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A deadly shooting at a Florida high school dominated coverage over the past news cycle, with stories leading all three network news broadcasts for a combined total time of over thirty minutes. Major papers and wire services also carried coverage of the shooting, of calls for better approaches to ending school shootings, and of the rising prevalence of such attacks in recent years.
The three broadcast networks devoted the bulk of their newscasts to the shooting, which has so far resulted in 17 deaths and left 15 others injured. ABC World News Tonight (2/14, lead story, 4:40, Muir) reported, “These images now emerging: inside the school, students hiding from the gunfire; armed SWAT teams entering, going classroom to classroom. … At this hour, a suspect is in custody,” a former student named Nikolas Cruz. ABC’s Victor Oquendo: “Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School turned into a war zone in seconds. Just after 2:00 p.m., as students were leaving school for the day, a shooter opening fire inside.” On the CBS Evening News (2/14, lead story, 3:40, Glor), Manuel Bojorquez reported, “The gunman appears to have pulled the school’s fire alarm to create chaos, and then began firing. Those who could, ran, hiding in classrooms, even closets, while the shooting continued. Just as the school day was ending, the shooting started. … The sheriff says the alleged gunman was captured off campus. He was seen surrounded by police, being placed into custody.”
On NBC Nightly News (2/14, lead story, 3:00, Holt), Tammy Leitner reported on “teens streaming out of the building single file, hands in the air, images reminiscent of Columbine and many other shootings. Officials calling it a mass casualty incident.” ABC World News Tonight (2/14, story 3, 1:55, Muir) and the CBS Evening News (2/14, story 2, 1:40, Glor) also interviewed eyewitnesses.
The Miami Herald (2/14) reports, “An American nightmare unfolded” at the school “after an expelled teenager returned to campus and opened fire with an assault rifle…in the worst school shooting in Florida history.” Authorities say that 19-year-old Cruz “walked the halls of the high school wielding an AR-15 and multiple magazines. … Police say Cruz, known to other students as a loner obsessed with weapons, shot his way onto campus,” and later “managed to slip in with his former classmates and make it off campus before he was taken into custody.” The New York Times (2/14, Burch, Mazzei, Subscription Publication) reports that according to Sen. Bill Nelson, Cruz was well-prepared. After being briefed by the FBI, Nelson said in an interview, “The shooter wore a gas mask, had smoke grenades, and he set off the fire alarm so the kids would come out of the classrooms.”
The AP (2/15, Spencer, Kennedy) reports, “Authorities offered no immediate details…or any possible motive, except to say that he had been kicked out of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, which has about 3,000 students.” USA Today (2/14, James, Bohatch) reports that according to one teacher, Cruz “had previously attracted so much concern that school administrators banned him from campus.” His “former classmates say he had a hot temper and a history of making dark, gun-related jokes.” Reuters (2/14, Woodall) reports that as a freshman, Cruz had been part of the Junior Reserve Officers’ Training Corp program at the school.
The Washington Post (2/14, Balingit, Larimer) reports that an Instagram account that appeared to belong to Cruz “showed several photos of guns. One appeared to show a gun’s holographic laser sight pointed at a neighborhood street. A second showed at least six rifles and handguns laid out on a bed with the caption ‘arsenal.’ … One of the most disturbing appeared to show a dead frog’s bloodied corpse.” Former FBI profiler Clint Van Zandt told NBC Nightly News (2/14, story 3, 1:45, Holt), “Any time we see a shooter like this, there are always pre-incident indicators. They either tell someone [or] they write about it on the Internet or some social network page. We never see an individual just totally act out of the dark.”
The New York Times (2/14, Haag, Kovaleski, Subscription Publication) reports that Cruz “was enrolled at another Broward County school, officials said.” Those who knew him “described him as a ‘troubled kid’ who enjoyed showing off his firearms and whose mother would resort to calling the police to have them come to their home to try to talk some sense into him.” One student told a local television station, “A lot of people were saying that it would be him. They would say he would be the one to shoot up the school.”
The Wall Street Journal (2/14, Kamp, Calvert, Subscription Publication) reports that the incident was the deadliest school shooting since Sandy Hook in 2012, and the third-deadliest school shooting in modern US history, after Sandy Hook and the 2007 Virginia Tech shooting. It was the sixth high school shooting so far this year that resulted in injury or death, according to Everytown for Gun Safety. Kristen Dahlgren reported on NBC Nightly News (2/14, story 4, 1:55, Holt) that according to the group, “this is the 18th time a gun was fired on school grounds this year.” On ABC World News Tonight (2/14, story 4, 1:50, Muir), Pierre Thomas reported that the US has been “averaging more than 300 mass shootings in [each of] the last three years.” Business Insider (2/14) also reports.
