On February 14, 2018, a gunman opened fire with a semi-automatic rifle at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, killing 17 people and injuring 17 others. Witnesses identified Nikolas Cruz, a 19-year-old former student at the school, as the assailant. Cruz fled the scene on foot by blending with other students. He was arrested without incident about an hour later in nearby Coral Springs. He confessed to being the perpetrator, and he was charged with 17 counts of premeditated murder and 17 counts of attempted murder. Police and prosecutors have not offered a motive and are investigating "a pattern of disciplinary issues and unnerving behavior".
Cruz's killing spree is the deadliest high school shooting in United States history, surpassing the Columbine High School massacre that killed 15, including the perpetrators Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, in Colorado on April 20, 1999. The shooting came at a period of heightened public support for gun control that followed mass shootings in Las Vegas, Nevada and Sutherland Springs, Texas, in October and November 2017.
In 2016 and 2017, the sheriff's office received a number of tips about Cruz's threats to carry out a school shooting. The FBI learned that a YouTube user with the username "nikolas cruz" posted a message in September 2017 about becoming a school shooter, but the agency could not identify the user. In January 2018, someone contacted the FBI tip line with a direct complaint that Cruz had made a death threat, but the complaint was not forwarded to the local FBI office.
Following the massacre, the anger and frustration of Parkland student survivors intensified towards the perceived inaction of the Republican-dominated legislature on the wider issue of mass shootings and gun violence. The students founded Never Again MSD, an advocacy group that lobbies for legislative action on gun violence. On March 9, Governor Rick Scott signed a bill that raised the minimum age for buying rifles in Florida from 18 to 21. The legislation also established waiting periods and background checks for gun buyers. The law allowed for the arming of teachers who were properly trained and the hiring of School resource officers. Bump stocks would now be banned and some potentially violent or mentally unstable people would be prohibited from possessing guns. The National Rifle Association (NRA) immediately filed a lawsuit that challenged the federal constitutionality of the age requirement clause.
After the shooting, the Broward County Sheriff's Office received widespread criticism for its handling of the police response, with much of the criticism being directed at Sheriff Scott Israel for not addressing loopholes that allowed Cruz to legally purchase a firearm despite his lengthy record of threatening behavior. Israel's deputies were also criticized for staying outside the school and not immediately confronting Cruz. Several police officers who responded to the scene later resigned, and new Governor Ron DeSantis suspended Israel in January 2019 largely as a result of his conduct in regard to the shooting and replaced him with Gregory Tony. In a bipartisan vote, the Senate of Florida permanently removed Israel from the position of Broward Sheriff.
A commission appointed by then-Governor Scott to investigate the mass shooting condemned the police inaction in the wake of the attack and urged school districts across the state to adopt greater measures of security, including the possibility of allowing educators and staff members to carry their own firearms on school property in order to prevent further attacks.
In March 2019, shortly after the first anniversary of the shooting, two Parkland survivors committed suicide: a former student who graduated the year before, and a student who was enrolled in the school year. Officials renewed their efforts to provide mental health support to the school community and families and noted the long-term effects of such trauma.
The shooting took place during the afternoon of February 14, 2018, at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, an affluent suburb about 30 miles (48 km) northwest of Fort Lauderdale. The shooter, former student Nikolas Cruz, was dropped off at the school by an Uber driver at 2:19 p.m., shortly before dismissal time. According to a police report, Cruz was carrying a rifle case and a backpack when he was spotted and recognized by a staff member who radioed a colleague that he was walking "purposefully" toward Building 12. The first staff member claimed that his training called for only reporting threats; his colleague hid in a closet.
Cruz entered Building 12, a three-story structure containing 30 classrooms typically occupied by about 900 students and 30 teachers. Armed with a legally purchased AR-15 style semi-automatic rifle and multiple magazines, he activated a fire alarm and began firing indiscriminately at students and teachers. The fire alarm caused confusion because there had been a fire drill earlier in the day.
At about 2:21 p.m. the same staff member heard gunfire and activated a code red lockdown. An armed school resource officer of the Broward County Sheriff's Office was on campus when the shooting broke out. Instead of entering Building 12 to confront the gunman and return fire, he remained outside between Building 12 and adjacent Building 7.
