Evil

A number of years after I graduated I had an occasion to visit with my Swarthmore High School friend Jay Castle’s mom, Lela Castle, at her home in Bellevue, Washington. I can’t remember the exact conversation we were having about some recent local crime event that led to Jay’s mom’s memorable response. But I do remember her response, “Some people are just no good.”

I remember this quote, not because it is unique or original, but because of the matter-of-fact and certainty with which it was delivered. Jay’s mom was unequivocal about this and I have come to believe that she was right about this, as some people are “just no good.” I also believe, that within this group of “no good” people there is a subset that is flat out “evil.”

When I think of truly “evil” people I am referring to those for whom there is absolutely no answer to the question, “Why would someone do such a horrible thing?”

I understand why someone robs a bank, they want the money. I can even understand why they might shoot a guard in order to get away.

I cannot, however, fathom how someone could shoot first graders at point blank range as they huddle behind their teacher in a closet. There is no answer to the “why” for such an horrific act. The only sense I can make of it is that this is pure evil.

With frightening regularity we are introduced to another mass killing by one of these evil people here in the U.S. I won’t grant any of them the respect of mentioning their names, but their evil acts have come to be known by the locations of their atrocities: The 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham; Columbine High School; The University of Texas Tower; the Oklahoma City Federal Building; The Twin Towers; Virginia Tech; Sandy Hook; the Emanuel AME Church in Charleston; the Orlando Pulse Nightclub; The First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas; The Route 91 Harvest Music Festival, Las Vegas; and this week, Parkland High School in Florida. The really sad part is that this list is just from the top of my head, there are hundreds more that most of us are not even aware of.

What these acts all have in common is that they were perpetrated by the very worst of the evil people, those who kill indiscriminately and brutally and in horrifically large numbers.

I have come to believe that for this very small number of truly demented humans there is no other answer than that they are just evil. We will never know why, they just are. Their background or motives are irrelevant to me – their actions are what make them evil.

Good vs. Evil

The history of mankind is a long story of good vs. evil. Our religious books and ancient literature give us plenty of reason to believe that there have always been, and always will be, some evil people in the world. As Bob Dylan says in his song, “Well, it may be the devil or it may be the Lord , But you’re gonna have to serve somebody.” For some it is clearly the devil.

Fortunately for us all, the vast majority of people in the world are not evil. Even “bad actors” like burglars and thieves don’t fall into the “evil” category for me. I reserve the term “evil” for those who are seemingly incorrigible and will do unspeakable things to their fellow humans for extreme and demented reasons. These are deranged individuals.

While the truly “evil” people in the world may be vastly outnumbered, they nonetheless can cause tremendous harm. Even worse, they can create fear and hatred that magnifies their influence far beyond the horrific acts themselves. Left unchecked, they could destroy society by causing an over reaction that in turn creates even more violence by “copycats” or by groups turning against one another in a desperate attempt to “do something.”

After the recent horrific church shooting in Texas, I saw an interview of Texas Governor Greg Abbott on the CBS Morning News. When asked what we should do, the governor replied, “Pray, hug each other, and trust in God.”

Yes, that’s all well and good, but the old Marine in me says, “Bullshit, that’s not nearly enough!”

We have got to get off our collective asses and do something.

Here are six steps we can take:

Be Prepared to Kill the Evil Bastards

At the point of an attack there are only two options open to us: fight or flight. Sometimes it is true, as the National Rifle Association likes to say, that “the best way to stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.” I generally despise the NRA for its valuing its industry’s profits above human life, however there is a grain of truth in this statement that should not be totally rejected.

I recently went to the new Mercedes Benz stadium in Atlanta to watch a sold out Atlanta Union soccer game with my son Jamie, daughter-in-law Keeli and my two grandsons Brady and Bryce. We had to enter the grounds through a separate security gate because we had a stroller. I could not help but notice the presence of several very heavily armed security guards in full combat gear and either AR-15 or M-16 rifles (They can look identical) standing silently and watchfully just outside the entrance. I must admit I felt a lot better seeing those “good guys with guns” there “just in case” even though it is sad that it has come to this.