Trump Offers “Prayers And Condolences” To Florida Shooting Victims. President Trump commented on the Wednesday afternoon mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida on Twitter, as did the First Lady. The CBS Evening News (2/14, story 3, 0:30, Glor) reported, “The President wrote, ‘My prayers and condolences to the families of the victims of the terrible Florida shooting. No child, teacher or anyone else should ever feel unsafe in an American school.’ The First Lady, who spent part of the day with young hospital patients in Maryland, wrote, ‘My heart is heavy over the school shooting in Florida. Keeping all affected in my thoughts & prayers.’”
ABC World News Tonight (2/14, story 7, 0:55, Muir) reported, “Since taking office, President Trump has addressed the nation three times after mass shootings, something his predecessors had to do.” ABC’s Cecilia Vega: “There’s been a theme in many of President Trump’s remarks. After the shooting in Texas, he said it would be a little too soon to talk about gun laws. After the massacre in Las Vegas, he said, we will talk about gun laws as time goes on. There has not been a very serious public policy conversation about gun control here at this Administration, in this White House.”
Politico (2/14, Lima) reports that the White House said Wednesday afternoon that the President “was monitoring the situation.” CNN (2/14, Malloy) reports on its website that Trump was briefed by DHS Secretary Nielsen, and “spoke to Florida Gov. Rick Scott and offered federal assistance if needed.” The Washington Times (2/14, Boyer) reports that the President “offered federal assistance and the FBI was helping in the investigation. The bureau quickly set up a website for those at the school to upload images or videos they may have taken.” The Hill (2/14, Anapol) reports that the regular White House news briefing was canceled due to the shooting.
Congressional Democrats Decry Legislative Inaction On School Shootings. The Hill (2/14, Carter) reports Sen. Chris Murphy (D-CT) said “such shootings occur in the U.S. ‘as a consequence of our inaction’ on gun violence.” The Hill quotes Murphy saying on the Senate floor, “This happens nowhere else other than the United States of America — this epidemic of mass slaughter, this scourge of school shooting after school shooting. It only happens here not because of coincidence, not because of bad luck, but as a consequence of our inaction. We are responsible for a level of mass atrocity that happens in this country with zero parallel anywhere else.”
Newsweek (2/14, Valencia) reports Murphy “took the Senate floor on Wednesday to rebuke his colleagues,” adding that he “originally intended to address the Senate on immigration matters, but he decided to chide his colleagues for not doing enough to enact stronger gun laws.” The article notes that Murphy “dealt with the Sandy Hook massacre almost six years ago.”
Business Insider (2/14) reports Murphy “called out Congress for not doing enough to prevent mass shootings,” and “lashed out at lawmakers on the Senate floor Wednesday as authorities were still investigating the scene of a deadly mass shooting at a Florida high school.” Murphy, this article says, “has long been a staunch supporter of gun control measures. He was a congressman representing Connecticut’s 5th district when 20 children were gunned down at Sandy Hook Elementary School in December 2012.”
Meanwhile, the Huffington Post (2/14) reports former Rep. Gabby Giffords “begged for politicians to take action on the ‘gun violence epidemic’ in the wake of the Florida school shooting on Wednesday, calling on voters, in an emotional tweet storm, to act to force change.” Giffords, who “was shot in the head in an assassination attempt” in 2011, “posted a series of tweets calling for politicians to reform America’s gun laws.”
The Hill (2/14, Greenwood) reports Democratic National Committee Chairman Tom Perez “called for lawmakers to address the rash of school shootings that has long roiled the country, following the latest incident at a Florida high school.” The Hill quotes Perez saying, “We have seen these atrocities too many times before. This is not normal. This is not acceptable. This is not inevitable. It’s long past time for our leaders to stop pretending we are helpless in the face of such tragedy.”
Reports Track Recent History Of School Shootings. An analysis in the Washington Post (2/14, Bump) reports that though reports that “there have been 18 school shootings in the United States this year” are inaccurate because this statistic “includes any discharge of a firearm at a school — including accidents — as a ‘shooting,’” there have nevertheless been “at least seven school shootings in 2018 — more than one each week.” Since 2000, there have been over 130 “shootings at elementary, middle and high schools, and 58 others at colleges and universities.”
The Los Angeles Times (2/14, Lee) reports that the Florida massacre was the second deadly school shooting this year, saying that while “there have been shootings at schools since the 1800s…the current trend appears to have started in the 1990s.” USA Today (2/14, Miller) reports that “in just 45 days, there have already been at least six school shootings in 2018 that have wounded or killed students in the United States.”
TIME (2/14) reports that according to the group Everytown for Gun Safety, Wednesday’s attack “was the 18th school shooting of 2018 — a year that’s not even two months old.” While most “did not result in any fatalities or injuries, schools nationwide have been rocked by gun violence in recent days.”
The AP (2/14) runs a sidebar presenting thumbnail sketches of US school shootings dating back to 1997.