The shooting lasted six minutes. Cruz fired into four classrooms on the first floor, killing eleven people. He then went to the second floor, where he fired into two more classrooms but did not kill anyone. On the third floor, he shot and killed six people in the hallway. He also attempted but failed to shoot outside through the windows, which were hurricane-resistant. After he stopped shooting (possibly because his rifle jammed), Cruz dropped his rifle on the third floor of the building and left the scene by blending in with fleeing students. He walked to a mall where he purchased a soda. He then walked to a fast-food restaurant and lingered before leaving on foot at 3:01 p.m. At about 3:40 p.m., he was stopped by police in the Wyndham Lakes neighborhood of Coral Springs, 2 miles (3.2 km) from the school, and arrested without incident. He was taken to a hospital emergency room with "labored breathing". After 40 minutes, he was released back into police custody and booked into the Broward County Jail.
School surveillance camera video revealed Cruz as the perpetrator, and he was also recognized by eyewitnesses. While SWAT paramedics were inside the building, additional paramedics from the local Fire-Rescue department repeatedly requested to enter the building. These requests were denied by the Broward Sheriff's Office, even after the suspect was arrested.
An interactive timeline of the events, beginning with Cruz entering the school property, was compiled by the Sun-Sentinel and published on December 28, 2018. Entitled Unprepared and Overwhelmed, the report highlighted a myriad of shortcomings by school officials and first responders.
Seventeen people were killed and seventeen people were wounded but survived their gunshot wounds. Three remained in critical condition the day after the shooting and one remained by the second day.
Twelve victims died inside the building, three died just outside the building on school premises, and two died in the hospital.
The fourteen students and three staff members killed were:
- Alyssa Alhadeff, 14
- Scott Beigel, 35
- Martin Duque, 14
- Nicholas Dworet, 17
- Aaron Feis, 37
- Jaime Guttenberg, 14
- Chris Hixon, 49
- Luke Hoyer, 15
- Cara Loughran, 14
- Gina Montalto, 14
- Joaquin Oliver, 17
- Alaina Petty, 14
- Meadow Pollack, 18
- Helena Ramsay, 17
- Alex Schachter, 14
- Carmen Schentrup, 16
- Peter Wang, 15
Geography teacher Scott Beigel was killed after he unlocked a classroom for students to enter and hide from the gunman. Aaron Feis, an assistant football coach and security guard, was killed as he shielded two students. Chris Hixon, the school's athletic director, was killed as he ran toward the sound of the gunfire and tried to help fleeing students.
Student Peter Wang was last seen in his Junior Reserve Officers' Training Corps (JROTC) uniform, holding doors open so others could get out more quickly; Wang was unable to flee with the students when Cruz appeared and fatally shot him. Commentators commended his actions and described him as a hero. A White House petition was circulated, calling for him to be buried with full military honors. At their respective funerals, Wang, Alaina Petty, and Martin Duque were all posthumously honored by the U.S. Army with the ROTC Medal for Heroism, and Wang was buried in his JROTC Blues uniform. On February 20, he was given a rare posthumous admission to the United States Military Academy.
Alyssa Alhadeff was the captain of the Parkland Soccer Club. On March 7, 2018—nearly three weeks after the shooting— she was honored by the United States women's national soccer team prior to a game in Orlando. Her teammates and family were invited to the game and presented with official jerseys that featured Alhadeff's name.
Meadow Pollack was a senior who was shot four times. As Cruz shot into other classrooms, she crawled to a classroom door but was unable to get inside. Cara Loughran, a freshman, was alongside Pollack, and Pollack covered Loughran in an attempt to shield her from the bullets. Cruz returned to the classroom and located Pollack and Loughran. He discharged his weapon five more times, killing both girls.
The last victim to remain hospitalized, 15-year-old Anthony Borges, was discharged on April 4. Dubbed "the real Iron Man", Borges was shot five times after he used his body to barricade the door of a classroom where twenty students were inside. Upon his release, Borges issued a statement that criticized the actions of Broward Sheriff's deputies, Sheriff Scott Israel, and School Superintendent Robert Runcie. His family has filed notice of its intent to sue the school district for personal injury to cover costs related to his recovery.
Several survivors of the shooting, teachers and students alike, have struggled with survivor's guilt and other symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). On March 17, 2019, thirteen months after the shooting, a 19-year-old survivor who had lost her friend Meadow Pollack the year before, committed suicide after struggling to attend college. She was terrified of being in a classroom and also had been treated for survivor's guilt and PTSD. Less than a week later, a 16-year old boy who had survived the shooting died of an apparent suicide.
