I’ve struggled this morning to write about the massacre at a high school in Parkland, Florida, which is, incidentally, about a 45-minute drive from where I grew up. It’s horrifying – and we should be horrified that an apparently disturbed and gun-loving 19-year-old was able to a) obtain an assault rifle and b) bring that assault rifle onto campus and kill 17 people. But in a sense, what I can say about this one that I didn’t say after Las Vegas, or after Pulse, or after Sandy Hook? The politicians who are in the pocket of the NRA are already tweeting out their “thoughts and prayers” and imploring us not to “politicize this tragedy,” while feckless Democrats demand a vote on an assault-weapons ban that they know isn’t coming anytime soon. (Hell, we couldn’t even ban bump stocks after the Vegas killing.)
So we’re going to do this dance again, and eventually, the outrage of the moment will dissipate and we’ll all go back to being outraged by whatever President Trump’s next outrageous act is. Nothing will change. And so my anger and horror is equaled by my own frustration and sense of helplessness. This famous Onion headline, which the satirical site runs after every one of these mass shootings, sums it up nicely:
THE SHOOTING: I would imagine that most of you reading this are familiar with the general contours of the story, so I won’t dwell on those. This New York Times story describes it pretty well:
- “A heavily armed young man barged into his former high school about an hour northwest of Miami on Wednesday, opening fire on terrified students and teachers and leaving a death toll of 17 that could rise even higher, the authorities said. Students huddled in horror in their classrooms, with some of them training their cellphones on the carnage, capturing sprawled bodies, screams and gunfire that began with a few shots and then continued with more and more. The dead included students and adults, some of whom were shot outside the school and others inside the sprawling three-story building. The gunman, armed with a semiautomatic AR-15 rifle, was identified as Nikolas Cruz, a 19-year-old who had been expelled from the school, the authorities said. He began his shooting rampage outside Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in this suburban neighborhood shortly before dismissal time around 2:40 p.m. He then made his way inside and proceeded down hallways he knew well, firing at students and teachers who were scurrying for cover, the authorities said.”
- “By the end of the rampage, Mr. Cruz had killed 12 people inside the school and three outside it, including someone standing on a street corner, Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel said. Two more victims died of their injuries in local hospitals. The aftermath at the school was an eerie shrine, with chairs upended, a computer screen shattered with bullet holes and floors stained with blood.”
- If you have the stomach for it, you can see some of the student-filmed footage at this link.
- Here is the Miami Herald’s backgrounder on the school itself.
- Here is the MS Douglas football program announcing the death of an assistant coach, a security guard who shielded students from the gunfire when he was shot [Twitter].
THE SHOOTER: Here is what we know of Nikolas Cruz, the alleged shooter, per the Associated Press [via the Tampa Bay Times]:
- “The suspect in a deadly rampage at a Florida high school is a troubled teenager who posted disturbing material on social media before the shooting rampage that killed at least 17 people, according to a law enforcement official and former schoolmates. Broward Sheriff Scott Israel said the 19-year-old suspect, Nikolas Cruz, had been expelled from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School for ‘disciplinary reasons.’ However, Victoria Olvera, a 17-year-old junior, said Cruz was expelled last school year after a fight with his ex-girlfriend’s new boyfriend. She said Cruz had been abusive to his girlfriend.”
- “Dakota Mutchler, a 17-year-old junior, said Cruz was well-known to other students. ‘I think everyone had in their minds if anybody was going to do it, it was going to be him,’ Mutchler said. ‘He got suspended a lot of times. He sold knives in his lunchbox. He was expelled. But no one expected him to come back.’ … Mutchler recalled Cruz posting on Instagram about killing animals and said he had talked about doing target practice in his back yard with a pellet gun. ‘He started going after one of my friends, threatening her, and I cut him off from there,’ Mutchler said.”
- According to Buzzfeed, the FBI was warned of a school-shooting threat from a YouTube user named Nikolas Cruz, in which Cruz said in a comment, “I’m going to be a professional school shooter.” “Classmates, relatives, and neighbors have described Cruz as a troubled ‘loner’ who often talked about guns and flaunted his obsession with weapons on his social media accounts. … Though his name matches the YouTube user flagged in September, FBI officials would not say whether they have confirmed that the account belonged to Cruz.”
- Abusive? Check. Loner? Check. Gun-lover? Check. Easy access to an assault rifle? Check. It’s not like we haven’t seen this movie before.
