Trump’s Ignorance Threatens American Schools

Madeleine Singh, Sports Editor

The United States of America isn’t #1 in healthcare, nor economic equality, nor education. However, we unequivocally hold the #1 spot on the world podium for mass shootings.

While there is much to blame for this horrifying statistic, the Trump administration and its vehement opposition to implementing tighter gun control measures, instead choosing to focus its efforts on “recognizing the signs” and preposterously suggesting teachers be armed, is only making matters worse.

Meanwhile, on the afternoon February 14, 2018, a shooter at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, killed 17 and injured another 15.  The latest in an endless line of mass shootings.

The perpetrator was 19-year-old Nikolas Jacob Cruz, a former student who had been expelled during his time at Stoneman Douglas for “disciplinary reasons.” Multiple sources recounted Cruz’s fascination with guns and gun violence, demonstrated by his social media activity. Cruz posted pictures on various platforms of a variety of weapons, such as guns and knives. In September, Cruz left a comment on another user’s YouTube video, stating, “I’m going to be a professional school shooter,” prompting the user to report him to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). However, according to FBI agent Robert Lasky, they were unable to identify him after conducting database reviews.

After offering hasty condolences to those in Parkland, president Donald J. Trump tweeted, “So many signs that the Florida shooter was mentally disturbed, even expelled from school for bad and erratic behavior. Neighbors and classmates knew he was a big problem. Must always report such instances to authorities, again and again!”

In short: Trump blamed the victims for the shooting.

Stoneman Douglas students endured a horrific event, but according to our president, they are to blame. Not the FBI, who had received intel on Cruz but failed to follow it. Not sellers at Sunrise Tactical Supply, where Cruz bought his AR-15-style rifle over a year ago after clearing the few legal hurdles necessary for gun ownership. Not our government, which continues to fervently resist taking steps to fortify gun laws. Students just like you and me have been assigned the blame for such cruel events simply for failing to predict that one of our peers would commit such a horrific crime.

This is unfair and unjustifiable. 

Although Cruz was mentally unstable, the simple process of purchasing arms enabled him to murder 17 of his peers. A handgun for self defense purposes is one thing, but an AR-15-style rifle is a weapon whose ownership cannot be justified, especially not by the average citizen. Frustratingly, Cruz’s rifle was bought 100% legally; there were no measures in place to prevent a mentally ill 19-year-old from purchasing such a weapon.

According to White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, Trump is currently working with senators on a bill designed to improve criminal background checks. “While discussions are ongoing and revisions are being considered, the President is supportive of efforts to improve the Federal background check system,” she said in a statement. However, as of yet, the administration has shown no sign of improving background checks.

In fact, about a year ago, Trump repealed an Obama-era regulation which intended to prevent the mentally ill from gaining access to weapons. That rule would have given the National Instant Criminal Background Check System, which is used for gun sales, access to Social Security Administration data, including the names of individuals receiving certain federal mental health benefits. The law had been formulated as part of Obama’s efforts to strengthen the federal background check system in the wake of the 2012 massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut.

The Trump administration is stepping backwards while pretending to address the concerns of the country.

The American Psychiatric Association and five other medical associations issued a joint statement on February 16 urging action by Trump and Congress, including labeling gun violence a “national public health epidemic.” The associations’ recommendations advocated for limits on high-powered weapons and encouraged the funding of gun violence research at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).   

“The families of the victims in Parkland and all those whose lives have been impacted by daily acts of gun violence deserve more than our thoughts and prayers,” the 6 groups said in a statement. “They need action from the highest levels of our government to stop this epidemic of gun violence now.” Even these professional groups in the field of mental health are advocating tighter gun control laws and acknowledge that concentrating exclusively on mental illness is not enough.

While Trump’s concerns regarding mental illness are far from vacuous, his administration is ignoring the real problem: easy access to guns, especially such high-powered assault weapons used in recent massacres. 

Moraga, like many affluent communities, may be considered “safe,” but there is little that would protect Campolindo students and staff from such lethal weaponry were it used against them. With this realization, I now have a lingering sense of fear in the back of my mind when I am on campus. I feel like my life is at stake each day when I leave home to pursue my education.

Unfortunately, as is the case for students across the country, my apprehension is being ignored.

While attempting to demonstrate concern for the issue of gun violence, Trump’s administration aggressively refuses to accept the main aphorism that emerged from the Parkland school shooting: a person’s right to own a gun does not outweigh a student’s right to feel safe at school. It simply doesn’t. I would rather offer my condolences to citizens who lose their guns than parents who have lost their children.

As long as high-powered guns are available to the average citizen, there will certainly be another tragic mass shooting. No matter how “prepared” our students and faculty may be, our school is just as vulnerable as Columbine, Sandy Hook, and Stoneman Douglas. If someone chose to commit such a crime, there is little hindering him or her from purchasing arms with which to execute it.

Trump’s ignorance about the problems with our nation’s gun policies will likely prove fatal for future victims.