Nikolas Jacob Cruz was born September 24, 1998 in Margate, Florida and was adopted at birth by Lynda and Roger Cruz. Both his adoptive parents died, Roger at age 67 in 2004, and Lynda at age 68 in November 2017, leaving Cruz orphaned three months before the shooting. Since his mother's death, he had been living with relatives and friends. At the time of the shooting, he was enrolled in a GED program and employed at a local dollar store.
Cruz was a member of the Junior Reserve Officers' Training Corps (JROTC) and had received multiple awards "including academic achievement for maintaining an A grade in JROTC and Bs in other subjects", according to CNN. He was also a member of his school's varsity air rifle team.
Cruz had behavioral issues since middle school, but a Washington Post writer said the student was "entrenched in the process for getting students help rather than referring them to law enforcement." He was transferred between schools six times in three years in an effort to deal with these problems. In 2014, he was transferred to a school for children with emotional or learning disabilities. There were reports that he made threats against other students.
He returned to Stoneman Douglas High School two years later but was banished in 2017 for disciplinary reasons. As he could not be expelled from the Broward County School system completely, he was transferred to alternate placement. The school administration had circulated an email to teachers, warning that Cruz had made threats against other students. The school banned him from wearing a backpack on campus.
Psychiatrists recommended an involuntary admission of Cruz to a residential treatment facility, starting in 2013. The Florida Department of Children and Families investigated him in September 2016 for Snapchat posts in which he cut both his arms and said he planned to buy a gun. At this time, a school resource officer suggested he undergo an involuntary psychiatric examination under the provisions of the Baker Act. Two guidance counselors agreed, but a mental institution did not. State investigators reported he had depression, autism, and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). In their assessment, they concluded he was "at low risk of harming himself or others". He had previously received mental health treatment, but had not received treatment in the year leading up to the shooting.
Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel described Cruz's online profiles and accounts as "very, very disturbing". They contained pictures and posts of him with a variety of weapons, including long knives, a shotgun, a pistol, and a BB gun. Police said that he held "extremist" views; social media accounts that were thought to be linked to him contained anti-black and anti-Muslim slurs. YouTube comments linked to him include "I wanna die Fighting [sic] killing shit ton [sic] of people", threats against police officers and "antifa," and intent to mimic the University of Texas tower shooting. In February 2017, Cruz legally purchased an AR-15 style semi-automatic rifle from a Coral Springs gun store. At the time of the shooting, in Florida, people 18 or older were allowed to buy rifles from federally licensed dealers. The age requirement has since been raised to 21. Cruz passed a background check. A year later, he used this weapon to commit the mass shooting at his former school.
Items recovered by police at the scene included gun magazines with swastikas carved in them. One student reported that Cruz had drawn a swastika and the words "I hate niggers" on his backpack. CNN reported that Cruz was in a private Instagram group chat where he expressed racist, homophobic, antisemitic, and anti-immigrant (xenophobic) views. He said he wanted to kill gay people and Mexicans, and talked about keeping black people in chains. He said he hated black people "simply because they were black," and Jewish people because he believed "they wanted to destroy the world." He also referred to white women who engaged in interracial relationships as traitors.
A former classmate said Cruz had anger management issues and often joked about guns and gun violence, which included threats of shooting up establishments. The brother of a 2016 graduate described him as "super stressed out all the time and talked about guns a lot and tried to hide his face". A student who was enrolled at the school at the time of the shooting said, "I think everyone had in their minds if anybody was going to do it, it was going to be him." A classmate who was assigned to work with him in sophomore year said, "He told me how he got kicked out of two private schools. He was held back twice. He had aspirations to join the military. He enjoyed hunting." A student's mother said that he also bragged about killing animals. A neighbor said his mother would call the police over to the house to try to talk some sense into him.
Warnings to law enforcement
Sheriff Scott Israel said that his office received 23 calls about Cruz during the previous decade, but this figure is in dispute. CNN used a public records request to obtain a sheriff's office log, which showed that from 2008 to 2017, at least 45 calls were made in reference to Cruz, his brother, or the family home. The calls included an anonymous tip on February 5, 2016, that Cruz had threatened to shoot up the school, and a tip on November 30, 2017, that he might be a "school shooter in the making" and that he collected knives and guns. On September 23, 2016, a peer counselor notified the school resource officer of his suicide attempt and intent to buy a gun; the school indicated it would do a "threat assessment".
