President Donald Trump has criticized the the top U.S. law enforcement agency for “missing signals” before a 19-year-old man carried out a mass shooting at a Florida high school last week.
“Very sad that the FBI missed all of the many signals sent out by the Florida school shooter. This is not acceptable,” Trump tweeted Saturday evening. “They are spending too much time trying to prove Russian collusion with the Trump campaign – there is no collusion. Get back to the basics and make us all proud!”
On Friday, the FBI admitted it did not act on a tipoff in January about Nikolas Cruz and his intentions six weeks before he killed 17 people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, in Parkland, Fla. The FBI said someone with a close relationship to Cruz had called in information on Jan. 5 about the teenager’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.”
U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions ordered an immediate review of how the Justice Department and the Federal Bureau of Investigation respond to warnings about potential mass killers.
The FBI had earlier said it received a report of a social media posting from a person identifying himself as “Nikolas Cruz,” saying, “I‘m going to be a professional school shooter.” But the FBI said it could not determine the “time, location or true identity” of the person behind the message.
Meanwhile, Florida’s state social services agency said in a report it had investigated Cruz’s home life more than a year before last week’s shooting rampage. But it closed the inquiry and concluded that his “final level of risk is low,” even though it learned he had behavioral problems and planned to buy a gun. Months after the state investigation was closed, Cruz bought the AR-15 assault-style rifle police say he used to carry out last week’s massacre.
Several U.S. lawmakers are calling for stiffer background checks of gun buyers, but Congress has shown no inclination to stop the sale of assault weapons, even as national polls in the U.S. have shown widespread support among voters for such a ban.
Republican Sen. James Lankford of Oklahoma told NBC’s “Meet the Press,” “I have no issue with more background checks. All the warning signs were there” about Cruz’s mental state and intentions.
“The tragedy we saw in Parkland is unthinkable,” Sen. Bernie Sanders, an independent progressive from Vermont, told the same show. He said the loophole that allows 40 percent of guns sold in the U.S. to occur without background checks needs to be closed. Authorities, however, say Cruz bought the AR-15 legally after such a background check.
Cruz, who is being held at the Broward County jail without bond, has admitted carrying out the shooting rampage, according to authorities. Cruz, who had been expelled last year from the school for disciplinary reasons, faces 17 counts of premeditated murder.
Calls for gun control
On Saturday, hundreds gathered at the Fort Lauderdale federal courthouse, about 45 kilometers from the suburb where the shooting took place, for rally calling for more gun control.
“We are going to be the last mass shooting,” vowed Emma Gonzalez, a survivor of the mass shooting.
“The people in the government who are voted into power are lying to us,” Gonzalez said. “We are prepared to call B.S. [point out a lie].”
Gonzalez said mental health — a factor Trump and other authorities had pointed to in their responses to the shooting — was not the main problem; she blamed Florida’s lenient gun laws, under which the teenage shooter legally purchased his weapon.
Meanwhile, about 60 kilometers away at the Dade County fairgrounds, hundreds of gun enthusiasts attended a gun show featuring more than 100 vendors of firearms and accessories.
Show manager Jorge Fernandez told Reuters news service that the company holding the event, Florida Gun Shows, decided against canceling the show because of financial concerns.
At the show, 30-year-old Adolfo David Ginarte told Reuters that it would be “un-American” to cancel the gun show because of the mass shooting. “Facts don’t care about your feelings,” he said. “Things are going to happen. … This isn’t the first time and, unfortunately, it’s not going to be the last time.”
Joe Arrington, 29, told Reuters he does not believe more regulation would have stopped the shooting. “I think a lot of agencies didn’t do their job necessarily like they were supposed to,” he said.
Trump visits with victims
President Trump and his wife, Melania, visited Florida on Friday, to meet with law enforcement officials and some of the victims of Wednesday’s shooting.
At a Broward County hospital near the scene of the shooting, Trump praised the medical staff who treated the victims, saying, “The job they’ve done is incredible.” He also praised the speed at which first-responders arrived at the school. When asked by reporters if the nation’s gun laws need to be changed, Trump did not respond.
Trump is to spend the long President’s Day weekend at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Palm Beach, about 55 kilometers from Parkland.