Nathaneal Clark was at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School when he heard a girl scream for help outside his classroom. Moments later, bullets from Nikolas Cruz’s AR-15 semiautomatic rifle blasted down the Florida school’s hallway.
“I was crying and I was praying and I was really traumatized because I never expected to experience this,” the student numbly told CNN on Wednesday. “I don’t know if I feel safe in that school if someone can just come in with a gun and shoot up the school.”
I’ve got bad news for Nathaneal. His teachers and staff did everything they were taught to do in the intense training every Broward County school employee has undergone about how to handle in-school shooters.
Seventeen students and adults got mowed down anyway. Because no training can match the power of a surprise attack from a weapon that can discharge 30 shots between reloads. By design, they’re meant to kill as many people as possible, in as short a period of time as possible.
“Ridiculous,” says Fox & Friends cohost Brian Kilmeade, who believes that simply arming school guards would save school kids when a maniac is on the loose.
“I just want a qualified guy to be able to shoot back,” Kilmeade insisted on Thursday’s show, bristling when guest Sen. Bill Nelson (D., Fla.) argued against making schools “armed camps.”
The Florida school did have armed guards, though. But they weren’t physically near Cruz when his Valentine’s Day Massacre began because – who knew? – shooters don’t announce their plans in advance.
So the guards’ guns made no difference in the lives of Cruz’s 17 victims and the families now mourning them.
But a U.S. ban on rapid-firing, semiautomatic weapons would have.
That point seems utterly lost on folks who have been pointing fingers at the Florida family who, out of kindness and compassion in November, took in the homeless Cruz after his mother died.
On Thursday, CNN “New Day” coanchor Alisyn Camerota cruelly badgered the family’s spokesman, lawyer Jim Lewis, all but saying the family should have known something like this would happen.
“Listen,” she chided, “depression is a red flag with young men. Access to a weapon is a red flag with young men. And, you know, we all have to sort of be vigilant about this.”
Whoa, Alisyn, way to shame good-hearted people who saw a sad kid and presumed he was grieving, not planning a bloodbath.
You know what would have spared that poor family a reporter’s expectation that they get in line behind our new normal?
Repeat after me: a U.S. ban on rapid-firing, semiautomatic weapons.
Ah, but it’s too soon for that knee-jerk conclusion, said House Speaker and favorite NRA lapdog Paul Ryan at a Thursday news conference about the carnage. Maybe he’s waiting for 17 more to die.
Ryan began his presser with a bizarre shout-out to a freshman named Sarah Crescitelli. In the midst of the horror at her school she texted her mother, Stacy, for what she feared might be the last time to say she loved her and appreciated all she had done for her (thank God, the teen survived).
“In all that fear and terror, for her to think of love and even gratitude for her parents … ,” Ryan said, his voice trailing off as is this were a Hallmark moment to be savored. “We can learn a lot from our kids.”
Here’s what I learned: School shootings have become so commonplace that Ryan polishes up a terrified kid’s desperate correspondence with her mom into a noble act to emulate when it’s our turn in the crosshairs.
Duly noted, dude. Here’s what else he said:
“We have laws on the books – a system — to prevent people who aren’t supposed to get guns from getting guns,” he said, referring to mental illness. “And if there are gaps there, then we need to look at those gaps.”
You mean, like the gap created last February when Donald Trump repealed an Obama initiative that would have closed existing gaps in the existing laws that make it hard for people with mental illness to possess a gun?
But a ban on any weapon wouldn’t be needed, some say, if the FBI would just do its job. Director Christopher Wray admitted on Friday that his bureau did nothing with a report it received last month about Cruz’s erratic behavior, gun possession, and social-media posts about killing people.
An investigation is underway. And we must ask: If the only thing protecting us from an assault-weapon slaughter are fallible human beings juggling a tower of if-you-see-something-say-something tips, isn’t it time to remove those weapons from public possession and use?
It’s time to own the fact that the trainings we devise, the school guards we arm, the shooters we profile, the mental-health loopholes we close – all are futile work-arounds, created by fallible humans, that enable an obscene reality to persist:
We have the power to ban rapid-firing, semiautomatic weapons. But we don’t have the will.