In September 2016, three people—a sheriff's deputy who worked as a resource officer at Stoneman Douglas, and two of the school's counselors—stated that Cruz should be committed for mental evaluation.
On September 24, 2017, a person with the username "nikolas cruz" posted a comment to a YouTube video that read, "Im [sic] going to be a professional school shooter". The person who uploaded the video to YouTube reported the comment to the FBI. According to agent Robert Lasky, the agency conducted database reviews but was unable to track down the individual who made the threatening comment.
On January 5, 2018, more than a month before the shooting, the FBI received a tip on its Public Access Line from a person who was close to Cruz. On February 16, two days after the shooting, the agency released a statement that detailed this information. According to the statement, "The caller provided information about Cruz's gun ownership, desire to kill people, erratic behavior, and disturbing social media posts, as well as the potential of him conducting a school shooting." After conducting an investigation, the FBI said the tip line did not follow protocol when the information was not forwarded to the Miami Field Office, where investigative steps would have been taken. The FBI opened a probe into the tip line's operations.
The lack of response by Israel and other members of the Broward Country sheriff's department to the numerous red flags and warnings about Cruz has been the subject of much scrutiny. In the days following the shooting, calls for Israel's resignation intensified as more information that alluded to the department's inaction was revealed. Since the shooting, Israel has declined to resign and refused to take responsibility for his role in failing to stop Cruz before the mass shooting took place. In an interview with CNN, Israel described his leadership at the department as "amazing", a claim that was widely mocked and criticized.
The school district conducted an assessment of the handling of Cruz. According to their redacted report, which was reviewed in August 2018 by The New York Times, The Daily Beast, and other media, a year before the shooting Cruz had sought help from education specialists, as his grades at Stoneman Douglas were declining. He was an eighteen-year-old junior, and met with the specialists with his mother. The specialists recommended that he transfer to another school, Cross Creek in Pompano Beach, where he had done well before. But he wanted to graduate with his class at Stoneman Douglas, and rejected this option, as an adult. He was advised that if he stayed, he would no longer be able to access special education services, but this was incorrect. A few months later, he withdrew because of failing grades. After that, Cruz requested to go to Cross Creek, but he was told a new assessment was needed, delaying action.
At his initial arraignment the day after the shootings, Cruz was charged with 17 counts of premeditated murder and held without bond. If convicted of first degree murder, he faces either the death penalty or life without parole. According to an affidavit by the sheriff's office, Cruz confessed to the shooting. He also told officers that he brought additional loaded magazines hidden in a backpack.
The chief public defender said it is not yet known if Cruz's court-appointed attorneys will seek an insanity defense. Cruz was placed on suicide watch in an isolation cell (solitary confinement) after the arraignment. Lead defense counsel Gordon Weekes asked Judge Elizabeth Scherer to recuse herself, claiming that her previous comments and rulings showed favoritism toward the prosecution, which would prevent Cruz from receiving a fair trial. She disagreed and declined the request on February 26.
On March 7, 2018, a grand jury indicted Cruz on 34 charges: 17 counts of first-degree murder and 17 counts of attempted first-degree murder. He was arraigned on March 13, and the prosecution filed notice of their intent to seek the death penalty. They said they can prove five of the aggravating factors that qualify a murder for the death penalty in Florida. Cruz declined to enter a plea, so Judge Scherer entered "not guilty" on his behalf. The defense had earlier offered a guilty plea if the death penalty were taken off the table, and reiterated it immediately before it was refused.
During the week of April 8–12, 2018, Broward Circuit Judge Elizabeth Scherer included a three-page letter from a Minnesotan into the court record of the case. The letter was addressed to the judge and claimed that research into Cruz's past led the writer to believe that Cruz suffered from a developmental disability and that he was " fearful of other people and was threatened by bullies." The letter ended by claiming that Cruz appeared to be consumed by sadness and depression. This is part of a string of letters that have been sent to the judge, asking for her to show mercy or for God to forgive his actions against his victims.
