The Valentine’s Day Massacre at Stoneman Douglas High School

Joe Raedel - Getty Images, Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School

Valentine’s Day, 2018

The headlines read:

“PARKLAND, Fla. — A former student went on a shooting rampage at a Florida high school Wednesday, leaving 17 dead while panicked students barricaded themselves inside classrooms and frantic parents raced to the scene. ” – USA Today

We ask ourselves how we could have prevented the mass murder that was committed by a Nikolas Cruz, the accused killer in the Parkland school massacre where 17 of the students and staff of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School were shot down in cold blood and 15 were injured.  It’s the 30th mass shooting in 2018 so far.  It’s the 1,607th mass shooting since December 2012 when a gunman walked into Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, and killed 20 children, six adults, and himself.  The means 1,846 people were killed and 6,459 wounded because we have been paralyzed by the fear of thinking that we could be responsible for these mass murders.

But the truth is – we could have prevented these murders -each step of the way.  The problem is no one wants to think the worst of people, and on the other hand, no one wants to take responsibility.

Here are the facts reported in the media. If all of this is true, we can start to see all of the missed opportunities we had to prevent this from happening.  Each of these links are worth a read.

Personal Life of Nikolas Cruz

  • His father died of a heart attack ten years ago. His mother died of complications from the flu last year. Both he and his brother were sent to live with relatives, but Nikolas soon moved in with a friend and his family.
  • After the father passed away, the boys began a reign of terror on the neighborhood that lasted years. Nikolas Cruz, the older brother, was especially moody, prone to an explosive temper and seem[s] to delight in torturing animals and provoking everyone else on the block. He killed squirrels with a pellet gun. He stole neighbors’ mail. He tried to get his dog to attack and bloody the pet piglets being raised in the house across the street. He picked fights with other kids constantly, biting one kid’s ear. He threw rocks and coconuts, vandalized property. He lurked at late hours along drainage ditches that run alongside the backyards of every house on this block. One neighbor caught him peeking into her bedroom
  • Residents said they called police constantly. Every other week, it seemed, police cruisers would pull up to the house to sort out the latest complaint.

It appears that each incident was treated in isolation.  Could something more be done if someone had taken a look at all of these reports and connected the dots of a very troubled young man? Or were people just too busy hoping that this would all go away?

School Life

  • “He was a smaller kid and (there’s) some indication there might have been some bullying going on, but again, he’d been away from the school for over a year and had never shared with them any contempt for the school or anybody here — no anger, just a lot of depression and stuff going on around the loss of his mother,” the lawyer said.
  • In 2016, the JRTOC at the same high school in which he killed so many people, Cruz was recognized for outstanding conduct throughout the school.
  • Cruz as a shy student and remembered seeing him walking around with his lunch bag.

“He was that weird kid that you see … like a loner,” he added.

  • At one point, the former student had been listed by school administrators as a potential threat — particularly if he was carrying a backpack on campus.
  • Cruz had been expelled and did not graduate from the school, according to police. He had previously attracted so much concern that school administrators banned him from campus, said Jim Gard, a math teacher at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland.
  • “He told me how he got kicked out of two private schools. He was held back twice. He had aspirations to join the military. He enjoyed hunting,” the high school senior said.

The administration knew that he was a threat to the safety of this students and staff.  He was expelled because of it.  The easiest way to get rid of a problem student is to expel him.  Let it become someone else’s problem.  Teachers push problem student onto the administration.  The administration pushes the student back to the teachers until the teachers push back harder.  Then the administration expels the student.

Social Media

  • “In September 2017, the FBI received information about a comment made on a YouTube channel. The comment said, ‘I’m going to be a professional school shooter,’” he said.
  • Cruz’s disturbing behavior also included several threatening comments under videos on YouTube and other sites. They include:
    • “I whana shoot people with my AR-15
    • “I wanna die Fighting killing s**t ton of people
    • “I am going to kill law enforcement one day they go after the good people.”

How many people had access to his social media accounts and saw his posts? It was reported that someone alerted the FBI, but that was all. And what about Facebook and Instagram?  What is their role in this? At what point does someone say, “this is not acceptable?”  At what point does someone reach out to this young man and offer help?

