Yesterday we were treated to a spate of reports covering the arrest of suspected mass shooters in Connecticut, Florida and Ohio. The incidents were unrelated, but all three suspects were arrested either because they made digital threats or had tried to purchase mass-shooting equipment online. What appears to have been the key ingredient in all three episodes was a heightened awareness of mass shooting possibilities by law enforcement agencies both at the local, state and digital levels.
Yesterday I also received an email from a gun-control advocacy group alerting me to the September 25th hearing on the national assault weapons ban (H.R. 1296) before the House Judiciary Committee. The bill has picked up 201 co-sponsors; it goes without saying that not a single member of the GOP House delegation appears on the co-sponsor list.
I’m going to pause my current-day narrative for a moment and go back in time. Some may recall that a wave of arson which destroyed more than 145 Black churches in the rural South crested during the 1990’s and then abruptly came to an end. It’s still not clear to what extent these attacks were coordinated throughout nine Southern states, but we do know how the problem was ultimately solved.
In June, 1996 the feds created a National Church Arson Task Force (NCATF) under the leadership of the ATF. This was accompanied by the passage of a law, the Church Arson Prevention Act, which funded a multi-jurisdictional effort coordinating federal, state and local law enforcement agencies. In two years this effort, based on 670 separate investigations, resulted in 308 arrests and 235 convictions, including the arrest of 119 juveniles. In the years which followed, there was almost a complete disappearance of Church vandalism, both for Black and non-Black houses of worship.
I am beginning to think that in a less-organized or formal fashion, the same degree of cooperation and diligence may be at work in the arrests of these mass-shooting wannabes over the last several days. What is clearly happening, and it happened in the church burnings back in the 1990’s, was a similar copy-cat behavior which spread from place to place, from dope to dope, from messed-up kid to messed-up kid. It can’t be coincidence that the three young men arrested for possibly planning mass shootings were all in their early 20’s, were all in some way or another attracted to racialist beliefs, were all trying to attract attention to themselves through posts on various social media sites.
Which brings me to a question that I need to ask my Gun-control Nation friends: Why do you think that an assault weapons ban that does not include a buyback will work better than setting up a national task force on mass shootings like the task force that was created in response to church burnings all over the South? One of the first things that the NCATF did was to create and publicize an 800 number which anyone could call with information about a threat, said information was then routed to the appropriate law enforcement agency along with follow-up monitoring by the NCATF group itself. Remember the law enforcement response to a phone tip about the guy who then murdered and wounded 34 teachers and students at Stoneman High? There was no response.
I’m not trying to disparage or in any way undermine the efforts of dedicated, devoted activists who are trying to promote a national assault weapons ban. I have made it clear again and again that these man-killing products are simply not (read: not) sporting or hunting guns. But I also don’t understand the reluctance of Gun-control Nation to enlist the support and cooperation of law enforcement agencies who, after all, happen to exist for the purpose of preventing crimes. And the last time I checked, shooting up a school or any other public space happens to be a crime.
As far as I’m concerned, every strategy to reduce or prevent any kind of criminal gun violence needs the cops to be in charge.