We need to get serious about gun violence

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America has become an angry society.  Family destruction and income inequality have left many young males in the dust. Judicial rulings have made it impossible to institutionalize the mentally ill. Thus, we have disturbed angry young men who view their lives as empty wishing to make a statement. And they do so by gaining access to powerful guns and killing innocent victims.

The latest massacre at the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida by a lone gunman, Nikolas Cruz, has pushed the country over the edge. This must stop. But how?

Liberals and the media have reflexively attacked the National Rifle Association and this time they have drawn blood. Many view the NRA as an impediment to sensible gun reform, and major corporations are disavowing this organization. Momentum is gathering to ban so-called assault rifles.

But many forget that many of these rifles were banned from 1994 to 2004 and gun massacres still occurred, the most notable of these being Columbine in 1999. Furthermore, many gun owners view our incompetent government as the cause of the Florida massacre, and they have a point.

This high school, like many schools, had a deputy sheriff named Scot Peterson whose job was to protect the students. Yet when he heard gunshots, he did not engage the shooter. Three other deputy sheriffs arrived and proceeded to follow Peterson’s lead and do nothing.  By the time more back up police arrived; they were reportedly flabbergasted that these deputies heard gunshots for four minutes and did not engage the shooter.

But it gets worse.  Police had been called to Cruz’s house 39 times. In one instance, he threw his mother against the wall when she restricted him from using his Xbox. Other callers expressed dismay that he had guns. Florida even has a law called the Baker Act, which allows authorities to hospitalize potentially mentally ill or violent individuals for evaluation. But this was never done.

One concerned citizen called the FBI. An agent came to this citizen’s house and he showed the agent a YouTube video of Cruz stating “Im [sic] going to be a professional school shooter.” The agent took a picture of the video and then proceeded to do what the FBI does best – nothing.

This problem is solvable, but not if our feckless law enforcement officials are afraid to engage violent criminals and our mental health community prefers to push pills rather than institutionalize those who are ill or dangerous.  Liberals will fight to disarm the public while the NRA will point out that if our police and FBI are so useless, why can’t we have guns to protect ourselves?

A reasonable compromise would be to refuse anyone with violent tendencies or serious mental problems from owning a gun. But our polarized politics have rendered even a civil discussion impossible.

Thus, the most likely outcome is that nothing will be done other than trial lawyers becoming rich from the inevitable lawsuits. The judgments will be huge and the taxpayers will get the bill. Scot Peterson and the other deputies who did nothing will get their fat pensions, courtesy of the taxpayers they are supposed to defend. Crime may not pay, but pretending to fight it certainly does.

Joe Bentivegna is an ophthalmologist in Rocky Hill.


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