Photo Credit: CNN.com
By Mike Keleher
On Valentine’s Day 2018, we all watched in horror as the media reports started rolling in about an awful school shooting in Parkland FL at a large high school. Seventeen dead and at least 14 injured in another spree conducted in a gun free zone where the victims and staff are guaranteed to be unarmed.
Make no mistake-the shooter knew the facility and rules. Shooters like this want to make a big splash and be successful-they don’t want be confronted by people resolve or with guns. In probably the worst example, the Sandy Hook killer attacked kindergarten children, the very symbol of innocent and defenseless victims. In Colorado, the shooter pre-planned his theater attack and when he found a theater that was not gun-free, he chose a different theater to launch his attack.
We want to make sense of these attacks in our minds, and every American would like to prevent them.
Unfortunately, spree killers and school shooters represent multifaceted issues and can’t be legislated out of existence. Furthermore, we must blame the shooter as the primary source of this evil, not the tools used. I kept waiting for calls to ban U-Haul rental trucks and Home Depot rental trucks after they were used to run down multiple victims this past year… yet I never heard a thing about this “common sense” measure to prevent further murders.
We also have to acknowledge the killing fields created when we legislate gun free zones into existence. The only ones following the rules are the law-abiding populace, not the criminals.
The calls for gun bans, stiffer background checks and “reasonable gun control” started being broadcast in nanoseconds following the news of this terrible slaughter. None of which would have made any difference in this case, or in any of the other well-known cases in recent years. Emotions run high, and public officials run their mouths for political gain, but you can’t legislate evil away with good intentions. It is already illegal to shoot people, and Heavens to Betsy you can’t take guns into a gun free zone…why you’d get in extra trouble!
Passing a few laws is not going to stop crazy people from being crazy people, or preventing them from having evil schemes. They need human interaction, not legislation.
There is a misconception whipped into a frenzy by the media in the aftermath that spree shootings are random and unpreventable in this day and age. Right behind that, somehow more laws or rules would prevent them from occurring. These attacks are preventable and don’t come to fruition in a vacuum.
These attacks are always meticulously planned and the shooters leak their plans all over social media and with friends and family. The only recent exception is the police are still not showing the Las Vegas shooter having leaked his plans in advance. Every other well known public spree shooter left long trails of violent thoughts and intentions in very visible and publicly displayed manner.
The public at large is not being told when police, family and school interventions are successful in preventing potential shootings-yet this happens weekly across America. Ever since the Columbine shootings school administrators and police have been working pro-actively to interrupt attack plans and get mental health treatment and/or arrest for teenaged planners.
Just this week, the mother of a 14-year-old was charged with providing him with weapons he could not legally own or possess. On January 25, the teen told friends he was planning to kill four fellow high school students just days after attempts at mass murder in Kentucky and Texas. As a terrific example of the “See Something, Say Something” mantra, the information was provided to the police and school and the suspect was apprehended. Unravelling the story further, they found the unstable teen’s mother had purchased weapons and allowed him to keep them in his bedroom to include a a semi-automatic rifle, a shotgun, two machetes, throwing knives, two lever-action rifles, a revolver, a cross bow and ammunition.
WHAT WE KNOW ABOUT EVERY SPREE SHOOTER
1. They all are mentally unsound, have had mental health treatment, and have had to undergo drug therapy. Every single shooter has previously been prescribed meds, and not coincidentally were off their meds at the time of the shootings. They go into intense slides consumed with their dark plans and quit taking medications, often stating aloud –“I don’t need them. I’m fine.” They also disassociate themselves from human beings, having little left in common with them. The Florida shooter is a text book example, and the recent death of this adopted mother may have advanced his digression into this enormous violent act.
If we are going to stop future shootings, we must address the mental health side of the issue, not just “Ban guns.” None of the politicians are willing to talk about the mental health issues contributing to every one of these mass shootings. There are between 5 and 10 million AR-15’s owned by law abiding citizens that were not used in any school shootings yesterday. You can’t get them outlawed for the wrong reasons without trammeling Constitutional Rights. Claims “If it saves just one life” fall flat coming from liberals who refuse to address the high violence and murder rate from illegal aliens. Shouldn’t the “If it saves just one life “argument apply across the board?
