Random Thoughts – Randocity!

Can we prevent school shootings?

Posted in parenting, personal security, security by commorancy on February 26, 2018

On the heels of the Parkland, Florida shooting, this question has emerged yet again. Can we prevent school shootings? Let’s explore.

Mass Shootings

In recent years, mass shootings seemingly have been more and more frequent. Or, at least so it seems. It’s not just school shootings, it also includes shootings like Las Vegas and the Pulse Club shooting in Orlando. I’d even include the mass killing by vehicle where people mow down crowds of pedestrians. While these last three examples aren’t school shootings, they do point to a systemic problem that appears to extend beyond the school into our everyday lives.

We don’t know why these mentally disturbed folks decide to pick up a weapon and point it at a crowd or drive a car through a crowd. However, I’d start by looking at commonalities. These might include medications they were taking or things they were doing in their daily lives. It might even be mental health problems.

Parkland Shooting

My heart goes out to those who have had loved ones taken away in Parkland.  However, Parkland is the most recent example of a mass school shooting allegedly committed by a former student who had apparently been expelled. What triggers these people? Though, the bigger concern is less why this student was triggered and more how this student found access to weapons. And, herein lies the problem and with it, the solution.

Weapon Access

The bigger question is, how did a 19 year old get access to the weapons he allegedly used? In many states, it’s perfectly legal for an 18 year old to purchase and possess a rifle, but not legal to purchase or possess a handgun at that age. In the case of the alleged shooter, he apparently legally bought the AR 15 rifle just weeks before the shooting. I guess the somewhat odd thinking here is that a rifle is more obvious than a handgun. This is backwards thinking. The rifle, while being obvious when someone is holding one, is obviously a more dangerous weapon… especially if it’s an AK-47 style semi-automatic rifle. This compared to a handgun which isn’t always semi-automatic, though some are.

Here’s where we have a problem. The point to an semi-automatic rifle is to point and spray. That is, to discharge as many rounds as fast as possible. These weapons are designed to dole out mass amounts of bullets and damage. This compared to a handgun which isn’t typically designed for this purpose. Here’s the first problem. Why are semi-automatic weapons allowed to be sold at all, let alone to someone under 25? These are weapons that should, if at all, only be sold to people who can pass a proper gun test and full background checks. It should also be limited to someone aged 25 or older.

If an 18 year old wants to gain access to semi-automatic rifles, join the military. For the shooting in Parkland, the alleged shooter was legally an adult at the time of the shooting, so I’ll come back to the adult age group issue shortly.

Children with Guns

In the case of younger school mass shooters, how did they get access to the weapons at all? These children can’t own weapons. This is where parental guidance fails. Many of these shooters obtained their weapons directly from their parent’s weapon stash or from a friend’s weapon stash. Of course, they might have also obtained weapons through illegal means.

In the case of parents owning weapons where the child used it in a mass shooting, the parents should be held legally accountable, at the very least as an accessory. If you own weapons and do not properly secure them from your child, then you need to be held legally accountable for how that weapon is used, particularly if it is by your child. As a parent, you need to share in your child’s legal culpability and burdens, even if the child is shot and killed after the mass shooting. As a parent of a child mass shooter, you can no longer claim to be a victim in this. You are now fully responsible for your child’s actions while using your legally purchased weapon(s). If that means the child performed a mass school shooting, as a parent, you should expect a maximum sentence including jail time.

This is the first way to stop these mass school shootings. If parents legally become an accessory to whatever is committed by the child with that parent’s weapon, then parents will then have to be much more careful about where they leave their guns. This means making completely sure that your weapons are entirely secured from your child, preferably away from your home. This means making sure your child has no way to circumvent your gun storage system and take possession of them. However, if your child does take possession and uses your weapon in a mass shooting, expect to see the inside of a courtroom and see the inside of a jail.

Making parents take responsibility for their child’s actions is the first way to stop school age child shootings. Parents of a shooter need to stop making themselves into the victim and take legal responsibility for their child’s actions.

