February 14, 2018, began like any other school day for the over 3,000 kids that attend Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. Classmates exchanged Valentine’s Day cards and carnations, grumbled through the mandatory fire evacuation drill, and eagerly waited for the last bell to ring at 2:40 pm. Little did they know that at 2:19 pm, their school would become the scene of one of the deadliest mass shootings in modern US history — one that would claim the lives of 14 students and three educators.
The gunman, Nikolas Cruz, who was arrested an hour later without incident, was no stranger to either the school or local authorities. The recently orphaned 19-year-old, who had been living with friends, was a former Stoneman Douglas student who had been expelled in 2017 for “disciplinary problems.” Peers, who describe Cruz as “a loner” and “troubled,” say he often talked about “guns, knives, and hunting.” Even the teen’s mother, who died about six months ago, had a hard time controlling him and often resorted to calling the police to calm him down.
Cruz’s young age and well-documented emotional issues did not, however, bar him from legally purchasing the semi-automatic rifle he used in the Valentine’s Day massacre. According to the current Federal law, while one has to be 21 to buy a handgun, kids as young as 18 can purchase a semi-automatic weapon. Florida state law makes the process even easier. In the Sunshine State, while handgun purchases require a three-day waiting period, the semi-automatic AR-15 gun used by Cruz, can be bought almost instantly. The seller’s only obligation is to conduct a rudimentary background check. Among the things they are required to verify is that the buyer does not have a felony record or been convicted for domestic violence.
The grieving survivors at Stoneman Douglas High School want to change these lax gun laws and are asking kids nationwide to help them in the effort by joining the “March For Our Lives,” movement. The teenagers say their mission is to demand comprehensive and effective legislation to address gun issues so that no kid goes to school in fear that it may be the last day of his/her life!
The group will begin their quest next week in Tallahassee, Florida, where they will meet with local legislators to try to convince them to ban assault weapons and high capacity magazines, both of which are currently legal in the state. They also want the lawmakers to make it illegal for people like Cruz, who have a history of unstable behavior, to be able to purchase weapons of any kind. 17-year-old Jaclyn Corin, who is organizing the event, says, “We don’t want to take away people’s gun rights. This movement understands that people have that right under the Second Amendment, but we just want alterations and restriction.”
On March 24, the group plans to take their plea to the streets of Washington DC and is urging American students and their families to join them, either at the US capital or in their respective cities, and march to “beg for their lives.” We sure hope US lawmakers will set aside their differences and introduce the necessary gun reform laws to make American schools safe again!
Resources: cnn.com, wikipedia.org, guardian.co.uk