Sunday, February 18, 2018

There should be no debate: we need to talk about guns

AR-15's, such as the Parkland killer used, widely available
This past Wednesday was marked by the convergence of a number of happenings on the same day. Lovers and wannabe's were celebrating Valentine's Day. Western Christianity was marking the beginning of Lent on Ash Wednesday. And at camps in Florida and Arizona, many Major League Baseball teams were opening their spring training.

But for many in America, those happenings were overshadowed by one of the worst school shootings in history which took place at the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.

A former student, 19-year old Nikolas Cruz, entered the school with an AR-15 in the middle of the afternoon and proceeded to murder 17, including three faculty members and 14 students. Numerous others were injured, many remaining hospitalized today.

Per a piece by Bart Jansen at USA Today, Cruz legally purchased the weapon himself in 2017.
"Cruz lawfully bought the semiautomatic rifle last February, according to Peter Forcelli, special agent in charge of the Miami office of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. The gun, a Smith & Wesson M&P 15 .223, was purchased at Sunrise Tactical Supply, according to the Associated Press. Federal law allows people 18 and older to legally purchase long guns, including this kind of assault weapon. With no criminal record, Cruz cleared an instant background check via the FBI criminal database."
In the immediate aftermath, a number of students and others came forward making statements that they were not surprised if such a thing were to happen, that Cruz would be the attacker.

At least three students made reports regarding Cruz to adminstrators at the school, per Max Greenwood for The Hill. According to that report, the attack may have at least partially been set off by jealousy and a fight over an ex-girlfriend.

Cruz' mother had died back in November, his father years ago. The couple who took him in at the urging of their own son stated per a piece by Katherine Lam for Fox News that, though they knew he was depressed, they never saw this type of outcome.

“We had this monster living under our roof and we didn’t know,” Kimberly Snead, 49, said. “We didn’t see this side of him.” James Snead, 48, added that he and his wife didn’t know what “everything, everybody seems to know.” “Everything everybody seems to know, we didn’t know,” Snead said. “It’s as simple as that."

That is actually not very unusual, as Erica Goode, a visiting professor at the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications, wrote in a piece for The New York Times.
"Tony Beliz, a consultant to schools and corporations on violence prevention who for many years ran the mental health side of the Los Angeles program, which was started by the Los Angeles Police Department, has noted that parents often have no idea what their children are up to. In more than a few cases, a team visiting a home has found weapons or other indications of deadly intention."

The Federal Bureau of Investigation had received a tip regarding Cruz nearly six weeks prior to the shooting. You've heard of the public "See Something, Say Something" campaign, perhaps? Well, someone saw something and said something. And the FBI dropped the ball.

U.S. Senator Tim Scott (R-SC) made this very observation as related in a Kyle Feldscher piece for the Washington Examiner:

“We all say if you see something, say something. And Parkland community, we saw people reporting, there were 20 calls to the sheriff's department, they responded. The FBI received a legitimate, credible tip and it was not followed up upon. What we have seen in three major atrocities is that the system that was in place simply was not followed.”

The FBI had also received a tip on Cruz as far back as last September that the disturbed man had made a threat via YouTube. This per a piece at Townhall by Matt Vespa:

"They knew, folks. The FBI knew and didn’t follow proper protocols on a tip about Nikolas Cruz, the shooter in the recent high school shooting in Florida. FBI Director Christopher Wray said the bureau was still investigating this matter, along with reviewing the processes in which such information from citizens offering tips are analyzed."

Within hours of the shooting, the usual political battle lines were being drawn. Gun control advocates lined up on one side. Those supporting the 2nd Amendment lined up on the other.

Fingers were pointed in many directions. Of course, liberals pointed at President Trump and the Republican controlled U.S. Congress, demanding that "something needs to be done!

Of course, these liberals had no such questions for former President Barack Obama, who had a Democratic Party controlled congress for two full years and never even looked at the issue.

We really need to do a better job at making sure we have strong gun laws in every state in the country, because we are losing our most valuable resource, which is our children, said Jeremy I. Stein, the executive director of CT Against Gun Violence, a nonprofit advocacy group per Lisa W. Foderaro and Kristin Hussey for The New York Times.

I'm a conservative Republican, and unashamedly so. My fallback position is usually to rally around any Republican politician or position that comes under attack. There are many reasons for this, all of which any supporter of any candidate or political party can understand.

