BY IAN GEERTSEN
Nikolas Jacob Cruz was adopted 19 years ago by Roger and Linda Cruz, although neither of his parents were alive to see him kill 17 Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School students, as Cruz saw his father die at age 5 and lost his mother to pneumonia at age 19.
Cruz also struggled with depression and suffered from ADHD and autism. I am telling you this to show you that it’s ok to try and sympathize with him and to admit that he may have been shaped by a faulty environment. Nobody is forcing you to think that Cruz is evil; in fact, you don’t even have to hate Cruz.
What you do have to do, though, is blame him.
The direct aftermath of the Parkland shooting led to what most people would expect in this day and age: a great sense of national unity as people from all walks of life came together to support each other in a time of great need.
People immediately begin pointing fingers at what they believed the cause of the shooting might be, leaving the country more polarized than it was before. Most of these attacks have been targeted at gun-activist groups like the National Rifle Association, and while many of these claims are completely valid, the fact of the matter is that the NRA didn’t kill those kids. Nikolas Cruz did.
Don’t get me wrong, I would personally back raising the minimum age for gun purchasing to 21, and I fully support the many protests and walkouts that have occurred across the country against gun violence. Conversations surrounding gun control are ones that we need to have, and soon. They should take a back seat, though, to the period of grief and mourning that we should all go through. If a school shooting inspires you to be more politically active, that’s great. But a shooting is an atrocity, not a point you use to win an argument, so don’t treat it like one.
Whether you think politicizing school shootings is completely necessarily or abhorrently disrespectful, I believe that overdoing this is a mistake when it comes to preventing further shootings. These days, it seems like people are so quick to call out the NRA after a shooting that they can hardly even remember the killer’s name. When we immediately turn school shootings into a conversation about gun rights or mental illness, as valid as those conversations may be, that sends a message to other potential school shooters that nobody will blame them when they kill their classmates. Their murders will just be written off as a gun control issue.
I’m not trying to say that these aren’t huge issues in our society―Cruz himself suffered from mental illness and had easy access to guns―but putting too much focus on these issues can create a scapegoat for the shooter. A crime as awful as Nikolas Cruz’s deserves no justification and no excuses.
Just to clarify, I know that lax gun laws and mental illness are problems in our country, and there are many reasonable arguments as to why these issues have led to an increase in school shootings over the last few years. You could also make a logical argument that the way society glorifies violence and the impact of violent video games are also at the root of our mass shooting problem. I’m not saying that these are invalid points, but when you view these things as the root of the evil and the shooter as the vehicle for that evil, and not the other way around, it’s my opinion that you’re looking at things from the wrong perspective.
There are countless American kids that have guns in their houses and don’t shoot up schools, that play violent video games and don’t shoot up schools, that struggle with depression and don’t shoot up schools. Regardless of how bad a kid’s childhood might be, how many terrible things he may have been exposed to, and whatever demons that might live in his head, you have to be a certain kind of monster to kill an innocent human being, much less shoot up a school.
And when the next school shooting happens, I think it would serve all of us well to remember that.