Killing in self-defense is OK in my book and sometimes that is what is needed. It is therefore prudent in some situations to have armed first responders present both as a deterrent and as a means of quick response.

Unfortunately, in almost all cases the evil person has the element of surprise. In the recent attack in Texas a brave neighbor confronted, shot, and wounded the killer, thus limiting the damage. This was a textbook case of a good guy with a gun coming to the rescue. Nonetheless, 26 people died at the hands of a demented evil person before he could be stopped. The “good guy with a gun” won’t always be fast enough to stop the violence.

And although it makes sense to have armed guards at major events like the one I attended in Atlanta, it makes no sense at all for a seven-person prayer group like the one attacked in Charleston. Also, armed guards are of little use against evil people who use bombs.

Alas, “Killing the bastards” is only a very partial solution at best.

Lock ‘em Up

There is an island in the south Puget Sound called McNeil Island which I have passed by many times on the ferry en route to my sister Martha’s cottage on nearby Anderson Island. McNeil was originally a federal penitentiary but now is operated by the State of Washington where the very worst of the worst sex offenders are kept away from society permanently.

These people (All are men) won’t commit any more crimes, so locking them up for life does keep us safe. But of course they are only at McNeil Island because they got caught “after” they committed their evil acts. This is also the case with most people in regular prisons with life sentences.

I don’t think much of the now disgraced sexual predator and former Fox News personality, Bill O’Reilly, but I did hear him propose an idea that made sense to me during an interview following a mass shooting. O’Reilly suggested that anyone involved in a felony using a firearm would automatically face a long-term sentence in a Federal Penitentiary. He posited that this would both take dangerous people off of the streets and act as a deterrent to the use of firearms.

I can see that this would help with evil persons who have a criminal history and who are caught first while committing a lessor crime. I don’t know how this helps with persons who are “under the radar” until they commit their horrific acts.

The other huge problem with the “lock ‘em up” and capital punishment solutions is that many of these evil men, and yes, almost all of the ones we fear the most are men, seemingly expect to die in a singular blaze of glory. Neither jail nor death is a deterrent to them.

“Locking them up” does work in some cases, but again, it is only a partial solution. We need to do it, but it won’t undo the harm already done and it won’t stop those wanting to die themselves in the process of committing their first attack.

Cut Them Off

Evil people are still just people. Unlike Voldemort, Darth Vader, or the White Walkers, real life evil people do not have any super powers. They need tools to do the worst of their evil deeds. The ability of an evil person to do harm to others is directly proportional to the means available to them.

I would hate to be strangled, but even at 70 I would like to think I could put up a pretty good fight if someone were trying to strangle me. If the only weapon evil people have is their hands, strangulation is the only means available to them. Given the choice of facing an evil person trying to strangle me or facing one trying to shoot me, I would prefer the former. It is also very difficult to be a mass strangulation killer.

We are of course, not the only society to have “evil” people. All societies deal with evil people and limit in some way the access that people have to the tools (AKA Weapons) that evil people have available to them. Knives, bombs, poison gas, and even battery acid have been used worldwide. In the US our evil doers prefer guns.

In their 2008 landmark case “DC vs. Keller”, the Supreme Court affirmed the right of citizens to bear arms for “lawful purposes” such as self-defense in their own homes. The majority opinion, written by the late Anthony Scalia, went on to state that legislative representatives clearly have the power to restrict the access to weapons by felons and the mentally deranged. Scalia’s decision goes on to say, “Like most rights, the Second Amendment right is not unlimited. It is not a right to keep and carry any weapon whatsoever in any manner whatsoever and for whatever purpose.”

Scalia further clarified that the law can forbid carrying weapons in sensitive places such as schools or churches and can impose qualifications on the sale of arms.

People performing evil acts DO NOT HAVE THE RIGHT TO BEAR ARMS. Laws can and must be passed to make it more difficult for mentally deranged people to obtain firearms or other weapons in the first place.

