The National Rifle Association donated more than $10,000 worth of supplies in order to facilitate weapons training to select students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School — including to Nikolas Cruz, who was responsible for killing 17 individuals at the same school last week.
Cruz undoubtedly gained experience from the program, which provided air rifles and other equipment meant to help a small number of students improve their marksmanship skills. He would often tell his peers in the program about his own guns at home.
“It seemed almost therapeutic to him, the way he spoke about" shooting, former participant of the program Aaron Diener said.
Despite the fact that warning signs were present, and that Cruz likely used his honed-in rifle skills from the grant to help him in his rampage last week, the NRA is defending the program and lashing out at critics who say the organization bears some responsibility for the gunman’s killing spree.
NRA spokeswoman Dana Loesch took her defense to Twitter, where she vociferously backed the program, even suggesting that part of the NRA’s donations helped save children’s lives.
Loesch made mention of how the grant went to the JROTC program. But as ThinkProgress points out, that’s not the whole story; while the four members of the marksmanship team were all part of the group, the team itself was not affiliated with JROTC, nor did the donations benefit that group specifically.
It is true that one member of the JROTC gave his life during the shooting spree. And it’s also true that another member guided students to the room where Kevlar protection was made available. But the gunman never made it to those students and was still able to kill 17 individuals last Wednesday.
Furthermore, an armed guard was on campus the day that the shooting occurred but never encountered Cruz directly, countering another argument from the organization that more guns in schools would help deter would-be shooters.
The NRA talking points attempting to defend their influence on the school’s property fail to muster any proper defense that they’re justified in training students. Cruz directly benefited from his training experience, which was provided by a non-monetary grant worth more than $10,000 from the gun “rights” organization. The NRA has given out more than $2 million in similar grants across the nation. How many potential killers are they helping to train?
No amount of blustering rebuttals from the NRA can clear their consciences of this fact: They helped train a young man to kill and injure dozens of students at the Parkland, Florida, high school. Their shame ought to result in a reassessment of their goals and future donations. Instead, they’ve chosen to double-down and defend the very program that made it easier for a killer to hit his intended targets.