Is Florida’s School Shooting a Failure of Schools?

Today we’re going to hear a lot of punditry responding to the latest horrific school shooting in Florida. Some may have even had their articles written even before this happened and are just plugging in the new details. The school shooting happened because there were too many guns. The school shooting happened because there are crazy people out there who should be locked up.  The school shooting happened because of cell phones.

I have to admit that I checked to see if the shooter displayed any autistic symptoms, bracing myself for the inevitable witch hunt against autistic people.

There is nothing wrong with those sentiments, except maybe the cellphone explanation and the criminalization of mental illness. Let me add another wrinkle. Let’s talk about how schools handle kids with behavior problems.

Schools handle behavior problems by either expelling the students, placing them in horrible private programs with other kids with behavior problems, or ignoring the issue all together. Students with behavior problems are supposed to be handled with the same care and support that schools offer kids like my son who has autism.

Yes, I’ve complained about special education many times on this blog and in IRL. They could be doing much better in that regard, but if you know the system, special ed students can get what they need. Kids with behavioral issues do not have those same legal protections.

It’s obvious what kids like that need. They need therapy, medication, follow through at home, and a structured school environment.

All that costs money. And like special education, schools try to get the private insurance companies to cover those costs. Private insurance companies want schools to pick up the tab. Unless there is a parent who devotes their life to demanding help from both of those entities, nothing happens.

We can get rid of guns, but we also need to support students with behavior and/or mental health issues.

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75 thoughts on “Is Florida’s School Shooting a Failure of Schools?

  1. I don’t disagree, but we ask so much of schools yet give them so little. We’re most likely going to have a discussion about what we can do in my district (I sit on the school committee). People are already clamoring for metal detectors, more school resource officers, etc. In the meantime, they’re going to vote against paying any more in taxes. Personally, I’d be willing to pay more in local taxes – a lot more as we’re in the bottom 10% of communities in our state – to fund the real actual interventions that you cite here. But sadly, I am in the minority in my community.

  2. Laura said:

    “Unless there is a parent who devotes their life to demanding help from both of those entities, nothing happens.”

    I think it’s worth mentioning that this kid had no actual parents.

    1. Well, he did have parents before. His mother died a few months ago. I’m sure that was a traumatic event that contributed to his disturbed state of mind, but he was disturbed while he still had a parent.

  3. I’m with Sharon on the demands we put on schools, without resources. I don’t really know what it means when we say they should do a better job in complex cases (and, though I do think we know about some needs, I’d argue that we also don’t know enough about what to do in these cases) without more resources.

  4. And, the standard for gun ownership, certainly in Florida, allows a troubled 18 year old to own guns freely. Nothing short of involuntary commitment or arrest would remove that right, and those are unlikely possibilities in any case and certainly this one.

    I don’t think gun ownership is a at most, a limited right, appropriately circumscribed by item, place, ability, training, and intent. But that is not the current position of the NRA (or, admittedly, of the ACLU, when it comes to mental ability).

  5. I am sad with great fatigue — the last sentence of the wa post article on the shooting describes parents searching for their daughter, Cara, who they do not find.

  6. “Sept 2017, FBI was told of shooter’s “I’m going to be a professional school shooter” post on Youtube. FBI said today its agents couldn’t ID him — though he had posted under his name with same unusual spelling.
    1/”

    Gee whiz.

    1. To be fair, he posted about professional school shooting on the YouTube channel of some guy in another state – I think LA or GA. That guy then contacted his local FBI who couldn’t locate him. It wasn’t like he posted on the channel of a local friend. In hindsight, it seems like more should be done, but I suspect the volume of such calls/tips that the FBI gets is massive. It’s like looking for a needle in a haystack.

      1. It would have worked much better if the local police had gotten the tip about the threat, but I don’t know how you do that.

  7. I would sincerely like to hear plans for how to address the mental health issues that the Republicans say they think should be addressed. Unfortunately, I think we are at a copycat tipping point on the school shooting issue. I’ve recently been reading about contagion effects in suicide, and though I am not seeing the same kind of research on copycat shooters, i see significant similarity on the adolescent logic that might normalize the behavior.

    And, is the suggestion that when a threatening comment with a name attached is posted, the FBI should track down all people with that name and question them as to whether they had made the post? Do they do this in person? Or, does it depend on how unusual the name is? That is, if someone posts as “john smith” no one tracks down all the john smiths, but if someone posts as “johan smits” they do?

    I would like to see threats taken seriously, but I think doing so would require a significant investment, and potentially, a change in the privacy of commenters and posting.

    1. I do wonder who would have responsibility for investigating threats made in internet comments and how they decide which ones to investigate. I can’t tell if it is a potentially useful thing or a form of ploughing the sea.

      1. bj said,

        “The Wa Post (I think) article says that they receive 100+ threats like this a day and also that a database search reveals 19 individuals with the same name.”

        Are they all alive, though, and spelled the same? When I’ve done name searches, many duplicates are of dead people.