We instituted significant changes to how ammonium nitrate is distributed and secured following the bombing of the Federal Building in Oklahoma City in 1995. When terrorists overcame pilots and flew planes into the Twin Towers in 2001 we tightened up airport security, developed a no-fly list, and started locking the cockpits. Laws and regulations can, and should, be changed to meet the needs of the people to remain safe as the means of doing harm change over time.

We need extreme vetting of all weapons sales to make sure that only law abiding and mentally sane adult citizens have ready easy access to deadly weapons. I would like to include some means of testing mental soundness in this extreme vetting. Without controls in place, we are giving evil people easy access to tools that provide them tremendous ability to do even more harm.

Additionally we need to continue screening for firearms and bombs at strategic entrance points at highly vulnerable “targets” such as airports, arenas and courtyards. Maybe even schools and churches will need this level of protection.

“Cutting them off” from their most deadly tools will definitely help even though it won’t stop evil people from committing evil acts altogether, especially if they have help.

Punish Their Enablers

In a country with almost as many firearms as we have citizens, it is unrealistic to pretend that we can keep dangerous weapons out of the hands of all evil people. But we sure can limit the damage they can do by holding persons who sell weapons and ammunition responsible for vetting the persons they are selling to.

Sell a gun or explosives without doing a background check: pay an extreme fine.

Sell a gun or explosives without a background check to a felon, mentally ill person, or a terrorist who subsequently commits murder: face possible prison time.

For this approach to work, we must have enhanced extreme vetting in place as a part of a background check system capable of identifying high probability evil doers. We need to identify them up front in order to keep weapons out of their hands. The National Crime Information Center database operated by the FBI needs to be fully supported (and funded) at all levels and there can be no “loopholes” like gun shows where background checks are waived. The national data base also needs to be cross referenced with other lists of known risks such as the terrorist “no fly list”, military discharge records, and other sources of information about mentally ill people like known domestic abusers.

I would rather we err on the side of occasionally having someone temporarily denied the ability to purchase a weapon than accidentally selling a weapon to someone who is mentally ill, a felon, or a potential terrorist. The first example of an error is an inconvenience that can be easily fixed, the second error is permanent and deadly.

Reputable gun dealers are already making the background checks. The problem is that the database is far from complete and does not include huge numbers of people who should not be allowed to buy weapons (e.g. persons on the terrorist “no-fly” list). The other problem is that in many states background checks are waived for gun shows. This loophole needs to be closed.

Non-reputable gun dealers (e.g. gang members selling out of the trunk of their car) need to be jailed along with their customers.

With freedoms come responsibilities. Persons who sell (or give) weapons of any kind to evil persons who should not have weapons must be punished. Deterrence will work with law-abiding people that includes the vast majority of people who sell weapons.

Yet again, “Punishing the Enablers” won’t stop all illegal sales of weapons, but it will help.

Help the Poor Bastards

It may seem illogical for me to suggest that we need to help people who I have already categorized as mentally deranged and incorrigible. Here are reasons for suggesting we need to apply mental health resources to help solve the problem:

My first reason for helping people even though they are “evil,” is that they are still human and only God or whoever is ultimately in charge can make the final judgment. Maybe these ideas of “charity” and “forgiveness” were infused in me growing up as a preacher’s kid. If I had to, I am pretty sure I could “pull the trigger” to stop an evil person “in the act”, but I would much prefer to pay a little more in taxes and do whatever is possible up front to possibly avoid the act altogether.

A more practical reason to employ mental health resources is that we may be able to identify a potential threat in advance and head it off. Mental health professionals have some tools that they can apply. Drugs might help, so might mandatory hospitalization or even permanent placement in a mental institution for those criminally insane. If a mental health professional says, “look out, this guy is dangerous,” we best listen.

Often family members or friends are the first to notice something is “wrong”. But what can they do? In Seattle in 2012 a man walked into the Cafe Racer coffee shop and killed four patrons shooting them in the head execution style with two .45 caliber pistols. He then hijacked a car and purposely ran over a woman killing her before being confronted by police and taking his own life.

