By Kaitlin Principato
On Wednesday, February 14, 19 year old Nikolas Cruz stepped out of an Uber in front of Douglas High School with a duffle bag full of ammunition and a rifle. According to Sun Sentinel, one teacher who first noticed Cruz on campus, a former troubled student, radioed her colleague to alert the staff but it was too late. Once shooting began, 17 individuals were killed instantly, with over 100 shots fired.
Once Cruz had finished his shooting spree in several classrooms, he dropped his weapon and ammunition and escaped by blending in with devastated and traumatized students. Shortly after, Cruz was caught by local police in a McDonalds. Cruz is currently being charged with 17 counts of premeditated murder with no bail set and the possibility of facing the death penalty, reports Sun Sentinel.
On the political side of this atrocity, President Trump, along with the Republican Party, is being highly criticized for focusing on mental health over gun control. Trump tweeted that there were “So many signs that the Florida shooter was mentally disturbed, even expelled from school for bad and erratic behavior,” The New York Times reports.
As a result of this massacre, a mental health crisis has been called both an explanation and solution for the shooting. American citizens have been called upon to report mentally disturbed individuals to authorities to ensure the overall safety of others. This has been the deadliest school shooting since Sandy Hook in 2012, according to The New York Times.
Critics have also claimed that Trump’s removal of Obama’s regulation to prevent people with mental illness from buying guns created a gap for an incident like this to occur. Moreover, the FBI has been lambasted for failing to properly investigate threats made through YouTube comments under a user with the same name as Cruz. The New York Times also added that the National Rifle Association (NRA) donated $30 million to Trump’s campaign, causing conflict when attempting to form gun control legislation.
In an address directed towards America’s children, Trump declared, “I want you to know that you are never alone and you never will be. You have people who care about you, who love you and who will do anything at all to protect you. If you need help, turn to a teacher, a family member, a local police officer or a faith leader. Answer hate with love, answer cruelty with kindness.”
Survivors and fellow students have expressed their concerns and fear in wake of the shooting. “We’ve sat around too long being inactive in our political climate, and as a result, children have died,” survivor David Hogg said. “If our elected officials are not willing to stand up and say, ‘I’m not going to continue to take money from the NRA because children are dying,’ they shouldn’t be in office and they won’t be in office because this is a midterm year and this is the change that we need,” reports CNN.
On March 24, a March For Our Lives is taking place in Washington D.C. Participants are declaring action be taken to prevent future innocent deaths. The March for Our Lives website states, “Every kid in this country now goes to school wondering if this day might be their last. We live in fear. It doesn’t have to be this way. Change is coming. And it starts now, inspired by and led by the kids who are our hope for the future. Their young voices will be heard.”