The deaths of the 17 innocent young Americans killed in Parkland, Fla., have both stunned and numbed the nation. It is imperative that we do not shrug this off, that we keep the collective consciousness focused on this tragedy, and that somehow, some way, we act.
So what should we do?
The obvious response is the hardest to accomplish: Ban the sale of semi-automatic handguns and rifles to ordinary citizens.
It is easier to buy an AR-15 — now the the weapon of choice for copycat mass killers — than a handgun in Florida and Ohio. You must be 21 to buy a handgun, but you can buy this weapon of war at 18, and with no waiting period in Ohio.
Congress has not moved to establish more strigent restrictions on the purchase of these firearms.
Nor has Congress been able to ban bump stocks, which enable a semi-automatic weapon to fire faster.
Nor has Congress banned those on the no-fly list from buying guns.
There may, in time, be movement on some or all of these measures.
The other approach is to improve law enforcement, expand mental health services, and improve school drills and security — to fully utilize the tools we already have to protect ourselves from maniacs with guns.
If we can’t take away the most lethal weapons — and, in fairness, it would take years even with a ban to retire all semi-automatics — there is still much that can be done that is not being done today.
● Law enforcement, starting with the FBI must be far more proactive and far less reactive. Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel has called for giving law enforcement more power to detain people who make graphic threats or post disturbing material online, and bring them, involuntarily if necessary, to mental health professionals to be examined.
● Just as we promoted a “if you see something, say something” mentality regarding potential terrorists, there needs to be a similar response for potential mass shooters. Congress should consider new laws that allow the police to act more aggressively to intervene when someone sends obvious warnings on social media — before someone who has a history of torturing small animals and telling the world about it waltzes into a gun shop and arms himself to the teeth.
● Schools in the Toledo area already get some training in a regime known as ALICE — Alert, Lockdown, Inform, Counter, Evacuate. Students, when age-appropriate, learn — and are drilled in — when to run, when to hide, and when to fight back with whatever projectiles are at hand. Most of the carnage happens in the few minutes of a mass shooter’s appearance, so training kids in evasion and diversion is essential.
● Moreover, schools ought to have the option of security officers who are armed and trained to combat domestic terrorism. That may sound extreme. So are school shootings as a routine part of American life. Let some of the copycat killers see a few of their role models fail — shot before they get off a shot.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions said: “In every one of these cases, we’ve had advance indications and perhaps we haven’t been effective enough in intervening.” He’s right. We can begin to be more proactive right now.
The accused 19-year-old killer had widely publicized his violent goals. The parents of the friend with whom he was staying knew that this angry young man had an AR-15, and so did the person who sold it to him. They should have done more. The FBI should have done more. We all must do more with the tools we already have.
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