This particular killing is close to me because I used to drive by Cafe Racer, which is several blocks from where my niece Rachel lives in the University District, every morning on my way to work at Safeco Insurance. The killer’s family members had tried for years to get him some help, knowing full well that he was not “right” and fearing that he would do something like this. The man’s father was on KOMO radio yesterday pleading for changes to the law that will allow family members to contact law enforcement and force a mental evaluation which could have firearms taken from persons shown to be very mentally deranged.

Ready access to mental health resources is also beneficial to persons contemplating suicide. Although not directly related to the topic of “evil” people, suicide is a significant societal problem that could be helped by increased access to mental health treatment. Providing more easily available mental health treatment has many side benefits.

As with the other suggestions I have made, this is not a total answer. Some evil people appear totally normal until they “snap” and others can manipulate and fool even the most capable mental health professional. Nonetheless, in some cases mental health treatment will prevent the loss of life. We need to increase access not only to “help the poor bastards”, but to save ourselves.

Compromise, Dammit

Pardon the extremely tasteless pun, but, there are no “silver bullets” to protecting us from truly evil persons.

We can’t eliminate all violence done by evil people. Even in countries with strict laws about weapons ownership there are still senseless murders using other means.

But we can reduce the carnage. Seat belts don’t save everybody but they are still save thousands of lives every year.

There are some compromises we need to make:

• We will have to accept that in some cases we will have to have more armed guards.

• We will have to put up with a few more hassles when buying and selling guns or other weapons in order to prove to the seller that we are not one of the “evil people” who cannot have weapons. No sane law abiding citizen need be denied any of their rights, extreme vetting and background checks are not aimed at them, they are aimed at weeding out the evil doers.

• All of us will have to pony up in more taxes for the funding that will be needed for both added security and for mental health resources which include may include mandatory placement in a mental institution for the extremely mentally ill.

Recap

Here are things we can do in the United States to better protect ourselves against truly evil people:

Be Prepared to Kill The Bastards: Accept that more armed first responders/guards may be needed

Lock ‘em Up: Invoke mandatory long federal prison sentences for felons who use weapons in crimes.

Cut Them Off: Extreme vetting to prevent the sale of all weapons sales to the mentally ill, felons, or terrorists.

Punish the Enablers: Heavy fines or prison for failure to fully vet weapons sales to the mentally ill, felons, or terrorists.

Help the Poor Bastards: Expand mental health capabilities to identify and treat the mentally ill.

Compromise: Accept “less than perfect” incremental fixes. Save as many lives as we can.

If you have any better ideas I would love to hear it, please include a comment.

20 thoughts on “Evil”

  1. Dave Classen
    Yesterday at 10:46am · Marty ·
    When I was a high school student there were no such things as school shootings as a matter of fact during hunting season we kept our guns in the Agg room at school.
    When my kids were in school no such thing, so what’s the difference ?
    When my dad said something u listened and did what mom or dad said, or a swift hand was sure to follow when u went out for sports and lost u were told to train and try harder when u needed money u were told to get off your ass and get a job when u got hurt you were told you’ll live and the band aids are in the bathroom when u were hungry u best show up at meal time or u were going hungry if your bike broke u were told the tools are in the garage go fix it. And if u broke the family rules u were gona get an ass whippin, thats just the way it was back then.
    Now u get told to stand in a corner u get fed when ever, u get participation trophies u get free money and your friends are just as entitled as u are and if u don’t get your way u protest and ruin shit, we have for a lot raised a bunch of entitled spoiled kids and what’s worse if u try and discipline some social worker will throw your ass in jail.
    U want to end this school shooting thing have a public execution (never happen) I’ll be dead by the time this killer is executed if he is he will get food and air conditioning and free medical more than what are retirees are gonna get.
    Congress won’t do much if anything they can’t even agree on what kind of toilet paper to use. It’s actually a States rights issue and im willing to bet that the first state to have a public hanging within three weeks of the crime will never have a school shooting.
    In Israel teachers carry side arms and the school is locked when school starts they have 0 school shootings we could hire a Vet with a side arm to patrol the halls rather than a social worker to tell us how to raise our kids ask grandpa he’ll tell u.
    Teach your kids how to speak up without fear of retribution or finger pointing and if your kid is causing trouble u should be able to put the hammer down and not have to fear someone calling u a bad parent. If attitudes don’t change things aren’t gonna get better.
    Oh these are my thoughts and I can handle feedback if u don’t like it.