However, on this one, I am lost. I worked in law enforcement for nearly three decades. I saw firsthand the devastation that violence on the streets, gun and otherwise, has on our communities.

I am also a gun owner. But I am one who has never been a major public advocate for any particular interpretation of the 2nd Amendment. I believe that individual gun ownership is important. I believe that our Founding Fathers created the amendment for vital reasons.

But, and this is a big "but", I don't necessarily believe that every American has the right to keep and bear any weapon that they wish in their homes. I shouldn't be allowed to have a working cannon in my backyard. Certainly most would agree that individual citizens shouldn't have a working nuclear ICBM in their backyard.

So where are the limits on what you should own as an individual? Should there be any limits whatsoever? The common sense answer is obvious. 

So now comes the difficult part: what are those limits? Despite the wishes of some on the very far Left, individual citizen gun ownership is here to stay in America. Gnash your teeth all you want, that will never change. Not without a major battle. And I'm not talking just a political or philosophical battle either.

If we are to allow certain high-powered weapons to be owned by individuals, what exactly are the limitations? What, if any, investigations of and controls should there be on individuals who wish to purchase and own these weapons? How should the weapons be handled once an approved owner passes away?

There are many legitimate questions raised by what happened in Parkland this past week. Of course, those questions were also raised many times previously. Most Americans are familiar with what took place at Columbine, Nickel Mines, Virginia Tech, and Sandy Hook, among others.

Fact is, we need to have a national discussion. We need to have it without pointing fingers at politicians and parties. We need to have it regarding every issue surrounding guns: mental health, crime, personal, home, and business security, etc.

I have heard gun owners say things along the lines of "I laid my gun down on the ground and told it took go kill somebody. It just laid there." These things are said to support the position that guns don't kill people, that people kill people.

This is very true. People have been killing people since the dawn of mankind. Rocks. Sticks. Fire. Knives. Swords. Bombs. Guns. Nukes. Not only that, but men will continue to kill men. If you take away every lawfully owned gun in America, that will remain the case.

It is also true that a great many murders by firearm are committed by people who did not lawfully purchase the weapon that they used. Criminals will indeed continue to find a way to purchase 'black market' firearms if we took them all away.

No, the answer is absolutely not to end lawful gun ownership in America. But there does need to be a better answer for the survivors of Parkland.

What can be done to make it much more difficult to have a repeat anywhere in the country of what happened at their school this past week?

I've seen others write pieces that include checklists of things that could allegedly solve the problem. I don't provide such lists or answers here because frankly, I don't know the answers. I do believe there are many components, and that the guns themselves are but one.

Despite what some on the far Left have stated, despite what a few emotional Parkland students blurted out this week, prayer is indeed an important component of what needs to be done. We do need to pray for the souls lost, for the ultimate recovery of the survivors, and for our nation as we wrestle with these issues.

We need to talk about the violence that we expose our children to at younger and younger ages in the "entertainment" media. We need to talk about the stability of the American family. We need to talk about mental health care. There are many other issues involved in seriously addressing this problem.

We desperately need to have the conversations. Our politicians need to have them, both among one another and with their constituents. Individuals need to have the conversations with one another, among families and friends.

Most importantly, we need to find a way to have these conversations civilly and realistically. If we cannot find a way to do that, then all that will happen in the end will be the usual nothing. If we continue to make this a partisan political issue on both sides, then nothing will change.

No matter what, there will be more school shootings in America as we move forward. There will be more shootings, period. There will be beatings, and stabbings, and explosions. That will be the case no matter what we do. 

But the idea of the necessary national conversation was expressed eloquently by Jody L. Modeira as published at The Hill:
"Our growing reluctance to talk about firearms and firearm violence doesn’t respect the Second Amendment; it turns it into a club used to bully others into silence and submission. This is the opposite of what the Second Amendment is intended to be — the constitutional provision that, as Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia put it in District of Columbia v. Heller, has “protected the rights of law-abiding, responsible citizens to use arms in defense of hearth and home.”"
We need to talk. We must be able to find a way to make the Parkland's, the Columbine's, and the Sandy Hook's more difficult, and even more rare than they are already. About that, there should be no debate. 

Let's talk. Not shout one another down. Let's open our ears, minds, and hearts. Let's not be afraid to start the conversation. As with most things, we may not end up with everything we want. But together for once, let's come up with some answers.


Faith Behrends said...

Great piece!

Matthew Veasey said...

Thank you. Hope you can share it around the web.