        I was looking up my kids’ names online last night and discovered that two of them are probably the only living people in the US with their particular combination of first and last name using their spelling. Also, when I was looking through listings, I discovered that a lot of the matches weren’t even close in terms of spellings–I was being shown a lot of totally dissimilar names. I don’t actually believe that there are 19 living Nikolas Cruzes in the US unless somebody personally demonstrated it to me. (The Spanish spelling of the name is apparently “Nicolas.”)

        I just did a search on whitepages.com, and there’s only one Nikolas Cruz listed on the first page, and it’s one in FL, which is probably our guy.

        Obviously, there are “Steve Andersen” or “Jose Rodriguez” type names, but a lot of people are walking around with one-of-a-kind or at least rare names.

        MH said,

        “I do wonder who would have responsibility for investigating threats made in internet comments and how they decide which ones to investigate. I can’t tell if it is a potentially useful thing or a form of ploughing the sea.”

        A couple years ago, husband reported an online poster to the police and FBI who was basically attempting to crowdsource a school shooting of our kids’ school (the post said something like, this would be a good school for a school shooting). The police was interested, but we had the special circumstances that the school had recently been on the receiving end of a lot of negative news stories.

      2. I actually got threatened by a student via AOL IM back in 2004 or so. (That should have been obvious by the words “AOL IM.” 🙂 The message said basically “give me another bad grade and I’ll stab you” and the handle had some version of “Colt45” in it. So yeah. Scary. I called my local police, who got a warrant to AOL to get the IP. The IP said it was from the university I worked at. And that is where it all fell apart. Basically, the police had no interest in working with the university security people and vice versa. So I gave up. And, well, I am alive, I guess.

      3. This is somewhat OT from the Florida shooting, but at every university I attended, the university police considered it their job to protect students from the local police, not to work with the local police.

      4. MH said:

        “How were you supposed to know who not to give the bad grade to?”

        No kidding.

        This was not well-thought through.

    2. There are some articles talking about the FBI’s handling of this particular comment that provide some details. They did follow up on this comment; they talked to the you tube publisher; they searched their databases to see if the name was associated with a known “person of concern” in their databases. They decided that they did not have enough suspicion to issue a subpoena to google, because, it seems, the threat was not specific enough, and did not prioritize investigation of that comment.

      The Wa Post (I think) article says that they receive 100+ threats like this a day and also that a database search reveals 19 individuals with the same name.

  8. I was thinking about Laura’s post, and realized that it provided an opportunity to explore plans of action — and, I do think we need a plan of action because I think that we are seeing a trend and not a one off event that can be treated as a terrible, but unaddressable tragedy.

    I do believe that limiting access to guns, especially AR15s, could decrease the number and deadliness of, specifically, school shootings. I base my thinking on what I’m reading about suicide contagion in schools. Normalization (at least in the adolescent brain) of the behavior, the perceived notoriety, the discussion of method, and access to means all seem to play a significant role in the likelihood that one suicide will be followed by others (i.e. clusters). All those factors play out especially strongly among young people. I fear that similar factors of contagion are playing out in this revenge/suicide fantasy among troubled adolescent (mainly) boys and that limiting their access to guns might have an effect.

    But, I think intervention in complicated trends is always extremely complicated, and that there are no simple solutions, including limiting access to guns. So, it is reasonable to ask, and potentially possible, to find other common ground of intervention (which is what Laura asked, though I wouldn’t put the onus on schools without support). So what could they be (say with support)?

    1. bj said,

      “I do believe that limiting access to guns, especially AR15s, could decrease the number and deadliness of, specifically, school shootings. I base my thinking on what I’m reading about suicide contagion in schools. Normalization (at least in the adolescent brain) of the behavior, the perceived notoriety, the discussion of method, and access to means all seem to play a significant role in the likelihood that one suicide will be followed by others (i.e. clusters).”

      I think you’re right about school shootings as a sort of fad, like streaking used to be in the 1970s.

      I feel like there may also be some sort of sick competition going on among the high-number mass shooters. The competition aspect is also not necessarily just young people, either–consider either the Las Vegas shooter or Anders Behring Breivik in Norway.

      Also, bear in mind that people attracted by notoriety may be specifically copying the methods of their predecessors, including weapon choice–choice of weapons may be more a question of aesthetics than function.

      There’s also the opportunity to “train” extensively with games.

      1. I think the issue is bigger than being a “fad” (like streaking or pokemon), because I think the contagion theories involve a compounding of mental illness through specific examples that are extant in the media and world at the moment. There is purposeful copycatting, but there’s also reinforcement.

        And, purposeful copying doesn’t change the need to restrict access. For example, the use of train tracks to commit suicide in Palo Alto — the relative effectiveness of that as opposed to other means of suicide didn’t change the potential effectiveness of restricting access to train tracks when the contagion risk was high.

  9. They shut down a school out in the suburbs today because a kid put a picture of Luger on Snapchat with the caption “It’s almost time.” On the one hand, it seems like an overreaction considering the vague threat and that they apparently knew who the kid was. On the other hand, at the same school a kid went on a mass-stabbing spree and that has to be on everybody’s mind because the stabber was just sentenced last week.

