Facts continue to emerge in the aftermath of the mass shooting at a Broward County, Florida high school. But already, they are drowned out by the ill-informed, emotional calls for more restrictions on gun ownership. We won’t enter that endless debate here. Instead, let’s cook down to the essentials of what we know about this incident. We will not name the shooter, because infamy is what they want.
- He was identified as a threat.
- His public social media accounts demonstrated the threats.
- He was expelled from school because he was threat.
- The Police visited him because they knew he was a threat.
- The FBI was aware of him because he was a threat.
- The students were aware of him.
- Teachers were aware of him
- All the so-called warning signs were missed.
Nothing was done, and we have to ask, once the wave of sentiment has passed, what could have been done. There may be some fixes there, but behind all of this is our bedrock principle of the presumption of innocence, and the question: had he committed a crime or provided probable cause to believe that he was about to do so? Reports and suspicions in this case turned out to be justified, but do we want a society where anyone can be “taken off the street” on the basis of another citizen’s “suspicion”? Do we want to return to the days of forcible commitment to mental health facilities without due process of law? Perhaps we do; but be careful what you ask for.
- He bought the weapon legally, because we allow 18-year olds to buy rifles, and there was nothing in the background check database that flagged him as ineligible.
But do we really believe that he could not have found a gun on the secondary market to buy for cash, if he had been turned away by a licensed dealer?
- The students had drilled active shooter scenarios.
But even if we believe that “lockdown” would have stymied a rifleman who simply walked onto the school campus, as riflemen will do (see Sandy Hook), one pull on a fire alarm sent targets flooding into his field of fire. “Active shooter scenarios” – and planning – need some work.
- There were uniformed cops stationed on campus.
This is another palliative measure that contributes some undefinable level of security – or at least the reassuring, uniformed appearance of it – to a school. But from Columbine to Broward County, we have seen uniformed officers on scene unable to engage and reduce the body count.
And 17 died – unnecessarily.
The missing ingredient? Armed and trained school staff members on-site. We are not talking about more law enforcement officers, or random armed civilians, or – certainly not! – armed high school students. We are talking about volunteer members of school staff – with a direct stake in their own safety, their peers’, and their students – discreetly carrying concealed handguns, and trained to respond immediately in the first seconds of an incident. With an enrollment of 3,000+ this school should have had ten to twenty of them, spread across the campus attending to their everyday duties, their identities and locations unknown and unpredictable to any potential attacker.
Because the only way to deal with a decentralized threat is with distributed security.
Rather than wailing “this has to stop,” accept the fact that it will not stop, and take action to defend your yourself and your community.
You’re never going to confiscate guns in the US. Criminals will not obey your laws or signs. Cops won’t be there when the shooting starts.
The only option is train to defend – decentralized threats require distributed security.
Anything less than that is tantamount to being an accessory to murder.