I do not believe this Sheriff is calling for something we can legitimately authorize. Even he admits that it violates rights. “People are going to be rightfully so concerned about their rights, as am I, but what about the rights of these students?” Everyone, not just the students, has a right not to be murdered. What people are really looking for is protection from the state. But, they have that. Problem is, that will never cover 100%. There is always going to be those who violate the law and slip between the net. What people really need is the ability to protect themselves. Only you are always where you are. That sounds funny on the face of it, but it’s true. “Why is there never a cop around when you need one?” has a simple answer, you don’t get a personal body-guard that follows you around. There isn’t a one to one ratio of cops to people so they can’t be everywhere at all times that you might need them. But you, you’re always where you are. Security falls to you.
As for what the sheriff is asking for, the ability to grab people and force them into mental evaluation based on the content of what they post online, well, that’s a huge stretch. For one thing it is subjective. A lot of people, especially those who ascribe to a gangster or thug sub-culture post themselves with guns. That doesn’t mean they are going to use them, they are a prop.
Posting a video on YouTube that you are going to become a school shooter is enough to get you spoken with and a report filed. But is it enough to take away your freedom and force you into evaluation? Even if we did that, would that evaluation really be able to determine the likelihood you will become a school shooter? Such people are incredibly good at fabricating sanity.
The FBI knew about this fellow. We don’t know if they spoke with him or if they notified local law enforcement about him and if they did we don’t know if local law enforcement went out and spoke with him. But we do know they knew about him. They didn’t, couldn’t or wouldn’t protect people from him. Not because they lacked the authority, but because he had not done anything wrong. He was suspicious to be sure but that’s not the same. We can’t authorize arrest of persons for suspicious behavior. In fact we’ve gone through great pains to make sure that doesn’t happen.
Threats are already illegal. However, they must be specific and targeted and the person has to have the ability to carry them out. As far as we know Cruz didn’t specify a school, a day, a person, or any of the other criteria required for a threat to be actionable.
I understand the sheriff’s angst and feeling of helplessness but I cannot translate that into giving him the power to arrest someone for saying something non-specific and un-targeted.
When we shed ourselves of the emotion that understandably follows such an event as this and we really think about it logically, the answer isn’t more power to the state, it’s more power to the individual to protect themselves. Does that mean letting students carry guns to school? It doesn’t have to. Teachers can. Or perhaps a school version of an air marshal could. But even then they can’t be everywhere in the school.
Does it mean making guns illegal? No, because that isn’t going to prevent anything. Again, the person who is willing to murder two dozen innocent people in cold blood isn’t going to be prevented by a law as he clearly isn’t concerned with law. If he’s not concerned with human life, why on earth would people think he’s concerned with the law?
The county sheriff in charge of investigating the mass school shooting in Parkland, Florida, pleaded with lawmakers on Thursday to give police and doctors more power to involuntarily hospitalize people for psychiatric evaluation over violent and threatening social media posts.