Oregon writer, Rain Trueax, and Oregon painter, Diane, co-author Rainy Day Thought, where they write about ideas and creativity. Diane posts on Wednesdays and Rain on Saturdays. There may be extra days or changes as situations warrant. Comments, relating to the topic, are welcome as it turns an article into a discussion, but must be in English and not include profanity or threats.

Saturday, February 17, 2018

Cause and Effect

Yes, I try to stay off serious issues here, the kinds of things that are controversial and where all the sides are angry at each other over them. I had a post about life and being positive all written and ready to go for today-- and then Valentine's Day and Florida happened.

Well, I just can't do it today; so if you have a hard time with such, come on back Wednesday and next Saturday where we'll return to regular programming. But I am mad about this.

immature Harris hawk in our Tucson backyard

Wednesday, on a day supposed to be about love, the ultimate act of hate was carried out. I read about it online, then turned on my TV to see the aftermath. I felt I had to see it and accept the pain that is not just for those in that school and their loved ones, but for all of us that this keeps happening. 

The next morning, still angry, I read a lot of articles on the shooting and its aftermath. I read how the murderer, whose name I shall never use, felt empowered by his gun. How he relished the idea of killing. I read how others knew about him. He was twice reported to the FBI. I read how nothing was done. Why was nothing done? 

The school 
Drills were planned for such a horror entering the school, and yet when it happened, not all the doors were locked. For some, it took too long to realize what was happening. The glass in the windows could be broken by bullets. There was a fire alarm, that anyone could trip, which sent students running right into the shooter. They only had two security guards, with one armed; and in a large campus of 45 acres, he wasn't nearby. At least one of the security guards died trying to protect students with his own body. If he'd had a gun, the story might've ended right there. 

Why were outside doors possible to enter other than at the front of the school. Outside doors to schools should be impossible to enter during school hours. If they are opened from inside, an alarm should go off when it isn't a regular dismissal time.  Those doors should be solid enough to not be possible to shoot open. The fact that he could get in there with a gun means something failed at the school. It wasn't the only failure. 

The school had expelled him for disciplinary reasons. He had been out of control and violent in the school. What had they done beyond sending him to a school for at risk kids? Did he get a mental health evaluation from trained personnel? Did they report the expelling and its reasons to the local police, who could check gun records? Did they even have the right to do that or did his rights trump those of everyone who wants to feel safe in a public place? If the school, and it wouldn't be the first one if that happened, didn't send the information onto authorities, wasn't that another failure?

I am angry but also heartbroken at how many lives were taken or damaged. That wasn't just the wounded but those who saw the dead, who had to hear the shots. What kinds of invisible wounds will they forever carry? People, on both sides of our partisan divide, want simple answers for this. Real answers won't be simple and they won't come without cost. The event on Valentine's Day didn't either.

Doing something real
If you have read anything about this tragedy, it's clear that this guy was on a path. If he hadn't used a gun it'd have been a bomb. You can only stop someone like him by physically limiting his rights BEFORE he does something. He was a known risk, so was the recent church shooter in Texas, so have been almost every single one of these school shooters but we protect their rights-- and then others lose theirs-- all of us do with any desire for reasonable security when we go to a mall, school, theater, church or any public building. 

When a student is expelled for being not safe in the school, there needs to be a requirement that the information is given to local law enforcement and added to background check information regarding who can buy guns. Such violent individuals should also have their homes checked to confiscate any they already own. We need background checks with teeth and then consequences to any violent threats or behavior. We need to take away the rights of such shooters before they shoot 29 innocents. 

All one side or the other can talk about is worrying about rights-- one denying the right to own any gun and the other to protect the rights of everyone to own one. 

There were multiple articles saying that the kids knew, based on what he said and his behavior, that he'd be the one when something happened. He had posted on a YouTube channel that he wanted to be a professional shooter. That was in September and the FBI contacted the channel owner. They then claimed they couldn't find the person. Seriously, that's what they said. The end result appears that they didn't even try because anybody could have found him with any experience online-- do a search for that name and then on the sites kids tend to go-- Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat, Facebook. Look at the pictures posted by the ones with that name. They'd have found him. Maybe a visit would have scared him. Maybe it wouldn't but they didn't even try-- must protect his rights.

Another failure came January 5, 2018 when someone called the national FBI tip-line and gave them a detailed and extensive list of their concerns that he was a danger. It was not passed on. The explanation this week was that had been a mistake. A pretty big one with consequences for a lot of other people. I hope whoever got that tip loses their job at the least. Why isn't it mandatory to pass it on? Get it to branch offices? Jaded with all the tips or was it gotta protect someone's rights?

