The failure to protect and serve

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 The uproarious debate around gun control misses the real target of the law enforcement who failed to act when they were most needed


No one reasonable will deny that the United States has issues with gun control. Mass shootings are all too common an occurrence for such a belief to be held as reasonable. But the answer does not lie in bans, stricter controls or new legislation.

There already exists a gun control system in our country made to keep guns out of the hands of unstable people who would use them for acts of violence, rather than collection, hunting or self-defense.

People cannot just walk into a store and buy any old gun. In addition to the federal laws regarding obtaining a federal firearms license for gun dealers, in Washington state, dealers must also record and report all retail pistol sales to local police and to the state Department of Licensing.  Lengthy background checks are required for public and private sales of firearms.  Washington state also has a “red flag law,” which allows police to temporarily take away guns from people a judge deems as a threat to themselves or others. Machine guns and short-barreled shotguns are illegal in the state, too.

Often, people are quick to point to other countries with stricter gun laws, or ones that have even outlawed guns entirely, such as Australia. What these arguments don’t take into account is the United States’ history and culture regarding guns, largely as a country which gained independence through armed rebellion. And it doesn’t mean guns don’t exist in those countries, either. Australia may not have had any mass shootings since the outlaw, but gun violence still exists, largely through black market sales, not unlike the American Prohibition era.

The real problem with gun control on a state and federal level is in regards to this already existing system.  This system is flawed, not due to a lack of legislation, but rather a lack of oversight, communication and human error where, with peoples’ lives on the line, there should be none.

A major example is the recent school shooting in Florida, where Nikolas Cruz shot and killed 17 people.  The police and the FBI received dozens of tips and worried calls from people who knew Cruz, regarding his behavior, social media posts and apparent stockpiling of weapons. There were visits from social services to his home. One call even from Cruz, who was struggling with the recent death of his mother. Despite these signs, neither the police nor the FBI decided to investigate.

In 2009, Devin Patrick Kelley killed 26 in a Texas church shooting.  Kelley had previously been court-martialed and discharged from the Air Force for bad conduct due to multiple counts of assault on his wife and stepson. Federal law prohibits those who have been dishonorably discharged from purchasing firearms, but does not include a blanket prohibition on those who have received a bad conduct discharge. However, Texas and federal law does prevent those with domestic violence convictions from owning firearms.  In such cases, the military is supposed to report to the FBI, but it is unclear if it actually did. While Kelley did not own a license to carry firearms, he did undergo a criminal background check for the position of a security guard and was cleared.

Both of these cases are ones where state and federal authorities should have acted and lives could have been saved, but for whatever reason, they chose not to, despite histories of violence and unstable behaviors.

It is not the law that has failed, but the undertrained, undereducated people who are supposed to enforce it.