    1. Which, to me, raises the issue of whether an additional approach (in addition to restricting access to means) might be take threats more seriously, and what the consequences would be. Closing schools, and the disruption that causes (we had one closed recently, because of a message left on a board) is one consequence. The notoriety and perceived power might also reinforce one of the motivations for making the threat. The consequences to individuals who make the threats, but didn’t mean them, and, further the possibility of pushing them further into the disturbed mental state are all concerns.

      And, the invasion of privacy of uncovering individuals (which will draw in other individuals, say, with the same name, or some similar behaviors — I had a child in my circle who carried a briefcase at the time of the Sandy Hook shootings, and experienced some discomfort, unfairly).

      1. bj said,

        “Closing schools, and the disruption that causes (we had one closed recently, because of a message left on a board) is one consequence. The notoriety and perceived power might also reinforce one of the motivations for making the threat.”

        Not to mention shutting down school for the sake of shutting down school.

        A kid from my class (a teacher’s kid) called in a bomb threat to my high school back in the late 80s/early 90s and successfully closed the school for the day.

  10. I haven’t been following the story closely, but I did note, apropos of Laura’s concerns, that today’s WSJ mentions the autism angle.

  11. The FBI has stated that it missed a tip from January 5 on the shooter, one that appeared to have sufficient detail to require follow up. There’s also, in the NY Times, a series of articles by Erica Goode on school anti-violence protocols (based on programs in Los Angeles). Those articles seem to me like ideas that could be turned into concrete proposals (that would require funding) on efforts to take within the school setting that I could see ideological agreement on (except for the need to spend money).

    Which, in turn, supports Laura’s basic premise, that actions could be taken in the school setting to mitigating the likelihood of shootings, except that I would state it as, a “failure to give support to our schools” rather than a failure of the schools.

  12. So here is something happening with the Parkland shooting.
    The teenaged survivors of the shooting are themselves speaking out, quite eloquently. I’m sure it has a lot to do with first, their age and second, their socioeconomic status. I guess a “bad” way of saying this is that these are entitled teenagers who feel they are entitled not to be subject to gun violence. And that’s actually a kind of good thing.
    I’m just kind of surprised by how confrontational the survivors are in the media about their feelings of anger.

    1. Wow, that is tasteless. Here are two of my rules on civil discourse. (Sort of companions to my rules on proper behavior at dances.) 1. Do not use tragic events (terrorist attacks, school shootings, campus rapes) to advance your pre-existing political agenda until at least a month has elapsed since the event. 2. Do not describe your political opponents as mentally ill.

      1. Oh, so this is the Republican-NRA plan — no talking about solutions to the gun violence for a month, in which time new gun violence occurs, so they never have to propose any solutions.

      2. “1. Do not use tragic events (terrorist attacks, school shootings, campus rapes) to advance your pre-existing agenda to prevent children from being killed until at least a month has elapsed since the event”: there, I fixed it.

      3. y81 said:

        “Wow, that is tasteless. Here are two of my rules on civil discourse. (Sort of companions to my rules on proper behavior at dances.) 1. Do not use tragic events (terrorist attacks, school shootings, campus rapes) to advance your pre-existing political agenda until at least a month has elapsed since the event.”

        My version of this is:

        Step 1: Find out what actually happened. There’s a lot of false or incomplete information during/right after a tragedy (example: white supremacist group falsely claiming Cruz).

        https://www.politico.com/story/2018/02/16/florida-shooting-white-nationalists-415672

        Step 2: Be well-informed about firearms and existing firearm laws.
        Step 3: Then start talking policy.

        Here’s one I would throw into the ring (admittedly having skipped steps 1 and 2):

        No gun purchases before 21 years of age.

        Obviously, this is not any sort of complete solution, but I think it’s politically doable.

        Another new-to-me-detail:

        http://www.sun-sentinel.com/local/broward/parkland/florida-school-shooting/fl-school-shooting-nikolas-cruz-cutting-snapchat-20180216-story.html

        “Nikolas Cruz cut his arms on Snapchat and said he wanted to buy a gun in September 2016, more than a year before he was accused of killing 17 people in a school in Parkland, Florida, records obtained by the South Florida Sun Sentinel show.

        “The incident on the digital social network prompted an investigation by sheriff’s deputies and adult welfare investigators from the Department of Children & Family Services.”

        !!!

        This was days before he turned 18.

        One last thing–I continue to believe that it may be hard/impossible to stop the highly motivated or obsessive shooter. The Las Vegas shooter, for example, was a millionaire and had apparently done the field work for doing mass shootings at several different venues, including reserving (but not using) a room overlooking Lollapalooza. By the time he finally did the Las Vegas shooting in Oct. 2017, all of the details were worked out. I’d put Anders Behring Breivik (the Norwegian mass murderer) into the same column.

        But if people are less motivated, less organized and have fewer resources, it’s probably possible to stop a lot of them.

