Saturday, February 17, 2018
By Dan Merica
Hillary Clinton urged political action Friday in response to the deadly school shooting in Parkland, Florida, pushing her followers to "remember these feelings in November, and VOTE."
Victims of the recent Florida school shooting have called out politicians for their lack of action after yet another deadly massacre. "Shame on you!" the crowd said to President Trump and the National Rifle Association.
Thousands of students, parents and gun control advocates rallied in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, on Saturday to demand changes in legislation after 17 people were shot and killed at a high school in the nearby town of Parkland.
"They say a good guy with a gun stops a bad guy with a gun," said student Emma Gonzalez on the steps of Fort Lauderdale's federal courthouse. "We call BS."
The students also excoriated President Donald Trump and the National Rifle Association (NRA) for creating an environment in the United States where even the smallest gun control proposals come up against fierce resistance.
"Shame on you!" the crowd chanted.
Gonzalez also gave voice to a question many in the US have been asking since Wednesday's shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School: How did 19-year-old Nikolas Cruz, a former student who was known to be mentally ill and exhibit erratic behavior, come to legally purchase an AR-15 semiautomatic rifle?
FBI admits mistakes
The FBI has admitted that it received two tips about Cruz, but failed to act. One came last September, when a man reported a disturbing comment left by someone named Nikolas Cruz on his YouTube channel. "I'm going to be a professional school shooter," the user proclaimed. The agency was unable to pinpoint the source of the comment.
Then, in January, a person close to Cruz called the FBI with information about Cruz's firearms and disturbing behavior, but the agency failed to follow up on the tip. The FBI has acknowledged that the information should have been shared with its local office in Miami, where it could have been investigated.
Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel has also said his office received more than 20 calls about Cruz in the past few years. At least two of these calls reportedly came from his own mother, before her death in November.
Cruz's mental health was also a matter of public record, as he has been diagnosed with autism and ADHD and had undergone psychological evaluation by state authorities. However, he was able to pass a background check to purchase his AR-15, which despite being designed for military use is easier to get in Florida than a handgun.
During her speech, Emma Gonzalez slammed the reasoning used by many conservative politicians that school shootings are usually the product of mental health issues and would not be prevented by tightened gun control laws.
"He wouldn't have harmed that many students with a knife," she pointed out.
Cruz has been charged with 17 counts of murder. According to police, he confessed to the crime while in custody.
How can a disturbed young man buy an AR-15 semi-automatic rifle before he's old enough to buy a beer?
Arsenal: This picture shows the wide variety of weaponry owned by Nikolas Cruz - including an AR-15 - center and what appears to be a handgun on the right of the picture
After yet another mass shooting carried out using an AR-15, critics of the nation's uneven gun laws have called for change to a system which allows an American to buy an assault rifle before a beer.
Indeed, following the rampage of Nikolas Cruz on Wednesday during which he killed 17 with a legally obtained weapon at a Florida high school, many are asking why a liquor store is stricter than a gun store?
Federal law dictates that you have to be 21 to buy a handgun from a licensed dealer, but 18 to purchase one from an unlicensed dealer who operates online or at a registered gunshow.
However, for long guns such as AR-15s and shotguns, while the federal age is 21, there is essentially no minimum age to legally buy one from an unlicensed dealer.
Some gun-shy states such as California and New York impose their own stricter regulations ontop of the federal law, so even though they will sell hunting rifles to 16-year-olds, assault rifles such as the AR-15 are totally banned. But some states like Kentucky and Kansas do not bolster the bare federal law at all, meaning that legally it would be up to the conscience of the dealer to sell or not to sell to anyone old enough to exchange money and buy an AR-15. Despite the mishmash of gun laws across the nation according to the Giffords Law Center there are 30 states that have 18 as a minimum age to buy an AR-15.
But of course the United States has a drinking age of 21, meaning that a teenager can legally arm himself with enough weaponry to kill 17 at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, but to drink one can of beer is breaking the law.
Furthermore, in Florida, a 21-year-old buying a handgun would have had to wait three-days for the weapon but could have picked up an assault rifle that afternoon.
The only thing stopping the sale of the AR-15 to Cruz would have been if the dealer thought he was of 'unsound mind' or a criminal conviction for assault or domestic abuse.
However, despite the FBI receiving two reports that Cruz was threatening a school shooting online, the teen was never placed on a watchlist.
But that still may not have mattered, because in Florida, the stricest definition of the law says that anyone can buy an assault rifle unless 'adjudicated mentally defective or involuntarily committed by a judge'. The family of Cruz knew he kept a small arsenal and according to their attorney Jim Lewis, he was forced by them to keep it under lock and key.
And Peter Forcelli the special agent in charge for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives in Miami added that all the weapons Cruz purchased were bought legally.
'No laws were violated in the procurement of this weapon', said Forcelli according to the New York Times.