Memorable days should be birthdays, field trips, and core remembrances that will last a lifetime and shape who you are. The moments you laugh with loved ones and your eyes glisten with unspeakable joy and serenity. Core memories should not include scenes blurred by tears and the ringing of gunshots through the hallways you once laughed in. One of my core memories should not be on the verge of frustrated tears on Valentine’s Day in 2018 when we found out there had been another school shooting.
According to Business Insider, there were a total of 340 mass shootings in the USA alone in 2018. “Nowhere is safe anymore,” people would comment in passing as another shooting was mentioned. Whether it had occurred at a religious building, a theme park, a mall, or at a school. In 2018, there were almost as many mass shootings as there were days in the year.
Our generation became the catalyst for change after Nikolas Cruz murdered seventeen people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. March For Our Lives was founded and, with it, a shift in everyone’s attitudes. There were walkouts organized, protests marched, and most importantly, there was a call for justice, and justice was served legally.
Earlier this month, Cruz was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole. However, many directly affected by Cruz’s actions are calling for him to be sentenced to death. Although most countries have abolished the death penalty, it is still a punishment used in many countries throughout the world. Being from the United States, it shocks me every time someone in the country is sentenced to death.
There are many arguments both for and against the death penalty. Carnal justice versus the concept of ethics and truly what it means to end someone’s life. In this case, Cruz murdered over a dozen people in what many consider the deadliest school shooting in the USA in recent history. This caused a massive wave in society’s sentiment about gun control and reform.
Parents and friends will lament the loss of their loved ones for the rest of their lives. Nothing can change that: no amount of well wishes, flowers, or pleading for the perpetrator to be executed. However, the horrendous actions of Nikolas Cruz do not qualify a court’s reasoning to put him on death row. Just because he took multiple lives does not give us the right as a society to demand his life in return or as retribution. That is not justice, nor will it ever be.
Murdering someone who murdered someone, although based on the idea of an eye-for-an-eye, is not moral. I will never be able to understand what the victim’s families feel or what the survivors of the Parkland shooting must think as they watch Cruz sit in that Florida courtroom. Their feelings are valid, but not an argument for capital punishment. There is absolutely no situation in which society should be allowed to legally murder someone for their actions; this is simply an archaic law that is no longer the foundation of our society. Many argue that his death would be a “service” to society so that he is never able to do anything of the sort again. It is an understandable argument, but his sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole already ensures he will never get out. If those who are calling for the death penalty want him to suffer, prison will do that. He may remain alive while seventeen are not because of him, but that is a fact no one can change.
As I finish writing this, I look at the news once more, and I feel transported back to 2018, watching how more articles come in about school shootings. It is October 24, 2022, and Ethan Crumbley pleads guilty to gunning down students at Oxford High School in Michigan on November 30, 2021. It is October 24, 2022, and there has been a school shooting with casualties still being counted at Central Visual and Performing Arts High School in St. Louis, MO. Gun reform is a necessity in the USA, and no punishment on Earth will ever bring those lives lost back.
When I moved to Segovia, I thought my biggest culture shock would be moving from upbeat Chicago to a small-town life in Spain; I was wrong. The biggest culture shock is being in a room where the fire alarm goes off, but my immediate fear is that there is an armed intruder in the building. Many times, I will be the only one in the room who has gone through active shooter drills since the Sandy Hook Massacre. I was only eight years old when twenty-first graders and seven staff members were murdered at an elementary school, and gun violence has only worsened.
Featured cover image: Parkland school shooter Nikolas Cruz looks toward the prosecution table during a hearing in Fort Lauderdale. (Amy Beth Bennett/Sun Sentinel/Tribune News Service via Getty Images)