The same week, a hearing was held to determine if taxpayers would pay for Cruz's defense. His attorney, court-appointed public defender Howard Finkelstein, pleaded with the court to wait until the probate case involving Cruz's late mother's estate was concluded and his net worth could be determined. Cruz had reportedly stated he wanted money left over from his defense to be donated to a cause that promotes healing and education in the community. On April 24, 2019, a determination was made that Cruz and his half-brother Zachary would share the proceeds of a MetLife insurance policy valued at $864,929. This would make Cruz ineligible for representation by the public defender's office, and as such, the office asked to be removed from his case on that date.
Meanwhile, with respect to Cruz's confession, Judge Scherer ruled on July 26, 2018 that it would be released to the public with certain details redacted. On August 3, Judge Scherer additionally ruled that the Broward school district's report on Cruz would be released to the public. Some portions of the report were redacted to protect Cruz's privacy rights. Cruz's confession was released on August 6. On August 8, a video of Cruz's confession filmed by the Broward County Sheriff's Office was published by TMZ. Cruz can be heard crying near the end of the video, and saying "kill me" to the camera.
According to the Broward County Sheriff's Office, Cruz attacked a jail officer on the night of November 13, 2018. The following day, he was charged with aggravated assault on an officer, battery on an officer and use of an "electric or chemical weapon against an officer." The officer who was attacked by Cruz had asked him to "not drag his sandals on the ground" while he was walking in the jail's dayroom. Cruz responded by "displaying his middle finger" and striking the officer in the face. He also grabbed the stun gun out of the deputy's holster. The weapon discharged during the brawl before the deputy regained control. Cruz appeared at an initial hearing on the assault charges, where bail was set at $200,000.
Cruz's trial, initially scheduled to begin on January 27, 2020, has been delayed until mid-year to allow his lawyers more time to build their case.
On May 30, 2018, prosecutors released three videos that Cruz had recorded on his cellphone before the shooting. In the videos, Cruz describes his personal feelings, his enthusiasm and plan for the shooting, his hatred of people, and how it will make him notorious.
The school district provided grief counseling to students and their families. Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi said that the fees of funerals and counseling would be paid for by the state. On February 15, police presence was increased at schools in at least two counties in Florida in response to the shooting. The building where the shooting took place will be demolished.
On February 28, two weeks after the shooting, Stoneman Douglas reopened to students amid a heavy police presence. School principal Ty Thompson emphasized that the first week back would be focused on healing, with classes ending at 11:40 a.m. through March 2. He tweeted " Remember our focus is on emotional readiness and comfort not curriculum: so there is no need for backpacks. Come ready to start the healing process and #RECLAIMTHENEST". Extra counseling and emotional support dogs were provided to students upon their return.
In early April, the school implemented several new safety rules and regulations. The changes included fewer entrances, law enforcement officers at each entrance, identification badges for students and staff, and the requirement that all book bags must be clear plastic. The use of metal detectors is under consideration. Several students criticized the new safety measures as ineffective and intrusive.
On November 30, 2018, the Sun-Sentinel reported that Broward County Public Schools, which runs Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, had spent about $185,000 attempting to obscure its role in not preventing the massacre. The district also spent an undisclosed sum on legal opposition to release of records related to the school's treatment of Nikolas Cruz while he was a student, and the school security procedures. A company named CEN received a $60,000 payment to review Cruz's school records and to investigate if the Broward County Public Schools followed the law in its handling of Cruz as a troubled student. The final report omitted various details about the instability of Cruz.
The school held its graduation ceremony on June 3, 2018, and diplomas were presented to the families of Nicholas Dworet, Joaquin Oliver, Meadow Pollack, and Carmen Schentrup, four students who were killed in the attack. Stoneman Douglas principal Ty Thompson began by dedicating the ceremony to "those not with us". Many graduates wore sashes that were emblazoned with #MSDStrong, or decorated their caps with references to the Never Again movement, while some dedicated their caps to their late classmates. Families of the victims also made statements; the mother of Joaquin Oliver accepted his diploma wearing a shirt saying "This should be my son". Talk show host Jimmy Fallon made a surprise appearance and gave a commencement speech to the graduating class, thanking them for their courage and bravery.
