“They didn’t see this coming.”
That astonishing remark was made, according to press reports, by the attorney of the adoptive parents of Nikolas Cruz, the nineteen-year-old alleged perpetrator of the Florida school massacre.
I say astonishing because Nikolas – who, along with his brother, had been taken in by the family friends after his mother died last November – brought into the Cruz home a rifle. This was purchased by Nikolas after he had passed the mandatory so-called background check. The weapon was kept in a cupboard under lock and key, which if nothing else suggests that Mr. and Mrs. Cruz were entirely aware of its lethal potential. Equally astonishingly, Nikolas had the key, and presumably sometimes took the gun out to admire it, or clean it, or to practise shooting with it.
If the Cruz couple found no reason to worry about a teenager living under their roof in possession of such a weapon – described in the media as an AR-15 – all I can say is that they must be very relaxed people. If such a weapon been brought into my house – or, I would venture to guess, yours – under similar circumstances, moreover by an apparently ‘depressed’ youth turned out to have been expelled from school for violence, I would have seen fit to express my concern, to say the least. I think I would have gone considerably beyond mere expressions of concern.
The name of the gun, by the way, meant nothing to me until I looked it up. Wikipedia describes the thing, which is manufactured by Colt, as a “lightweight, magazine-fed, gas-operated, semi-automatic weapon”. The entry goes on to mention that the AR-15 is a version of the M16 rifle used by the United States military.
No mere BB gun for shooting squirrels, then.
The Cruz attorney, Jim Lewis, adding to his earlier remark, said “The family brought him into their home. They got him a job at a local dollar store. They didn’t see anything that would suggest any violence. He was depressed, maybe a little quirky. But they never saw anything violent.”
‘Depressed’ and ‘quirky’ are not, it must be argued, ideal conditions for any gun owner. All I can say is that if Nikolas’s ownership of a semi-automatic weapon designed for the express purpose of killing people was not seen in the Cruz household as, at best odd, and at worst a potential risk, then I don’t know what might do the trick; a nuclear bomb prototype, perhaps.
I have no reason to believe Mr. and Mrs. Cruz to be anything but generous, loving, peaceful and law-abiding citizens. If so, it must say something about America’s obsession with guns that such nice people could tolerate such a weapon in their home without thinking to report the matter to the police. To be fair, it may yet emerge that they did. Doubtless the police are meanwhile asking the same question – or will be asking it once they have finished finding the bodies, seventeen at last count, and interviewing the injured.
I have no intention here of wading yet again through the arguments for and against gun ownership, or what kind of measures ought to be imposed on those who own, or seek to own, such weapons. The debate is barren because it is trotted out by rote by each side of the argument every time some lunatic goes out and slaughters a goodly number of his fellow citizens.
But I find fascinating, in the morbid sense, the strangely benign attitude of Mr. and Mrs. Cruz, who now have to live with the fact that for several months, and apparently from only the kindest of intentions, they harboured a mass murderer.