Part 2 Of A Two-Part Look At the Parkland Mass Shooting

My first post about the Parkland shooting focused underlying societal sickness that feeds the sort of deranged minds capable of planning and perpetrating such an atrocity. I concluded that a societal shift, and not just some band-aid legislation, is necessary for these horrors to truly abate. That said, we can look to adjust our laws in order to lessen the next monster’s probability of success.

Yes, the next monster. There have always been monsters, and there will always be monsters. Nothing we can do will ever totally rid our society of monsters.

We obviously desire fewer of them, which is what I addressed in Part 1. We also want to catch as many as we can before they act. We want to deter them – make them think they’re less likely to succeed. We want to be able to halt their carnage as quickly as possible should they act.

And, we want to do all this without destroying the rights and infringing on the liberties of tens of millions of our fellow citizens.

Many people have a varying attitude towards rights, in that some rights are considered more important than others. Law-and-order types are less likely to complain about privacy, search warrants, and stop-and-frisk policies, for example. National security types are more likely to want the press muzzled and whistleblowers punished when it comes to classified information. Social justice types subordinate free speech to their desire to ban undesired words and inflict punishment for hurt feelings. And, of course, people who aren’t fond of guns are less likely to defend gun rights.

But, without our liberties and the protections for them spelled out in our Constitution – all our liberties – our society will be lost. It will devolve into a tyrannical state, and if you don’t think that’ll happen here, you’re putting a lot of very unwarranted faith in an outcome that goes against every lesson of history. Ask yourself if the state of your most cherished liberty is what you’d want it to be. If you’re a privacy type – do you feel well-guarded against the government’s snooping, pat-downs, surveillance, and secret warrants? If you’re a free press advocate, do you think there’s no risk from the government? If you’re a due-process advocate, do you not see how it’s been so badly degraded in many ways? In sum, if you dismiss some rights as unimportant, you risk losing them all.

Still, that’s not to say we cannot do something. We simply must do that something while maintaining a healthy respect for our rights. And, we must accept that there’s no perfection to be had.

All the wants I listed above apply to terrorism as well as mass shootings, and we’ve tolerated massive degradation of our rights as pointless theater against that threat. We endure invasive TSA searches, even when they’ve been repeatedly shown as ineffective. What’s effective against airplane hijackings? Three things: armored cockpit doors, air marshals, and the changed awareness of passengers. We now know to resist rather than submit. THAT’s what protects us, not the dog-and-pony show of patting down granny, or the draconian restrictions on water bottles and cuticle scissors.

It behooves us not to make the same mistakes when it comes to mass shootings i.e. we should not institute measures that might feel good or make for a good show of “doing something” when they won’t be effective. And, an ineffective measure may very well delude us into not taking measures that will be effective.

I have written a series of articles on guns, gun rights, and circumstances surrounding both gun crime and the use of guns to counter gun crime. Therein are myriad analyses as to why a gun ban, narrow or expansive, won’t make a hill-of-beans difference in mass shootings. Already, we know that fully 3 in 4 mass shootings don’t involve those dreaded assault weapons, and there are countless options that are not “assault weapons” that would be just as effective for the mass murderer. Already, we know that mass shooters tend to be planners rather than in-the-moment actors, making waiting periods pointless. Already, we know that there are 350 million guns in this country, that the owners of those 350 million guns are almost universally law-abiding citizens, that the vast majority of them won’t surrender their guns to any sort of confiscation effort, and that the idea of disarming our society is an impossibility (even if it were desirable). Already, we know that the last assault weapons ban, which ran from 1994 to 2004, produced no measurable change in gun crime. We already know that assault weapons are used in fewer homicides than hammers or knives. And on and on. The Gun Rights series covers all this and far more. I do not dismiss the idea of the gun control measures that are typically proposed after each of these incidents. Rather, I’ve considered them in depth and deemed them ineffective.

What, then, would be effective?

We can consider airplane safety as a guiding lesson.

Israel has a phenomenal record when it comes to anti-terrorism in air travel. Tel Aviv’s Ben Gurion airport is considered among the world’s safest, despite its being an obvious target. Much of this is accomplished without overtly infringing on passengers, and that’s the lesson we should take away. Addressing the mass shooter problem starts with law enforcement paying attention, and indeed, in the Parkland shooting, we are now seeing the proximate failure as one of law enforcement rather than too-lax gun laws. The shooter was on the police’s radar for a long time, the FBI investigated him, and just a month ago a tip that should have been deemed credible and actionable was received. The FBI failed to act, with a terrible result.