    1. Hey Cuz, I too have seen many changes in the last 50 years in attitudes on any number of issues. I tend to agree with you on the declining sense of personal responsibility that some people seem to almost relish. At the same time I see super intelligent young people accomplishing things I could only dream of, our Olympic Champions are an excellent example. Some things are not as good as they used to be, but many things are better.

      My point about evil people is that they have always been with us – and probably always will be regardless of cultural changes. The tools available to them have changed and in my opinion they have been given too much power. We as a society have to adjust to deal with them. You are probably correct that we will need armed guards in schools. My vision would include BOTH armed guards and counselors.

      Public Executions don’t seem to me to be a viable solution to this particular problem. While they would certainly make a sane person think twice about committing murder, the evil people I am talking about are certifiably not-sane. Some, most maybe, want to die and I don’t see how public executions would deter them. As totally screwed us as some of them are, they might see a public execution as a badge of glory, one last “fuck you” to the world.

      I don’t mind paying for the Florida killer to be imprisonned for the rest of his life if it keeps him away from society. If Florida wants to execute him that is their decision and I agree with you that some of these issues are best decided at the State level.

      We won’t always agree Dave, but we will always be cousins so I guess we are stuck with each other. Take Care Always.

  2. Very good ideas. Sad that most of these guys even look scary in their mug shots but are not crazy enough to be off the streets. Most of them are taking drugs to make them seem ok when they really are not.

    1. Hey Ron, Drugs and addiction related to them are yet another really serious problem that, as you point out, may be a contributing factor.
      And yes, when I see the mug shots I also get a shiver.

  3. Sharing information is critical. Schools will not share information because of “confidentiality”. The medical profession, employers, the military, law enforcement, the clergy and many others are bound by oath or statute from sharing.
    Teachers are pretty good “picker outers”; their ability to discern that there is an issue is borne out by the Sandy Hook and most recent Florida case. The system (and who pays for what) becomes an issue.
    Counseling from medical “professionals” ends when a patient no longer pays the bill. Call this “rent an ear”. Of course, what can a therapist “do”…being held to the confidentiality standard?
    Cops can’t share with teachers, the faith community can’t share with employers, the medical profession can share with the insurance company, but not with family members. Hmmm…have run outa’ space, but I think you all can catch my drift.

    1. Thanks John, You raise an important issue about information sharing. There will always be a tension between one’s right to privacy and the security of others and it is not difficult to see how this could get really sticky. There should be certain triggers that allow for the disclosure of confidential information about a pending attack. It is tricky. A close friend of mine, the late Dave Shugarts from our high school class, lived in Newtown Connecticut and Dave knew some of the victims of the Sandy Hook Massacre. His kids also knew the killer and it did not come as a total surprise, they said he was kind of scary. But where do we draw the line between “kind of scary” and “really dangerous.” It is not a simple answer. But just because it is difficult does not mean we cannot come up with better solutions.

  4. Jim, thanks for another thoughtful reflection on evil and the seemingly intractable situation we find ourselves in. Your suggestions seem to me like they might go a long way toward reducing the current insane level of gun violence we suffer from here in the USA, especially when committed by identifiable, willfully enabled evil doers and lunatics. There seem to be far too many of them. What those suggestions may not address well enough though is the culture of selfishness and lack of respect for others that feeds the evil demons which take over the thoughts of the evil-doers. And that I am afraid is cultural, and a particularly acute American problem. Why is it that highly stressed individuals in places like Japan end up taking their own lives, while some in the USA take it out on their neighbors? There is not enough “we” in our society.