On the first anniversary of the shooting, the school opted to instate a voluntary attendance day. It organized a day of community service with early dismissal, so that the school was closed at the time of the attack. A police line was created to shelter those students who chose to attend. The large, planned project for the day was to replace the memorial with a permanent memorial garden. A planned moment of silence at 10:17 AM ET was held, with support provided from grief counselors and therapy dogs. An interfaith memorial service was planned in a separate location.
School resource officer (SRO) Scot Peterson, who was armed, on-site and in uniform as a Broward Sheriff's Office deputy, remained outside Building 12 during the shooting. Eight days after the attack, he was suspended without pay by Sheriff Israel, and he immediately retired. Sheriff Israel said "Scot Peterson was absolutely on campus for this entire event," and that he should have "gone in, addressed the killer, [and] killed the killer".
A statement released by Peterson's lawyer said he believed the shooting was happening outside the building, which he said he told the first Coral Springs police officer who arrived on scene. The statement also pointed to radio transmissions that indicated a gunshot victim near the football field.
However, the Miami Herald transcribed radio dispatches that Peterson at 2:23 said, "Be advised we have possible, could be firecrackers. I think we have shots fired, possible shots fired —1200 building". Seconds later, Peterson radioed: "We're talking about the 1200 building it's going to be the building off Holmberg Road Get the school locked down, gentlemen!" At 2:25, he radioed that "We also heard it's by, inside the 1200". At an unspecified time, Peterson called for police to ensure that "no one comes inside the school". At 2:27, at Building 12, he radioed, "Stay at least 500 feet away at this point." At an unspecified time, Peterson ordered: "Do not approach the 12 or 1300 building, stay at least 500 feet away".
On March 15, the sheriff's office released video footage in compliance with a court order. The video was captured by school surveillance cameras and showed some of Peterson's movements during the shooting.
Unnamed sources told CNN that Coral Springs police arrived at the scene and saw three Broward deputies behind their vehicles with pistols drawn. Broward Sheriff's Office captain Jan Jordan ordered deputies to form a perimeter instead of immediately confronting the shooter; this tactic was contrary to their training regarding active shooters. Based on time stamps of the police logs, the order was given some time after the shooting had stopped. Jordan was widely criticized for her actions, and she resigned, citing personal reasons, nine months after the shooting.
Sheriff Israel said that Coral Springs officers were the first to enter the building, about four minutes after Cruz had surreptitiously left the school. Due to a tape delay in viewing surveillance footage, officers believed that Cruz was still in the building. As of early March 2018 there were three investigations into the timeline of police response.
U.S. president Donald Trump criticized the officers who failed to enter the building during the shooting. On February 26, he said that he believed he would have entered "even if I didn't have a weapon, and I think most of the people in this room would have done that, too." His statement was mocked by some late night show hosts, who noted that Trump had avoided the military draft. Some survivors criticized Trump for his comments; for instance, survivor and activist David Hogg said that Trump was bragging and talking about himself in response to a tragedy that did not concern him.
In June 2019, following an investigation that included interviews with 184 witnesses, Peterson was arrested and then bonded out for the crime of failing to protect the students during the shooting. He faces 11 charges of neglect of a child, as well as culpable negligence and perjury. Peterson pleaded not guilty and has filed a motion to have all charges dropped. As of October 2019 a trial date has not been set.
Trump offered his prayers and condolences to the victims' families, writing, "no child, teacher or anyone else should ever feel unsafe in an American school". In a televised address, he mentioned school safety and mental health issues. Florida Governor Rick Scott ordered that flags at state buildings be flown at half-staff, and Trump later ordered flags be flown at half-staff for the entire country. Two days after the shooting, Trump and the first lady Melania visited Broward Health North, a hospital where eight of the shooting victims were admitted. They met with two victims and Trump praised doctors and law enforcement officials for their responses to the attack.
On February 22, Trump met with students and others for a "listening session" at the White House. He suggested arming up to 20% of the teachers to stop "maniacs" from attacking students. The following day, he called a "gun free" school a "magnet" for criminals and tweeted, "Highly trained, gun adept, teachers/coaches would solve the problem instantly, before police arrive."