      4. No gun purchases before 21 years of age.

        I think that’s not a bad idea and very likely politically possible. Most of the people who love guns aren’t really fond of young people. Plus, it’s already the law that you can’t buy a handgun until 21. Brains do a lot of changing between 18 and 21.

      5. Why do liberals think that this kind of discussion improves the tone of public discourse or promotes desirable policy outcomes?

        The blaming of liberals for not thanking Republicans for being less horrible they they could is “why are you hitting yourself?” modern American conservative bullying. It’s particularly absurd in the area of gun policy.

        The tone of discourse on guns went nuts once the NRA doubled-down on the “jack-booted thug” line and then kept doubling down every time anybody challenged them. I grew up around guns and people with guns (lots of guns). The cultural shift I’ve seen there dwarfs the nearly all of the other cultural shifts I’ve seen in the same years. It’s hard to even remember back when “NRA” made me think of the guy teaching us hunter’s safety. The NRA used to be dedicated to teaching people when it isn’t safe to shoot and how to shoot safely. It left the Klan to point out that there might be a black person with a knife right behind you right now (Look out!) and left hippies to scare people about government agencies. It would have never occurred to me that these some people would spend hundreds of millions of dollars to encourage the sale of military-style weapons and the idea that somehow the purchase of those weapons was a moral positive.

        There were still people into having as dangerous of a weapon as they could. Some of them sent letters to my dad (a judge) telling him that he owned them $6 million dollars (payable in pre-1964 silver dollar coins only). Every era has its crazy people and ours probably no more than others. The difference is that back then Republicans weren’t willing to cede power to the crazy people, even if the crazy people promised to cut the income tax rate.

        I have guns (plural*) and I don’t have any intention of getting rid of them, but, like vast majority of gun owners, I am not an NRA member. I resent being expected to treat the NRA like the other side of a serious debate instead of a shrill minority attempting to block a serious debate.

        * I’m also thinking of getting a sword, but that’s more of an affectation than something I’d use.

      6. I’d prefer 25 as the bottom limit, but I think 21 is actually doable.

        I just read this from David French of NRO:

        https://www.nationalreview.com/2018/02/gun-control-republicans-consider-grvo/

        He suggests a gun violence restraining order, as apparently they have in California now.

        There have also been a lot of failures of existing laws and safeguards, and enforcement needs to be tightened up.

        There’s also the question of the relationship between domestic violence and mass killings, which comes up over and over again in mass shooting cases.

        https://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2017/11/07/562387350/in-texas-and-beyond-mass-shootings-have-roots-in-domestic-violence

        Due to Air Force error, the TX church shooter wasn’t put into a database that would have prevented him from buying guns legally. He also got only 12 months for fracturing his baby stepson’s skull and the weapons charges against him were dropped (he had been threatening his wife at gunpoint). Later on, he was accused of domestic violence and rape, but without charges. So, that particular case involves several different dropped balls.

        Obviously, there are some mass shooters who seem to come out of nowhere, but there have been a lot of “known wolves” like Cruz and Devin Patrick Kelley.

  13. I am very angry at the politicians and their supporters who want to look away. If solutions were offered, any solutions, we could discuss them. Instead we hear avoidance and empty words.

  14. This is crazypants:

    https://nypost.com/2018/02/16/deputies-called-to-suspected-shooters-home-39-times-over-seven-years/

    “Before Nikolas Cruz carried out his mass killing at a Florida high school this week, police responded to his home 39 times over a seven-year period, according to disturbing new documents.”

    “Details about the calls to the Broward County Sheriff’s Office — obtained from police records by CNN — were not immediately available and it was impossible to determine if all involved Cruz.

    “But the nature of the emergencies at his Parkland home included “mentally ill person,” “child/elderly abuse,” “domestic disturbance” and “missing person,” KTLA reported.”

    1. If these reports are true then this seems like a case of the local prosecutor and family court system not doing their jobs. In my jurisdiction a child who the police were called on this many times would, at a minimum, be ordered for a psych assessment and CPS would be involved. More likely, the child would be placed in the juvenile justice system. I believe that FL has a robust mental health court system; this child seems like he should have been in one.

      1. The news reports detail items that belong on a list for a budding sociopath: theft, violence, injuring animals, isolation from peers, rash actions, grandiosity (think of his social media accounts). He was also charming enough to persuade a friend’s family to host him.

        The police have reportedly sent his brother to a mental hospital. I wonder whether a review of the police and child welfare records on the family led to the conclusion that clear signals of danger were missed? I also wonder what was lurking in their birth family, and whether the adoptive family received any support to deal with infants with a troubling (?) family history. It is unusual for a couple near 40 to be able to adopt infants, let alone multiple children from the same family.

        This isn’t a case in which the school system failed. The other supporting systems failed.

      2. Cranberry said,

        “This isn’t a case in which the school system failed. The other supporting systems failed.”

        That’s fair.

