DE­TER­RENCE CAN WORK

Chattanooga Times Free Press - - OPINION -

MI­AMI — The list of fail­ures in the Feb. 14 mass shoot­ing at Mar­jory Stone­man Dou­glas High School in Park­land, Fla., are be­com­ing le­gion. If any or all of those fail­ures had been ad­dressed, 17 stu­dents and teach­ers might be alive to­day.

In ad­di­tion to the sev­eral balls dropped by the lo­cal FBI of­fice, it was later al­leged that at least four Broward County sher­iff ’s deputies, in­clud­ing armed school re­source of­fi­cer Scot Peter­son, were out­side the school dur­ing the shoot­ing and in­stead of rush­ing in to con­front the killer, later iden­ti­fied as Niko­las Cruz, waited four min­utes un­til po­lice of­fi­cers from Coral Springs ar­rived to en­ter the build­ing. Broward County Sher­iff Scott Is­rael said the ac­tions of the deputies are un­der in­ves­ti­ga­tion. Scot Peter­son, how­ever, hastily re­tired. Is­rael told re­porters that Peter­son should have gone in and “… ad­dressed the killer. Killed the killer.” What fol­lows is based par­tially on re­port­ing by Chan­nel 10, the Mi­ami ABC af­fil­i­ate.

In ad­di­tion to Peter­son’s fail­ure, “Two other deputies now on re­stricted duty are be­ing in­ves­ti­gated for how they han­dled tips warn­ing about the killer.”

Be­gin­ning in 2008, when Cruz was 9, lo­cal au­thor­i­ties say they had re­ceived 23 calls about his trou­bling be­hav­ior.

Two years ago, what ap­pears to have been the most se­ri­ous warn­ing oc­curred when an anony­mous caller alerted po­lice that the killer had posted on In­sta­gram a threat “to shoot up the school” and in­cluded a pic­ture of him­self with a gun.

The Mi­ami Her­ald re­ported that seven months later a peer coun­selor said Cruz in­gested gaso­line, wanted to buy a gun and tried to com­mit sui­cide by cut­ting him­self, and just days later, an in­ves­ti­ga­tor with the Florida Depart­ment of Chil­dren and Fam­i­lies de­clared Cruz “low-risk.” The ob­vi­ous fol­low-up ques­tion: What does the state agency con­sider high-risk?

The fam­ily that took Cruz in af­ter his mother died later called po­lice to re­port a fight and said that the boy had “dug in the back­yard be­cause he knew he was not al­lowed to bring (a gun in the house) … he was go­ing to bury the gun there.”

The fol­low­ing day, the sher­iff’s of­fice re­ceived a call from a tip­ster in Mas­sachusetts who said Cruz was col­lect­ing guns and knives and he “will kill him­self one day and be­lieves he could be a school shooter in the mak­ing.”

Was the Florida shoot­ing at least par­tially a case of po­lit­i­cal cor­rect­ness run amok? Did no one want to reach the ob­vi­ous con­clu­sions for fear of law­suits or pub­lic con­dem­na­tion from those who might have claimed that Cruz’s “rights” were be­ing vi­o­lated?

Sure, strengthen back­ground checks and deny the right to legally buy firearms to men­tally ill peo­ple and to minors, but any­one in­tent on break­ing the law will not be stopped by new laws be­cause, by def­i­ni­tion, they are law­break­ers.

De­ter­rence re­mains the best de­fense against peo­ple like Cruz who reg­u­larly search for the soft­est tar­gets. There is no softer tar­get than a school full of chil­dren. Prop­erly trained and mo­ti­vated armed adults will make the schools less ap­peal­ing tar­gets.

Here, a def­i­ni­tion of de­ter might be help­ful: “to dis­cour­age or re­strain from act­ing or pro­ceed­ing; to pre­vent; check; ar­rest.”

I at­tended a high school mu­si­cal last Satur­day with friends in the Florida Keys. An armed po­lice of­fi­cer was in­side the au­di­to­rium. His marked car was parked promi­nently at the en­trance. No one ap­peared to be ner­vous about se­cu­rity.

With the ex­cep­tion of laws deal­ing with the men­tally ill and age re­stric­tions, de­ter­rence might work bet­ter than pass­ing more laws, which law­break­ers will cer­tainly break.

Cal Thomas

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