BBC News characterized Republican politicians' reactions as focusing on mental health issues while dodging debate on gun control, with the reasoning that it was either "too political or too soon". Republican House Speaker Paul Ryan said that this was the time to "step back and count our blessings" instead of "taking sides and fighting each other politically". Republican Florida Senator Marco Rubio said that "most" proposals on stricter gun laws "would not have prevented" this shooting nor "any of those in recent history" and that lawmakers should take action with "focus on the violence part" alongside guns. Republican Kentucky Governor Matt Bevin declared that the country should re-evaluate "the things being put in the hands of our young people", specifically "quote-unquote video games" that "have desensitized people to the value of human life". Republican Senator Pat Roberts of Kansas said he supported age restrictions on the ownership of AR-15 style rifles, saying "Certainly nobody under 21 should have an AR-15." Republican Senator from Oklahoma James Lankford said on NBC News' Meet the Press he was open to requiring more comprehensive background checks for firearm purchases, saying "The problem is not owning an AR-15, it's the person who owns it." Republican governor of Ohio John Kasich called for restrictions on the sales of AR-15 style rifles, saying on CNN "if all of a sudden, you couldn't buy an AR-15, what would you lose? Would you feel as though your Second Amendment rights would be eroded because you couldn't buy a God-darn AR-15?" Republican Representative Brian Mast from Florida, a former resident of Parkland and an Army veteran, wrote in an op ed in The New York Times that he supported a ban on the sale of civilian versions of military rifles, writing:
Most nights in Afghanistan, I wielded an M4 carbine. My rifle was very similar to the AR-15-style semiautomatic weapon used to kill students, teachers and a coach I knew at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., where I once lived...I cannot support the primary weapon I used to defend our people being used to kill children I swore to defend. The AR-15 is an excellent platform for recreational shooters to learn to be outstanding marksmen. Unfortunately, it is also an excellent platform for those who wish to kill the innocent.
Democratic Senator from Florida Bill Nelson said "I have hunted all my life. but an AR-15 is not for hunting. It's for killing."
Al Hoffman Jr., a Republican donor in Florida, pledged that he would no longer fund legislative groups or candidates who were not actively working to ban sales of military-style assault weapons to civilians. He said, "For how many years now have we been doing this – having these experiences of terrorism, mass killings – and how many years has it been that nothing's been done?"
Sheriff Israel called on lawmakers to amend the Baker Act to allow police to detain and hospitalize people who make disturbing posts—not just clear threats—on social media. "I'm talking about being around bombs, possibly talking about 'I want to be a serial killer', talking about taking people's lives", he said. "Just taking a picture with a gun or a knife or a weapon – that in and of itself is clearly not even remotely something that we're concerned about."
Gun control debate
Many student survivors criticized the response from politicians and asked them not to offer condolences but to take action to prevent more students from being killed in school shootings. These students have demanded stricter gun control measures. Survivor Emma González was noted for her speech that rebuked thoughts and prayers from politicians. She later helped lead a protest movement against gun violence in the United States. Broward County Schools Superintendent Rob Runcie said, "now is the time to have a real conversation about gun control legislation". Lori Alhadeff, whose daughter was killed in the shooting, implored Trump to do something to improve school safety.
In the aftermath of the shooting, some of the student survivors organized a group called Never Again MSD. The group was created on social media with the hashtag #NeverAgain, activism inspired in part by the ground broken by the #MeToo movement and the 2018 Women's March. The group demanded legislative action to prevent similar shootings, and has condemned lawmakers who received political contributions from the National Rifle Association. The group held a rally on February 17 in Fort Lauderdale that was attended by hundreds of supporters.
Since the shooting, several more rallies have been planned to take place with the focus on legislative action. The Women's March Network organized a 17-minute school walkout that took place on March 14. A series of demonstrations called "March for Our Lives" on March 24 included a march in Washington, D.C. On April 20, the anniversary of the Columbine High School massacre, all-day walkouts were planned for teacher groups by educators Diane Ravitch and David Berliner, as well as student groups.
On February 20, dozens of Stoneman Douglas High School students went to the state Capitol in Tallahassee and watched as the Florida House of Representatives rejected a bill that would have banned assault weapons. Students strongly criticized the vote. The bill's sponsor, Carlos Guillermo Smith, highlighted the legislature's failure to respond to the use of an assault weapon in the mass shooting at Stoneman Douglas High School, while passing a bill to declare that pornography is a public health risk.
In mid-March, Lori Alhadeff announced her own nonprofit organization, Make Schools Safe, which will be mostly focusing on school campus security.
