Something is clearly sick in America.
The latest shooting in Broward County Florida was no surprise. Like almost all the school shootings that are now weekly events in the United States, the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School where it took place was in not some violence-plagued, over-crowded, mostly non-white urban school, but rather was located in the town of Parkland, an upscale suburban community. The school had an “A” rating from the state, as a top-performing high school.
According to Census statistics, Parkland’s over 24,000 people are 84% white, 13% Latino, 7% black and 6 percent black. Median income all the way back in 2008 was reported as $278,000 and the median home value that same year was just under $1 million. This was a wealthy community, not some “shithole” one, as our president might say.
All this is so common to the school shooting profile of most of these deadly incidents that we have to ask, what the hell is going on?
In the case of the suspect, 19-year-old Nickolas Cruz was unusual in that he had been adopted, along with his younger brother, by a couple who were childless and wanted children. Nothing unusual there. As the father of an adopted son I can say that there is really no fundamental difference between a biologically born and an adopted child in terms of the love and care that parents put into their development. In fact, because of the intentional efforts that go into doing an adoption there may often be even more attention and affection poured on an adopted child.
We don’t know about Cruz’s early childhood, so it’s possible he suffered at a very young age or perhaps was damaged in the womb if his birth-mother had a drug or drinking problem. That’s always a risk, just as it can be a risk with a children who are the biological offspring of their parents.
What we do know is that Cruz, who was diagnosed as depressive and possibly on the autism spectrum, was expelled Marjory Stoneman Douglas right around the time that his adoptive mother, to whom he was very attached, died at the age of 68 (his adoptive father had died much earlier). So this young man was depressed, deprived of his parents, and dumped by his school.
I almost think that at this point we don’t need to think to hard to see what went wrong. Technically an adult, and reportedly living of late in the home of a kind friend of his parents, he slipped through the cracks of a larger society that doesn’t really care much about what happens to a kid once she or he hits 18 (if they care much about them even at a younger age).
Obviously, a lot of people dropped the ball with this kid. The school, which had warned teachers about him, washed its hands of him, the friend of his late mother, who took him in, allowed him to bring along his AR-15, although she at least required him to keep it locked up albeit with him having the key (why would any adult allow a visiting kid to do that?), and nobody, like a social worker, appears to have followed up when he stopped going to the mental health clinic where he was being treated.
Now let’s add in the gun thing. Despite the fact that he had been diagnosed as having mental health issues and had been treated for a time at a local mental health clinic, reportedly for depression, Cruz was able on his own as an 18-year-old, to legally purchase a deadly AR-15 semi-automatic rifle and multiple large-capacity clips for ammunition.
Now I have to say, given what we are learning from neurology studies of the young brain, which show that the brain does not really reach maturity until the age of 24-26, and that one of the last things to reach mature development is the part of the brain that provides impulse control, you have to wonder why we are allowing people that age and younger, for example the legal age of maturity which is just 18, to buy such weapons of mass destruction.
An AR-15 is not a hunting weapon. In fact there’s a reason it’s called an “assault rifle.” As a hunter, unless you’re an atrocious shot and are hunting random flocks of small birds, you certainly don’t need to be able to fire powerful ammunition at a rate of two bullets per second — the rate at which experts say an ordinary person could be able to pull the trigger. Listening to the sound of bullets being fired on a clip that was broadcast of some cell phone recording Cruz’s assault, it sounded to me like he had managed to fire even faster than that — perhaps three shots per second. In any even he was able, in a short time, to kill at least 17 people and injure another 10 or more before presumably running out of loaded clips and sneaking out of the school (he was caught and arrested by police later blocks from the school).
Any person, politician or lobbying organization (think National Rifle Association) that argues otherwise, and claims it’s every American’s god-given Constitutional right to buy and own an assault rifle, including young people with age-appropriate impulse control programs, and even documented mental health issues, is either an idiot, an ideologically driven nut-job, or has some kind of other insidious agenda.
It should have been clear when 20 first-graders were murdered at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut in 2012. If that uniquely awful atrocity, committed by a mentally ill young man who obtained the gun from his also mentally ill mother who owned it legally, wasn’t enough to get these weapons banned again (they were banned for 10 years nationally, from 1994 to 2004 until Congress allowed the law to expire), I doubt that this latest epic massacre will lead to any change in the law, either nationally or in the state of Florida.
Hell, why should we be surprised? Thanks to aggressive activity by the NRA, some states actually allow a totally blind person to buy and own a gun — any gun, including an assault rifle.
But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t call out the insanity and the rank charlatanism of politicians in Washington (mostly, but not exclusively Republican) that allows this madness to continue.
Let’s be clear: The US is the only country where this kind of mass killing is commonplace. Certainly a mad man bent on mayhem, like the Nazi Anders Breivik, who slaughtered 77 people, most of them young teenagers on a camping outing on an island, can obtain the weapons he needs even in a country with strict gun laws like Breivik’s native Norway, and succeed in his horrific mission of death. But what we have in the US is something much different and more terrifying: a situation where even a person of limited funds, with minimal planning and effort, can simply walk into t gun shop and, no questions asked, purchase a weapon that can kill large numbers of people almost on a whim.
I knew a guy, a musician with serious mental problems, who one time a few years ago when he was going through a particularly bad patch, walked into a gun shop in Virginia and asked for and then bought a pistol and one bullet. Later that same day, he sat on a stump in his back yard, put the gun in his mouth and blew his brains out. You have to ask what kind of person, standing behind the counter of that gun shop, would sell anyone a gun and one bullet! I’m sure it was totally clear to that clerk or owner what the buyer was planning to do, and a real human being with an ounce of compassion should have refused to sell and calmly suggested to the customer that he seek help or go to another gun store.
The same should apply to anyone who comes in and asks to buy an AR-15, especially if that person also asks for multiple large-capacity clips and a large number of shells. Just say no, dammit!
NRA nuts will say, “But what about the poor collectors!”
That’s a stupid and irrational argument. What not collect claymore mines, improvised explosive devices (IEDs) then, and why stop there? How about 500-lb gravity bombs, anti-aircraft rockets, or maybe miniature nuclear weapons? I mean the logic is the same: if weapons exist, we as Americans should be free to own and “collect” them. Why do we limit this freedom to own mass destruction assault rifles, but not bombs?
Look at the latest list of the innocent victims of Nikolas Cruz’s insanity and ask that question in reverse: If we don’t permit people to buy bombs and hand-held wire-guided anti-aircraft rockets, why do we permit them to buy semi-automatic assault rifles?