  15. This is a really good Twitter thread–I’ll pull out some quotes. Apologies if the formatting doesn’t work well:

    https://mobile.twitter.com/AriSchulman/status/964614619523362816

    “The problem with almost every narrative that mass shootings are “actually an X problem” is that X is usually so broad it’s like saying the real problem with asteroid impacts is that the Earth is so big.”

    “Some, like the Virginia Tech shooter, had serious diagnosed or diagnosable mental illness like psychopathy or major depression. But the large majority don’t. And the vast majority of people with strong mental illness aren’t violent.”

    ““This is really about America’s love of guns” or “It’s just the most visible edge of our gun violence problem”: Again, important partial truths. But it doesn’t go that far in explaining mass shootings, which have moved opposite to gun ownership and overall gun homicide trends”

    ““Let’s put armed guards in every school”: Not outlandish, but 99.9% would never encounter a shooter, and the few who did would be taken by surprise after years of bored roaming the halls. Probably why there are already many cases of shooters not being stopped by them.”

    “To the extent that mass shootings are about anything, it’s themselves. They have a distinct etiology: They’re a form of imitative apolitical terrorism, fueled by antisocial rage but spread by infamy-seeking and social contagion.”

    “There’s a theme with the AF failing to put the Sutherland shooter in the NCIC db, “protocols were not followed” re Parkland, local cops told of shooter’s Instagram but shrugging. It’s the butt-covering of institutions without a strategy, a clear sense of what to pursue and why.”

    “What’s failing, exactly? I wonder if, like intel agencies pre-9/11, mass shooting threats are lumped in to a vastly broader pool, responsibility spread across many agencies federal and local, so no single force is in charge, dedicated to spotting them.”

    That’s a very interesting point.

    “Dedicated local task forces like the ones described here strike me as having a great deal of potential. We should be thinking and talking about them more.”

    1. A former police officer I know (that I am not related to–this is via my workplace) says that one of the problems with police training is that trainees are trained to expect and deal with sudden violence or danger, but they’re not trained to expect and deal with the long stretches of nothing going on that happens in real-life police work. So they either tend to overreact when something does happen, or they’re always on alert looking for trouble where there is none. He also said that there is also a culture of toxic masculinity, though he didn’t use those exact words.

      1. “So they either tend to overreact when something does happen, or they’re always on alert looking for trouble where there is none. He also said that there is also a culture of toxic masculinity, though he didn’t use those exact words.”

        Worth repeating for emphasis.

  16. I like the idea of no gun purchases before 25. If we can do it with spray paint, why can’t we do it with guns? I also think that gun insurance might be the way to go. Risk factors like a history of domestic violence or previous carelessness would make buying insurance prohibitively expensive. I also like the idea that if someone kills someone with your gun, you are legally liable.

    I’m also thinking about printing up bumper stickers, “guns don’t kill people, entitled misogynistic white men with rage issues kill people.”

    1. As Amy P points out, there will always be gun tragedies you can’t totally prevent (like Anders Breivik), but you can drastically decrease the incidence of mass shootings. To me it’s like healthcare. This is a problem unique to America among industrialized nations, and regardless of how other countries have solved it, they have all been able to find reasonable solutions that have brought mass shootings down to close to zero. This includes traditional hunting countries like Canada and Finland, where people still own and shoot guns. (My Australian ex’s family owned about 6-7 guns, and they would go hunting on their vineyard every weekend. Almost all my shooting experience was in Australia.)

    2. B.I. said:

      “I like the idea of no gun purchases before 25. If we can do it with spray paint, why can’t we do it with guns? I also think that gun insurance might be the way to go. Risk factors like a history of domestic violence or previous carelessness would make buying insurance prohibitively expensive. I also like the idea that if someone kills someone with your gun, you are legally liable.”

      Here’s a practical problem with liability–a lot of times the victims are going to include the gun owner’s kid, and I don’t think voters or juries are going to be able to stomach punishing the parents of a dead kid, especially if it means impoverishing the remaining children or depriving them of their parent or parents. Not that the punishment isn’t deserved–it’s just likely to generate a lot of sob stories and be quickly repealed/subjected to jury nullification.

      “I’m also thinking about printing up bumper stickers, “guns don’t kill people, entitled misogynistic white men with rage issues kill people.”

      I snipped it from my quotes because it was getting long, but Ari Schulman says that’s not so, that racially, mass shooters do look like America. From the Twitter thread I linked earlier: “Mass shootings are a white (or Asian) problem? I’ve never seen this argument made in good faith, but it’s bunk. The racial distribution of mass shooters is basically the same as the general population.” His link is dead, but here’s another one:

      https://www.statista.com/statistics/476456/mass-shootings-in-the-us-by-shooter-s-race/

      “Between 1982 and November 2017, 54 out of 95 mass shootings were initiated by White shooters.”

      So whites are the majority of mass shooters, but not overwhelmingly, given that the US is something like 72% white. Asians are surprisingly well represented among mass shooters.

      I’ll take “entitled misogynistic men” though–that’s fair.

