Weekender

My View: Mass-shooter debate complex, offers no easy answers

We’ve been down this road before.

And we will be down it once again.

Seventeen dead in a shooting at a high school in Florida. Killed by an alleged gunman, carrying an AR-15 rifle.

It seems inevitable it will happen again given state of political debate in this country.

Even U.S. Sen. Bob Casey seemed to agree when he stopped by the Times Leader offices this week.

Casey said there is no longer any cooperation in American politics. People tend to stick to their political ideologies and refuse to even engage with others who hold opposing views.

But there’s plenty to debate when it comes to the safety of our children and mass shootings at high schools — from the way parents are raising their children to whether or not fellow students reported Nikolas Cruz to, yes, even gun control.

Video games will be blamed for the latest shooting as it has been for others. But violent video games make their way to countless countries around the world that don’t have the same issue with shootings that we do.

Some will argue that’s the price of freedom.

There’s a fundamental problem with that logic. No one should be gunned down anywhere in this country just to have their freedoms used as an apologist argument for their death.

If 17 innocent people being shot at a school doesn’t bother you, nothing will change your mind. And I know that.

It’s not one, singular problem. Multiple factors can affect the equation, and until we can work together to address all of them, nothing will change.

To start, responsible gun owners should not have their guns taken away. Growing up in NEPA, I know the rich hunting history, and I know countless people who have houses full of guns that have never harmed another person.

However, maybe we should be doing something to address the problem we have in this country with certain types of guns.

Maybe it should be harder for a non-military 18-year-old to get an AR-15.

I got into an argument on Twitter the other night with a former classmate.

He told me I couldn’t possibly understand the in-depth process of getting a gun, and how we can’t infringe upon that Constitutional right.

He was right. I have no interest in owning a firearm. They scare me, and I don’t want one in my home.

We have been hearing the argument that we need to do something about mental health. This is the narrative President Donald Trump has used, and I agree with him 100 percent. The stigma around mental health makes a lot of people nervous about discussing it in the wake of tragedies like this.

There are a myriad of mental health problems, a lot of which don’t lead to violent tendencies. Personally, I have somewhat crippling issues with anxiety, and I take medication daily for it. And lots of people in this country do. It doesn’t make everyone with a mental illness a killer.

There is a stigma around the mental health argument, that it paints mental illness in a bad light. I fully understand the fear of that stigma, but then you have to stand back and ask how attacked responsible gun owners feel.

The other issue is why nothing was done about Cruz after the countless phone calls made about him. Someone gave a tip to the FBI that never made it to Florida.

“Under normal protocol, this information should have been provided to the Miami field office,” FBI special agent Robert Lasky said. “The FBI is still investigating the facts of this situation. We will conduct an in-depth review of our procedures.”

So how does “normal protocol” get ignored in this case? And, if the tip made it’s way to Miami, would it have made a difference?

Almost every news story, television segment and blog post about this incident has highlighted Cruz’s past, and every red flag we should have seen before it got to this point.

He allegedly said he wanted to be a school shooter. He was expelled from school. The police were called to his mother’s home multiple times. Neighbors are wondering if they could have or should have done more.

“This kid exhibited every single known red flag, from killing animals to having a cache of weapons to disruptive behavior to saying he wanted to be a school shooter,” said Howard Finkelstein, the Broward County public defender whose office is representing Cruz. “If this isn’t a person who should have gotten someone’s attention, I don’t know who is. This was a multi-system failure.”

Finkelstein has it right. This is a multi-system failure. As much as we want a crystal clear answer to this problem in America, it’s not that easy. Too many factors have played into this situation and have played into others.

And Casey makes a good point too. Until we as a country can stop shouting into the void and try to work together for the common goal of making our schools, communities and country safer, we will be having this same argument over and over again.

Brigid Edmunds
https://www.theweekender.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/02/web1_Brigid-Edmunds.jpgBrigid Edmunds

By Brigid Edmunds

bedmunds@timesleader.com

Reach Brigid Edmunds at 570-991-6113 or on Twitter @brigidedmunds.