This post comes on the heels of another school shooting that resulted in the deaths of at least 17 people in a Florida High School. Tragedy is not the word to describe what happened. In the parlance of our times the term, “Epic Fail” comes to mind.
The Shooters Accountability
Blame can be placed at every level; school, law enforcement, FBI. However, personal responsibility and accountability must come first. The shooter is responsible for the murders he committed. He bought the rifle, he loaded it, and he shot the people at the school. He must be punished accordingly.
The rifle used in this matter was purchased legally and the shooter had nothing in his background check that would have restricted the purchase of the rifle. He was without a doubt a ticking time bomb of rage that was able to purchase a firearm legally. Many will debate that it was too easy for him to obtain a rifle and the laws regarding the purchase of rifles need to be changed. These arguments will not solve the underlying problem in this case. Further gun restrictions will not change what happened in Florida. Nor will additional restrictions prevent the next shooting.
It appears that the FBI could have and should have forwarded a report of an online threat to the Florida Office. It appears that school officials could have and should have ensured that the shooter involved received counseling as a condition to prevent his expulsion or as a condition of his return to school. It appears that local law enforcement could have arrested the shooter on one of the more than 20 occasions at which they were called to his home. It appears that anyone looking after the shooter could have sought intervention and attempted to get him into counseling. It also appears that the shooter could have sought counseling on his own. Any intervention for the shooter on any level may have prevented the killing of 17 innocent people.
What is clear, from published reports, is that the system failed. When a 19 year old kid has such behavior issues that result in the police being constantly called and also result in him being expelled from school, it’s clear that something needs to be done. He needed help, guidance, or someone to reach out to. The concept of “if you see something, say something” only works if the ‘powers at be’ are willing to do something.
As a former prosecuting attorney I had direct experience in prosecuting offenders who made threats of violence in the school system. Some offenders were juveniles and some were adults. The primary outcome of these prosecutions was to get people the help they needed and prevent the commission of a violent crime. That result, however, is not always possible. That result may not have been possible in this case, even if everyone had done their respective jobs. Sometimes you get a bad result after doing everything right. This is not one of those times.