On Wednesday, February 14, America was shocked by the all too familiar news that seventeen students were killed in a mass school shooting. Nikolas Cruz, nineteen years old, had gunned down these members of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School (Parkland, Florida) community with an AR-15 rifle.
According to a statistical report by CNN, the shooting is the 9th most fatal shooting since 1949.
President Donald Trump responded to the issue on February 15, one day after the attack. In his speech, Trump said, “It is not enough to simply take actions that make us feel we are making a difference, we must actually make that difference.”
The President also quoted the Bible, saying: “In these moments of heartache and darkness, we hold onto God's word in Scripture: “I have heard your prayer and seen your tears. I will heal you” (2 Kings 20:5).
The shooting has sparked intense debate and controversy concerning gun control, FBI monitoring, and mental health.
The cry for gun control in the wake of the shooting has been lead by friends and families of the victims. Many other frustrated Americans join in the call for more limitations on firearms, including families and friends of victims of past shootings (such as the Sandy Hook shooting of 2012). Other Americans, generally of a conservative political bent, are distancing the event from the ability to own firearms.
One survivor of the event, Sophie Whitney, said, “Why is your right to own an AR-15 more important than a kid's right to feel safe?”
This question exemplifies the heart of the issue. The arguments heard by both sides of the gun control controversy have now erupted into swelling mantras in the ears of the American public. Many Americans point to the Second Amendment right in the Constitution to bear arms.
In a response to the shooting, Florida Senator Marco Rubio (who has been supported by the NRA in the past) said, “The cause of [the shooting] is individuals who happen to abuse that liberty and that constitutional right for the purposes of conducting these atrocities.”
The argument for many other Republicans have been the same –– preventing people from getting guns will not help because those who wish to do so will illegally purchase guns anyways.
Other Americans disagree. Their argument for the past decade has also remained largely the same. In 2012, a panoply of Americans cried out for gun control after twenty elementary school children were shot. The same was the case after Virginia, Aurora, Columbine, etc….
Now, in 2018, the mantra for many Americans is still the same: gun control laws are necessary to prevent gun violence in America. Much criticism has arisen concerning the National Rifle Association (NRA) and its defense of gun ownership, as well as those who accept support from the institution.
Many Americans have also voiced frustration with President Trump’s remarks in the wake of the event, noting his lack of attention to the issue of gun control.
In response to Trump’s comments, a survivor and student of Stoneman Douglas, Emma Gonzalez, said that Cruz “wouldn’t have harmed that many students with a knife.”
Others are trying to find a bridge between the demand for gun control and the desire for the right to bear arms.
In a New York Times opinions article, David Brooks said, “There has to be trust and respect first. Then we can strike a compromise on guns as guns, and not some sacred cross in the culture war.”
The term “gun control” has thus been less common in current discussion, substituted for terms like “gun responsibility” or “gun safety.” Former President Barack Obama, in a tweet, identified these laws as “common-sense gun safety laws.”
The controversy over the Parkland shooting doesn’t end with the gun control debate, however. The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) has been slammed in the wake of the event for negligence, as Cruz had apparently displayed obvious clues as to his intentions.
The most well-known signifier that Cruz was a threat was a YouTube comment posted in 2017 on a bail bonds video which read, “I’m going to be a professional school shooter.” The FBI was notified of the comment shortly thereafter.
Furthermore, on Friday FBI Director Christopher Wray publicly announced that on January 5, the FBI was notified by someone close to Cruz that he was dangerous and had the potential to carry out a school shooting. The caller also included what type of gun Cruz had, and that he had expressed a desire to kill.
According to NPR, “Under FBI protocols, that information should have been assessed as a potential threat to life and forwarded to its Miami field office for further investigation.”
However it is now clear this did not occur. Rather, the FBI neglected to investigate Cruz at all, allowing the shooting to occur with no prior legal actions.
Florida’s Governor, Rick Scott, has, in reaction to this negligence, called for the resignation of FBI Director Christopher Wray.
In a statement given Friday, February 16, Scott said “We constantly promote 'see something, say something,' and a courageous person did just that to the FBI. And the FBI failed to act. 'See something, say something' is an incredibly important tool and people must have confidence in the follow through from law enforcement.”
It is unclear what will come of the FBI investigation, nor is it clear whether or not President Trump will heed the call for gun control. Students of Stoneman Douglas protested in Washington, D.C., over the weekend, and continue to lead the charge for increased safety and protection for America’s students.