    1. Dave,
      Great observation about the cultural aspects and the seeming U.S. propensity to kill others. Are evil people here somehow emboldened in a way they are not in other countries? I would have to give this much more thought as it touches on a wider portion of society than just the “truly evil” among us and their identification and access to weapons. I don’t really know, but it is a great question.
      PS – Looking forward to seeing you soon in MA.

  5. You say “It is also very difficult to be a mass strangulation killer.” But we also know that to be a “mass killer” one needs to have a weapon of “mass destruction”, and the AR15s fit the bill. I’m just wondering why you don’t mention banning them as one possible mechanism for minimizing the damage these evil bastards inflict on others.

    1. Hi Marilou, Rather than focus on individual weapons used, I think we need to focus on the evil people and their actions. We can identify some of the the most dangerous people and we can restrict their access or incarcerate them if necessary. Some people should not have access to ANY weapon based on their past behavior or the high probability that they will use it to kill or maim. Obviously there needs to be some specificity and limits on what constitutes “legal weapons” (e.g. Machine guns, anti-aircraft guns, tanks and other weapons of war have been banned for personal use for a long time). The AR-15 you mention is one that is very hard to imagine is needed for any kind of “lawful purpose” but there are those who would argue that it is a sporting weapon. Personally I am not too worried about sane law-abiding persons having this particular weapon. My concern is that it is readily available to persons who should not have any weapons at all. This weapon, which is basically a civlian version of the M-16 we used when I was in Vietnam provides tremendous fire power and the ability to kill many people quickly. One big advantage of this type of weapon is that the ammunition is light weight (it uses a small but high velocity round) that allowed us to carry many magazines of ammunition. This is important in combat. It is hard to imagine a lawful purpose this serves and why on earth would we want to provide this capability to people who are mentally ill and/or terrorists? That being said, I still think it is more important to focus on restricting the people who should not have weapons rather than the type of weapons that are “legal”.

  6. Jim et al,
    It may shock everyone reading this post to hear that one of the first thoughts that I had after hearing of this horrendous event was….
    “what in the world happened to that young man that caused him to become such a hateful, angry (yes evil, I suppose) person.” I don’t believe that we are born with those kinds of actions tatooed onto our brains. Something happened to him, early on, that left a mark on his brain/psyche resulting in this horrific outcome. He needed help early on and someone (we? ) let him down. There were signs long long ago. I don’t know this young man, but I know that he wasn’t born into this world wanting to shoot innocent people.

    1. Hi Judy, My late mother used to often remark, “I always have to think that once he was somebody’s baby”, when she saw a really sorry looking homeless person on the street or a vicious criminal being shown on TV. She likely would have had the same first response you mentioned to the Florida shooting.
      I think that you are probably right Judy that “something happened,” but I doubt if we will ever know exactly what that was/is. The other possibility is that he was “wired” that way from the start. It is the old nature or nurture question all over again. My post does not address the “why” of this situation and that is a limiting factor of the post and certainly a topic for another worthwhile discussion. Best always.

