by Brian D
An admittedly belated word about the tragedy at the high school in Florida.
A week ago in Florida, over a dozen teenagers were murdered and it could have been completely prevented. This last Valentine's day in Parkland Florida, a troubled 19-year-old boy named Nikolas Cruz entered Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, where he had previously been expelled, armed with an AR-15 rifle and opened fire on both his peers and former teachers. He killed 17 people and wounded 14 more. This incident is nothing short of an atrocious act of murder, but it didn't have to happen. School shootings are preventable, not through better gun control laws, though that is a good response, but through a reform and rethinking of how these individuals are treated long before they set foot on a school campus. America doesn't need a reform of laws, it needs a reform of hearts bent towards the emotional and mental support of people like Nikolas Cruz.
We can start by shifting our focus. As per usual when these types of incidents occur a riot of voices has broken out, shouting about gun control reform, blaming the NRA, blaming Trump, or just about anyone else they can point the proverbial finger at except the shooter himself. Stricter gun control laws might be a great idea, but there were more than enough signs to show that Nikolas Cruz was dangerous to himself and others long before he ever purchased a gun. According to an article on The Washington Post, Cruz had been visited by authorities on more than one occasion due to erratic behavior and it was known that he had legally purchased the AR-15 rifle. The article states that the FBI had even been warned by a concerned caller just weeks before the horrendous event took place, but that no action was taken, which brings the FBI under some well-placed scrutiny. (Brown and Zapatosky) Before the rifle became an issue a clearly troubled mind already was, but that obviously unbalanced mind was ignored and brushed aside and the consequences were deadly.
The other side of the riotous clamor cries for the opposite: more guns! Arm the teachers, arm the resource officers, take down the inviting signs that state there are no guns to defend this sacred space! As with the other side, they may have a point. Nikolas Cruz has shown that even one armed person with little or no training can still be a deadly force. Perhaps a teacher armed with a sidearm and the training to use it could have gotten there in time to stop him. In the case of Florida however, it seems that not one, but four police officers armed and trained were not enough. An article recently released on the New York Post reveals that four deputies hid behind their cars with their weapons drawn while Cruz continued his rampage inside. (Brown) Naturally this has drawn no small amount of outrage, but it illuminates a disturbing truth. Arming individuals with the tools to defend the innocent does not mean that they will be willing or able to do so. Perhaps there are good reasons the police felt they could not overcome the four to one odds, though they are not yet forthcoming. Nevertheless, the cry for more guns does not seem to hold any more answers than the cry to take them away.
Ruth Brown of the New York Post says "In September 2016, a peer counselor told (Sheriff) Peterson that Cruz had tried to kill himself by drinking gasoline, was cutting himself, possessed hate symbols and expressed a desire to buy a gun 'for hunting.' This time, Peterson did make a report, but a mental-health worker determined Cruz didn't meet the state's criteria for involuntary commitment to a psychiatric facility, the records show." (Brown) Before Nikolas ever purchased a firearm, legally or otherwise, he was clearly a disturbed and hurting individual in dire need of help. It's unclear what "criteria" he did not meet, but whatever standards in Florida decide whether or not someone needs treatment clearly need to be redefined. No doubt every other state could benefit from the same treatment. Preventing Cruz from buying a gun might have saved lives, but getting him the help he desperately needed two years ago might have prevented his desire to kill in the first place.
Responsibility for this heinous act rests upon one person, there's no doubt about that, but the responsibility to help those who are so mentally and emotionally disturbed that they feel the need to hurt others cannot possibly rest on the shoulders of the individuals themselves. They are clearly not capable of helping themselves in any capacity. By all means, reform gun control laws. Reform laws concerning whether school campuses and other such places remain gun free. Reform policies, reform rules, reform regulations, but before any of that can be of any real use, reform the way we approach the mental and emotional support of those who are hurting around you. Reform with reckless abandon the dismissive mentality regarding individuals who attempt suicide or self-harm. Demolish to the core whatever constructs of criteria that led to this disturbed young man being dismissed offhand as not enough of a threat. Rebuild the compassionate gaze of each of our fellow men and women to light upon the broken and desperate people amongst us and arm them with the tools and resources needed not to prevent violence, but to promote healing. By God, do so before the next Florida.
Brown, Ruth. Four Sheriff's Deputies Hid During School Shooting. New York Post. February 23, 2018. nypost.com
Brown, Mark. Zapatosky, Matt. The FBI Said it Failed to Act on a Tip About the Suspected Florida Shooter's Potential for Violence. Washington Post. February 16 2018. Washingtonpost.com