Teen With Semiautomatic Weapon Kills 17 People In Florida, Most Of Them High School Students

We Have No Argument With Anyone Who Says This Is A Mental Health Issue, But Say This Is A Mental Health And Not A Gun Control Issue, And We’ll Argue With You Until We’re Blue In The Face

Because it’s both.

19 year old Nikolas Cruz was clearly a troubled young man. Beyond the troubles and behavioral parameters of a typical misfit teen. He’d been expelled from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, where he returned Wednesday to carry out his attack, killing 17 people, injuring 15 more.

According to a teacher interviewed by the Miami Herald, while a student, Cruz had been banned from carrying a backpack onto campus. The Herald also has a video clip of a classroom under attack. It is not terribly graphic, but its horrifying enough that we are not going to show it to you here, but we will link to it. We think it’s important not to shy from the reality of the hell these kids went through, even those who didn’t get shot. But be warned.

The shooter’s age is significant: in Florida anyone over 18 who passes a background check can buy rifles, handguns, ammo, pretty much whatever they want, legally, without a parent’s permission. And local law enforcement says he walked into a gun store and did exactly that. AR-15 style rifles start at about $800; he might’ve paid $1,000-1,200 for an more versatile model.

The AR-15 he purchased is a version of the military grade M16, only it’s not fully automatic. (A common misconception is the “AR” stands for “Assault Rifle”. It doesn’t. It refers instead to the original manufacturer).


AR-15 semi-automatic


Unlike many similar shootings, the shooter did not turn the gun on himself, and he reportedly offered no resistance when he was approached by police. He’ll appear in local court this morning. And while Cruz’ online profile portrays a person obsessed with guns and killing and violence, it offers no specific mention of a motive. Police will now have plenty of time to talk to him about that.


Nikolas Cruz


The high school has no metal detectors, maybe because the town it’s in was named the safest community in the state of Florida with only 7 violent crimes reported for all of 2016.

The shooting was the 18th at a school this year, according to Michael Bloomberg’s gun control advocacy group Everytown for Gun Safety. Which means there’s been an average of one school shooting every 1 1/2 school days so far this year. Fortunately, most of them are not this deadly. One shooting was accidental. Unfortunately, they continue to happen at such a pace we don’t even hear about many of them anymore.

President Trump Tweeted:

And we ask, with all sincerity and not in an accusatory way at all: what’s your plan for that? Surely it’s something you’ve spent time thinking about since mass shootings are hardly isolated incidents anymore. After the Las Vegas shooting the President said he’d talk about gun laws “as time goes by.” Well, time has gone by…

And if Trump sincerely believes that this is a mental health issue, not a guns issue, then let’s do something about expanding access to mental health. Cutting back and capping Medicaid benefits is not a good start.

The President this morning indicated that is indeed how he’s going to spin it. And while what he Tweets isn’t wrong, he ignores that at least part of the problem is due to the fact that the country is awash in guns:

Former F.B.I. agent, now CNN commentator  Philip Mudd broke down on the air, in a moment that’s sure to be seen as politicization by those who want to see it that way. While his reaction seems pretty genuine to us, if it’s not, so what? Everything’s politicized these days.

You can watch the clip here, as captured by Buzzfeed’s Sal Hernandez:

This pretty accurately reflects about where we are on this too. Except we’ve got to do something. Does that mean big protests in the streets? We’re in! Let’s hope people aren’t too fatigued or too divided to demand protection for our kids.



So What Are The Chances Of Passing A New Assault Weapons Ban In Congress?

About zero. Even though there is precedent for it: there was a ban in place for 10 years, from 1994 to 2004. And AR-15 style rifles were included in that ban. So it’s already passed the test of constitutionality. And for the record, we don’t support taking everyone’s guns away, we just support common sense. 


President Clinton signs Assault Weapons Ban in 1994


The original ban was spearheaded by Senator Dianne Feinstein of California, who’s still in Congress. Even though Democrats controlled both the House and Senate back then, they had to make the ban temporary in order to get the bill passed. It lapsed during George W. Bush’s Presidency, with little interest in renewing it.

After the Las Vegas shooting last year Feinstein reintroduced it: nothing. Even a measure Republicans said they supported to ban devices used by the Las Vegas shooter that effectively turned semi-automatic weapons fully automatic faded and went nowhere. Fully automatic weapons are illegal for civilian use. (Anyway, it seems the Florida shooter did not borrow a page from the Las Vegas shooters playbook: we listened to audio of the shooting and even though the gunfire was rapid, it did not sound continuous.)

The 1994 law was ridiculed as ineffective on the basis that only about 2% of violent crimes were committed with assault rifles, and it’s an argument that’s still used today as evidence Liberals don’t know anything about guns. It is true: AR-15 style assault weapons are used in a very small percentage of crimes overall, so we have to ask ourselves, is our immediate goal to broadly address gun violence? Or is our priority to expressly end mass shootings like the one we just saw?

Because while AR-15 style assault weapons may be used in a very small percentage of crimes overall, as this screenshot from CNN shows, they have been used in about 100% of all recent mass shootings.


And there’s another reason: arms manufacturers in the U.S. are highly protected by the government, and assault weapons are among their biggest sellers at the moment, far outpacing “traditional” bolt action rifles. There’s a slightly dated but great article in Slate about how damn popular AR-15s are and why, even though they’re not particularly good for home defense, for robberies, or for hunting.



A Friend Of Ours (Actually A Relative) Who Went To The Same High School Not Too Long Ago, Writes:

“My high school that I loved becomes number eighteen. The eighteenth school shooting this year. The sadness and grief I feel today has been unbearable. My heart breaks for my alma mater and the city that I grew up in and called home for so many years. Parkland was voted one of the safest cities to live. How does one even comprehend what that means when dealing with such tragedy? There aren’t enough words to describe the emotions I feel right now. Numbness, sadness, and anger. Anger that in this day and age, mass shootings occur at the one place that children and teenagers should feel safest. It feels so surreal to think what if this had happened during my high school years how would I have reacted? What would I have done for myself and others? How does one if lucky enough to survive move forward from experiencing something like this? I have so many questions and very few answers. I hope and pray that our country finally takes steps in the right direction to prevent this from happening again. My heart goes out to everyone that was impacted by today’s events and the seventeen families that will never get to see their loved ones again.”



Just A Quick Update On How The immigration Debate Is Going In The Senate

After the introduction of a new bipartisan plan honchoed by Senator Angus King (I) Maine and Mike Rounds (R) SD, giving Trump more of what he wants than the previous bipartisan proposals did. This from David Nakamura of the Washington Post:


So much for Trump’s “bill of love”