THE POLITICS: If there’s one phrase I hate more than any other, it’s that we shouldn’t “politicize a tragedy,” or that “it’s too soon to talk about gun control.” Right now the whole country – the whole world – is focused on this dreadful scene. Seventeen dead. At least a dozen more wounded, some with life-threatening injuries. An entire school, and an entire community, dealing with the aftermath. There’s nothing special about Parkland, in the sense that there’s no reason something like this couldn’t happen anywhere. And if you want to effect change, if you want to at least try to make this school shooting the last school shooting, now is the time to act, to press your case, while everyone is thinking about it. There’s a reason the NRA and other gun groups want to perpetually put this conversation off. But there needs to come a reckoning, and it needs to come now. So yeah, you’re goddamn right I’m going to politicize this tragedy. I desperately hope that you will, too. That’s the only way we can hope to stop it from happening again and again and again and again.
- Some stats you should bear in mind: Since Sandy Hook in 2012, we’ve let 1,607 mass shooting occur in the U.S.. More than 430 people have been shot in 273 school shootings since then. There have been 18 school shootings in the first 45 days of 2018, and 30 mass shootings in the U.S. so far this year. It’s fair to say we have a problem.
- Another stat: Eight in 10 Americans favor an assault-weapons ban, and the same percentage believe there should be a federal database to track gun sales. Which is to say, the hard-core GOP opposition to any and all gun reforms is in service of the 20 percent of the country that can fairly be described as, well, nuts.
- When news of the shooting broke, politicians rushed to their Twitter feeds or the nearest camera to proclaim their deep sadness. Here is Donald Trump’s tweet, so far his only comment on the matter. The White House canceled its press briefing yesterday, cowering instead of facing this terror head-on.
- Here’s Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell:
- Here’s Florida Senator Marco Rubio:
- Here's Republican Florida congressman Matt Gaetz. Interestingly, he appears to have deleted the tweet screengrabbed below, and posted another with similar sentiments but lacking the inane "thought and prayers" phrase. Smart move, Gaetz, except we have the receipts.
- Meanwhile, Donald Trump accepted more NRA dough than any politician in history.
- But as these politicians pray, let’s remember which god they really serve: Here are the top four recipients of NRA blood money throughout their careers, from an NYT op-ed after the Las Vegas shooting.
- Our man Marco Rubio is sixth on that list, pulling in more than $3.3 million. And here is what Rubio has to say about gun reform after this shooting in his own backyard: “Florida Sen. Marco Rubio (R) on Wednesday cautioned that a law may not have prevented the tragic shooting at a South Florida high school, in response to calls for increased gun control. Rubio said that ‘people still don't know how’ the shooting occurred, or how the 19-year-old suspect Nikolas Cruz obtained the weapon he used to kill 17 people in the Broward County school. ‘I think it's important to know all of that before you jump to conclusions that there was some law that we could have passed that would have prevented it. And there may be, but shouldn't we at least know the facts?’ Rubio said on Fox News.” [via The Hill]
- Oh, and Pam Bondi, the Florida attorney general who so benevolently offered state resources to cover the funerals of the seventeen dead? She’s an NRA lackey, too: In 2013, less than a year after Sandy Hook, “Attorney General Pam Bondi joined 21 other states in backing the National Rifle Association’s bid to overturn a 45-year-old federal law prohibiting 18-to-20-year-olds from buying handguns and handgun ammunition from licensed firearms dealers.” [via HuffPo]
WHAT IT MEANS: There’s no neat way to put a bow on this story. If we couldn’t pass an assault-rifle ban after Sandy Hook or Pulse in Orlando, if we couldn’t even ban bump stocks after Las Vegas, then what the hell do you think is going to happen now. The NRA has bought and paid for an entire political party – one that happens to hold power right now – and, no matter the carnage, Republicans are all too willing to stay bought, to offer thoughts and prayers and admonitions that we should put off any talk of gun reform. You know, for the families. The only to stop this is to crush the NRA, which long ago forsook any attempt at rational gun policy and has in recent years become a de facto arm of the white nationalist movement. Really, the NRA is about boosting gun sales, and nothing else. It is an enemy of civilized society and must be defeated.
I’ll conclude with thoughts, posted on Facebook, from one of those students who were in the school as the shooting went down.