Anyhow, two recent shootings have occurred in these places and have something else in common: Dropped Balls and Missed Opportunities.
In November 2017, a 26 year-old lost-boy named Devin Patrick Kelley shot up his church in Sutherland, Texas. Kelley was a former member of the US Air Force. During his tour, he was convicted of domestic violence (court-martial), which makes him a “prohibited person” (of purchasing and owning firearms) by Federal law.
Now, if the Air Force had actually submitted this offense to the FBI, Kelley would have been flagged in the National Crime Information Center database, which is the source for the National Instant Check System (NICS). A NICS check is performed whenever someone tries to buy a firearm (in some States, NICS is used for all firearms, in others, a State database is used for handguns and NICS is used for rifles). A person is flagged in NICS for any domestic violence conviction or felony, which are two of twelve tests.
Now, we all know that this loser could have alternatively acquired a handgun or rifle illegally, but the failure of the Air Force left this big avenue wide open.
Oh, and in another dimension, Kelley was a very troubled child, growing more deranged as he went through high school and the military. At one point, he made death threats to superior officers for reporting his domestic abuses, eventually landing in a mental health facility for making self-harm remarks and labeled with depression. He even escaped from that facility. Air Force colleagues are reported saying that he was “on the edge” and would likely “shoot up the place”.
This all adds up to a failure of a branch of the US Government to both report and act on a situation, leading up to a mass shooting of innocents. This case is so blatantly negligent, an affected family is suing the Air Force.
Another example of government failure is the recent shooting in Parkland, Florida. This time, a gun-free high school was the location. Like most mass-shootings, a disturbed young man was the culprit. Nikolas Cruz also had a troubled childhood and failed to make it through high school – not the most difficult task in this snowflake era.
The failure in this situation was the lack of action by the FBI, who was alerted to Cruz’ actions months before he killed 17 innocent people. The report to the FBI highlighted Cruz’ “gun ownership, desire to kill people, erratic behavior, and disturbing social media posts, as well as the potential of him conducting a school shooting.” He left a trail of evidence that any sane person would see as a very potential threat to the safety of society.
We’ll wait to see how many lawsuits come out of this event.
Cruz purchased an AR-15 legally, as there were no red flags for him in the NICS system. Yet, students reported that Cruz “threw jokes around that he’d be the one to shoot up the school.” A family member also stated that she though Cruz was on medications, to help him deal with the “emotional issues”
As early as September, 2016, Cruz was evaluated for mental health issues, after posting videos online of him cutting himself. This evaluation came as a result of someone calling to report his actions. The Baker Act allows someone to be held against their will for 72 hours but the mental health facility released him, finding no cause to hospitalize. He was reported as taking medications. The following link is a PDF of the redacted DCF documents relating to these incidents.
So, let’s summarize what we have here:
- Two mass shootings, where a culprit kills multiple innocent bystanders.
- Both culprits had a history of mental illness and self-harm.
- Both culprits were on some form of medication for mental health issues.
- Both culprits were outcasts in their community.
- Both culprits caused others to fear for their safety and suspect that they would do harm to the public.
- Neither culprit was flagged and prevented from purchasing a firearm. In both cases, some government agency was aware of this person’s background, erratic behavior and use of mental health medication.
As I see it, we have three options going forward:
#1 – We could ban and confiscate all guns, hoping that people like this (who are out there in droves), won’t be able to commit mass murder. Let me save you the trouble and say that this is the worst option. Not only would it infringe on the liberty of millions of law-abiding Americans, there is plenty of evidence to suggest that people like this will find other ways to inflict their violence on others. Not to mention the very real uprising that would occur if this ever got through Congress.
#2 Investigate the suicidal side-effects of psychotropic drugs (SSRIs), facilitating new drugs that don’t drive people to such acts. Personally, I think this is the avenue we should be taking, since before the introduction of these drugs, mass shootings were rare to non-existent. These heavily-used drugs also seem to affect younger people more than adults.
#3 – Enhance the mental health process in America. I’m not saying I want us to go to a place where anyone can be casually accused of being mentally unstable, eventually being committed to a facility. This is a slippery slope of infringement of liberties. However, there might be a way to do this in a less-offensive manner, namely through the use of special temporary restraining orders. In this case, a person would be prohibited from purchasing a firearm while the order was in place. Similar to Florida’s Baker Act, the order would have a short time-frame and would be expunged if the person were found competent (some would argue that we already have such a process in #6 here). However, as we saw with Cruz, he was found to be stable and was released, which could happen under this concept. I also do not trust the government to properly handle the expunging process.
It would be interesting to know how high the hurdle was to take action under the current laws. But it should be obvious that this is a dangerous process, which could negatively affect an innocent, stable person’s rights and liberties. It also presupposes that a temporary flagging (and unflagging) would work or that a person couldn’t get a firearm illegally (or didn’t already have one). After what we saw in Texas, the permanent flagging process is already flawed and the FBI dropped the ball in Florida. There are so many holes in this approach, making it less appealing than #2.
In fact, if suggestion #2 were successful, one would hope that the other two options wouldn’t even be necessary – like it was in America about 30+ years ago, when my high school doors remained open all day and we didn’t need police officers, metal detectors or armed teachers to keep us safe in school. Yes, kids, America was once that way not too long ago – and we even had more guns back then.
One can only hope.