When I saw news of the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, a shooting which claimed the lives of 17 people, I thought: “It‘s happened again, but nothing’s gonna change to prevent the next one.” I’m a Floridian mom, and while news of any school shooting is horrifying, this one literally hit close to home for me. Every time my son, nephew, or brother walks out the door to go to school or work I worry about them being killed by: #1 a cop, or #2 an domestic terrorist. With my niece I worry she could be shot at the bus terminal or on her university’s campus by a domestic terrorist. We also have statute 776.013 in Florida, otherwise known as Stand Your Ground, and lots of armed quick-tempered people who shouldn’t possess a concealed weapon license, let alone a gun. I’ve been watching the reactions of the survivors of the shooting, families of those who were lost, people on social media, politicians, and of course Donald Trump. While it’s clear our government needs to take steps to protect Americans from acts of gun violence, I can’t help but wonder if anything will ever change.
Politicians are Finger-Pointing
Democrats are blaming Republicans for this latest shooting, citing their refusal to address gun reform. Almost a year ago Trump signed a bill into law which nullified Barack Obama’s regulation intended to make it more difficult for those suffering with mental illnesses to purchase guns, a regulation which was proposed after the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting. My state’s Governor, Rick Scott, recently called for the Director of the F.B.I. to step down, which I found hypocritical, given that Scott has never supported gun reform here in Florida. As a matter of fact, back in 2014 the NRA’s Political Victory Fund said of Scott: “Rick has signed more pro-gun bills into law in one term than any other governor in Florida history.” That same year the NRA gave Scott an A+ rating, so I think instead pointing his finger at the F.B.I. he should place some of the blame on himself.
The Signs are Often Ignored
The F.B.I. and the Florida Department of Children & Families are also rightly receiving a lot of blame for failing to follow-up on tips regarding Cruz potentially harming people. Why didn’t the F.B.I.’s Florida branch do a better job of following-up on these tips? I have no idea. I don’t know what assignments the F.B.I.’s Miami, Jacksonville, or Tampa field offices are working on, but the Miami office definitely did not do a good job investigating Cruz. The F.B.I. is currently focusing on “B.I.E.” What is “B.I.E.”? “B.I.E.” are those the F.B.I. have deemed “Black Identity Extremists”, which is probably what the FBI called the civil rights leaders they monitored (Theodore Roosevelt Mason Howard, Martin Luther King, Jr., and Malcolm X) during the 1950s and 60s. Last year a report stating the F.B.I. would make “B.I.E.” one of the agency’s top priorities was leaked. Why the F.B.I. would be focusing on supposed “black identity extremists” is beyond me, especially when the reality is most domestic acts of terrorism are committed by white American men, such as Timothy McVeigh, Adam Lanza, Dylann Roof, James Holmes, and Stephen Paddock.
The signs that Cruz had the potential to commit an act of violence were there, but they were ignored, not only by Florida DCF and the F.B.I., but by the social media platforms he used to make disturbing posts like those pictured above. So…Instagram suspends accounts for the most trivial of reasons, but somehow Cruz’s Instagram posts above flew right over their safety department staff’s heads. Cruz also posted a comment on a YouTube video stating: “I’m going to be a professional school shooter.” The comment was reported to the F.B.I. by Mississippi bail bondsman, Ben Bennight, and then under-investigated by the F.B.I., but what did YouTube do about the comment? Nothing. Twitter pays employees to read users’ private direct messages and sells users’ information to advertisers. I’m certain Instagram and YouTube does the same, so why didn’t someone from Twitter, YouTube or Instagram bother to report Cruz to the authorities? I think Rick Scott, politicians, the F.B.I., local police, the Florida Department of Children & Families, YouTube, Twitter, and Instagram all dropped the ball on this one.
The Handling of White Domestic Terrorists vs. Foreign and Domestic Terrorists of Color
Nearly a week after the Parkland shooting I’m still baffled that Nikolas Cruz was taken into police custody alive. After all, over the last few years we’ve seen many black Americans who hadn’t just murdered 17 people shot for less: Rekia Boyd, Aiyana Jones, Philando Castile, Tamir Rice, and Charles Kinsey, to name a few. When foreign-born terrorists and brothers, Tamerlan Anzorovich Tsarnaev and Dzhokhar Anzorovich Tsarnaev, were apprehended for committing the Boston marathon bombings the police unloaded on them. The Tsarnaevs killed people, injured hundreds, and caused several victims of their bomb explosions to undergo amputations. The police’s response was more than appropriate.
