The public debate – at least what passes for debate in 2018 – over the Parkland school shooting and what to do about it, continues to evolve. Responses (I won’t call them solutions, because most of them won’t make a hill-of-beans difference to the next madman) focused on the particulars of this specific atrocity. Or, to be more accurate, some of the particulars. The shooter used an AR-15-type rifle, and the shooter was 19 years old. So, two popular demands from the gun-control side are: ban AR-15s, and raise the purchase age for rifles to 21. Counterproposals focus on the clear-in-hindsight evidence that the shooter was a known and obvious menace, quite possibly with some mental health issues (or at least a reasonable enough facsimile to suggest he should have been debarred from buying guns).

The immediacy of news and social media today meant that many put forth their responses before some of the most basic facts of the incident became known. This is the unfortunate “be first and be loudest or be overlooked” behavior that today’s society incentivizes, and it’s the worst possible basis for policy setting. Cognitive bias makes people stick to their initial reactions and their initial ideas, even when new information emerges.

And, WOW, what new information we have seen. First, we found out that the shooter was on law enforcement’s radar, but law enforcement failed to act. The FBI was tipped off, but that tip got lost in a bureaucratic tangle. Local law enforcement reportedly visited the shooter’s house dozens of times, but nothing came of it. Yes, there are legal questions, and yes, there are judgment calls at play, and yes, it’s possible that the locals were unable to act any more than they had. But, in an age where a competent DA can indict a ham sandwich, the notion of at least beginning legal proceeding against someone who reportedly made overt threats to shoot up a school doesn’t seem remotely out of bounds, especially in a time when school shootings are of such concern that schools engage in practice drills against the possibility.

This information falls into the “dropping the ball” category, and in a rational time, should be a primary discussion point, rather than the “we need more restrictions” demands that are dominating the news.

But wait, there’s more.

It also turned out that one local sheriff’s officer stood by the door of the school for several minutes, doing nothing, while the shooter was killing children inside. Four deputies hid behind their cars rather than entering the building. While it has been established by the Supreme Court that law enforcement has no obligation to protect citizens, we can and should be outraged by this apparent gross dereliction of duty.

Meanwhile, inside the school, a football coach and three Junior ROTC students died helping and defending others.

The public response, as reported and curated by the media, is focusing not on the multiple failures of our government, at the federal and local level, in response to both advance warning and in-the-moment shooting, but on the particular gun the shooter chose for his mayhem, and on the millions of people who either own or support the right to own this variety of gun who have done absolutely nothing wrong. The public face of these millions chosen for retribution is the National Rifle Association. Gun-control advocates have gone non-linear on the NRA, equating its members with actual murderers and monsters, and numerous corporations have decided, in a virtue signal that I hope bites them in the ass, to dissociate themselves from the NRA.

This selective and misplaced outrage, this shrug of the shoulders at the soup-to-nuts failure of law enforcement in favor of pushing a broad anti-gun agenda that’s about eroding others’ rights, tells us that people are shoehorning the facts into their preordained solution, instead of basing their response to the facts in evidence.

Whatever happened to accountability? Where is the widely deserved outrage? The sheriff’s deputy who stood by the door chose to retire with pension (as is his right, legally), and he is now under police protection (how ironic – given how many people oppose putting armed officers into schools or arming and training teachers) The other deputies who hid behind their cars are supposedly going to be investigated, but given the tradition of the blue wall and the relative paucity of outrage (oh, it’s out there, but it’s nowhere near the top of the priority list), I’m not holding my breath for any real punishment. As for the FBI? A reputation that was once legendary has suffered enormous and well-deserved damage, and I don’t see anyone doing anything of substance to fix it.

Instead, people want new laws written and more power/authority given to government. How, when the (arguably more than sufficient) power and authority they already had went for nought, is this remotely rational? We’re not talking about a new invention here. Investigating threats is already part of LE’s job, and it’s already illegal to make a credible threat of violence. If anything, we should be all about accountability – both in this incident and going forward. If we grant more power to the government, we should also impose greater penalties should someone abuse that power.

And, no, “accountability” is not about infringing upon everyone’s rights. We don’t shut down all newspapers when one commits libel. We don’t do away with due process when one particularly heinous criminal gets off on a technicality. We don’t ban free speech for everyone when someone incites to riot. Are guns any different? Is the right to bear arms less important and more disposable than our other rights? Can it be waved away simply because some people don’t like it?

Tens of millions of gun owners have done absolutely nothing wrong with their guns. Meanwhile, several people the government gave guns to in order for them to protect good people from bad people failed to act. Does it make any sense to punish the former and deflect the argument away from the latter?

Every time something really bad happens, people cry for safety, and the government answers by taking rights away from good people. — Penn Jillette

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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