Commentary

Commentary: Students Respond to Parkland Shooting: We Need Answers

“Are you alright? Are your friends alright? Family? Do you need a hug? Want me to buy you some chocolate?” On February 14, 2018, there was a mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., the school that I would have attended if I hadn’t come to Andover. When people found out the tragic shooting had happened in my hometown, they bombarded me with the repetitive, cliché questions that seem to appear in every sad movie scene. In their defense, I probably would have reacted the same way. But since I have been answering everyone’s redundant questions, I have compiled a list of my own questions. Although I am not an expert on gun laws or mental health, I did some research, and I am writing from the perspective of a member of the Parkland community

Why is it permitted for someone to purchase an AR-15 military-style, semi-automatic rifle before they can legally drink?

This is not an exaggeration. In most states, including Florida, anyone as young as 18 years old can legally purchase a rifle. The legal drinking age is 21. Unless you have been convicted of a felony, are an illegal drug addict, or have been committed to a mental institution, you can purchase an assault weapon before you can legally take a sip of beer. However, you must be 21 years of age to purchase a handgun. The same assault rifle used in Parkland (AR-15 military-style, semi-automatic) was used in five of the six deadliest mass shootings in the last six years in the United States, according to “The New York Times.” Why is it a better idea to leave a deadly rifle in the hands of an 18-year-old than it is to give them alcohol or a handgun? Such a lethal weapon should not be this easy to purchase.

How did the FBI miss the many warning signs that gunman Nikolas Cruz was dangerous, leading up to the shooting?

A CNN report stated, “following a breakup with a girlfriend, Cruz… announced plans to buy a gun, put racial slurs and hate symbols on his backpack.” Despite Cruz’s behavior, a 2016 Florida Department of Children and Families report concluded the “final level of risk is low.” YouTuber Ben Bennight reported Cruz to the FBI for posting a comment that read, “I’m going to be a professional school shooter.” Someone also anonymously called the FBI with information about “Cruz’s gun ownership, desire to kill people, erratic behavior and disturbing social media posts, as well as the potential of him conducting a school shooting.” Cruz had also been expelled from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School for disciplinary behavior. How did the FBI, and other authorities, neglect to address any of the tips and information they received?

How did Cruz, with his extensive disciplinary record and mental illnesses, pass the background check to purchase ten assault rifles?

Florida gun laws explicitly state that someone who has been “adjudicated mentahlly defective” or “committed to a mental institution” is not permitted to purchase. Cruz should not have been able to pass the background check with his mental disorders. According to NBC, Cruz was diagnosed with A.D.H.D. about 16 years ago. He was also struggling with depression and autism. Linda Cruz, Nikolas Cruz’s adoptive mother, told mental health investigators this in 2016. Someone with this background of mental instability should not have been able to purchase a rifle, much less ten.

How have there been 30 mass shooting incidents in the U.S. from January 1, 2018, to February 14, 2018?

Shocking, but sadly, true. Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School did indeed mark the 30th mass shooting in the U.S. this year, according to ABC15, which defines a mass shooting as four or more people being shot at the same time and place. Not only is the frequency of these shootings unbelievable, but shootings with few deaths and injuries were not even reported on the news. In actuality, these shootings were no less important than the one in Florida. They were merely neglected because fewer or no people were killed and because these massacres have become so common that people have stopped caring about them. These shootings need to be stopped, not dismissed

Why did it take 17 deaths and many more injuries for Trump to consider improving background checks?

President Trump has been known for believing the unbelievable… and the untrue. He was convinced that President Obama was not born in U.S. territory and that his own inauguration crowd was larger than Obama’s. He gives so much attention to these petty facts, yet has neglected to improve background checks and is completely oblivious to the urgency of these issues. He still has not offered any solutions to this gun violence and has hardly spoken out about mental health. He refuses to believe that more gun control is necessary. What more proof does he need than 30 mass shootings in just the last month and a half?

Since the shooting, these questions have been lingering in the back of my mind, and I need answers. We need answers. It should not have taken such a horrific tragedy for us to start asking, but if there is ever a right time for a response, it is now.

Cameron Kang is a Junior from Parkland, Fla. Contact the author at ckang21@andover.edu.

Feb 23, 2018