Two days ago, on February 14th, 19-year-old Nikolas Cruz killed 17 people and injured 23 others in a horrendous shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. It was the deadliest shooting so far this year, and Cruz’s act of violence led many to call for stricter gun control laws. And today, February 16th, it has been reported that Cruz belonged to a target air-rifle team funded by the NRA.
Former cadets in Cruz’s Junior ROTC training program told the Associated Press that Cruz was a member of a varsity air-rifle marksmanship team that competed against other schools. The NRA had supplied nearly $11,000 to Marjory Stoneman Douglas’s club while Cruz attended the school. In 2016, the organization gave a total of $2.2 million to schools around the country.
Cruz’s obsession with guns was well documented. Social media profiles in his name often featured pictures of guns and knives, and several of his classmates told NBC that he frequently talked about his weapons. He was expelled from the high school in 2017 due to unspecified disciplinary issues. In September, a Mississippi vlogger reported to the FBI that a user with the display name “Nikolas Cruz” had written “I’m going to be a professional school shooter” in a comment on one of his videos. A Florida-based white supremacist group said on February 15th that Cruz was one of its members.
The gun that Cruz used in the shooting was an AR-15 semiautomatic rifle, which he had obtained legally. The New York Times reports that rifles like the one Cruz used are easier to purchase in Florida than handguns.
The NRA has poured its resources into blocking gun control legislation. In 1996, the organization lobbied for an amendment that cut the Center for Disease Control’s budget by the exact amount it spent researching gun violence. The amendment passed and has now been in place for more than 20 years. In addition, the NRA has generously funded politicians, donating nearly $6 million to Republicans and $106,000 to Democrats during the 2016 election cycle.
What happened in Parkland two days ago was a terrible act of violence. But even more than that, the fact that Cruz was able to legally obtain a weapon designed for military use, not to mention practice using rifles in an NRA-funded club, is a sign that things need to change. We need to make it harder for people like Cruz to get guns. Enough is enough.