In May 2018, Cameron Kasky's father registered a super PAC, Families vs Assault Rifles PAC (FAMSVARPAC), with intentions of going "up against NRA candidates in every meaningful race in the country".
In March, the Florida Legislature passed a bill titled the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Act. It raised the minimum age for buying rifles to 21, established waiting periods and background checks, provided a program for the arming of some school employees and hiring of school police, banned bump stocks, and barred some potentially violent or mentally unhealthy people arrested under certain laws from possessing guns. In all, it allocated around $400 million. Rick Scott signed the bill into law on March 9. That same day, the NRA challenged the law by filing a lawsuit alleging that the ban on gun sales to people under 21 is unconstitutional because it violates the rights that the Second and Fourteenth Amendments confer to 18- to 21-year-olds, who are classified as adults.
On February 20, 2018, Trump directed the Department of Justice to issue regulations to ban bump stocks.
On March 23, the STOP School Violence Act was signed into law as part of the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2018, which increases funding for metal detectors, security training, and similar safety measures. Lawmakers made it clear it was in response to the shooting and the public outcry. Some students from the Stoneman Douglas High School, who were active in calling for stricter gun control (not just safety measures), said the measure was passed because lawmakers "pass something very easy and simple that everyone can get behind. But that's because it doesn't do anything."
Boycott of NRA and responses from businesses
Following the shooting, people boycotted the U.S. gun rights advocacy group National Rifle Association (NRA) and its business affiliates. Many companies responded to the shooting by changing some of their business dealings and practices.
Calls for companies to sever their ties to the NRA were heeded when several companies terminated their business relationships with the NRA.
Major gun sellers such as Dick's, Walmart, and Fred Meyer voluntarily raised the age requirement on gun purchases from 18 to 21. The NRA challenged the new age requirement in court. Other businesses like Bank of America and Citibank also ended some of their dealings with certain gun manufacturers and vendors.
On May 23, 2018, the parents of victims Jaime Guttenberg and Alex Schachter sued firearm manufacturer American Outdoor Brands Corporation, formerly known as Smith & Wesson, the manufacturer of the rifle used by Cruz, and distributor Sunrise Tactical Supply, the retailer who sold Cruz the rifle, claiming damages due to "the defendant's complicity in the entirely foreseeable, deadly use of the assault-style weapons that they place on the market."
In the aftermath of the shooting, more than $7.5 million was raised for the victims as of April 2018. Two other funds, Florida's Crime Victims Compensation Fund, which pays for medical and funeral expenses, and the National Compassion Fund, which pays for pain and suffering, are also available to help the victims of the Parkland shooting.
Conspiracy theories, disinformation, and harassment
Gun rights conspiracy theories circulated in the wake of the shooting. The speculation included false claims that the shooting did not happen or was staged by "crisis actors". One such claim was made by Benjamin A. Kelly, a district secretary for Republican State Representative Shawn Harrison, who sent an email to the Tampa Bay Times incorrectly stating that the children in the picture were not students at the school. As a result of the backlash, Kelly was fired hours later. Former Republican congressman and CNN contributor Jack Kingston suggested student demonstrators were paid by billionaire George Soros or were supported by members of Antifa. A video with a description espousing a conspiracy theory that student David Hogg was a "crisis actor" reached the top of YouTube's trending page before it was removed by the company. As the shooting took place, a teacher directed Hogg and several other students to hide in a closet. Hogg, who worked on the school's TV station, then filmed student reactions to the shooting in an effort to document the event.
The Alliance for Securing Democracy alleged that Russia-linked accounts on Twitter and other platforms used the shooting's aftermath to inflame tensions and divide Americans by posting loaded comments that oppose gun control. Other Russia-linked accounts labeled the shooting a false flag operation that the U.S. government would exploit to seize guns from citizens. Hundreds of Russian bots are also suspected of coming to the defense of Laura Ingraham on Twitter following the boycott of her show, The Ingraham Angle that resulted from her public ridicule of Hogg. The conspiracy theories about survivors like Hogg and González were named PolitiFact's 2018 Lie of the Year.
Some of the survivors of the massacre and their relatives were targeted by online harassment that included death threats. Cameron Kasky wrote on Twitter that he was quitting Facebook for the time being, because the death threats from "NRA cultists" were slightly more graphic on a service without a character limit.