The Parkland Shooting – More than a Hashtag

PkPhoto credit: http://www.waaytv.com

The massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland brought tears to my eyes – thinking about all these innocent persons who were just going about their day, and all the families who are now mourning the cruel and sudden loss of their loved ones. Imagine parents standing outside the school, frantic and distraught, waiting to hear if their children are okay.  Imagine the ones who received tragic news. Valentine’s Day will never be the same for them.  We celebrate love on this day, but for these families it will now be a reminder of sadness and pain.  It was particularly sad as I was in Miami at the time so it felt extra ‘close to home’.  Every television channel and radio station was broadcasting updates on the horrific tragedy.

The shooter, nineteen year old Nikolas Cruz had a twisted fascination with guns, even posing with them on social media.  Records show that the police had been called to his home thirty-nine times over a seven year period.  Thirty-nine times!  He had also been expelled from school last year for disciplinary reasons. He clearly displayed signs of being troubled.  Neighbours and peers echo this sentiment.  It begs the questions – Were warning signs overlooked? Could more have been done? Could seventeen lives have been spared?

According to reports, the FBI received a tip from a source close to Nikolas. As per www.time.com, ‘In a statement, the FBI said that a person close to Cruz, who has allegedly confessed to killing 17 at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., called the FBI tip line with concerns on Jan. 5. The caller gave the FBI information on 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.” That information should have been forwarded to the FBI’s Miami field office for agents to investigate, but it was not.  “We have determined that these protocols were not followed,” a statement from the FBI read.

How do you drop the ball on a tip as serious as that?  That boggles my mind. The FBI has of course issued an apology to the families, but that is absolutely no comfort in a situation like this.

Sadly, mass shootings have become an all too real reality in the United States – Columbine, Sandy Hook, Virginia Tech, the Orlando night club shooting and the Las Vegas shooting come to mind immediately.  While typing this it occurred to me how difficult it must be for the families who lost persons in these shootings. Each time a mass shooting occurs it must feel like they are reliving their loss again and again.

I’m wondering how the survivors of the Parkland shooting will return to school, even if it is that they transfer elsewhere. With all that has been happening, if I was a parent living in the United States I honestly think I would be so paranoid that I would homeschool my child/children. Not to say that would totally eliminate the possibility of harm, but I would feel better having them home.

What I am anxious to know now is what measures will be put in place. For one, I think gun control legislation needs to be re-examined.  More restrictions need to be put in place as it relates to gun ownership. For example, there are currently only five states (California, Connecticut, Indiana, Oregon, Washington) with legislation that permits relatives, guardians or law enforcement officials to request that judges temporarily strip gun rights from individuals who are deemed a threat.  According to www.chicagotribune.com, ‘Florida, where Cruz is accused of using an AR-15 rifle to kill 17 people at his former high school, does not have such a law. He was able to legally own the semi-automatic rifle even though his mother, classmates and teachers had at times described him as dangerous and threatening.’

I truly hope that the Parkland shooting won’t become just another incident where all that happens is that we throw some hashtags out and change our profile pictures to stand in solidarity. More needs to be done. We can’t have this happen again.

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