President Trump tweeted that Florida neighbors and classmates should have reported 19-year-old Nikolas Cruz to authorities after he first exhibited disturbing behavior. Many had done that—over and over and over again, Politico reports. Cruz, who has confessed to mowing down 17 people at his South Florida high school in one of the nation’s deadliest school shootings, had been barred from bringing a backpack to school because he was threatening other students and, after repeated disciplinary run-ins, was finally expelled last year. Neighbors say he harassed them and police were called to his house many times. He had been receiving mental health treatment, but stopped going to the clinic last fall. Despite the fact that he was well known to police, school, and mental health officials, he legally purchased the AR-15 that he used to gun down former classmates.
Cruz slipped through the gaps in a dysfunctional mental health system and a gun background check setup not designed to stop mentally ill people who haven’t been incarcerated or court-ordered into treatment. Federal law prohibits people who have been involuntarily committed for mental illness from buying guns, but that gives a pass to people like Cruz, who had never been committed to a psychiatric facility or adjudicated by a court for a mental illness, but still exhibited signs of mental disorders. Lawmakers have tried reforming the background check system to include more people, but Trump’s reversal of an Obama-era regulation did the opposite. The rule required the Social Security Administration to report people on disability insurance who had severe mental illness and required someone else to file for them, to the FBI’s background check system to prohibit them from purchasing a gun. Trump “made it easier for the mentally ill to get guns,” said D.J. Jaffe of Mental Illness Policy Org.