An orphaned 19-year-old with a troubled past and his own AR-15 rifle was charged with 17 counts of premeditated murder Thursday after the deadliest school shooting in the U.S. in five years, the Associated Press reports. Law enforcement officials said Nikolas Cruz legally purchased the assault weapon used in the attack. President Trump focused on Cruz’ mental health, and Attorney General Jeff Sessions said he wants the Justice Department to study how mental illness and gun violence intersect, to better understand how law enforcement can use existing laws to intervene before school shootings happen. “It cannot be denied that something dangerous and unhealthy is happening in our country,” Sessions told a group of sheriffs in Washington, D.C. In “every one of these cases, we’ve had advance indications and perhaps we haven’t been effective enough in intervening.”
Republican Florida Gov. Rick Scott said he will work to make sure people with mental illness do not get guns. Broward County Schools Superintendent Rob Runcie said “now is the time to have a real conversation about gun control legislation,” and said that if adults can’t manage that in their lifetimes, students will do it. At least 17 people were shot to death and several others wounded Wednesday at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fl. Gunman Cruz, 19, had been expelled from the school for disciplinary reasons. He was taken into custody off campus without incident. Cruz was both inside and outside the school building in the course of the shootings.
Cruz had attracted so much concern that school administrators banned him from campus, said Jim Gard, a math teacher. Cruz’ former classmates say he had a hot temper and a history of making dark, gun-related jokes, reports USA Today. A fellow student recalled Cruz as withdrawn and having “a lot of anger management issues.” Cruz would joke about shooting people or shooting up establishments, she added. Trump focused on Cruz’ mental health, tweeting, “So many signs that the Florida shooter was mentally disturbed, even expelled from school for bad and erratic behavior. Neighbors and classmates knew he was a big problem. Must always report such instances to authorities, again and again!”