The Culpability of Law Enforcement in the Parkland Shooting

In the wake of the horrific school shooting in Parkland, Florida, much of the media (along with many concerned Americans) have focused their anger on legislators and lobbyists. The charge is that easy gun access led to the murder of 17 individuals, and that the politicians who’ve protected gun rights, and have received donations from the NRA, have blood on their hands.

More gun control is the reflexive answer for many in response to a mass shooting (even though the proposed measures almost never would have changed the outcome), but in the particular case of Stoneman Douglas High School, it’s difficult to understand why law-enforcement departments aren’t taking at least as much heat as the lawmakers.

Regardless of your position on gun control, the level of negligence (in some instances, incompetence) of those whose job it is to ‘serve and protect’ that community should infuriate you.

We found out early on that the FBI was specifically warned about the shooter (twice), but did nothing. We also learned that Broward County Sheriff’s Office deputies were called to the shooter’s home almost 40 times since 2010. Nothing came of it.

On Thursday, we found out that back in November, BSO was tipped off by an unidentified caller that the Parkland shooter was collecting guns and knives, and that he “will kill himself one day and believes he could be a school shooter in the making.”

BSO didn’t even bother to write up a report for the warning (let alone follow up on it), despite receiving a call just weeks earlier from a family member of the shooter, urging the department to seize the shooter’s weapons.

Last night, we learned that there was an armed resource officer at the school when the shooting commenced. The officer heard what was happening, but waited outside (reportedly out of fear) as students inside were being murdered.

Now, it’s important to understand that hindsight is always 20/20, and that law enforcement officers have only so much legal authority to deal with potential threats prior to an actual crime being committed. One could possibly even find a little bit of empathy for the resource officer, as National Review’s David French relayed on Twitter:

But if we’re looking to cast societal blame, and identify enablers for the actions of the Parkland shooter (which is what a lot of us want to do), it’s lopsided and rather unfair to focus on people like Senator Marco Rubio and NRA representative Dana Loesch (who were mercilessly heckled at CNN’s recent town-hall free-for-all) for advocating for the gun-rights of law-biding citizens.

Neither of them are to blame for the institutional failures of the FBI and BSO to protect the community from an individual they’d been warned about numerous times.

And what kind of man is Sheriff Steve Israel, who sat on the CNN stage at that chaotic town hall event, showboating and portraying politicians and the NRA as villains (for cheers), after his department ignored so many warnings? Mr. Israel even knew at the time that his armed deputy had frozen at the scene, but the sheriff chose not to disclose that information until after the nationally televised event.

You’d think he would have been a bit less smug.

The gun-violence debate is a complex one. The problem is that a lot of people don’t treat it as such, electing instead to focus almost exclusively on the “gun” part of it. And when that happens, the lawmakers are naturally the decided-upon heels.

But what good are more legal protections (or the perception of such) when those whose job it is to enforce current law, and protect communities, fail as miserably as the federal and local agencies did on the Parkland shooter?

Those who always look to government to fix our problems might want to consider that.