      More ideas:

      –I don’t think we have enough gun safety PSAs. Compare to how many we see on other subjects and how much they effect things like attitudes toward car seats.
      –Although I think there’s a category of gun owners who uses gun safes scrupulously, there’s also a category that doesn’t. I think there’s a lot of room for improvement here.

      1. The liberals on this site–mostly UMC white women–like to portray every issue in racial terms. It isn’t very effective, rhetorically, but I don’t think they care about persuading others, just about signaling their own virtue.

      2. y81 said,

        “The liberals on this site–mostly UMC white women–like to portray every issue in racial terms. It isn’t very effective, rhetorically, but I don’t think they care about persuading others, just about signaling their own virtue.”

        I think the news media does give the impression that mass shooters are nearly all white, but that’s an illusion generated by which shooters they choose to focus on.

        It’s possibly related to the phenomenon where the news media prefers to talk about missing white women (especially good-looking ones):

        https://www.npr.org/sections/codeswitch/2017/04/13/523769303/what-we-know-and-dont-know-about-missing-white-women-syndrome

        (I wonder if there is a racial disparity specifically among school shooters, though.)

      3. “..The liberals on this site–mostly UMC white women–like to portray every issue in racial terms. It isn’t very effective, rhetorically, but I don’t think they care about persuading others, just about signaling their own virtue…” Hey! It’s not just UMC whites who try to refract the racial prism to shed its malign light on every issue!
        Now, I am turning into a conspiracy theorist in my old age, maybe, but I am looking at the articles about the Rooskies and their efforts to help Trump and Sanders during our recent election. I see this more as an attempt to throw sand into the gears of our society than as specifically about helping Sanders and Trump, and to delegitimize what they (and all of us) saw as Her Inevitability. That she actually managed to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory was likely as much of a surprise to them as to all the rest of us.
        I see the obsessive focus on race, gender, and entitlements in general as a huge harm to American society. It’s been metastasizing for years as we have gone away from ‘content of character’ to ‘do we have enough Mexican-American lesbians in our airport control towers?’. So my question is: have the Rooskies been stoking that conflagration, too?

      4. just about signaling their own virtue.

        To avoid that problem, I’m thinking of going out with the anarchists who riot and smash windows and such.

      5. Australia requires you to have a gun license and store your gun in a locked safe separately from your ammunition. They have unannounced random spot checks by inspectors. I think something like this could go along way on reducing gun violence in the US.

        I agree that punishing parents whose negligence has led to the death of a child might be unpalatable, but I do think that we should look further into holding people legally or financially accountable if their guns are used in acts of gun violence.

      6. B.I. said,

        “Australia requires you to have a gun license and store your gun in a locked safe separately from your ammunition. They have unannounced random spot checks by inspectors. I think something like this could go along way on reducing gun violence in the US.”

        Home checks for anything wouldn’t fly in the US.

        They’d have to visit 2/5 of the homes in the US with some sort of regularity.

        The police wouldn’t love having to do this, either.

    1. I can assure you that my school age daughter (the one who does snow dances in hopes of closures) would think that this idea is really, really swell!

  17. Douthat suggested the 21 age limit for purchasing guns. I would support that. Amy mentioned what the press sometimes calls “red flag” laws, which allow a judge to remove access to guns if people report that someone is troubled. WA state recently passed such a law. The ACLU opposed it on the grounds that it would allow untrained people to report others as troubled and limit their rights (and, in their view, potentially a slippery slope to taking away individual rights, starting with guns). The NRA opposed it. But, I think they are good laws, and could indeed have an effect in school shooting cases, where the children/and near children do not have significant resources to obtain weapons and hide them and are being observed by others.

    Limiting access just by purchase isn’t sufficient, though, since many of these kids are using guns purchased for them by family or for the family by family. I think stricter rules about access to guns by minors, including liability when they are used by minors would be a start on that level. Smart guns might also be the beginning of a solution.

    Douthat’s column described an ideological divide where we anti-gun people see guns as being the depiction of a culture of death. And, indeed, I do feel this way. But, my opinion about the impact of guns on culture is an argument to be won, in the cultural domain; I want to use the law to limit access to limit death, not some “culture” of death.

    1. The ACLU opposed it on the grounds that it would allow untrained people to report others as troubled and limit their rights

      Those laws make me nervous also. There is a considerable history of racially-selective enforcement of gun laws. Making sure black people in the south didn’t have guns was a necessary part of Jim Crow*. But you don’t need to go back that far in time to see the concern. In Ohio it is both legal to open carry a gun and, effectively legal for the police to shoot a black man or boy who is carrying a gun (or a toy that looks like a gun).

      * That guns are effective as self-defense is why I’m limited in terms of what types of gun control I will support.

    2. bj said:

      “Limiting access just by purchase isn’t sufficient, though, since many of these kids are using guns purchased for them by family or for the family by family.”

      Right.

      I have to add that there’s been a recent uptick in mass murder by truck or other vehicle. But that’s not a classic school mass murder situation, as truck attacks ideally require a large outdoor crowd.