Well, the shooter got his rights, got to have for a few moments the power of life and death. 29 people paid for his rights-- 17 of them with their lives; they paid for our inability to do something before it happens. He benefited from our system who lets someone be kicked out of school, put into a school for at risk kids, have had multiple calls to his home by a desperate mother and yet always nothing was done. 

It appears that Americans have a right to be mentally deranged enough to plot murders, be able to carry them out meticulously and with joy, and then later plead mental illness as an excuse. Mental illness is not an excuse. Insanity might be but when someone can plot out what to do and how to get away with it (he did it all), they don't get an insanity plea even if they claim to hear voices. If he ever sees the light of a free day again, our system will have failed again.

Repeating because it's important. What we should do, but we haven't, is limit who can buy a gun using strong background checks. If he bought his before the school expelled him as a disciplinary problem with violence issues, that should send out a red flag, check gun records, go to his home and confiscate the weapons he already owned. Yes, he could still build a bomb or use a vehicle, but maybe it wouldn't have appealed to him as much as looking someone in the face, seeing their fear, and having the power to end their life.

Blocking anyone seen as a security risk from owning any gun is not enough. We have to go further. IF someone seems dangerous, as others see them, they should be detained, tested, with mental health officials having enough time to determine if they are safe in society. Not everyone with mental illness is violent. Some are. When they are, incarcerate them before they damage other lives. Keep them locked up until or unless that risk is seen as being gone. 

Most of the parents of these shooters, including this one, have tried to get help. It wasn't out there. No facilities to hold someone and treat them. Nothing really to give the parents resources. Mental illness is still the bugaboo that seems to be the word never spoken. Someone does not have to be insane to be mentally ill. Those who relish killing others (he also killed animals) are clearly mentally ill. Do we have no answers for them until they do something? As a culture, we went too far at one time maybe in incarcerating too many. Now we've gone too far the other way. We wait until someone innocent pays the price and then we act-- Too damned late!

Another thing I'd like to see us do but doubt it'll happen in today's disgusting partisan divide-- limit extensively those who can buy rifles like the AR-15. I'd go further. The right would fight it, but I'd end guns like he used, the AR-15, which looks like a war weapon. They apparently have some kind of cool mystique attached to them. 

An extended magazine is intended only to blow something apart-- why do we want them sold? If we had the will, we could get rid of all of the guns and magazines that exist, like the one the Las Vegas shooter used. We could have a financial incentive to turning them in, and then a stiff fine if any are found or seen being used. We won't though because there is money involved. Life never trumps dollars in the minds of some.  

Time and again this happens and we don't do what could have stopped this guy. We don't because each side has to go for broke and they end up leaving monsters like him out there for more days like Valentine's Day. Unless we get a backbone, unless we get realistic, there will be more. There will be those thinking it's cool what he did. They are out there. Do we have the will to do what we can BEFORE they do? 

To me, as horrifying as the loss of life was this week, it is equally so that we are so helpless as a nation to do anything about the really serious issues facing us.

It is all about cause and effect and being able to get over this partisan divide to enact laws that might change things. When someone executing little children wasn't enough, I don't honestly know what would be. Maybe when we all get mad enough that we keep voting against everyone in office until we get those there willing to do what is best for the country not their own power and pocketbooks.

In short--Secure school doors to outside entrance at anywhere but the main door, bullet proof glass in all windows, have enough, trained, armed guards, especially anywhere there are open doors. The new rule should be no fire alarm has students leaving their rooms until a second announcement is given. It's too easy to trigger an alarm and wouldn't take long for the school to send out an all clear or an exit notice. The first alarm should be a warning-- lock classroom doors.

Then, as a government, demand meaningful background checks and mental health evaluations-- all with teeth. And frankly, get rid of the mystique that some guns are cool and make their user powerful. All they do is destroy. A gun should be seen as what it is-- a tool. It should only be in the hands of those who understand that.


Brig said...

There are laws on the books right now that require background checks, magazine limits, etc, etc. A gun is simply a tool. Mental health issues need to be addressed, the doping of people needs to be addressed. Drugs are the common denominator in all these school shootings.
There are a lot of guns out there. They have been out there for a long time, they are not going to be given up.

In the meantime how about we address the fact that "Far more children are slain by Planned Parenthood in one day than are slain by all firearm violence in one year."

Rain Trueax said...

Everyone is welcome to express their opinion on this isue, and what we need to do. I want this to be always a polite, conversation free zone where we can agree to disagree sometimes and remain friends :)