Social Life

  • Jereb said that Cruz was associated with ROF, having been “brought up” by another member.  Jereb also claimed that Cruz had participated in one or more ROF training exercises in the Tallahassee area, carpooling with other ROF members from south Florida. UPDATE: On Thursday afternoon, following news reports of the alleged association between Cruz and the Republic of Florida, a member of an alt right discussion forum wrote that all of the claims were false and were part of an elaborate attempt to troll a network news reporter and other media outlets. At a press conference Thursday afternoon, the Broward County sheriff said a connection was “not confirmed at this time,” but that law enforcement was still investigating.

Whether this turns out to be true or not – we have to ask ourselves how many others are going to find a home with groups like this one?

His choice of weaponry

  • After his expulsion last year for fighting, Cruz returned to the high school with a vengeance, outfitted with a gas mask, smoke grenades and multiple magazines of ammunition and a semiautomatic weapon. He arrived at the school via the Uber transportation service, which he arranged through his smartphone, police said in charging papers.
  • Authorities confirmed that Cruz bought the AR-15 himself, and it is the only gun that has been recovered as part of the investigation, said Peter J. Forcelli, special agent in charge of the Miami field division of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives.

“He purchased the firearm legally,” Forcelli said in an interview Thursday morning. “No laws were broken in his acquisition of the firearm.”

He was 19. How does someone acquire so much artillery at his young age? And where did he keep it stored? How could he afford it?  And what background check was able to overlook the problems in his life and say he is ok to purchase these weapons?

The AR15

  • The NRA said, “the AR-15 has soared in popularity” because it’s “customizable, adaptable, reliable and accurate.” It is also versatile and can be used for “sport shooting, hunting and self-defense situations,” the NRA said, adding the ability to “personalize” so many of the rifle’s components “is one of the things that makes it so unique.”

Here is a list of mass shootings in the U.S. that featured AR-15-style rifles during the last 35 years, courtesy of the Stanford Geospatial Center and Stanford Libraries and USA TODAY research:

Feb. 24, 1984: Tyrone Mitchell, 28, used an AR-15, a Stoeger 12-gauge shotgun and a Winchester 12-gauge shotgun to kill two and wound 12 at 49th Street Elementary School in Los Angeles before killing himself.

Oct. 7, 2007: Tyler Peterson, 20, used an AR-15 to kill six and injure one at an apartment in Crandon, Wis., before killing himself.

June 20, 2012: James Eagan Holmes, 24, used an AR-15-style .223-caliber Smith and Wesson rifle with a 100-round magazine, a 12-gauge Remington shotgun and two .40-caliber Glock semi-automatic pistols to kill 12 and injure 58 at a movie theater in Aurora, Colo.

Dec. 14, 2012: Adam Lanza, 20, used an AR-15-style rifle, a .223-caliber Bushmaster, to kill 27 people — his mother, 20 students and six teachers — in Newtown, Conn., before killing himself.

June 7, 2013: John Zawahri, 23, used an AR-15-style .223-caliber rifle and a .44-caliber Remington revolver to kill five and injure three at a home in Santa Monica, Calif., before he was killed.

March 19, 2015: Justin Fowler, 24, used an AR-15 to kill one and injure two on a street in Little Water, N.M., before he was killed.

May 31, 2015: Jeffrey Scott Pitts, 36, used an AR-15 and .45-caliber handgun to kill two and injure two at a store in Conyers, Ga., before he was killed.

Oct. 31, 2015: Noah Jacob Harpham, 33, used an AR-15, a .357-caliber revolver and a 9mm semi-automatic pistol to kill three on a street in Colorado Springs, Colo., before he was killed.

Dec. 2, 2015: Syed Rizwyan Farook and Tashfeen Malik, 28 and 27, used two AR-15-style, .223-caliber Remington rifles and two 9 mm handguns to kill 14 and injure 21 at his workplace in San Bernardino, Calif., before they were killed.

June 12, 2016: Omar Mateen, 29, used an AR-15 style rifle (a Sig Sauer MCX), and a 9mm Glock semi-automatic pistol to kill 49 people and injure 50 at an Orlando nightclub before he was killed.

Oct. 1, 2017: Stephen Paddock, 64, used a stockpile of guns including an AR-15 to kill 58 people and injure hundreds at a music festival in Las Vegas before he killed himself.

Nov. 5, 2017: Devin Kelley, 26, used an AR-15 style Ruger rifle to kill 26 people at a church in Sutherland Springs, Texas, before he was killed.

