“Politicians who sit in their gilded House and Senate seated funded by the NRA telling us nothing could have ever been done to prevent this, we call BS,” she said. “They say that tougher gun laws do not decrease gun violence. We call BS. They say a good guy with a gun stops a bad guy with a gun. We call BS. They say guns are just tools like knives and are as dangerous as cars. We call BS. No, they say that no laws could have been able to prevent the hundreds of senseless tragedies that have occurred. We call BS.”
That’s what Emma Gonzalez, one of the survivors of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting in Florida, had to say pertaining to the horrible tragedy.
On Valentine’s Day, February 14th, one of the largest US mass shootings took place as former Marjory student, Nikolas Cruz, opened-fired with an AR-15 semi-automatic rifle, the same weapon used in the Sandy Hook shooting, killing seventeen people. Some of the victims include Geography teacher, Scott Beigel, assistant football coach, Aaron Feis, seventeen-year-old Nicholas Dworet, fourteen-year old Martin Duque Anguiano, and thirteen others.
At 2:19PM, Cruz was dropped off at his old high school and entered the building through the east stairwell. At some point, a second fire alarm of that day was pulled forcing students to wonder confusedly out of classrooms. Cruz then open-fired into four classrooms on the first floor, used the west stairwell to enter the second floor where he killed one victim in classroom 1234, and left his backpack and weapon on the third floor prior to exiting through the stairs.
At 2:23PM, the first 911 call was made identifying Nikolas Cruz as the shooter. Eighty-or-so minutes later, Nikolas Cruz was spotted by a nearby residential area and arrested by Officer Michael Leonard.
The Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting is the eighteenth US school shooting of the first forty-five days of this year (CNBC). Since 2009, the US has seen 180 mass shootings, and since 2013, 291 school shootings (Everytown for Gun Safety). America makes up thirty-one percent of global mass shooters, has a gun homicide rate that is 25.2 times higher than other high-income countries, and has more guns per capita than anywhere else. Sixty-six percent of US citizens own more than one gun, Americans are fifty-one times more likely to be killed by a gun compared to the UK, and Americans own around forty-eight percent of civilian guns in the world. In October, fifty-eight people were killed at the Harvest Music Festival in Las Vegas; in 2016 forty-nine died at Pulse Night Club in Orlando; twenty-six students and staff died at Sandy Hook Elementary School in 2007; and now seventeen fatalities have occurred at the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting.
So, how? How is it that mass shootings have allowed horrible occurrences such as these to happen over and over again for decades? How is it that politicians can make comments saying things like “it isn’t a gun situation”, or “you’re going to have difficulties”, or “mass shootings are a fact of life”? What is fueling the fire that persistently allows gun-related violence to happen?
Maybe it stems from the National Rifle Association, or the NRA. The NRA is a civil rights organization that, with 5 million members growing since 1871, stands to protect the Second Amendment, or the right to keep and bear arms. But something swept under the rug too often is the amount of funds the NRA contributes to politicians. According to CNN, in 2016 alone, the NRA placed $50.2 million into Trump campaigns and Republican Senate campaigns only losing in Nevada. The NRA’s investment into these advertisements for the campaigns were the ones responsible for targeting the voters that ultimately prompted Trump to win. Some of these ads were direct targets towards Clinton voters at the time with themes such as burglary and how Clinton supporters would be not be protected with guns, due to her Democratic viewpoints of the NRA. More shockingly, $30.3 million on part of the NRA was spent on the Trump campaign. Moreover, “the NRA helped elect Senators Marco Rubio in Florida; Roy Blunt in Missouri; Todd Young in Indiana; and Rob Portman in Ohio”. In 2014, $20.6 million was spent to win back the Republican Senate in five races, each having favorable candidates of the NRA win. This most previous elections hosted the most amount of money spent by the NRA totaling around $52 million, the previous record being $31.7 million in 2014. The Supreme Court’s decision to end caps on individual expenditures in 2010 is what allows the NRA to pool unlimited amounts of money into these Republican campaigns.
To make matters worse, little has been done to address gun violence in recent political times. For one, Trump nixed a regulation under the Obama administration that was geared towards making it more difficult for those with clear mental illnesses to obtain guns. Trump has stated little about gun violence since February 14th and has instead mentioned in a tweet that the FBI “missed all of the many signals sent out by the Florida school shooter” because “they are spending too much time trying to prove Russian collusion with the Trump campaign”. The only thing we really know thus far is White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders shared that “While discussions are ongoing, and revisions are being considered, the president is supportive of efforts to improve the federal background check system”.
To be clear, there are some facts we know about Cruz so far that hint to possible mental illness. Cruz was a former Marjory student but was expelled for fighting and never graduated. Classmates and teachers had described him as aggressive and odd and, Cruz was even known for making gun-related jokes. Cruz was living with the family of a friend after his mother passed away this past November. In the past, Cruz has posted worrisome content on social media, such as an Instagram post in which he posed with a gun by his face. Cruz was also receiving mental health treatment from a clinic but hadn’t gone for over a year. The teen had a fascination with guns. According to US Today, he even moved the weapon used in the shooting into the friend’s home he was staying at, and he held possession of the key to its case.
Unless you live in a list of thirteen states, you don’t need a license or permit to obtain a gun. There is no probationary period after you obtain a gun. Your name is scanned through the FBI’s National Instant Criminal Background Check System, but you don’t need a background check in most states. There is no federal law that limits how many guns you are allowed to own. There is no waiting period for a gun purchase. You don’t need a reference for a gun. As CNN puts it, it can be harder to obtain a puppy, driver’s license, a passport, a divorce, or cold medicine than it is a gun. Nikolas Cruz legally was able to purchase his gun at Sunrise Tactical Supply in Coral Springs, Florida as he cleared the background check, and that was all.
“…we are up here standing together because if all our government and President can do is send thoughts and prayers, then it’s time for victims to be the change that we need to see…The guns have changed but our laws have not” said Marjory student Emma Gonzalez at a gun control rally in Fort Lauderdale, Florida this past Saturday.
It’s time for a change. It’s not time to sit and wait for another instance to occur and add to the statistic of mass shootings in the US. It’s time that gun laws are reevaluated. It’s not time for sitting and waiting. It’s time this subject becomes not just a conversation, but action.