Thoughts on the Parkland, Florida School Shooting

I’ve reserved commentary on this topic, till now, for several reasons: Primarily because I wanted to allow some time to pass, for those grieving, and because I also wanted to allow the facts to come to light.

Unlike those in the media, who blindly rush forward to present every salacious and unverified morsel of information, I believe we all have an obligation to pass along facts rather than fiction. All too often events like this draw out raw emotions that only serve to anchor both sides to their causes. After reading the extreme comments on social media, which began mere minutes after the shooting, I am more convinced of this then ever. At best, most of the stuff that is circulating out there is factually incorrect, at worst it is an out-right lie. The problem comes in when this propaganda begins to get spread around as the truth.

What has truly struck me is the number of folks who have been elevated to some glorified expert status by the countless politicians, pundits and activists. Please don’t take this the wrong way, but chances are if you are a high-school student, teacher, house-maker, nurse, actor, gardener, graphic artist, barista, social media darling, accountant, politician, or journalist, you are NOT an expert on this.

Now, I’m not discounting your feelings, those you are entitled to, but the reality is that you’re not an expert on the law or firearms. The cute memes on Twitter, or the talking points that your favorite Facebook group shares, don’t count as actual knowledge.

Here is one of my recent favorites: “Everyone knows that AR stands for Assault Rifle. It is a weapon of war that can fire 10 rounds a second and does not belong in the hands of civilians.”

Uhm, No. AR does NOT stand for Assault Rifle, it is actually the original manufacturer’s name: Armalite Rifle. It is also NOT a weapon of war and it CANNOT fire 10 rounds per second. That would be the M-16 or the current M-4.  It is also NOT an assault rifle. An actual assault rifle is a military grade weapon that has a selector switch allowing the rifle to be fired in semi-automatic, burst fire, or full-auto. Assault Rifles, which can fire that magic 10 rounds per second, are HEAVILY regulated under Federal law.  What the AR-15 is a semi-automatic rife that only LOOKS like a military weapon. It is no different than a HK SL6 or a FN TSR XP sporting rifle, save for fact that it looks scary.

Recently, a well-known ‘investigative journalist’ made the ridiculous comment that: “AR’s are never used for hunting.”

Once again, we have an example of another self-proclaimed ‘expert’ who got it completely wrong. Sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but they are routinely used for hunting. Perhaps he should have asked an actual ‘hunter’ before he made this preposterous claim.

What has taken place during the last 10 days is an all-out, but wholly unjustifiable, attack on guns and the NRA.

Here is what I have put together since the shooting:

1.  The shooter was a mentally troubled young man who legally possessed a firearm, even though he should not have.

2.  When the shots rang out, the first responding (BCSO) officers did not enter the school and engage the shooter.

3.  Both local law enforcement and the FBI were made aware of the shooters potential for violence, but took no action.

4.  Despite all the red flags, those on the left immediately blamed the NRA and called for a boycott against the organization.

So let’s delve into these issues and see whether or not the anti-gun moral outrage is justified

First - I think we can, or should, all agree that it is the shooters fault. No one pulled the trigger but him. Should he have had a gun? Well, no. Not only did he have the AR-15, but he had nine other guns, including three which were illegally purchased. So, not only was he a criminal, there was also a clear, documented history of violence and mental health issues, yet nothing was done. Right there is a HUGE issue and we need to address that. So what could have prevented it? Sadly, nothing. I’ll explain more in a moment.

Second – Reports have come to light that the BCSO School Officer, as well as three other deputies, did not enter the school to engage the shooter. We have this information from Police Officers from the Coral Springs P.D. who responded and found them waiting outside. These CSPD officers went into the school, along with other officers and responding deputies, but these initial four did not. I would like to say that I am shocked by this behavior, but the reality is that no one knows how they will respond to a situation like this until it happens. I’m not condemning them, but that being said all of them need to resign or be fired. There is no place for this type of behavior. The victims, as well as their fellow officers, deserve better. I would also go so far as to say that the calls for the sheriff to resign or be recalled are more than appropriate. The BCSO sheriff KNEW this had happened, yet still appeared at a CNN town hall meeting where he verbally attacked an NRA spokesperson. Could his officers have prevented further loss of life? I don’t know, but his cover-up of this fact, until AFTER the politically charged event, shows that he has interjected politics to push an anti-gun agenda. Time and again we are being told that we must hold our police to a higher standard, and that must also include those at the top.

Third – According to media reports, law enforcement records indicate that they responded to the shooter’s home at least thirty-nine times, over a seven year period, and that there were at least two notifications, including a very detailed report from someone close to the shooter (a family member), called in to the FBI, warning them about the potential for violence. The report from the family member was NOT vague. In fact, they specifically indicated that they believed the shooter would do EXACTLY what he ultimately did.

 We live in an age of: See Something, Say Something, yet the LEO personnel that were told about the activity: Did Nothing.

I can tell you that not all calls to police lead to enforcement activity, but clearly something fell through the cracks here. When I was a young cop, we had a number of frequent flyers, local EDP’s (Emotionally Disturbed Persons), who we were constantly dealing with. We’d grab them and haul them off to the pysch ward for evaluation. Sometimes they’d get kicked out after a day or two with some meds and they’d be fine, until they decided they didn’t need the meds anymore and the cycle would start all over again. But, WE did OUR job.

Clearly, someone screwed up here.  There were ever increasing levels of violence, including self-mutilation, killing animals, and physically assaulting his mother, yet nothing substantive was ever done. In fact, many cases were simply closed out by deputies without any action being taken. Was this because of the arrangement between the Broward County School System and BCSO to lower student arrest numbers? It very well looks that way.

