Florida Mass Shooting

Posted on: February 14  2018 / Written by: Brett Lunger

Can any good come from the recent mass shooting in Florida? 

For the families and loved ones of those murdered on that day, probably not.  Nothing can undo the finality of their loss.  They know that they will never see that special smile again, that they will never be able to share life’s challenges and passions again, that they will never see the joy of potential fulfilled.  For them, my prayers will probably ring hollow.  I am sorry.  And, you are right, being “sorry” changes nothing. 


Butback to my original question.  Can any good come out of this tragic event?  Can we learn more about what happened in the days and weeks leading up to the shooting?  From that knowledge, can we agree on effective measures that would reduce the likelihood of this happening again? 


I say yes.  It will not be easy.  And, yes, you are right, I am guilty of being the “eternal optimist. 


As we consider these questions, please note that I will not use the words, “Democrat, Republican, Trump, or Clinton.”  This is not a partisan matter.  To engage in “Gotcha Politics” would only cloud the issue.  If we are to identify and implement practical measures to make future incidents less likely, we need clarity and focus, not the blame game. 


If you are not able to accept that, if your objective is to use this issue to gain political advantage against a perceived foe, then by all means point fingers and make loud noises.  Just don’t expect any meaningful progress in addressing the problem of gun violence.  (See Rahm Emanuel statement October 30th, 2012). 


Should we look to Congress to solve the problem?  Immediately after the shooting, there were loud and insistent calls for legislative action to prevent the next outrage.  This reaction is understandable, but more thought needs to be given to the actual details if meaningful outcomes are to be achieved. 


For example, some are calling for an immediate, and total, ban on all firearms, followed by the confiscation and destruction of all guns in private hands.  Zero guns equals zero gun violence, right?  Maybe yes, maybe no.  But is this a practical solution?  Could it actually be done?  As attractive as this “solution” might seem, it is not likely to effectively address the problem. 


As an alternative, might we gain a collective benefit by enacting stricter screening and registration legislation?  Absolutely!  But is that likely to happen in any meaningful way?  It is possible, but Congress’s record is not encouraging.  What happened after the 2012 Sandy Hook massacre?  Not much. 


What about enforcing existing gun laws?  This course of action would, to a certain degree, keep firearms out of the hands of those individuals most likely to commit gun violence.  But, would it totally eliminate the potential for future mass shootings?  Though the net outcome would be positive, it would not completely end the killing. 


So, should we rely on Congress to waive its “Magic Wand” to solve the problem?  (See my “Magic Wand” Essay, posted at www.responsibilitytoday.com).  After all, we pay their salaries; so why not push them and see what they come up with?  Sure.  Give it a shot.  Just don’t bet the ranch on the outcome. 


What about initiatives by individuals and communities?  Might we encourage students, teachers and parents to be more vigilant, keeping an eye out for unstable conduct by individuals within their own communities?  Ahhh, now we are getting somewhere.  Social media has been blamed for many problems, but monitoring social media postings and tweets might provide early warning and lead to intervention.  (Okay.  I know that you are severely tempted, but please do not re-direct this conversation to the “Tweeter In Chief.”  Remember, we agreed not to do that sort of thing, didn’t we?) 


We have already seen that community vigilance can be effective.  Marc Barden, whose daughter was gunned down in the Sandy Hook massacre in 2012, has somehow been able to put his grief aside and has launched Sandy Hook Promise (see https://www.sandyhookpromise.org/.).  The potential for this sort of action is powerful if implemented on a national scale.  Think about how you might bring the same sort of program to your own community.  Let’s encourage our neighbors, their children and teachers to take personal responsibility for our own collective safety. 


Bottom line?  This problem will not be easily solved. 


We would be best served if we were to employ a two-pronged approach.  One, encourage (scream at) Congress to stop “kicking the can down the road” and actually do something constructive (good luck with that, but at least give them the task).  Two, talk to your neighbors.  Ask them for ideas to identify problems and devise practical interventions.  At the end of the day, the schools and communities belong to us, not to Washington.  We can ask for legislative help, but it is our responsibility to work together and come up with viable solutions. 

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