Feb. 14, 2018: Police say Nikolas Cruz, 19, used an AR-15-style rifle to kill at least 17 people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla.

Related: Assault Weapons Not Protected by Second Amendment, Federal Appeals Court Rules

Gun Legislation

“When gun policy gets passed, it’s usually about loosening gun restrictions, not tightening them…Around the country, 1,500 state gun bills were proposed, 109 became law, and 70 of those new laws loosened existing gun legislation.” – WP

“242 members of the House had an “A rating” from the National Rifle Association in December 2012. 46 senators did.” – WP

One step forward

The Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act (Pub.L. 103–159, 107 Stat. 1536, enacted November 30, 1993), often referred to as the Brady Act or the Brady Bill,[1][2] is an Act of the United States Congress that mandated federal background checks on firearm purchasers in the United States, and imposed a five-day waiting period on purchases, until the NICS system was implemented in 1998.

The Brady Law

On November 30, 1993, the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act was enacted, amending the Gun Control Act of 1968. The Brady Law imposed as an interim measure a waiting period of 5 days before a licensed importer, manufacturer, or dealer may sell, deliver, or transfer a handgun to an unlicensed individual. The waiting period applies only in states without an acceptable alternate system of conducting background checks on handgun purchasers. The interim provisions of the Brady Law became effective on February 28, 1994, and ceased to apply on November 30, 1998. While the interim provisions of the Brady Law apply only to handguns, the permanent provisions of the Brady Law apply to all firearms.

The Federal Assault Weapons Ban (AWB)—officially, the Public Safety and Recreational Firearms Use Protection Act—is a subsection of the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994, a United States federal law that included a prohibition on the manufacture for civilian use of certain semi-automatic firearms it defined as assault weapons, as well as certain ammunition magazines it defined as “large capacity“.

The ten-year ban was passed by the U.S. Congress on September 13, 1994, following a close 52–48 vote in the Senate, and signed into law by then President Bill Clinton the same day. The ban only applied to weapons manufactured after the date of the ban’s enactment, and it expired on September 13, 2004, in accordance with its sunset provision.

Several constitutional challenges were filed against provisions of the ban, but all were rejected by reviewing courts. There were multiple attempts to renew the ban, but none succeeded. – Wikipedia

Two steps back

Trump Signs Bill Revoking Obama-Era Gun Checks for People with Mental Illnesses”

“President Barack Obama recommended the now-nullified regulation in a 2013 memo following the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School, which left 20 first graders and six others dead. The measure sought to block some people with severe mental health problems from buying guns.

The original rule was hotly contested by gun-rights advocates who said it infringed on Americans’ Second Amendment rights. Gun control advocates, however, praised the rule for curbing the availability of firearms to those who may not use them with the right intentions.”

Gun lobbyist helped write ATF official’s proposal to deregulate

“Although the finalized white paper was leaked last year to the Washington Post, it was not known that Barnes — a lawyer who has lobbied for the National Rifle Association, a gun show trade group, and gun manufacturers — had helped draft it in the first place.”

Justice Scalia and the 2nd Amendment

DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA v. HELLER (No. 07-290). Supreme Court Justice Scalia delivered the opinion of the Court:

“Like most rights, the right secured by the Second Amendment is not unlimited. From Blackstone through the 19th-century cases, commentators and courts routinely explained that the right was not a right to keep and carry any weapon whatsoever in any manner whatsoever and for whatever purpose… nothing in our opinion should be taken to cast doubt on longstanding prohibitions on the possession of firearms by felons and the mentally ill, or laws forbidding the carrying of firearms in sensitive places such as schools and government buildings, or laws imposing conditions and qualifications on the commercial sale of arms.

We also recognize another important limitation on the right to keep and carry arms. Miller said, as we have explained, that the sorts of weapons protected were those “in common use at the time.”… We think that limitation is fairly supported by the historical tradition of prohibiting the carrying of “dangerous and unusual weapons.”

What the UK and Australia did differently after mass shootings

“But the Conservative government went one step further and banned all handguns, with the exception of .22 caliber single-shot weapons, in England, Scotland and Wales. The Labour government that followed banned the .22 caliber guns as well…After both shootings the government called a gun amnesty, compensating owners for their weapons. After Dunblane, more than 162,000 handguns were surrendered.”  CNN

Ask yourself, if you were tasked to solve this problem, how would you do it?