Parkland shooter belonged to group advocating marksmanship as substitute for science

by Vins
Published: Last Updated on

Public officials have offered their thoughts and prayers to the families of more than 122 victims of the dozens of school shootings in the U.S. since April 20, 1999, when Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold killed 12 students, a teacher and then themselves at Columbine High School in Littleton, CO. Columbine was the deadliest high school shooting in U.S. history until the Feb. 14, 2018, when 19-year-old Nikolas Cruz killed 17 students at Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. As has become the norm, there is great media and government hand-wringing about the Second Amendment and the influence of the National Rifle Association.

But one aspect of Cruz that has not been discussed much is that he joined the Army Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps (JROTC) program at his high school. A series of reports by Pat Elder, for Truthout, Buzzflash, World Beyond War, and on Democracy Now! highlighted Cruz’s connections to the  Army’s JROTC program and the program’s connections to other organizations.

The program is regulated by the Civilian Marksmanship Program (CMP), funded by the NRA, and currently has more than 500,000 children enrolled in its national programs. The JROTC gave Cruz, and students like him across the country, a weapon and trained him how to lethally operate it. Children in these programs are not only given weapons and taught how to use them, they are able to substitute this type of “learning” for coursework in biology, physical science, physical education, and art. The Army is specifically asking schools to allow its untrained instructors to meet these curricular requirements within the confines of its JROTC program.

These facts call for more media attention for the NRA’s role in this, which leads us back to the Civilian Marksmanship Program. The function of the CMP as a core part of the NRA’s gun running scheme has long been left out of the media narrative. The New York Times recently ran a short piece about how AR-15s are the most popular gun in the US because of how ridiculously easy they are to obtain and how much damage they have the potential to cause, effectively running a full page on the machines. They highlight issues in legislation as the fatal flaw of these assault rifles, not how they end up on the shelves of sports stores in the first place.

The Army gifts their outdated weaponry to the CMP which they, in-turn, sell them at discounted rates to the American public and “re-gift” them to JROTC programs in schools.

Marjory Stoneman High was a recent recipient of $10,000 in funding from the NRA.

The CMP serves this function as the US Army’s weapons dealer to the American public in addition to regulating school JROTC programs and the civilian shooting ranges in most towns with JROTC programs.

Normalizing violence and American patriotism in children by these special interests is a crucial part of the gun and violence debate that must first be understood before it can be changed. Corporate media failed to cover this story. Outside of the independent news sites and reporters who advocate change, corporate media talks about competitive shooting as a sport and praises it as such.  Nowhere do they stop to talk about the societal ramifications of the culture this is creating.


Amy Goodman interviews Pat Elder, “Florida Gunman Nikolas Cruz Knew How to Use a Gun, Thanks to the NRA and the U.S. Army,” Democracy Now!, February 23, 2018,

Pat Elder, “The Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps Is Not a Substitute for Education,” Truthout, February 16, 2017,

Pat Elder, “How the Civilian Marksmanship Program Has Become a Premier Arms Dealer,” BuzzFlash, March 6, 2018,

Pat Elder, “Cruz, Instagram, and the Civilian Marksmanship Program,” World Beyond War, February 27, 2018,

Student Researcher: Bethany Surface (San Francisco State University)

Faculty Evaluator: Kenn Burrows (San Francisco State University)