The horrific multiple murders of
this past weekend are echoing all over the landscape this week. So many questions are everywhere you look in
our supercharged 24/7 Media right now.
These include: 1) how Congressmen and -women, Judges, and indeed all
elected officials, can continue to go out among the citizenry (as they must)
without risk of their lives; 2) how to detect (and weed out for immediate
treatment) precisely which dangerously unstable members of our 300+ million
population are ticking time-bombs, capable of such hair-trigger and senseless
destruction of human life, and; 3) last but never least, what changes need to
be made to avoid more senseless deaths in this frenzied time in which we live.
Arizona has the most liberal gun
laws in the nation. This article is not
about gun control. Deranged people who
are bent on killing, will kill whether or not more statutes are enacted to
‘control’ gun ownership. It is like
throwing rocks at airplanes.
Pundits are blaming the Right or
the Left for what happened. That is a
diversion and to be expected, but this article is not about that either.
Right now, walking in our midst, in
that crowd around you, waiting for the ‘Walk’ sign, or at the local Starbucks,
hunched behind a computer, sipping a latte, is the next deranged shooter. The copycat effect from the sensational
publicity of the terribly sad events of last weekend is already in play. Like in the movie "Taxi Driver" when De Niro
acted out his now famous pre-violence warmup scene ("You talkin’ to me?") . .
. be assured that in our midst, there is
another . . . and another.
One thing which shocked me about
the television coverage last weekend was the seeming lack of the kind of
obvious security close by that one might expect of such an event. Then I realized that elected officials make
thousands of these neighborhood appearances in the course of their busy lives
and that most are made without bodyguards in obvious presence. That may now change.
As an attorney who goes to court
regularly, the local courthouses are all set up (except the tiniest of them – I
will not list them here) with metal detectors like our airports used to have
pre-9/11, and it has become part of the ritual of going to court which we have
all accepted. But, can we possibly have
metal detectors at the local shopping mall?
In an era of upsidedown budgets, it is abjectly impossible.
So that leaves the thorniest
question of them all: how to identify and weed out the deranged ones before
they kill? The factoids are emerging in
the Media that the alleged shooter last weekend was very publicly expelled from
college for acting in a demonstrably unacceptable manner in a civilized
society. A former classmate who reported his behavior repeatedly was
TV-interviewed ad nauseum, about the
nagging question in the back of everybody’s mind right about now – why didn’t
somebody take a closer look at this person when he acted out? Where are the mechanisms in our society for
Under California law, the Lanterman-Petris-Short Act allows an
emergency PET team to take out a person in obvious distress and capable of
violence to himself or others, for a 72 hour time-out, to be closely observed
in any situation where a mental health practitioner or family member or friend
requests such intervention – ask a psychiatrist or psychologist how this
This alleged shooter, it is slowly
being revealed, gave plenty of signals, just like so many before him. But, those signals were ignored, at least to
extent that anything that could have been done, was not done, in time to save
We’ve all got to be practitioners
of what they call ‘situational awareness’ in any public place today in the
second decade of the 21st Century – be aware of all surroundings and
what people are doing at all times in all public places. But, the Federal Judge who lost his life was
reported to be going to the mall for a cup of coffee and a chance to talk with
the now severely wounded Congresswoman about the need to address expediting
judicial appointments to the Federal Bench before that system slows down even
further. A cup of coffee at the mall . .
. . his very last. Is there anybody reading this who considers
that a dangerous activity?
The alleged shooter, it is now
being revealed, had targeted this Congresswoman, who is now fighting for her
life, on internet social media and in low-tech notes found. Is anybody reviewing internet social media
for threats made to public officials?
When things like this happen we need to spend far more time examining
the shooter than decrying the gun that he or she shot – it is a fantasy that
America will suddenly disarm in disgust – frankly, knowing that deranged people
are out there, armed with guns, is an increasingly persuasive reason for owning
and properly, safely learning firearms self-defense.
We need to seriously examine our
mental health screening procedures in response to people who are leaving strong
clues as to their own instability and the potential of violence, spawned by
their troubled mental conditions.
Wringing our hands after it happens is not enough. Bullets do not kill people; people kill
people. How to judge accurately which person is the question we should
be bearing down on in the wake of this tragedy.