      Mohamed Lahouaiej-Bouhlel, killed 85 people and injured hundreds by driving a truck through a crowd in Nice, France, on Bastille Day in 2016.

      “Police said that, at the time of the attack, Lahouaiej-Bouhlel was in possession of an automatic pistol, bullets, a fake automatic pistol and two replica assault rifles (a Kalashnikov and an M16), an empty grenade.”

      But he no doubt had help obtaining that stuff.

      http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-36801671

      The same year, there was a truck attack on the Berlin Christmas market, with another driver killing 12 and injuring dozens.

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2016_Berlin_attack

      NYC had a truck attack in October 2017 that killed 8.

      https://nypost.com/2017/10/31/8-killed-truck-pedestrians-downtown-nyc-terror-attack/

      (I’m not mentioning bombs in this discussion because although bombs can be extremely deadly, they are a lot less idiot-proof than either guns or truck attacks–a lot of attempted bombings in the US fizzle embarrassingly.)

      In the world of EZ mass murder, guns aren’t everything.

  18. I think the non-liberals on this site tend to focus on avoidance of the issue, on Trump, on Republican policies, on laws, and instead complain about perceived virtue signalling by others. My goal is to avoid those distractions and talk about policies.

    Laura actually started this thread by talking about what non-gun control steps could be taken to mitigate school shootings, potentially by using our institutions to address the needs of children with significant behavioral or mental health needs. Using what we are uncovering in this case, I feel like we aren’t going to be able to take steps from the mental health end to limit violent acts directly. This individual was clearly under the eye of a lot of people, but not to the extent that any (involuntary commitment, for example) were choices that social services, schools, his mother, police, or neighbors were willing to take. The school did expel him, which is a pretty high level of recourse for them.

    So, my perception is that we aren’t going to be able to deprive a child of his liberty through the patterns shown here (or, more significantly, that doing so would bring a lot of others into the net, most of whom were in no danger of committing violent acts). Potentially providing more supports and treatment might improve the health of these individuals, but mental illness and its treatment is exceedingly complex. I would not argue that we would be very effective with a short term goal of decreasing school shootings (good to do anyway, but not with the promise of immediate benefits to schools). But, red flag laws, limiting access to weapons? those might have a short term effect.

    1. bj said,

      “I think the non-liberals on this site tend to focus on avoidance of the issue, on Trump, on Republican policies, on laws, and instead complain about perceived virtue signalling by others.”

      Somebody please kick me if I ever use the term “virtue signalling” with a straight face.

      1. Somebody please kick me if I ever use the term “virtue signalling” with a straight face.

        If somebody leaves their fly down, I say “Your virtue is showing”.

    2. I agree, Laura asked for constructive suggestions on social and educational policy to address the problem of school shootings. What she got was a lot of people complaining about Republicans, calling other people racist, and maligning white men (like Laura’s husband and sons) plus, to be fair, one or two constructive suggestions from AmyP.

      1. y81 said,

        “What she got was a lot of people complaining about Republicans, calling other people racist, and maligning white men (like Laura’s husband and sons) plus, to be fair, one or two constructive suggestions from AmyP.”

        Thanks!

        One thing I would point out is that it’s not necessary to confine oneself to doing the gun control do-si-do, where one side says BAN ALL THE GUNS! and the other side says SECOND AMENDMENT FOREVER!

        The baseline reality is that there is not going to be a national gun ban now or any time soon, and even if there was a national gun ban, millions of people (perhaps tens of millions) would ignore it, so that’s not even one of the options.

        That’s the bad news. The good news is that there are a lot of other politically viable options.

        I think there really is a desire to do something that isn’t a gun ban or incredibly intrusive. I know I’m really tired about hearing about guys who scared everybody around them to death for years finally doing a mass shooting, and I’m particularly ticked off about Devin Patrick Kelley, the 2017 TX church shooter. Before he killed 26 people and injured 20 at age 26, he did the following (pulling from the Wikipedia article on the shooting):