  7. Mass shootings are increasing in frequency, magnitude and sophistication and threaten our most sacred institutions and our right to public assembly. Assault weapons sales are at record levels and disenfranchisement is leaving many citizens, especially young people, with the feeling that they have little to lose. Our society’s vulnerabilities to lone heavily armed gunmen have certainly been exposed more than ever since the Las Vegas massacre. Yet we seem to be no closer to solving this problem. I’m afraid that the worst lies ahead. Millions of assault weapons are already in circulation and authorities are almost clueless about identifying those with evil intent and virtually powerless to intervene until a crime has been committed.
    What is becoming clear is that entering our work places, schools, churches, retail outlets and public events will be more like passing through TSA checkpoints at airports. The barriers, surveillance, armed security forces and other preventative measures will be much more expensive than the Mexico border wall and about as likely to be paid for by Mexicans. Instead of cycling through the gun control/mental health debate that always leads to the status quo, we need to talk more about playing defense and paying for it. Perhaps a business model similar to that we use to fund our highway infrastructure would be appropriate to fortify the nations defense against its own armed citizens that seek to go out in a blaze of glory. When we buy and register vehicles a portion of the tax supports building/repairing of roads as does a portion of gas sales. Larger trucks pay more as they cause more wear and tear on roads.
    Why can’t we apply user fees to guns and ammunition to raise funds to protect our right to assemble similar to our road infrastructure business model? A risk assessment would readily identify the weapons that are most lethal and most often used to kill innocent people. Tax could be levied proportional to murder rate of each weapon category. A progressive tax may be appropriate in that purchase of a box of bullets would be less per bullet than when purchasing a hundred boxes of bullets. After all, we know that guns don’t kill but bullets do. A data base on ammunition purchases could be part of this system. This data could be used to help low risk individuals that have been tested and subjected to voluntary extreme vetting to write off some of the gun/ammunition tax burden. The data could also be mined to identify risky ammunition purchase patterns that could trigger an investigation or other appropriate actions.
    User fees alone even at dollars per bullet will not be sufficient to fund the immense cost of defending public gatherings, which probably cannot be completely secured with a trillion dollars. However, it may price many perpetrators out of mass murder and provide an alarm to profile impulsive behavior based on what we have learned from previous mass murders. Annual mass murders have occurred for several decades but became monthly in 2017 and appear to be on a weekly rate in 2018. Are we on a course that mass shootings occur every day in America? We need an entire spectrum of solutions and I salute Jimmy for blogging his ideas and engaging others to share their thoughts. We need to protect all our freedoms.

    1. Thanks Andy, Your logical scientific approach to analyzing the problem is the type most likely to generate positive results. You also accurately assess the urgency of the problem and I am afraid, as you point out, that there is more trouble ahead for us given the scope of the issue/problem. I don’t know how we will or should pay for the additional resources needed for both security and for mental health interventions, but you are spot on that it is going to be expensive. And yes, we need to protect ALL of our freedoms. We need solutions that offer balance, compromise, and commitment to finding ways to keep deadly weapons out of the hands of those most highly likely to cause others harm. Peace brother.

  8. Jim,

    Very good thoughts on a very complex problem. I would like to add a few thoughts of my own.

    You suggest that laws could and should be passed to make it difficult for the perpetrators to obtain guns. I agree. I watched the news as children who lived in the shooter’s neighborhood were interviewed after the Florida massacre. One teenage boy stated in a number of ways that the shooter, Nickolas Cruz was “nuts, schizoid and crazy.” He said that Nickolas had alienated many in the neighborhood, and this had been the case for some time. The boy also mentioned how Nickolas often cornered and threw stones at small animals.

    I once read that children who torture animals often grow up to harm people. Is there a way we can “flag” children like this without interfering with the HIPPA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) laws that protect medical records? I doubt it, but I think we should on some level be keeping an eye on them. I think when some line gets crossed their rights to privacy of mental health records is forfeit to certain agencies.

    As an aside, when the ACLU decided that it was illegal to hold people in mental institutions against their will many changes occurred. The focus of the law change was for people who are not receiving proper care within the institutions to be freed in order to be able to get that care.

    Years ago, serving as Secretary to our local homeless shelter I learned that 80% of the homeless population had been released from mental institutions. Since their release, many former inmates of the hospitals are living on the streets. Most are not taking their medications, are not clean (without proper facilities available to them) and can be dangerous. So here is my question, when are laws that “protect individual freedoms” not the right thing? I would say when the population that they are aiming to help is in the long run harmed due to lack of foresight in what the result of the law might bring.

    I too, am in favor of holding the gun dealers responsible for lack of or insufficient vetting before a gun is sold. Do we not hold bartenders responsible for customers who have become impaired? They should not be allowed to drive under the influence. Nor should a mentally impaired person be able to buy a weapon designed to kill.

