Nikolas Cruz, the teenaged gunman who killed 17 people at a Parkland, Florida high school, practiced his marksmanship at a program supported by a grant from the National Rifle Association Foundation as part of the NRA’s heavily funded efforts to promote shooting clubs for minors, according to a report by the Associated Press today.
When Cruz was arrested on Wednesday, he was found wearing a shirt featuring the logo of the Army Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps program at the school he attacked, the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. Former classmates of Cruz who were also part of the program told AP that Cruz participated as a member of the varsity marksmanship team that trained after school and competed with other Florida schools in shooting events around the state.
“He was a very good shot,” said Aaron Diener, 20, who gave Cruz a ride to shooting competitions when they were part of the same four-member team in 2016. “He had an AR-15 he talked about, and pistols.”
School records prove that the NRA’s fundraising and charitable arm provided $10,827 in non-cash assistance to the Stoneman Douglas JROTC program in 2016 when Cruz was in the program.
The JROTC marksmanship program uses specially-made air rifles to aim at targets the size of small coins. The team’s training room became a valuable shelter in the school during the shooting when 60 students barricaded themselves behind the Kevlar sheets the program uses to prevent the shooter from reaching them if he had entered the room.
Luckily, they never needed to find out if the Kevlar would hold up to a storm of bullets from a semi-automatic AR-15 when Cruz skipped the room in his murderous sweep of the high school.
The NRA refused to comment on their foundation’s activities today. All of the foundation’s officers are current or former NRA executives,
With nearly $2.2 million in grants handed out to schools across 30 states in 2016, the NRA has provided more than $400,000 in cash grants and nearly $1.8 million as in-kind donations ranging from equipment for high school air rifle teams to gun safety programs for younger children, training the next generation of gun nuts and, in at least one case, mass shooters.
In addition to schools, the NRA Foundation also supports local gun clubs, Boy Scout chapters, churches and agriculture programs with millions of dollars worth of grants, spending more than $335 million since 1990.
A total of 18 Florida schools took money from the NRA, more than in any other state. A spokesperson for the Broward County school district says that they have no plans to discontinue applying for the NRA grants.
“If grant money is needed again to support a program that benefits 6,500 students, helps them focus on school, earn scholarships and plan for their future, then we will continue to apply for those types of grants,” said Rob Spicker, a district spokesman.
If there is anyone who still doesn’t think that the NRA bears major responsibility for the rash of gun violence and mass shootings in this country, the news of the organization’s helping mass murderers improve their aim probably won’t change their minds, but for everyone else, it’s a devastating indictment of a dangerous and enabling conspiracy by gun manufacturers to put profits over the lives of American citizens.