On the seasonally warm, sunny afternoon of Thursday, February 15th 2018, the only ruckus that could be heard in the halls of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School was murmuring in class that caused interruptions. The students had their normal plans for after school: band practice, sports practice or studying. They were planning on having a normal day for a high schooler… until they didn’t.
It was 2PM. They were probably waiting for the clock to tick and set them free in a few short minutes. However, the kid who was about to come and end the lives of twenty of their classmates was on his way, in a Uber.
After driving past the scenic residential and commercial neighborhood of Parkland, Florida, the un-suspecting Uber driver dropped Nikolas Cruz off at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School at 2:19 PM. He departed from the car and walked towards a three-story building that housed mostly freshman, wearing a black jacket and duffel bag. Within two minutes, the shooting started.
According to Florida Today, at 3:40PM, he was found wandering the local suburbs after killing 17 of his ex-classmates. President Trump’s response was not surprising, but was both upsetting and disappointing. As usual, he glossed over any real action items that he could do to avoid this in the future, and painted the picture of the affected area as “safe and great”. By not putting any sense of urgency behind his words, he did the country a disservice. The only calls to action in his response were a less urgent plea to “tackle the issue of mental health” and “face cruelty with kindness”. This doesn’t sound like a response of a President that cares about the wellbeing of his citizens. It sounds like a band-aid slapped over an issue that keeps quite literally bleeding.
Not to mention, he victim-blamed the entire community, saying, “So many signs that the Florida shooter was mentally disturbed, even expelled from school for bad and erratic behavior. Neighbors and classmates knew he was a big problem. Must always report such instances to authorities, again and again!”, according to the New Yorker. There’s a lot to unpack here, but I’ll just focus on the most pressing issue I have with this response. There was no mention of gun control. The reasons he gave for why this happened, and what we should do to stop it, wouldn’t actually stop this from happening again in the future. In this instance, you can’t address mental health without addressing gun control. Why is he and his administration so quick to call for violent immigration reform after an act of terror in this country, but not quick to call for gun control after a mass shooting? If you ask me, he’s putting his effort in the wrong place. Gun control can stop mass shootings. Immigration reform isn’t the way to avoid a terrorist attack – it’s only a fear-mongering tactic.
There is a somewhat reassuring outcome to all of this. According to CNN, the students want their shooting to be the last. They want to be the tipping point. They’re making sure that their voices are being heard, by being vocal on social media as well as traditional media. Cameron Kasky, a Junior at the high school addressed public officials on CNN saying, “You’re either with us or against us.” On March 24, they’re going to host a march for the cause called the “March for our Lives”. The whole situation is of course very upsetting, but it’s good to see young, inspired people taking action.