Written by Gideon Joubert. Photo from the National Review (Michael Laughlin/Reuters).
Most people are by now familiar with Nikolas Cruz. On 14 February he shot and killed 17 students at Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. Apart from committing the mass murder on Valentine’s Day, Cruz also made use of an AR15. This latter fact threw the media into utter frenzy. Like sharks circling a distressed seal, the media misinformation machine went into overdrive. “Ban bump stocks!” “Ban Assault Weapons!” The usual refrain.
Except that Cruz didn’t use a bump stock. And an AR15 is not an assault weapon.
In our modern, “post-truth” era facts and correct terminology don’t matter. Unscrupulous journalists, who appear to populate the majority of this once-dignified profession, don’t publish anything that does not fit their crafted narrative. I would accuse these people of intellectual dishonesty, but that would infer they are in fact intellectual. With the bodies of their classmates barely cold, hysterical reporters gave certain survivors of the Parkland shooting extensive media attention. Students demanding gun control, without explaining what the current laws and regulations even are, took all the available air time. Those students who were pro-Second Amendment were largely ignored and even blocked on Twitter by journalists.
This disparate media treatment of the same group of shooting survivors rankles me. The media spurn completely valid opinions simply because they disagree with them. But particularly outspoken anti-gun activists like David Hogg and Emma Gonzalez got their Twitter “Blue Ticks”, and flew around the US from press conference to press conference.
But, because of this, things recently became very interesting.
Firstly, Stoneman Douglas implemented a new policy forcing all students to make use of mandatory, see-through backpacks. This caused much wailing and gnashing of teeth. A student by the name of Tyra Hemans complained bitterly: “I’m not happy with it. Why are you punishing me for one person’s actions?” Before adding, “We know what the root of the problem is – (Lawmakers) don’t want to make the gun laws strong enough.” David Hogg didn’t miss the opportunity to blast the policy either, citing that it infringes on the constitutional rights of students. “It’s unnecessary, it’s embarrassing for a lot of the students and it makes them feel isolated and separated from the rest of American school culture where they’re having essentially their First Amendment rights infringed upon because they can’t freely wear whatever backpack they want regardless of what it is.”
How bitterly ironic. These individuals see absolutely no problem with demanding gross infringements upon the Second Amendment rights of hundreds of millions of Americans for the sake of so-called “safety”. But when the government infringes upon their own constitutional rights for the exact same reasons, they think it’s unfair. Look, the see-through backpack idea is horrendously stupid. It is a ham-fisted and ineffectual attempt at “feel good” security theatre. But so is demanding restrictions on the constitutional rights of Americans to keep and bear arms. Or, to paraphrase Mr. Hogg, to have their Second Amendment rights infringed upon “because they can’t freely own whatever firearm they want regardless of what it is.”
Secondly, Emma Gonzalez last week admitted that Nikolas Cruz was bullied by Stoneman Douglas High School students before he was expelled.
“Since he was in middle school, it was no surprise to anyone who knew him, that he was the shooter. Those talking about how we should have not ostracized him? You didn’t know this kid! OK? We did!”
Now, before we delve deeper into this, let’s clarify a few things about Nikolas Cruz. He was born in 1998, and his parents adopted him shortly after. Both his adoptive parents are dead: his father died in 2004, and his mother passed in November last year. In essence, Cruz had no father figure in his life since he was 6 years old.
Cruz developed severe and extensive behavioural problems. He transferred between multiple schools and regularly got into trouble. Additionally, there were over 45 calls to law enforcement between 2008 and 2017 pertaining to Cruz. He also had a history of disturbing social media posts and making threats pertaining to school shootings.
These observations indicate that there was something seriously wrong with Nikolas Cruz. Something way beyond him being merely another troubled teen with a misfortunate background. He was clearly a ticking time bomb waiting for a time and a place to go off. And that a great many people were deeply concerned about his behaviour is obvious.
It would therefore be disingenuous to claim that his bullying at the hands of Stoneman Douglas students was the causal factor for the shooting. However, there are some rather unpleasant questions about this.
If Cruz wasn’t remorselessly victimised and ostracised by his classmates, would he still have reached his breaking-point and snapped? To what extent did his suffering at their hands contribute to his decision to do what he did? Would he have behaved differently, had been a different person, if he experienced kindness instead of cruelty?
I don’t know if we ever will know the answers.
In the meantime, Emma Gonzalez and her ilk are clamouring for more government intervention. Despite the Broward Country sheriff’s department failing miserably to intervene, after repeated warnings of impending trouble. Despite the FBI blundering catastrophically by not reacting to an accurate tip-off nine days before the shooting.
As usual we propose more government intervention in order to offset government failure.
Banning bumps stocks and so-called “assault weapons” won’t prevent another school school shooting. Forcing kids to use see-through backpacks won’t prevent it either. Arming and training willing teachers, and deploying more school resource officers, may prevent some school shootings – as was proven in Maryland less than a week after Parkland.
We also can’t blame bullying alone for this phenomenon, as much as we would like to. Countless children are subjected to bullying during their school careers, yet school shootings are so rare as to be statistically insignificant. In fact, schools are safer today than they were in the 1990s.
That being said, maybe we can show a little more kindness in lieu of cruelty towards the weird ones, the misfits, and the unloved. It may not necessarily stop another atrocity. But it costs nothing. And maybe, just maybe, it may pull one soul back from the precipice, and avert their plunge into the dark abyss of madness and murder.
Gideon Joubert is the owner and editor of Paratus