Doctors and medical facilities are supposed to be able to tip off state and local authorities about people who are dangerous and should not be allowed to purchase weapons-yet how often does this occur? Medical professionals don’t want any part of making those predictions or judgements and risk law suit civilly and under HIPAA privacy protections. There are actually two law enforcement exceptions to the HIPAA Act, but they are not well known in the medical community and are just not embraced by anyone in the medical field that is not an attorney.
2. They leak information on their violent thoughts and plans. People who know them have had to live with their bad acts and mental instability. Media reporting today is showing something like 29 police contacts at the Florida shooter’s residence, he was expelled from this high school and possibly from two other schools, kids who knew him used to joke about the possibility he would return to shoot up the campus, and apparently, he left a media comment on a YouTube channel in his name stating he wanted to be a “professional school shooter.” This info even made it to the FBI five months ago. The authorities will pull down all of his digital info, but it has already been released he was still texting up until five minutes before the attack.
3. They make elaborate plans. They study other shootings and techniques, keep records, and gather guns and gear in hopes of making a big splash. These people who most often have been unpopular and just don’t fit in want to suddenly make their life important through a massacre. This shooter left a lot of history on the internet of gathering air soft and pellet guns because he could not legally purchase a pistol. He did purchase a very low-cost shotgun and low-cost S&W M&P AR-15 and a lot of ammunition and spare magazines-legally. The liberal call for more stringent gun laws does not take notice of the fact he was allowed to purchase two firearms at age 18 under state and federal law. If they want to use screening better, they have to involve doctors and treatment to prevent such purchases, not just ban guns from those who obey the law.
4. They intentionally pick gun free zones. As mentioned above, the shooters want to succeed and they choose the locations where the body count will be highest and chances of resistance are the lowest. Politicians have created these killing zones by declaring them to be Gun Free. Turns out criminals either can’t read or don’t follow the law…who knew?
5. These shooters generally don’t plan to survive their grand and dramatic act. The high percentage of shooters kill themselves when confronted by police or even just having police arrive on scene. We have all heard the “The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun, is a good guy with a gun”- well it is true. This murderer did his shooting and apparently walked out mingling with high school students after pulling a fire alarm. Very elaborate planning by this murderer. This guy got in, committed maximum mayhem and walked away, going over to Wal-Mart, getting a drink at Subway and stopping inside a McDonalds. Very calculating-not completely crazy-but did he have any "What's next?" plan, or had he just ran out of bad ideas?
6. They have long histories of violence and fascination with violent fantasies towards people, animals and perceived grudges. Friends, families and neighbors all bear witness to this in the wake of these attacks. The Florida shooter’s history is rolling in scant hours after the attack, and it is ripe with several years of police and school contacts and issues.
The police have had to evolve school shooter tactics since the Columbine attack. Every police force in America has upgraded their plans and practice to run to the sound of guns, and every school in America has had to initiate active shooter plans that embrace “Run/Hide/Fight”. These people and techniques saved lives this week in Florida. The media reported the school underwent an active shooter drill earlier in the morning on the day of the attack. Implementing that rehearsed plan in this time of crisis had to have saved lives and hardened the target for those left to hide.
Local police arrived very quickly-with some sources saying there were on the ground and operating in anti-shooter mode in less than five minutes-excellent work. An average spree shooter event lasts only 7 minutes.
We mourn the loss and horrors inflicted that day, but two small stories show off some real heroes inside the school. Security guard and part time football coach Aaron Feis put himself between the shooter and at least one targeted student. He died as a result but protected those kids with his own life.
17 year old Junior ROTC member Colton Haab and one of his friends ushered 60-70 kids into the JROTC room to shelter in place. The ROTC members then pulled down Kevlar sheets from the walls which were used during marksmanship training and used them as concealment and bullet resistant protection for the students in case the shooter breached their room. Heroic action by fine young kids.
THANK YOU TO THE FIRST RESPONDERS, TEACHERS AND ALL HEROES ON THIS DARK DAY.
The author Mike Keleher, has been an Active Shooter Instructor, part of a federal agency’s Threat Management Unit, and was been on the ground in the aftermath of the well-known Chattanooga TN spree killer incident.