Some argue that, given the right of free speech, it’s not possible to act against threat-makers. Oftentimes, these are the same folks who argue that gun rights should be infringed, not noting the irony, but just as gun rights do not grant the right to murder, speech rights do not grant the right to threaten. Yes, there is a difficult line to draw between what’s a real threat and what’s just hyperbole, but difficulty doesn’t justify abandonment of responsibility. We have a legal system and due process for judging such matters, which leads to the actions I suggest:

1 – Prosecute threat-makers. Obviously, not every threat is real, and we can’t and shouldn’t prosecute puffery, but if we grant blanket immunity to the sort of viciousness that’s increasingly common out there (and, again, I refer you to Part 1 of this opinion), we not only lose the chance to catch real threats, we contribute to the social malaise that is their breeding ground. A successful prosecution would put the real threats on the NICS gun no-buy list, and thus raise an obstacle against a potential mass shooting incident.

2 – Stop with the gun-free zone farce, and allow teachers to be armed. Schools in high-crime areas already acknowledge threats, by exercising security measures that include metal detectors and armed guards. While such would be disproportionate, wasteful and psychologically troubling to institute universally, allowing faculty and staff to undergo training and carry concealed weapons would shave crucial minutes off response times to such atrocities – and may very well deter someone thinking about shooting up a school. Does anyone think that a sign that says “gun free zone” does anything to deter a murderous monster? Isn’t it obvious that it’s an assurance to that monster? Isn’t the chance that an attack would be met with an armed response more likely to deter a shooter? And, given that external first responders can take anywhere from tens of minutes to over an hour to get to a place where they can act, having potential first-responders on-site will greatly improve the chances of reducing carnage. Here, we can take a cue from air travel safety and air marshals. Their mere presence is a genuine deterrent, and they are right there should an incident arise. Indeed, many mass shooters have already been stopped by the proverbial good-guy-with-a-gun. As the old saying goes, when seconds matter, the police are minutes away.

3 – Address the failures and shortcomings in our current system. As already noted, the Parkland atrocity involved government failure. So did last fall’s Texas church shooting, where the shooter’s name should have been entered into the no-buy list. Everything in the world, government or not, is a trade off of time and resources, and if we devote too much of both to ineffective measures, those that work, or should work, will suffer. Again, we can take a cue from air travel safety. We devote massive resources to TSA, and yet tests of the system routinely fail to stop contraband from getting onto planes. Perhaps, if we paid more attention to what works instead of scattering resources all over the place, we’d have better results. We’ve been failed by government, and before we grant more power over our rights to government, we must demand both accountability and better performance.

4 – Add violent juvenile offenders’ names to the no-buy list. We do not yet know if the Parkland shooter, who we do know had a number of problematic incidents when a minor, had a juvenile record, since such are normally sealed and expunged upon turning 18. But, we might surmise that he did, and even if not, we might surmise that criminal minors could be a greater threat once reaching adulthood. Since criminality is a foregoing of rights anyway, this provision shouldn’t be one to get civil libertarians too het up, especially if it is either sunsetting (after 5 or 10 years of clean living, the name comes off the no-buy list) or a due process mechanism (as is now available for adult felons who’ve served their time) to challenge inclusion is incorporated.

These actions would, in my opinion, have a significant positive effect on the mass shooter problem without further infringing on the rights of many millions of Americans who’ve done nothing wrong and who are as worthy of having their rights protected as anyone else. And, have a significant positive effect without wasting time, resources, and legislative willpower on ineffective feel-good measures that would infringe on the rights of many millions of Americans.

These actions will make things better. They may not be all that we can do, and there may very well be other things we can do in the same vein of action without harming liberty. While they won’t achieve perfection – there is not such thing (heck, we can’t even keep drugs out of maximum security prisons) – they’d help. And in the right way.

If you are among those who think the problem can be addressed by adding gun laws, please take a bit of time to consider the arguments as to why such would be ineffective. And, if you are among those who go bunker-mode against gun grabbers, please take a bit of time to consider that some things can be done to improve matters, and that it would behoove all of us, even the staunchest defenders of rights, to pursue positive, effective changes.

Peter Venetoklis

About Peter Venetoklis

I am twice-retired, a former rocket engineer and a former small business owner. At the very least, it makes for interesting party conversation. I'm also a life-long libertarian, I engage in an expanse of entertainments, and I squabble for sport.

Nowadays, I spend a good bit of my time arguing politics and editing this website.


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