NBC5 reported that the Police in Fort Worth say they averted a potential mass shooting. It was a short story, without much detail, that barely got any attention. However, in the current political climate with calls for more gun control, it raises several very important issues.
The Police said they received a call from a father who claimed his 27-year-old son wanted to buy guns and go on a rampage.
“He wanted to kill many people. He wanted to do something that was very similar that took place in the Midland-Odessa area and he basically wanted to mimic that,” said Ofc. Buddy Calzada with the Fort Worth Police Department.
Important Issue Number One, The Copycat
“As the number of mass shooting and acts of violence increase nationwide, researchers have set out to determine the specific underlying cause. This study explored a pattern between two variables: the spread of mass shooting news on social media platforms, and the increase in these crimes. This study analyzed and compared media activity from mass shootings at Columbine, Virginia Tech, and Parkland. These school shootings occurred in three separate media eras, and data from a mass shooting archive was used to examine the frequency of incidents over time. Evidence showed increased social media usage aligned with increased numbers of mass shootings.“
Modern society is largely driven by the quest for that 15 minutes of fame via social media. Becoming a “social media influencer,” YouTube or Instagram famous has caused many to risk their lives for that unique selfie or even lose their lives in YouTube stunts. Media and social media coverage of mass shootings inspiring copy cats doesn’t seem to be an outrageous assertion at all. Especially when it is specifically cited as a motivation in a case like this in Fort Worth.
Important Issue Number Two, Red Flag Laws (Extreme Risk Protection Orders)
Police said they’d had previous interactions with the man, who was diagnosed with several mental health issues. He’s at a local clinic receiving treatment.
Texas DOES NOT have red flag laws (ERPOs), yet they were still able to intervene. The young man was the threat, NOT the guns. They were able to remove the young man from access to ANYTHING he may use as a weapon, rather than leave him in society and only remove one potential weapon from his access.
Police can and do perform welfare checks. There are already laws that allow the police to place people on a 72 hour psychiatric hold for evaluation. Laws that allow for involuntary committal, as well. The only difference between what the police can already do to remove a person who is a potential threat and a red flag law is that under red flag laws they take the property and leave the threat (the person).
Important Issue Number Three, Mental Illness
This young man was previously diagnosed with “several mental health issues.” One recent analysis by Emma Fridel in the Journal of Interpersonal Violence looked at the three most common types of mass shootings: Family killings, felony killings, and public mass killings.
- Familicides represent the most common form of mass murder and are principally defined by a close victim-offender relationship. Perpetrators are typically White, middle-aged males who target their spouse or intimate partner, children, and other relatives (Fridel 2017, 3).
- Felony killings are distinguished by motive. Murder is used to achieve some primary criminal objective, typically involving financial gain. … Due to their general lack of sensationalism, felony killings are not widely publicized despite representing the second largest category of mass murder. Perpetrators of felony mass murders tend to be young black or Hispanic males with extensive criminal records (Fridel 2017, 7).
- Despite their extreme visibility, public mass killings account for the smallest proportion of all mass murders. Formally, these incidents are defined by attack location. Public mass killers are a heterogeneous group and are frequently delineated into several subtypes. Public murderers are often stereotyped as middle-aged white men who have suffered a series of failures in different areas of life, though some research indicates a disproportionate number of immigrants commit public massacres (Fridel 2017, 5). These public mass shootings are what most people (wrongly) consider as typical of mass shootings.
Prior mental health treatment was a factor in nearly 16% of family annihilator cases and nearly a third of public mass shootings. The mental health aspect of mass shootings is clear. Those are the numbers that had PRIOR treatment, which begs the question “how many of the rest of these mass killers had undiagnosed mental health issues?”
The Fort Worth case touches on other issues as well. The background check system, which worked in this case and prior contact with police. Police said the man withdrew between $600 and $700, then went to several shops to buy guns. He was denied on background checks, then tried to buy a gun off the street, according to Ofc. Buddy Calzada with the Fort Worth Police Department. The department’s crisis intervention team caught up with him before he could complete a private sale.
There is only so much that can be done in the name of prevention, but focusing on the proper areas of concern is essential to be effective. Do we need to violate due process and confiscate people’s property under red flag legislation or can it be addressed under current laws if applied properly? Will unenforceable “Universal Background Checks” help or are they merely a feel good measure, an American Fantasy, that only satisfies the need to “Do Something”?
There is a HUGE difference between doing SOMETHING and doing the RIGHT THING. In a free, non-totalitarian, society it is almost impossible to preemptively stop crime of any kind, much less mass shootings motivated by delusions of grandeur, mental illness, despair or any number of other factors. The part of the equation that never gets any attention is deterrence.
Every public mass shooting ends the same way, the arrival of another gun on the scene. A “good guy with a gun,” be it professional law enforcement or armed citizen. Unfortunately, society as a whole tends to shy away from personal responsibility and being that deterrent. Depending on how you crunch the numbers and what time frame you look at, 86-98% of PUBLIC mass shootings occur in gun-free zones. Where there is no deterrent, no chance of resistance until the police arrive.
Do we need more laws or more effective enforcement of existing laws? Do we need less guns or more people exercising their right to keep and bear arms? How about improving mental health services?
All in all, the number one thing we can do to prevent or reduce mass shootings is to reconnect and human beings. Mental health, financial difficulties, domestic violence, romantic or familial difficulties all are significant contributing factors to violent, murderous lashing out. Personal connections can help address ALL of those factors. Not social media connections, but personal connections. Face to face, eye to eye, connections where we really see, hear and speak honestly to each other. It is a matter of personal responsibility, WE have to take it on ourselves to make, build and maintain those connections. Then, and only then, will the warning signs be caught and addressed early, before it escalates to tragedy. It is not something we can pawn off on government or expect someone else to take care of or delude ourselves into believing “nobody I know would do something like that.”
We don’t need to “do something,” we need to work on doing the Right Things. Personally, socially and legislatively working together to do it right AND protect the freedom and liberty that defines us as Americans.