David Katz: NRA suggests 'end to gun-free zones' after Jacksonville shooting

The group claims allowing others to carry weapons could have prevented tragedy

Mythili Sampathkumar
New York
Monday 27 August 2018 22:20 BST
Gunshots and screaming heard during Madden NFL livestream

The National Rifle Association (NRA) has called for an end to gun-free zones in light of the recent Jacksonville, Florida, shooting.

“A horrible tragedy. End gun-free zones or have the security in place to keep people safe in them,” NRA spokesperson Dana Loesch tweeted the same day as David Katz was suspected of killing two people and himself at the Jackson Landing shopping complex.

Ms Loesch, a high-profile spokesperson for the gun industry and users’ lobbying organisation, also tweeted a link to the Jackson Landing policy regarding carrying a firearm, which stated: “Possession of a weapon, even if legally carried (except by law enforcement officers) is absolutely prohibited on Landing property.” She appeared to suggest that if others had been allowed to carry a gun on the property, the number of casualties and injured could have been less.

Ms Loesch also tweeted just hours after the incident: "If you’re going to create gun free zones then have security present. Value and protect innocent life. This isn’t a controversial belief. The Landing has had security concerns for some time."

She linked to an article from the Jacksonville Daily Record news outlet which detailed why the city had been considering ending the Jackson Landing's lease on the property due to security concerns.

The victims were identified by police as Elijah Clayton, 22, of California and Taylor Robertson, 28, of West Virginia. The suspect also died, and police have said they believe it was from a self-inflicted gunshot wound.

Gunshots and screaming heard during Madden NFL livestream

In addition to the fatalities, nine people were injured after the suspect opened fire at the GLHF Bar, inside the Chicago Pizza restaurant. All the wounded are expected to recover.

The victims were playing in a tournament of American football video game, Madden NFL 19 and the suspect is said to have targeted his fellow gamers, but his motive has not been publicly disclosed as yet.

Shay Kivlen travelled from Seattle, Washington, to play in the tournament as well. He told the Associated Press he had heard the suspect had been asking about him during the tournament and luckily was in his hotel room during the incident.

Mr Kivlen said though players who compete for money do feel pressure, "in 'Madden,' you never get so mad at a loss that you would want to" kill someone.

There is court documentation from Mr Katz's parents' divorce several years ago, documenting his psychiatric illness.

It is unclear at this time if his weapon was legally obtained, but in the wake of several shootings this year, gun control reform advocates have called for mental health and general criminal background checks - and the stricter enforcement of those rules where they are already in place - in order to obtain gun permits.

The NRA has been increasingly calling for an end to gun-free zones, particularly since the Parkland, Florida, shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School during which 17 teachers and students were killed by suspected gunman Nikolas Cruz in February 2018.

The premise seems to be that having “good guys with guns” around will minimise mass shooting tragedies. However, the security guard at the high school had a firearm and chose not to use it at the time.

The powerful lobbying and membership group has continuously argued schools and similar targets should be “hardened” in a preventative effort.

The group also supported the proposal to arm teachers with weapons in the classroom, also put forth as a possibility by Donald Trump and Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos.

Several teacher unions and education advocacy groups have railed against the proposal as a move that not only makes schools more dangerous but is a waste of taxpayer money that could be used for textbooks, technology, school supplies, and higher salaries.

In an ironic move, the Secret Service declared Mr Trump’s speech to the NRA at its annual convention in May a “gun-free zone”.

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