In 2015 James Boulware attacked a Dallas police station armed with pipe bombs and guns, and he was killed by a S.W.A.T. sniper. Four days later in South Carolina Dylann Roof murdered 9 black Americans and wounded 3 during bible-study service at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church. Once Roof was in police custody in Shelby, North Carolina the police opted to buy him a hamburger. On July 7, 2016 U.S. Army veteran, Micah Xavier Johnson, attacked Dallas police killing 5 officers and wounding 9. The following day Johnson became the first person in the United States that police killed by a remote control bomb disposal robot. Roof was interested in white supremacy, and Shelby police gave him a burger. Johnson was interested in black nationalist groups, and Dallas police gave him a bomb. I’m not saying Johnson shouldn’t have been killed as he was clearly dangerous, I’m just pointing out that cop killers no longer seem to be getting trials, but white supremacists like Dylann Roof, James Jackson, Jeremy Joseph Christian, James Fields Jr., and Nikolas Cruz are. Granted Roof and Cruz are terrorists who didn’t take up arms against the police, and typically anyone who does will be killed (with the exception of Cliven Bundy, his family, friends, and his supporters who all did just that), but I doubt he would’ve been taken alive had he been a foreign terrorist or a domestic terrorist of color.
I’d Like to See These Changes in the Future
I’ve seen mental illness and Cruz’s expulsion being blamed for his murderous rampage, and I think that it’s disgusting and unfair. There are countless people who suffer with mental illness, including myself, who don’t go out and murder people. I worked at a Florida museum and was harassed by my supervisor, a well-known Curator, for nearly 2 years. I filed complaint after complaint with the university’s Human Resources Division, and I was ignored. Finally, the museum fired me, not the harasser, but the person who was being harassed. Following my termination I was unemployed for nearly 2 years. I lost the ability to pay my bills, and I couldn’t provide for my son or even buy food. Even so, I never went back to that museum, the university, or its garage and shot anyone. I was extremely depressed, but I didn’t commit murder, I looked for other opportunities. I certainly wasn’t going to commit murder because I was mistreated, so I’m really tired of this incident being called a “mental health issue” instead of a gun and public safety issue. Mental health checks for gun purchases are great, but there are people who haven’t been Baker Acted who are capable of committing mass murder and terrorists attacks. Not all people with a propensity for violence are mentally ill, or have a history or violence or mental illness that would show up on a background check.
Guns don’t aim at people and shoot themselves, people shoot other people. This is a fact, and if someone has decided they are willing to risk their life or permanent incarceration for the sake of killing others, nothing will change their mind. If they can’t buy a gun legally, they’ll buy it illegally. If they aren’t permitted to bring a gun inside a certain building, they’ll do so anyway. Once a person has decided to commit mass murder no law will stop them from attempting to do so, but that doesn’t mean there’s nothing that can be done to at least try to prevent something like this from happening again. There are safeguards that can be put in place if government and county officials are willing to spend the money to do so. Last year Roderick Oliver Veazey opened fire on a male library patron inside the Miami-Dade Public Main Library. Veazey was shot by off-duty police officer, Saul Rodriguez. I’m not sure if this incident has prompted the Miami-Dade Public Library System to install metal detectors, but it did not prompt Broward County Libraries to install them. Broward County Libraries do not have metal detectors or a contract with the Broward County Sheriff’s Office, so their facility’s security guards are unarmed and library patrons and employees are unsafe. Staff members have had library patrons expose themselves to them, and last year one branch had a death by heroin overdose inside a bathroom. If all libraries had metal detectors and bag searches it would be a more effective way to keep guns, knives, and even heroin out of public libraries. It seems that in addition to not wanting to pass gun reform laws, government officials do not want to spend the money required to ensure the safety of citizens in public spaces.
In response to the Parkland school shooting Republican, André Bauer, suggested that teachers be armed with guns, a concept which frightens me as much as a school shooter. What if a teacher decides that they’ve had enough of their rude students, legally enters the school armed and kills them? What would be Bauer’s response then? We’ve all seen the way some teachers are mistreated by their students and school administration. Do they really need to be armed? Also, protecting students from a gunman or a terrorist attack isn’t a teacher’s job. Their job is to educate their students, not engage in combat.
I’d prefer to see the government spend funds to equip schools with metal detectors and armed guards, and have those armed guards conduct bag searches upon entry to the school on students, staff members, and visitors. I think the armed guards should be trained police officers or former military, and they should be subjected to extensive training, counseling, and thorough background checks prior to being hired. Perhaps our politicians can ask the NRA to help fund this initiative. After all, the NRA paid for tons of flyers to be mailed to Florida residents that aimed to persuade us to vote for Rick Scott, so surely they can help him fund this. If the security process for entering a school or a public facility has to be like that of the airport, I’m fine with that if it will help save lives. I would also like to see our government ban civilian purchases of assault rifles. I don’t want all guns banned, as I am strongly in favor of the Second Amendment, but I don’t need the right to purchase an AR-15. The purpose of a gun is to kill, and be it a .45 magnum or a 9mm, any gun is capable of doing just that. So, while I don’t want to do away with my right to protect myself by having a concealed weapon permit and legally carrying a gun, I would like to do away with my right to purchase an assault rifle. Non-soldiers have no need for weapons of war.