Why you should care
Because this is one of the worst massacres in American history … again.
This is an OZY Special Briefing, an extension of the Presidential Daily Brief. The Special Briefing tells you what you need to know about an important issue, individual or story that is making news. Each one serves up an interesting selection of facts, opinions, images and videos in order to catch you up and vault you ahead.
What to know
What happened? A former student killed at least 17 children and adults at a South Florida high school around dismissal time Wednesday. Suspect Nikolas Cruz, 19, reportedly pulled the fire alarm shortly before 3 p.m. at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, drawing people out of the school, where he shot them with an AR-15, then moved through the halls — tossing smoke grenades and wearing a gas mask — to target those inside, who hid in bathrooms and texted their parents goodbye. He was arrested about an hour later in nearby Coral Springs.
Why does it matter? This is the deadliest school shooting since the Newtown, Connecticut, massacre of 2012, and one of the top 10 deadliest mass shootings in modern U.S. history. Cruz used the same style of rifle that was used in the Newtown shooting — and those that recently stunned Las Vegas and Sutherland Springs, Texas — as some pointed out that the semi-automatic AR-15 can be bought in Florida without the waiting period or age restrictions levied on handguns.
How to think about it
Here we go again. The mass shooting routine has become sadly familiar. Outrage and calls for gun control on the left, pleas for deliberation and caution on the right. The New York Daily News took umbrage, retweeting politicians offering “thoughts and prayers” along with the amount each had received in campaign donations from the NRA.
It’s the quiet ones. Cruz had been expelled from Marjory Stoneman Douglas for disciplinary reasons, posted violent imagery on social media and bragged about killing animals. The FBI also had reason to suspect Cruz: A YouTube user named Nikolas Cruz posted “I’m going to be a professional school shooter” in a comment in September, but the information never made it to local law enforcement.
Where’s POTUS? In a televised address nearly a full day after the shooting, Donald Trump said he will soon pay a visit to Parkland, which is about 40 miles from his Mar-a-Lago club. He didn’t mention guns Thursday morning, focusing instead on the need to offer more support to mentally troubled youth: “Answer hate with love. Answer cruelty with kindness.”
Hero on the scene. Assistant football coach and security guard Aaron Feis, according to witnesses, draped himself over students to protect them from the shooter — and died in Wednesday’s massacre. Feis, a beloved figure who played football at Marjory Stoneman Douglas and coached there for a decade, was described by the head football coach as a “big ol’ teddy bear.”
By the numbers. The gun control advocacy group Everytown for Gun Safety released a stunning statistic: Wednesday was the 18th school shooting so far this year, a number cited prominently in media coverage of the massacre. But Everytown has a broad definition for “school shooting,” including incidents where firearms were discharged and no one was injured, or when there was a suicide. Based on reports compiled by Everytown, there were three gun murders on school property this year before Parkland.
What to watch
A powerful CNN interview with two survivors:
“You guys are, like, the adults. Take action, work together, come over your politics, and get something done.”
House Speaker Paul Ryan delivered a statement about the shooting:
“This is one of those moments where we just need to step back and count our blessings. We need to think less about taking sides and fighting each other politically.”
What to read
More Kids Are Dead, by Charles P. Pierce at Esquire
“There is almost no way the Army or the Marines—or anybody’s army or marines, except, possibly, ISIL—would have handed an AR-15 to anybody with Cruz’s background. But he was able to own it as long as he locked it up at night in a cabinet to which he had the damn key.”
New Gun Policies Won’t Stop Mass Shootings, But People Can, by David French at National Review
“We can’t deflect responsibility upwards, to Washington. We’re still the first line of defense in our own communities.“
What to tell your kids
Psychology Today recommends these steps: Keep younger children away from the news, talk simply and directly, focus on what is happening to keep people safe, point to positive steps ordinary people took during the tragedy, give kids actions they can take to help, avoid stigmatizing mental illness and follow up to keep the dialogue open.