    Several times you mentioned that we, the tax payers may have to pony up the cost of these safeguards. I want to add that the gun manufacturers should also be held responsible, the same way faulty airplane part manufacturers are when a crash results. Let them pay for all of the trauma, mental anguish and horror the children, staff and responders went through. Let them pay for the funerals, perhaps it will give them pause to rethink their opinions. I know from Newtown that the mental effects of seeing and going through such horror will have long lasting effects on all involved.

    On a similar note, I watched a show on “ 48 Hours” about four women who have been stalked for years. Pauley Perrette (NCIS’s Abby Sciuto) has been stalked for over ten years. She stated that she feels the stalker will eventually kill, she just didn’t know where or when. There was a disturbing lack of hope in her face as she related the facts. One of the other women’s stalkers has been in and out of mental institutions. There was footage of him ranting that was really scary. I mention this because here, in a cruel way, people are being robbed of their very lives, little by little everyday. These four women went on 48 Hours to bring light to the outdated laws and lack of understanding in the way social media is being used to perpetrate a reign of terror. The four women want change and help for themselves as wall as all victims of stalkers.

    So, do I have answers about what to do to stop mass shootings? Should we all carry a gun? I think it was the Las Vegas massacre where an armed bystander deliberately did not use his gun for fear of being mistaken for the shooter and getting shot himself.

    Certainly there are no easy answers. I think it is vital that we vote into office politicians who have our best interests at heart. This is the first step to making change. Secondly, we need people in office who will stand up to the NRA and ban assault weapons except for law enforcement and military. Also, we need a data base of assault weapon owners. With the purchase of such a potentially harmful weapon comes accountability for keeping it locked up securely, so it cannot fall into the wrong hands.

    We need a national movement to restore the feeling of being safe in schools, in malls, at concerts and all places. We are the “land of free,” but our lack of laws has robbed us our right to feel safe.

    1. Thanks Susan, You very clearly show how complicated this issue is. Your insight about the consequences of closing mental institutions is very germaine to this and several other major problems we face, drug addition and homelessness. There are no easy solutions but it is imperative that we all work together to find solutions. Best always. Jim

  9. From my brother Pete:
    Hey JIm, I hear you will be leaving Seattle soon…
    Just read your blog….
    some time in my adolescence I asked mom if she believed in Satan or the Devil…. she did say something to the effect that….. there are people in this world that do bad things…. evil is when there is an absence or unaccepttence of God’s Love. ( She did not say that she believed in the Devil.)
    I think drug abuse and mental illness can erase or blurr natural moral filters….. I work with some Students that were “crack” babies… their brains did not develop naturally….. some have serious anger management issues that are now being controlled with medication but they can go out of balance and out of control….. these students are in the mix with general population of students…
    I think as you have mentioned, a combination of things will need to happen to reduce these kinds of mass killings…
    – With Schools, Arming our Teachers is not the Answer…!
    – There is already beginning to be an expectation that School Staff will serve as Human Shields…
    – reasonable increase in Security at Schools is certainly possible…..locate satellite Police stations near School complexes.. The High School Where I work has two non- armed Security Officers…..and one part time Poulsbo police Officer that is armed….it is a fairly large open Campus with a Middle School and Elem. Sch. adjacent.. some times during the day I may be supervising a few special needs students… in a Common area with maybe 300 to -400 Students and I am one of 3 or 4 Visible Staff… there are approx. 20 different entrances to this area…
    Our School has regular “Intruder /lock down drills” these are announced over intercom from main Office… The Lock down drill is completely different from Fire Drill….. In Florida case we heard that the shooter pulled fire alarm creating more confusion… He had probably begun shooting well before the Main office new about it…..

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts… and your willingness to hear others… bye for now, Pete

    1. Thanks Pete,
      Your real world experience with challenged and troubled kids and the openesss of a school campus speaks to the difficulty in providing a “safe” space. There are things we can do to make schools “more secure”, but how can we protect the kids in all situations against heavily armed crazy people? At best “hardening the schools” is only a partial solution.
      Jim

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