Just days before the mass shooting in Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, that left at least 17 people killed and many injured, Parkland, Florida was ranked as the 15th safest city in the US, safer than 85 percent of US cities.
Parkland, a city of 31,500 residents and located some 36 miles (58 km) from Miami, landed the honorable 15th spot in the annual The Safest Cities list survey, published by Location, Inc on Monday. The list was published a mere two days before a gunman went on a shooting spree in a Florida school, gunning down students and teachers. The suspected attacker was identified as former student, 19-year-old Nikolas Cruz.
The survey, which compared violent and non-violent crimes across all US cities with a population of 25,000 and more, found that the odds of becoming a victim of violent crime in Parkland were around 0.6 per 1,000 residents, in comparison to the 4.3 average statewide and 4 nationwide.
Last year, only 19 violent crimes were registered in Parkland, according to the survey, which draws on data from 18,000 local law enforcement agencies across the US, states. Among them, not a single murder of the 17,250 perpetrated nationwide.
Now, Parkland joins a grim club. The Stoneman Douglas shooting is the 19th school shooting in the US since the beginning of this year, according to Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Connecticut). In an emotional speech on the Senate floor, Murphy described the level of crime in the US as unparalleled.
“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,” he said.
According to the Everytown for Gun Safety, a group, which has tracked school shootings around the US since 2013, the bloodshed in Parkland is the 18th school shooting this year.
While the Wednesday shooting was not the first one this year, it was the deadliest – and one of the deadliest in history. At least 17 people have died and over a dozen more were injured by Cruz outside and inside the school building. The closest this year, in terms of casualties, is the January 23 shooting at Marshall County High School in Kentucky, which left two students killed and 20 injured.
School shootings, which have become depressingly frequent in America in the recent decades, do not always result in so many casualties. The 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting saw 20-year-old Adam Lanza kill 20 first-grade children and six adults before taking his own life. The 1999 Columbine High massacre claimed 13 lives, including those of 12 students and a teacher.
Mass shootings and gun control
Each time there is a mass shooting in America, it reignites the long-running debate about gun control, with many, mostly liberal politicians, pushing for tougher checks and federal restrictions on assault weapons. On the other side of the debate, defending Americans’ Second Amendment-protected right to bear arms, are Republican lawmakers and the powerful National Rifle Association (NRA).
The latest gun control initiatives imposed a ban on “bump fire stocks,” which can be combined on a semi-automatic weapon to turn it into a fully-automatic one. The legislation was introduced by Congress after the October 2017 mass shooting in Las Vegas, where gunman Stephen Paddock killed 58 people and injured hundreds more at a country music concert. The legislation faced strong criticism from NRA, which said the bill was “intentionally overreaching.” Bump fire stock sales surged in anticipation of the ban.
In addition to federal gun laws, each state has its own gun legislation, which can often be more restrictive in some states and relaxed in others. For instance, bumper stocks have already been banned in New Jersey, which has some of the most restrictive gun laws in the country.
New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy has recently touted a package of gun control measures that would limit the capacity of gun magazines to 10 rounds from the currently permitted 15, ban the sale of .50-caliber assault weapons, add more restrictions on concealed carry permits and tougher background checks.
There have been calls to ban the AR-15 rifle, the one used by Cruz and many other mass shooters including in Las Vegas and Sandy Hook. The rifle, dubbed by the NRA as the “most popular rifle in America” has become a grim icon, a name that trends after every similar incident which landed it in the center of gun control debates.