Adult Aged Shooter

In the case of Parkland, the alleged shooter was 19 and legally purchased and owned the weapons he purchased. That’s partly because Florida’s gun laws are fairly lax. This is where if Florida’s gun purchasing laws had been more strict on this matter, this 19 year old (still mentally a child) wouldn’t have been able to buy an AR 15 weapon. Unfortunately, there is the argument that at 18, the age were everyone is considered a legal adult, you should be able to buy and own a weapon. I agree with that sentiment to a degree. It’s not that you can’t own a weapon, it’s that the states need to mandate stricter requirements before you can walk out of the shop with one. No one needs to walk into and out of a gun shop with gun-in-hand in the same day. It’s not that kind of an item. Here are some points that could have at least slowed down (or possibly thwarted) this alleged shooter:

  1. Require a permit. A permit to own a weapon means you need to file for that permit and wait until the permit arrives before a gun. This takes time and a little bit of money. It also means your name is on file with the state and authorities that you own a weapon and which weapons you own (because the gun dealer has to make a record with your permit number).
  2. Require a waiting period. In addition to the time it takes to file for and receive a permit, force every gun shop to make you wait at least 30 days before taking possession of the weapon. Not only does it force the buyer to think about their purchase, it forces the buyer to wait 30 days before that gun becomes yours. It also gives the gun shop owner 30 days to do their own research before handing over the weapon. I consider this one due diligence. No one needs a weapon overnight. It also means the gun shop might not get a pass for not doing their due diligence. Everyone involved in the sale of a gun has a responsibility to ensure they are selling that weapon to a person of sound mind.
  3. Require a mental health evaluation. This one is on the list only because it can help evaluate sound mind, but it’s also controversial. This means that as a gun buyer, you need to be evaluated by a medical professional prior to taking possession.  Or, at least, take possession of your first weapon. The problem with this is, judging someone else’s mental health is a bit of a challenge. Habitual lying sociopaths are well capable of making their lies seem quite truthful… even to a mental health professional.  This means that unless the mental health professional is able to diagnose a lying sociopath, the mental health professional could be on the hook for what that person does with the weapon after they signed off on that person’s mental health. Not sure how many mental health folks would want to take on that responsibility.
  4. Background check. A person who is looking at purchasing a weapon should go through a thorough background check. This should include social media sites and reviewing any behaviors that might seem out of the ordinary. If the person is under 25,  the person’s most recent school records and conduct must be evaluated. If a school has recently expelled that person, this should be grounds for background check failure. If a parent or sibling has been involved in gun violence, failure.

These basic checks would at least stop obtaining weapons through legal means. However, it won’t stop people from obtaining weapons illegally. It also won’t stop person to person weapon purchases. For example, in Florida, one person can legally purchase a gun from another person without notifying anyone. This is the hardest problem to solve. Is there a way to solve this? Not easily. Because person to person weapon transactions are the hardest to track and the hardest to know about, it’s almost impossible to stop these.

Failure to Investigate

In the case of the alleged Parkland shooter, this former student apparently had disturbing content on various social sites including a now infamous comment left on YouTube. Content describing the want to use weapons in the way they were used. Apparently, some folks from the school found these sites and brought it to the attention of the school authorities, the local authorities and even the FBI. Yet, none of these leads were apparently followed up on.

This is a hard section to write. If the folks who are tasked to investigate troubled teens for possible issues like this, why wasn’t this information followed up? Why wasn’t he found early? Why wasn’t he taken in and detained? Why did none of this happen? There’s a term for it…

Security Theater

What exactly is “Security Theater“. According to Wikipedia:

Security theater is the practice of investing in countermeasures intended to provide the feeling of improved security while doing little or nothing to achieve it.

What this means is that authorities set up mailboxes to catch complaints with hollow promises to follow up. In fact, these sites actually aren’t monitored and the mailboxes go unchecked. These sites are set up strictly to placate, to provide security theater.

Instead of implementing the facade of security theater, we need to actually monitor, take action and follow up on these legitimate leads. If the FBI had actually followed up on (or at least had notified the local authorities), the Parkland shooting might not have taken place. It’s one of those hindsight is 20/20 kind of deals. It’s easy to look back and see all of the mistakes. However, if at least one of those notified authorities had followed up, perhaps Parkland wouldn’t have happened?

Overall

By enforcing more strict gun purchasing laws (especially to those under 25), by eliminating the practice of security theater and by actually following up on all possible threats, it’s possible we could have prevented the Parkland shooting. Heck, car insurance has always been higher for those under 25 for a reason. The insurance companies realize how reckless that age group can be. Why not apply this same logic to gun purchasing and ownership?

These ideas won’t necessarily stop all mass shootings and wouldn’t necessarily have prevented a shooting like Las Vegas, but if these ideas can reduce the frequency of them, then that’s a win in my book.

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