The very air is alive with outrage and anger as more and more solid evidence comes to light that Nikolas Cruz had long ago been spotted as a wannabe mass murderer who made no secret of that ambition nor of his almost erotic fixation on weapons and violence.
The governor of Florida wants the FBI director to resign. “We should have known” goes the painful chorus. Nothing was done! Why was nothing done? Why? Why? Why?
The following opinion, in a funny kind of way, doesn’t feel like my own. It seems to be a bit too patient with the undeserving and the tolerant-of-the-intolerable, and, well, a little too left-leaning to belong to me. I claim it in one grand swoop, however, and hang onto it through the firestorm it ignites.
We all know that dogs chase cars. What is less clear is what a dog would do with a car if he should happen to catch one!
This screed is not rapidly rolled out to accommodate the catastrophe in Broward County, Florida. After the assassination of President John Kennedy, the air was identically alive with those who cited the many close observers who spotted murderous tendencies in the life of Lee Harvey Oswald, among hordes of those who knew him close up, from Marine drill instructors all the way back to his kindergarten teacher. “OK,” I said then and now say again. “You’re a sharp dog and you caught a big car.
“Now, what are you going to do with it?”
Every time the discussion came up I paid rapt attention. There were endless repetitions of signs, hints, warnings and downright previews and dress rehearsals of precisely this specific massacre, but not the slightest whisper of just what would happen if law enforcement were to say, “OK, team. We’ve just gotten the tip-off. It’s time to move!”
Would a posse of FBI, county and state authorities and local police bang on the door of one who exhibits such a proclivity for random slaughter, and when the wannabe murderer opened the door, would the spokesperson say something like, “It’s over, pal. We’ve got your number. We know you intend to invade the high school in mid-February and kill 17 people – students, faculty and an athletic director! Come along with us!”
And then where would they go? And how long would they stay? In a dictatorship there wouldn’t be much back-talk from the gun-lover or his family, friends and neighbors, and the paperwork would be mercifully short. But isn’t this America? Don’t we have a Fourth Amendment, and laws protecting people from detainment without due process? Who’s going to pay the billions of dollars in lost lawsuits won by gun-lovers who haven’t killed anybody yet?
I haven’t heard one single solitary proposal or scenario dealing with what takes place when the authorities are not dozing, but vigilant. Not one! There’s nothing but energetic table-pounding by those enraged by all the signs and clues the killer left in his wake.
I hate to rain on your “vigilance” parade. I’m as opposed to mass shootings as any normal person should be. But have you ever soberly considered the existence of a huge population of gun-lovers and gun-braggers who never even try to invade a location with hordes of helpless victims or even try to harm anyone?
I don’t fancy myself a wise man, and I take great pains never to come across as a wiseguy. This is the question, as honestly and earnestly as I can pose it. You’ve got your man (or woman!). He possesses a troy ton of “gun pornography” including lurid love letters to every bullet in high-capacity magazines. As longingly as any astronomer ever scanned the heavens, he writes of his desire to kick open classroom doors and gun down one and all.
Are we together so far? OK, what do we do with such a character if he just sits there marinating in his gun-lust and never commits a crime?
We can make things less convenient for the killers. We can pass gun-control laws that will earn legislators many votes from short-sighted people, and we can make ourselves proud telling one another, “Man, how do you like the way we slammed that background-check law through?” But can we prevent a single shooting? How? Show me the evidence.
I have no good solution. But the best of the bad solutions is to create a whole new industry. When I was in college there were no computer stores, computer repair people or computer nerds. Now we’re crawling with them. Let’s start building teams of former military and retired law-enforcement people and let them train others in the use of firearms and let them proliferate in and around those living targets that attract mass murderers.
I want no money, glory or even token recognition for this hardly-original idea. All I want is a full-face photo of the would-be murderer one second before he’s gunned down himself by the gray-haired lady who teaches English literature and whom everybody thought would scream and faint at the sight of a handgun.