On Wednesday, Feb. 14, Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida faced a shooting that took place at 2:19 p.m., as the school was ready to dismiss its students for the day. Equipped with a semi-automatic AR-15 rifle, Nikolas Cruz arrived in an Uber with weapons disguised in a backpack and large bag. He opened fire on students and faculty as they attempted to find cover in the classrooms and hallways. The death toll currently stands at 17 students. Cruz was also equipped with a gas mask and smoke grenades. After fleeing the scene, the shooter was arrested and taken into custody.
During the incident, Snapchat videos were taken as the shooter attempted to enter a classroom. The shooter was reported to the FBI due to his social media content before the attack, but he was considered a low risk and the investigation was dropped. The shooter was described by the New York Times as having a “very, very disturbing” social media account.
Cruz’s social media accounts chronicle a series of posts that include posing with guns, dead animals, knives and a YouTube comment that read “I’m going to be a professional school shooter.”
As of Feb. 14, including this high school shooting, there have been a total of 30 mass shootings in the United States in 2018. This data, gathered by non-profit organization Gun Violence Archive, defines a mass shooting as four or more individuals shot and/or killed at roughly the same time and location. In 2017 there were a total of 346 mass shootings.
With 17 dead, Douglas is the third deadliest school shooting in U.S. history, rivaled with the 1966 University of Texas school shooting with disputed 13-17 dead. The second deadliest was Sandy Hook Elementary in 2012 with 26 dead. The most deadly was the Virginia Tech shooting in 2007 killing 32 people.
In this attack, the 19-year-old Cruz legally acquired his weapon last year. Gun laws vary by state. In Florida, one does not have to register firearms or have a license or permit to buy a gun. Furthermore, one does not need a permit for concealed carry of a rifle, though it is required for a handgun. There is also no regulation in the state that puts a cap on how many guns a person can buy at once.
According to Captain William A. Morris, the assistant director and police captain of the Public Safety force at West Chester University, this situation raises the question of what the department can “legally do to protect our citizens.” In addition to serving as police captain, Morris has worked in the general police force since 1974. He worked with the SEPTA transportation police before serving with the West Chester borough for six years. He has spent a year in Philadelphia, as well as 34 years total in Chester County. He joined Public Safety on the West Chester University campus in July of 2016.
Morris believes that “the Second Amendment has become more important than our citizens’ safety.” He further explained that there has been an “uptake in citizen and police shootings” and that citizens have become “numb to the situation.” He questioned what we as citizens are going to do to correct the problem. As a parent, he finds situations such as these to be “horrific” and “terrifying” and doesn’t know how to react.
The victims are as follows: Alyssa Alhadeff (14), Scott Beigel (35), Martin Duque Anguiano (14), Nicholas Dworet (17), Aaron Feis (37), Jamie Guttenberg (14), Chris Hixon (49), Luke Hoyer (15), Cara Loughran (14), Gina Montalto (14), Joaquin Oliver (17), Alaina Petty (14), Meadow Pollack (18), Helena Ramsay (17), Alex Schachter (14), Carmen Schentrup (16) and Peter Wang (15). To learn more about all of the victims, please visit CNN contributors Eric Levenson and Joe Sterling’s article, “These are the Victims of the Florida School Shooting.”
Morris urges West Chester students to contact legislators in the hopes that gun regulation can be revised. He believes that West Chester University students have a voice in the matter, and that every vote in the hope to make a difference counts. He wishes to see “someone more open to hearing the voices of citizens” elected and explained that “legislators serve us,” and not the other way around. As the “39th safest school” in the country, he believes that West Chester University is a safe place to be, in that students, faculty and the public all contribute to help Public Safety do their job and make the campus a safer place. He urges students to be vigilant and observant going forward.
Jesse Isadore is a senior English major at West Chester University who found out about the incident through his housemates. He says he “heard gunshots through the Snapchat video” that was posted online after the incident. “I’m sort of desensitized to it,” he admits, though still recognizing the horror of the situation. “It’s been awful before,” and he understands it is something that “can happen anywhere.”
Nicole Azzara, a junior English major at West Chester University, also offered her thoughts on the tragedy. “My heart goes out to all the victims and families,” she said. Nicole said that she is “angry” about the incident, and that there has been a “lack of improvement” regarding the situation. She believes that society is “failing at monitoring people with mental illnesses.”
Students are encouraged to contact Public Safety regarding any suspicious activity. They can be found in the People’s building on campus and can be reached at 610-436-3311. Captain Williams can be reached directly at 610-436-3477, or via email at email@example.com. For any student affected by the tragedy, the Counseling Services Office is located in Lawrence 241. They can be contacted via phone at 610-436-2301.
Samantha Walsh is a second-year student majoring in special education and English with a minor in autism studies. ✉ SW850037@wcupa.edu.