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Wednesday afternoon a gunman pulled the fire alarm in a South Florida high school before opening fire on the students streaming out of the building. Fifteen people were killed on the scene and another two died later in hospital. Ten victims are still being treated for non-life-threatening injuries and another five are in critical condition. This attack marks the 18th school shooting in the U.S. since the start of 2018 and is one of the top ten deadliest in the country’s history.

The suspected shooter, 19-year-old Nikolas Cruz, was caught by police trying to blend in with the chaotic crowd of students and teachers and will face 17 counts of premeditated murder. Cruz had been living with a friend’s family since his mother’s death in November and was working toward getting his GED after being expelled from several high schools including Marjory Stoneman Douglas H.S., the location of the shooting, for unspecified “disciplinary” reasons.

Cruz obtained the AR-15 firearm he used in the shooting legally and the family knew of its existence but required it to be locked away. They also knew he was suffering from depression but are unaware of any additional mental illness, according to their lawyer. Classmates, neighbours and teachers describe Cruz as a troubled “loner” and his social media accounts featured pictures of him posing with weapons. One of Cruz’s former math teachers told the Miami Herald that the teen had been identified previously as a possible threat to other students. One former classmate made the chilling statement: “He seemed like the kind of kid who would do something like this.”

Last September, YouTube vlogger and Mississippi bail bondsman Ben Bennight alerted the FBI and YouTube of a comment posted on one of his videos by an account with the username “Nikolas Cruz.” The comment said “I’m going to be a professional school shooter.” Authorities would not verify if the account was owned by the suspect.

Acts of heroism

People are lauding the heroic efforts of several teachers who risked and gave their lives to protect their students. Football coach Aaron Feis was shot when he used his own body to shield students from the attack and died later in the hospital. The school’s football team posted about his heroism.

Geography teacher Scott Beigel was also killed protecting his students. Grade nine student Kelsey Friend told CNN that the teacher ushered students from the hallway into his classroom and was caught in the line of fire while in the doorway.

As of right now, only five of the victims have been publicly identified by police.

The usual wishes, The usual debates

While there has been an onslaught of “thoughts and prayers” from politicians and lawmakers, Americans are tired of hearing the same sentiments with no action. Florida Senator Marco Rubio is receiving particular heat for his statement calling the event “inexplicable.” These mass shootings can be easily explained and addressed with legislation as simple as requiring background checks for gun purchases, but as former-congressman and Republican David Jolly told CNN, Republicans just aren’t willing to do that.

This new attack brings us back to the same debates we have every time a disenfranchised man (yes, man) enters a public space with a weapon and opens fire: gun control, mental health and toxic masculinity. For a week or so Americans will argue about if gun control is a violation of Second Amendment rights or simply common sense. They will talk about if people with clinical depression should be able to own firearms and wonder aloud how to identify warning signs that someone might be in the mindset to cause mass violence. Then, the novelty of the attack will wear off and people will put these debates to bed until the next mass shooting in the U.S.

A valid point that has been gaining traction in relation to attacks such as this one is the idea that toxic masculinity and the narrow and rigid definition of what makes a man is a contributing factor. Actor Michael Ian Black took to Twitter Wednesday night to clearly explain the instinctual and violent reaction that men often have when their masculinity is questioned or attacked.

Trump statements

Thursday morning, President Donald Trump addressed the nation about the attack. He focused on the tragedy of losing so many young lives, the terror that parents and students should never have to feel and he urged any children who might feel “lost, alone, confused or even scared” to seek help from “a teacher, a family member, a local police officer, or a faith leader.”

“No parent should ever have to fear for their sons and daughters when they kiss them good-bye in the morning,” the president said, “Each person who was stolen from us yesterday had full lives ahead of them, a life full of wondrous beauty and unlimited potential and promise. Each one had dreams to pursue, love to give and talents to share with the world. And each one had a family to whom they meant everything in the world.”

He added that the United States wants to “create a culture in our country that embraces the dignity of life, that creates deep and meaningful human connections, and that turns classmates and colleagues into friends and neighbors.”

He also said that he and his administration don’t want to just “feel” like they’re making a difference, they want to “actually make that difference” while offering no specifics or mentioning gun control at all. His statements make it clear that he will be focusing on the mental health side of the problem. While mental illness is an important contributing factor in many of these cases, it is not what kills people in a mass shooting. It’s the easy access to a gun.

As predicted, the Republicans will likely do nothing about gun control. The best hope for Americans to change firearms legislation is to get some more Democrats in power in their 2018 midterm elections and then make gun control a priority, not just as a talking point the week after a tragedy, but in an effort to prevent any more tragedies in the future.