February 25, 2018
I’ve been going back and forth as to whether I wanted to share any thoughts about the Parkland shooting, and what can be done to prevent another horrible tragedy. School shootings and gun control are two subjects that elicit a strong response in many, and 10 days later I’m afraid that people are still being driven largely by emotion – which in itself isn’t bad, but without being tempered by reason, it becomes difficult to reach a practical, measured response.
This gives way to both sides degrading to efforts that while emotionally satisfying, can result in the further rupture between sides. I’m concerned that people are now spending more effort demonizing the other side that we’ve moved away from any impactful debate towards something productive. Rather than examine the details that have been uncovered over the last week and looking for preventative measures, it seems that many have just jumped in to justify the pre-determined conclusion they had prior to the shooting. It may help people feel validated, but I’m not sure if it’s moving the needle towards an immediate effort to prevent the next tragedy. I’m not particularly a fan of the NRA, but I also don’t know how attacking and discrediting the organization directly will advance any immediate, significant action – at least in the short term.
I’m no expert but have tried to maintain an open mind in the information I’ve gathered over the last week. With the details surrounding this tragedy, I’m wondering if the following changes could be the starting point for preventing the next tragedy:
Fix background checks and correlate with all of the reporting avenues.
In this latest tragedy, it seemed that concerns surrounding the shooter were reported multiple times, but without a centralized intelligence processing all of the correlating data, it seems that many of these reports didn’t leave the confines of their own agencies. Only with their individual pieces, no one could put the complete puzzle together. We, as a country, need to establish some kind of centralized repository for all of these reports: from schools to law enforcement agencies, even to mental health professionals, in a dignified and respectful manner that protects both patients and potential victims. However, data collection without action will not be effective, which brings me to my next recommendation.
Establish a specialized Task Force to detect and prevent school shootings.
One unfortunate reality of this tragedy is that local (or even federal) law enforcement, in its current capacity, did not know how to address the tips and reports they received. The sad reality is that despite their best intentions, local institutions aren’t equipped to detect and act on patterns demonstrated by potential shooters. I’m always leery about cataloging symptoms, in fear that we devolve into a Minority Report-style of pre-crime, but there are interventional steps that can be taken to prevent tragedy, similar to who we deal with anti-terrorism after 9/11. This task force would specialize in detecting potential shooters through data inputs, working with school and law enforcement officials in assessing potential shooters, as well as work with schools in identifying securing the buildings. This goes hand-in-hand with the next recommendation…
The intent would allow families and friends to the petition the court to restrict the purchase and ownership of guns and ammunition to troubled individuals with a strong potential for violence. We could even extend the task force to also petition for Restraining Orders. An adjudicated process would allow the individual to defend themselves or provide testimony to avoid false accusations and abusing the system. Once a restraining order is granted, such violation would give law enforcement the ability to arrest and detain an individual (solving your pre-crime issue). If successful, this would accomplish everyone’s goal of keeping guns out of the hands of potential shooters.
This isn’t the end-all, be-all of regulation and debate, but this may be an effective starting point to enable people to debate both the principles and implementation of the right to bear arms in our country. Let’s at least start down the path of prevention, giving the officials the tools and ability to better prevent these actions, as we continue the debates of whether further widespread restrictions are required.