        –“At New Braunfels High, Kelley had a lengthy disciplinary record, which included seven suspensions for “falsifying records, insubordination, profanity and a drug-related offense.”
        –“In October 2012, he was charged with assaulting his wife and fracturing his toddler stepson’s skull.” (he was 21 at the time and in the Air Force)
        –“In response, Kelley made death threats against the superior officers who charged him, and he was caught sneaking firearms onto Holloman Air Force Base. Around that same time, he made threats of self-harm to a coworker. He was then admitted to Peak Behavioral Health Services, a mental health facility in Santa Teresa, New Mexico.”
        –“In June 2012, Kelley escaped from Peak Behavioral Health Services but was soon apprehended ten miles away at a bus terminal in El Paso, Texas. The facility’s director of military affairs later recalled that Kelley had stayed at the facility for several weeks, until he was brought to court-martial. While there, he had expressed a desire for “some kind of retribution to his chain of command” and was discovered to have used computers to order “weapons and tactical gear to a P.O. box in San Antonio.” !!!
        –“In an interview with Inside Edition, his ex-wife said she lived in constant fear of him, as their marriage was filled with abuse. He once threatened her at gunpoint over a speeding ticket, and later threatened to kill her and her entire family.” (They were only married one year.)
        –“Kelley was brought before a general court-martial on four charges: assault on his wife, aggravated assault on his stepson, two charges of pointing a loaded gun at his wife, and two counts of threatening his wife with an unloaded gun. In November 2012, Kelley pleaded guilty to two counts of Article 128 UCMJ, for the assault of his wife and stepson. In return, the weapons charges were dropped. He was sentenced to 12 months of confinement and a reduction in rank to Airman Basic.”
        –“After his release, Kelley returned to New Braunfels, where he lived in a converted barn at his parents’ home. Shortly thereafter, he was investigated for sexual assault and rape, and for a physical assault of his then-girlfriend, although these investigations did not lead to charges.”
        –“The couple [Kelley and his second wife] moved into a mobile home in Colorado Springs, Colorado, where he was charged in August 2014 for misdemeanor cruelty to animals after beating his malnourished husky.”
        –” In January 2015, a resident of El Paso County, Colorado received a protection order against him.”
        –“According to a former Air Force colleague who temporarily got reacquainted with him online, Kelley claimed he would buy dogs and other animals and use them for “target practice”. He also expressed his obsession with mass murders, particularly the Charleston church shooting, and joked about committing one himself. These comments prompted her to block him on Facebook.”
        –“Kelley’s estranged second wife sometimes attended First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs with her family. Prior to the shooting, he sent threatening text messages to her mother. His wife and her mother were not at the church when the attack occurred, but he killed his wife’s grandmother at the church.”
        –“On October 29, a week before the shooting, he posted a photo of what appeared to be a Ruger model AR-556 rifle on his Facebook profile.”
        –“Kelley’s general court-martial guilty plea made it illegal for him to own, buy, or possess a firearm or ammunition. The conviction should have been flagged by NICS and prevented the purchase. Federal law prohibits those convicted of domestic violence–even if it is only a misdemeanor–from possessing firearms. Additionally, federal law does not allow a person discharged “under dishonorable conditions” to buy or possess a firearm.” (So there were multiple different legal reasons why Kelley should not have been allowed to legally buy a gun and at least one for him not to possess one, either, and his social media posts were proof of illegal gun possession.)
        –“The Air Force failed to relay the court-martial convictions to the FBI, saying in a statement, “Initial information indicates that Kelley’s domestic violence offense was not entered into the National Crime Information Center database by the Holloman Air Force Base Office of Special Investigations.”

        Apologies for the extreme length of the quotes, but it’s hard to convey how badly his case was handled and by how many people without a lot of nitpicking detail. There are some mass shootings that come out of nowhere–but this wasn’t one of them.

      2. Here’s another idea–raise public consciousness of who is not legally allowed to be a gun owner, so that people who feel threatened by a particular individual will know that he is in violation of the law and that there’s a charge that will stick if they choose to take the risk of turning him in.

        (But penalty wise, it has to be worth it for the people who take the risk of reporting and testifying.)

  19. From the department of unintended consequences:

    One of the things driving gun purchases is fear that guns (or particular models) will be banned.

    https://www.cbsnews.com/pictures/americas-favorite-gun/11/

    “In fact, directly following a number of highly publicized shootings, people have rushed to stores to buy these rifles (and firearms in general), afraid of more attacks or that lawmakers will curtail their sale. In January 2013, the month after the attack on Sandy Hook Elementary School and President Obama’s call for greater restrictions on the sale of assault weapons, a record-breaking 2 million guns were sold in America, according to a New York Times analysis of federal data.”

    http://money.cnn.com/2018/02/15/news/companies/us-gun-sales-decline/index.html

    “Mass shootings like the Florida tragedy that left 17 dead typically prompt a jump in gun sales, because buyers worry about tougher gun control. But now those fears are mostly in check since Republicans control the White House and Congress.”

    “In fact, last year was the worst year for gun sales, according to data going back to 1999. FBI background checks, which correspond roughly to purchases at licensed firearm dealers, fell 8% in 2017, the biggest full-year drop on record.

    “Just this week, iconic gunmaker Remington announced it will file for bankruptcy.”

    “When President Obama was in office, people rushed to buy guns after every mass shooting, worried that gun sales would soon be restricted. In December of 2012 when the Sandy Hook elementary school shooting took place, background checks soared by 49% compared to a year earlier. Monthly background checks jumped 44% when there was a shooting at a San Bernardino, California, Christmas party in December 2015. The Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando in June 2016 sparked a 39% jump in background checks.”

    So, the harder gun control gets pushed, the more guns wind up in circulation.

  20. Amy P’s discussion of David Patrick Kelly and Wendy’s note about police departments intersect nicely. Police departments, if they are going to do any good, have to want to do something about the kinds of crimes that are precursors to mass shootings, and they have to not share many of the same values as the potential shooters. That may be a tall order.

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