The Broward County School System was rated #1 in the country for kids going into the juvenile system. During the 2011-12 school years Broward County made 1,062 school-related arrests. The BCSO sheriff was elected in 2012 and by the 2015-16 school year that number dropped to 392, putting the rate of school-related arrests among the lowest in the state. The sheriff’s own slogan is: "Our success will be measured by the number of kids we keep out of jail, not the number we put in jail."

But was this success the result of effective outreach to the student community? No. What they effectively did was lower arrest rates by simply NOT making arrests. In fact, they designated a number of crimes that they would simply no longer enforce. Yeah, that’s fixing the problem.

It should be noted that this wasn’t a failure on law enforcement alone. The shooter had been brought to the attention of mental health professionals, because of his violent outbursts, but no action was taken and he was deemed a ‘low level’ risk. This despite the history of violence coupled with the shooter’s alleged diagnosis of depression, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) and autism. All of the things that should have prevented him from legally owning a firearm seemed to get lost in the shuffle? Why?

Well, the truth is that the mental health community really does want folks to get help. As a result, they are extremely vociferous in their objections to mental health records being made public, as in being part of gun background checks. Their argument, which admittedly has some merit, is that those seeking mental health help might not because of the fear that it would prevent them from obtaining a weapon or have their weapons removed. Now, you might say screw them, and you may have a point, but what about the person who’s spouse dies and they seek out counseling as part of their grieving process? They have zero interest in hurting themselves, or anyone else, so should they lose their right to own a gun? What about the person falsely accused by another, say an ex-spouse, who has to go to a psychiatrist to prove the allegations are false? You see, this is the slippery slope that NO ONE, not the media nor the politicians, wants to address, and they don’t, they simply take the path of least resistance, and that brings us to issue number four.

Fourth – We have no answers to fix the problem, so let’s blame someone or something else. This generally ends up targeting the NRA and guns.

The simple truth is that many of the folks in politics and the media are just anti-gun. All you have to do is look at their prior comments to see that they simply do not believe that anyone, save for the military, police or their personal security, should have guns. If you try and get an answer from them as to what would have PREVENTED this tragedy, they will only give you talking points, but not actual answers, because there are none. No one has an answer for the human component, the actual shooter, but they need to appear as if they are doing something, so they wring their hands and attack guns. One, it plays to their base, and two, it appears as if they are taking action. But the reality is that gun bans DO NOT work. Study the data from the Clinton era Assault Weapons Ban and you will see the proof in this statement. Once you realize that they are promoting an agenda, then it all begins to make sense

I spent over two decades in law enforcement. I’ve also been shooting for nearly four decades and I have fired everything from a .22 to REAL, fully-automatic weapons. I am also a member of the NRA and have been a firearms instructor. I don’t have the hubris to call myself an expert, but I certainly have tons of real world expertise on this subject and I have also studied it at length. If I thought banning guns, even certain types, would work, I would support it, but I have never seen this proof.

I’m not criticizing those folks who genuinely believe this; I’m just saying it isn’t true. Even if you managed to confiscate every single legally owned gun in America, you would still have millions of illegal guns on the streets.

Those high school kids that are being paraded about, and who are being called our future leaders, are useful idiots for the anti-gun agenda. Their pain is being co-opted to drive a narrative and it is picking up steam. Even now corporations that once gave discounts to NRA members are withdrawing them. That’s fine; I prefer to know who I shouldn’t give my business to. It’s the same as those places that hang up the silly no-gun placards.

The ironic thing is that ZERO mass shooters have been NRA members.

So why do I say the kids are being used? Well, because the reality is that they don’t care about them. They’re just political pawns in a high-stakes game. That might sound harsh, until you look at the statistics coming out regarding the number of teens that are killed daily in this country through distracted driving. Every day eleven teenagers die, yet I don’t hear any calls to ban teens from having cell phones or raising the age of driving to twenty-one. Could you imagine the immediate out-cry if that were ever proposed? The idea is so patently absurd that even someone on the left would grab the nearest AR-15 to take out the ill-witted politician that would even propose it.

While we are on that topic, why do we need cars that can travel in excess of 85 MPH, when that is the absolute highest speed limit in the United States? Why can’t the government just ban fast cars? I mean, if we are truly concerned for our kids why do we allow them to get into death machines with distracting telephonic devices? Banning teens from cars till they were twenty-one would save over four thousand of them each year. Think about that for a moment four thousand teens…… a year!

Do you know how many have died in ALL school shootings (K-12 & College) since the first one in 1764? Two Hundred and fifty eight (258). Yes, that is correct. It averages out to be about one person per year and that includes children and adults.

The Gun-Free School Zones Act was passed in 1990. Prior to the act there were only seventy killed. That means for over two hundred and twenty five years we lost only seventy people to school shootings, but after we passed the law to ‘protect’ them, we lost one hundred and eighty-eight in just under thirty years. Maybe the government should stop trying to protect us.

Let me say that I am not diminishing ANY life that is lost to senseless violence. In fact, unlike most of you, this topic is not an academic one for me. I have witnessed first-hand children taken out of this life by violence and I have comforted grieving parents. It is something I don’t wish upon anyone, but if we are going to have a discussion about something, we need to be aware of what the real facts are.

The sad thing is that we have become so divided along party lines, that we no longer educate ourselves about the issues nor discuss them civilly, we simply spew well-rehearsed talking points and pat each other on the back for being experts. What we need to do is stop acting like sheep, believing everything we are told, and educate ourselves. But if we did that, we would realize that we have been systematically lied to and would be a threat to them, the politicians, pundits and activists, so it behooves them to work hard at keeping us stupid. The question is: will we continue to live in this ignorance or shine the light on the truth.