On Feb. 14, the total number of school shootings in 2018 expanded to 18 as a result of a shooting in Parkland, FL. The shooting occurred at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School and took the lives of 17 people, injuring as many as 14 others. The shooting was so devastating that it is now among the 10 deadliest mass shootings in modern American history.
The attacker has been identified as 19-year-old Nikolas Cruz, a former Marjory Stoneman Douglas student with a history of violence. The FBI had been made aware of Cruz's YouTube comments about school shootings in September 2017. Cruz had been expelled from school, had a history of threatening students, and was known to post photos of weapons on Instagram. He used an AR-15 — a semiautomatic assault rifle — in the attack. Cruz was reportedly showing signs of depression and living with a friend after the recent deaths of both his parents. He is set to be charged with 17 counts of premeditated murder.
The incident occurred not long before the high school was set to break for the day, at around 2:30 p.m. local time. The shooting started outside of the school, where 12 people were killed, before continuing inside. Videos of SWAT teams entering classrooms full of frightened students have emerged online, revealing a visceral, explicit look at the violence by way of firsthand accounts. Similarly, stories of individual heroism from the shooting have circulated, including that of the school's assistant football coach, Aaron Feis, who died shielding students from gunfire.
As the town and state continue to address the situation and the country watches, the voices of students and faculty from Marjory Stoneman Douglas have resonated most, offering sharp, vivid responses and calls for action on gun policy in real time. Students have taken to Twitter, sharing stories of survival and demanding gun control and reform. One student, David Hogg, has gone viral after an interview with CNN in which he highlighted how bad the situation in America is before noting "some of our policymakers . . . need to look in the mirror and take some action." Similarly, a Marjory Stoneman Douglas teacher, Melissa Falkowski, spoke with Anderson Cooper, explaining that the school had done all they could to prevent a shooting by recently training students and teachers on how to react — and that it didn't help. "I feel today like our government, our country, has failed us," Falkowski said, "and failed our kids and didn't keep us safe."
Student who survived school shooting: “We need to dig out of this hole… there is something seriously wrong here. And some of our policymakers... need to look in the mirror and take some action because... without action, ideas stay ideas and children die.” https://t.co/Y42waHsOlN pic.twitter.com/sdV9P7yXSn— CNN (@CNN) February 15, 2018
The violence at Marjory Stoneman Douglas has also highlighted state gun laws and the uncomfortable connections between politicians and support from the National Rifle Association (NRA), the leading gun rights nonprofit in America, which pulled a Valentine's Day retweet in response to the shooting. In Florida, you don't need a permit or license to buy a gun, which is likely how Cruz bought the AR-15 for his attack entirely legally. The weapon was "designed to kill multiple enemy combatants at once" and has been described by a Fox News talking head as "a very safe weapon" in the network's reporting on the shooting.
As expected, politicians' responses to the attack have been divided. Democrats are largely calling for gun reform while Republicans chirp out thoughts and prayers. President Donald Trump, who scolded Marjory Stoneman Douglas students for failing to report Cruz, gave a speech on Feb. 15 in which he called for a "plan that works" for solving the problem, but did not mention gun control specifically. It should also be noted that Trump, among other Republican lawmakers, has given multiple speeches in recent years at NRA summits. Similarly, Republicans received $5.9 million from gun rights groups in the 2016 election cycle and millions in general from the NRA alone. Under President Trump and the GOP-led government, several efforts have been made to loosen gun control laws while efforts for reform have been largely ignored.
If you'd like to help victims of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, a GoFundMe has been created to benefit victims of the shooting.