Warning Signs

This past week our society suffered the latest in what has now become one of America’s most distinctive peculiarities — the periodic mass shootings of children in schools. There is certainly no question that this repeating tragedy distinguishes our United States from all other developed nations.

Yes, I know that other advanced countries have had incidents where a deranged shooter has killed a crowd of innocents. But those events have been few and far between. (The last time there was a shooting massacre in a school in Great Britain was 22 years ago. – The time between last week’s Parkland shooting and a prior U.S. school shooting was 3 months!)

Our United States is one of the most developed civilizations in history. And yet, our democracy can’t ensure that our children feel safe from being murdered in their classrooms. Every American should view this fact as unacceptable. But it seems that the level of enthusiasm for exploring ways to curb these recurring slaughters varies considerably between our citizenry and our lawmakers.

The only new bright spot in this grim scenario has been the inspiring reaction of the students of Parkland High School and their young peers nationwide. These students are stating their position on gun violence using language that adults in power have been afraid to use. Words like, “gun control” and “Shame on you, NRA.”

Their language is clear eyed. Demanding specific action. It is logical as well as passionate and spoken in some cases as the first-hand knowledge of a victim. They are calling out the Congressional hypocrites who are only willing to offer “thoughts and prayers” but no substantive legislative action. Of course the students are already getting push back from the NRA and their right-wing lackeys. Michael Medved characterized spokesperson Emma Gonzalez as a hysterical teenage girl. And fellow student David Hamm has been described as a coached Democratic “plant.”

I thought that after Sandy Hook, the direct contact of grieving parents with members of Congress would turn the tide. I was proven naïve. But maybe, just maybe, these intelligent, articulate kids with their youthful energy and honest sincerity will be the ones who finally force some responsible action from U.S. legislators and the White House. 

One piece of that youth initiative should be the registration of several million new 18-year-old potential voters before this fall’s elections. Registering those youths (in Illinois that includes 17 year olds who will turn 18 by November 6, 2018) should receive a high priority. Their votes, combined with the votes of millions of fired up American women can regain a Congress controlled by responsive Democrats. (They better be responsive or they’ll only last one term.)

I did see today that President Trump has directed the Justice Department to develop regulations to ban bump stocks. That action, albeit begrudging, is progress. However, the AR-15 rifle was designed to critically maim and kill enemy combatants. No one with half a brain can seriously believe that banning the availability of bump stocks will turn a powerful military weapon into a benign piece of sports gear simply used for fun on the firing range. Most of the NRA’s defenders, know better.

Another action endorsed by Republicans is the establishment of better procedures for spotting “warning signs” before a shooting occurs. I certainly agree that much more support should be provided for programs and personnel aimed at identifying psychologically troubled and mentally unbalanced students– as well as citizens in general — who without help might become a danger to the public.

It seems logical to me that, following this new appreciation for warning sign sensitivity, Congress should now finally start recognizing some warning signs that they’ve been receiving for years. You could say the first sign occurred way back in 1966 at the University of Texas with the Texas Tower sniper. (That massacre was followed a few months later by the “copycat” shooting of five random women in a Beauty Salon in Mesa Arizona.) It was ten year before the next school shooting happened. Then, although there were hundreds of individual shooting deaths in the interim, the next school shooting didn’t occur until 1989.

After that, school shootings happened (sometimes more than one) in 1991,1998, 1999, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2017, and 2018. Do ya think maybe there was a warning sign our legislators should have spotted.

Actually, the more I think about this warning sign business, the more I can see its value beyond school safety. With that in mind, I’ve developed a profiling tool you are welcome to use to identify dangerous nuts among us. We should be on the lookout for anyone exhibiting these traits:

— Oblivious to standards of right and wrong
— Unable to differentiate lies from truth, facts from fantasy
— A blustering bully
— A narcissistic pleasure seeker
— A lying braggart
— Incapable of empathy for fellow human beings
— Oblivious to the suffering his actions may cause
— Hyper sensitive with a tendency to lash out at perceived enemies
— A record of sexual predation and occasional assaults

— Fascinated by powerful weaponry that can cause immense loss of life

If you have observed any person displaying these traits, I urge you to contact your nearest FBI office so they can begin keeping an eye on that obviously dangerous person. — Oh wait! I think that’s already happening. A fellow named Robert Mueller is on the case.

What an interesting country we live in.

Nels Howard
NTDO member since 1973

P.S. If you know someone who is 18 or will be 18 by March 6, 2018 (including yourself) please be sure to help them become a registered voter. The information for voter registration can be found on the web at this address: https://www.usa.gov/voter-registration. For voter registration information specific to Cook County, check out our webpage.