At the face of it, major headlines and breaking news alerts look much like the other 30 mass shootings in 2018, according to the Gun Violence Archive. But, if we can bear to look deeper once again at this highly preventable cycle of horror, there are a few big ways this one feels different.
1. The kids of Parkland, Fla.
I personally can’t recall a shooting in which tweets from people in the immediate affected community gathered widespread attention. But students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School quickly made their voices heard loud and clear: this is absolutely the time to talk about gun control.
At least on Twitter, their traumatic experience overshadowed standard politician responses of calling for thoughts and prayers and attacks on the “liberal agenda.” In addition to publicly grieving their classmates, there are dozens of responses or sentiments with thousands of retweets like this:
I was hiding in a closet for 2 hours. It was about guns. You weren’t there, you don’t know how it felt. Guns give these disgusting people the ability to kill other human beings. This IS about guns and this is about all the people who had their life abruptly ended because of guns. https://t.co/XnzhvuN1zd
— carly (@car_nove) February 15, 2018
They’re also refusing to let the idea that they prioritized Snapchat over calling the police, like student David Hogg saying that they documented the horror so it could at least be found on their phones if they didn’t survive.
These kids are from a state where Republican Gov. Rick Scott supports gun rights like Stand Your Ground, unregulated gun sales and lack of required gun licenses and registration. It wouldn’t be surprising to see them reject fatalism and be a force for tangible change much like Everytown for Gun Safety — which indeed made some progress on gun control after the 2012 Sandy Hook shooting.
2. The alleged shooter is alive
Nikolas Cruz isn’t different from other shooters in his shared penchant for domestic violence. The 19-year-old was reportedly expelled from the school he terrorized for getting into a fight with the new boyfriend of his former girlfriend, who he was abusive toward.
But he’s still alive and will answer to the lives he allegedly ended and upended. Not many do. (The mass murderer of the theater shooting in Aurora, Colorado was sentenced to multiple life terms and had his insanity defense rejected.)
3. Preparation didn’t stop death and critical injuries
Gun enthusiasts often put the onus on the rest of society to arm teachers, do drill practices and to have as many “good guys with a gun” to stop the bad ones with a gun.
One teacher went on national television to talk about recent active shooter training kicking in as she tried to keep it together and hide her students — but that it still wasn’t enough.
“We did everything that we were supposed to do,” Melissa Falkowski told CNN. “Broward County Schools has prepared us for this situation and to still have so many casualties, at least for me, it’s very emotional. Because I feel today that our government, our country has failed us and failed our kids and didn’t keep us safe.”
Other warning signs were there, The New York Times reports: The FBI knew Cruz could inflict damage after a YouTube user flagged a comment from him that said, “I’m going to be a professional school shooter.” Teachers and classmates picked up on his dark side, with images posted of weapons and slaughtered animals.
Yet he was still able to legally purchase an AR-15 rifle, a gun increasingly used in mass shootings.
In 2015, commentator Dan Hodges marked Sandy Hook as the end of the gun control debate and tweeted that “Once America decided killing children was bearable, it was over.” But 90 percent of Americans support at least background checks for all gun sales.
It’s easier to keep our hopes down about gun legislation until another horrific shooting happens again. As with most issues, it won’t gather steam unless enough legislators that we the people vote for support gun control. So if you want this senseless carnage to end, find local candidates who do — there are elections just months away.