Nikolas Cruz, the now-infamous shooter responsible for 17 senseless deaths Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, is sadly yet another household name in America, a nation in which mass shootings never seem to end, many of which kill children.
Let’s make this clear: His actions are indefensible. While he may have suffered from mental illness, that does not excuse him from full blame for the event that has ravaged the close-knit town and school, leading to 17 untimely deaths of students, coaches, and teachers who lost their lives at the hands of a madman with a deadly weapon he should never have had access to.
In fact, according to experts, the correlation between mental illness and gun violence is statistically insignificant. Furthermore, many cases of mental illness being linked with gun violence is in the form of suicide, not mass killing.
Still, information is coming out about the deranged shooter in the days following the tragedy. The latest of such reports is that he may have had fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS). FAS is characterized by memory and retention issues, vision problems, hearing deficiencies, and difficulty communicating.
While yes, these things can make life harder for a person, those symptoms do not absolve a killer. Plenty of people with disabilities far more difficult to handle are upstanding individuals who do not go on killing sprees. The same can also be said for hundreds of thousands of kids who are suspended and expelled from school each year due to disciplinary issues like Cruz was. He chose to be a killer and he planned his crime.
Unfortunately, the family who adopted Cruz had suspected that the murderer under their roof may have had FAS, but lack of biological family history made that difficult to pin down. According to Natalie Brassard, who’s worked with at risk youth for years, “Very often the information is lacking [such as alcohol consumption during pregnancy] so the formal diagnosis of FASD may not come.”
Certain facial features are what point to this new information about the shooter. Those with FAS sometimes exhibit low nasal bridge, minor ear abnormalities, and thin upper lips among other traits. Cruz has some such traits, but Brassard states that these can occur in just about anyone and are only present about 50 percent of the time.
Whether or not Cruz actually has FAS is up for debate and all such claims are pure speculation at this point. Regardless of what may be in his past, what he’s done in the present is beyond any defense. What we must now do is support the high school students who are aready working tirelessly to end this senseless violence once and for all and to work alongside them. As adults, it is our responsibilty to protect them and not the other way around. In that sense, we have failed.