Op-ed: Warning signs ignored again

  • By Cal Thomas
  • Tuesday, February 20, 2018 9:18am
  • Opinion

Reaction to the latest school shooting in Parkland, Florida, that left 17 people dead and many more wounded begins at the wrong end. It’s not about passing more gun laws, which people intent on breaking existing laws will not obey; rather it is about heeding warning signs and doing something before it is too late.

In the case of 19-year-old Nikolas Cruz, who has been charged with premeditated murder, the signs were like a flashing red light. Former classmates offered a profile in danger to the media. They called Cruz, who had been expelled from the school for disciplinary reasons, a “loner” and “weird.”

In a YouTube video by someone named Nikolas Cruz there is this comment: “I’m going to be a professional school shooter.” Law enforcement reportedly flagged the comment last September and YouTube removed it.

With all of these previews of coming destruction, why wasn’t any action taken? Could Cruz have been helped? He was reportedly receiving “mental counseling,” but clearly it was not enough to prevent this tragedy. Cruz is reportedly an orphan, but was there no one close to him who might have been helpful to him?

We are constantly told by law enforcement, “If you see something, say something.” With Cruz there was plenty to see and also plenty to say. Did anyone speak up? The Florida campus reportedly had an armed officer onsite, though this officer never encountered Cruz during the shooting. Could there have been a quicker response? Could anyone have acted pre-emptively to force Cruz to get some help? Could he have been committed to a mental health facility for his own protection, and for the protection of others?

Metal detectors, armed guards and security passes for students, staff and teachers have all been proposed and in some cases tried as ways to discourage shooters from entering schools where unarmed students are trapped like fish in a barrel. School shooters and terrorists (and this was an act of terror no matter the motive) look for soft targets and there are few targets softer than a school full of kids.

Lawmakers in Florida and in Congress need to consider legislation that would give mental health professionals a way to intervene in cases of disturbed individuals who need psychological help, but aren’t getting it. For those who seem most dangerous — like Cruz — perhaps laws could be enacted that would forcibly commit them to treatment, thereby cutting down on the number of mass shootings.

Social workers can intervene on behalf of young children they believe are being abused or neglected. In extreme cases, they can even remove the child from its home if the child is in need of protection. Could something like this be done with the mentally disturbed, without violating their constitutional rights? Don’t we have the constitutional right to live free of the threat of mass shootings? Shouldn’t the rights of the innocent be paramount?

To paraphrase a certain commercial about identity theft, no law can prevent all mass murder, or someone acquiring a gun, legally or illegally (Cruz’s AR-15 was apparently legally acquired), but the mayor of Broward County, Florida, Beam Furr, told the Miami Herald the shooting could have been prevented. “We missed the signs,” said Furr, a former teacher, adding, “We should have seen some of the signs.”

The signs were there for everyone to see. The problem with this shooting, as well as all the others, was the refusal to act. Action just might have prevented this tragedy.

Readers may email Cal Thomas at tcaeditors@tribpub.com.

More in Opinion

This Aug. 3, 2021, photo shows Juneau International Airport.  The Federal Aviation Administration shared recommendations on Thursday for improving aviation safety in the state. (Michael S. Lockett / Juneau Empire File)
Opinion: How the FAA will improve the margin of aviation safety in Alaska

Alaska depends on aviation more than any other state…

Central Peninsula Hospital is seen in Soldotna on Wednesday, Oct. 13, 2021. (Camille Botello/Peninsula Clarion)
Voices of the Peninsula: Perspective of an educator in a ‘high-risk’ group, part 2

During some of the darkest days of my time in ICU, it was obvious where we all live is a special place.

Lawmakers havereturned to the Alaska State Capitol for a fourth special session. (Peter Segall / Juneau Empire File)
Opinion: Revenues should be determined before more PFD spending

The governor believes the dividend drives the entire calculation. Sadly, he has it backwards

Ronnie Leach. (Photo provided)
Point of View: For Domestic Violence Awareness Month, #weareresilient

At the onset of COVID-19, we expanded our services in a way to ensure COVID-19 consciousness.

Rep. Don Young talks during a June 2021 interview with the Empire. (Ben Hohenstatt / Juneau Empire File)
Opinion:Where’s Don Young when America needs him?

Once upon a time, avoiding political controversy was completely out of character for Young.

Peter Zuyus
Voices of the Peninsula: Seniors appreciate vaccination efforts

To those who have worked to encourage vaccination we say: Be proud, you are, in fact, saving lives.

Jackson Blackwell (courtesy photo)
Voices of the Peninsula: Carbon dividends are the bipartisan climate solution

By levying a gradually increasing price on carbon, U.S. emissions will be slashed by 50% in 15 years.

Gov. Mike Dunleavy holds a press conference at the Capitol on Tuesday, April 9, 2019. (Juneau Empire file photo)
Dunleavy: Facts Matter

Political opportunists care more about spreading political untruths than accepting the facts.

Steve Hughes. (Photo provided)
Voices of the Peninsula: We are all victims of COVID-19

It is disturbing to hear, as a triage nurse, the many reasons cited for not getting a vaccine that are based on misinformation.

teaser
Opinion: LGBTQ+ Alaskans deserve respect and dignity

Like every state that lacks equality, we need federal protection.

Mobilizing for Action through Planning and Partnerships. (logo provided)
Point of View: September is National Recovery Month

The biggest challenge when talking about recovery is the truth that one… Continue reading

Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, is seen in this Dec. 19, 2019 file photo. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky, File)
Opinion: Alaska will greatly benefit from historic infrastructure bill

I was able to add many provisions to our bipartisan bill that are targeted to help Alaska.