15 rifle legally in February of 2017. This wasn’t a straw purchase or one made through “the gun show loophole”, it was bought legally from an FFL dealer in Florida (Sunrise Tactical Supply). Even though Cruz had passed the background check, there were numerous red flags involving him in the past; on January 5, the FBI was notified of “the potential of him conducting a school shooting” but failed to act on it. If taken seriously, 17 people could still be alive today.
In September of 2017, a Youtube user from Mississipi reported a comment made by a user with the name “nikolas cruz” to the FBI. The comment read “I’m going to be a professional school shooter”. The FBI confirmed that they looked into it but were unable to trace the account to anyone. The FBI was unable to find the user of an account whose username was his actual name! Additional information to note is that Cruz was a loner who was “crazy about guns”. His Snapchat account also revealed him “cutting his arms”. Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel said that his office “received about 20 calls regarding the suspected school gunman over the past few years.”
The public defender went on record saying that “This kid exhibited every single known red flag, from killing animals to having a cache of weapons to disruptive behavior to saying he wanted to be a school shooter,”.
Based on what we know, if AR-15s were not available for purchase, would the outcome have been different? Perhaps. But regardless of what limits you place on the firearms that can be bought, you cannot take the hate out of someone’s heart. The truth is that there are people out there who are, like Cruz, mentally unstable, and there is an infinite number of ways one can get their hands on a firearm, or any other potentially deadly weapon if they wish to do so.
What about enforcing stricter background checks? Well, what if someone is like Cruz and isn’t clinically diagnosed and has no criminal record? What then? One possibility is to do what U.S. Senator Marco Rubio has suggested for Florida and that is to push for new laws that would allow family members or law enforcement to get a court order to retrieve firearms that are believed to be in the hands of someone who poses a threat to themselves and/or others – also known as “red flag laws”. Aside from comments made by Rubio I have not seen or heard any other suggestions from the gun control advocates on what should be done to prevent these atrocities in the future.
I believe that one of the more sensible suggestions that have been made is more armed guards on public school grounds – not School Resource Officers (SROs), but armed security guards whose sole purpose is to protect the students and faculty. Even though this isn’t considered to be a practical solution, the truth is none of them are – banning AR-15s I would argue is even more unrealistic. But its one of the few that I see as effective prevention that simultaneously is not infringing on the rights of law-abiding citizens.
This is a complex situation that can be addressed from a dozen different angles. We need to not “just do something”, but do something that will actually protect our children rather than force other would-be psychopaths like Nikolas Cruz towards other methods of carrying out their sick and twisted agenda. We need bring our attention to the absolute best means of preventing mass shootings. The first step? Stopping the shooter in their tracks before they have an opportunity of taking a child’s life.