In the days after the Sept. 11, 2001 terror attacks, we didn’t call for a moratorium on airplane or box cutter manufacturing or skyscraper construction. We ordered the people empowered to protect our country to hunt down and, if necessary, kill the people responsible for the slaughter of 2,977 people.
We must take the same approach to ending America’s mass shooting problem. We must label mass shootings as domestic terrorism and hunt down domestic terrorists the same way we hunted down international terrorists determined to kill Americans abroad and in our communities.
We can’t rely on politicians at the local, state or national level to end mass shootings. People in elected office have shown for years, even decades, that they are more interested in finger pointing and drowning each other out with rhetoric than they are in agreeing on unified solutions to gun control and protecting Americans from mass shooters.
If there was really, honestly a political solution to ending mass shootings, it would have been forged years ago.
I am pro-gun ownership. I think it should be much more difficult to obtain a high-capacity, rapid-fire assault weapon than it is to get a driver’s license or buy legal marijuana. But an assault weapon, any weapon, in the hands of a sane person who knows how to safely handle firearms is about as lethal as a garden hose.
I grew up surrounded by guns. My father owned a .22-caliber, bolt-action target rifle and a Model 1911 .45-caliber pistol. I learned how to fire both weapons before I was 15 years old and my dad taught me how to field strip the .45.
My grandfather owned a rack-full of hunting rifles and shotguns and a seven-shot .22-caliber pistol that my brother and I routinely liked to take out of his desk when we visited his house.
I never remember even for a second contemplating taking one of those guns and killing someone with it.
In that regard, I am like the vast majority of Americans who also respect and appreciate police officers and military personnel who are trained and entrusted to legally carry and, if necessary, use firearms. I take every opportunity I can to thank them for keeping my family and my country safe.
Our response to mass shootings has got to be expanded beyond telling our kids to pile desks in front of their classroom door or hide in Applebee’s kitchen if they hear a sound like firecrackers igniting in their school or in the mall.
We must quintuple the amount of money we give mental health and law enforcement professionals to do their job. We must take a proactive approach to mental health that includes identifying people displaying violent tendencies and getting them the help they need. Mentally imbalanced people who resist treatment or who are deemed a threat to people around them need to be confined in a safe environment.
My family has not been immune to mental health problems. I am very familiar with the fact that mentally ill people more often harm themselves than someone else. But we have to give mental health workers and cops the ability to identify the Adam Lanzas in our society and lock them up. Period.
It is encouraging to see schools in Swampscott and other communities take an expanded approach to social and emotional health. Tying a student’s mental health to academic performance is an important first step to erasing the remaining stigmas surrounding mental health.
Ensuring that everyone in our society who needs it receives an accurate mental health diagnosis and treatment is a responsibility we all share. We all have a role to play in helping someone who we feel is socially isolated, acting odd, or displaying disturbing characteristics get the help they need. We can’t continue to stand around and say, “Hey, I didn’t think it was any of my business.”
In turn, we must demand elected officials allocate the money required to fully fund mental health. We cannot allow people in need of mental health care to fall through the cracks and go undiagnosed or untreated.
We also need to begin policing the Internet. People who occupy dark, hate-filled online corners need to be effectively investigated by law enforcement and, if they pose a credible threat, arrested and incarcerated.
Let me sum up my viewpoint by returning to Sept. 11. Only the most naive and detached American fails to understand that we have thwarted attacks on the scale of the 2001 murders by hunting down terrorists and by stepping up domestic surveillance.
Buy an airline ticket and you instantly trigger a cursory, sometimes more in depth, probe into your life with the aim of determining if you pose a terror threat. This is only one surveillance method in force to keep our country safe and we must allow law enforcement to add other methods aimed at identifying individuals who are on their way to committing a mass shooting.
Lastly, we all have a responsibility to get trained in active shooting scenarios. Every business, church, organization, institution should receive public money to sponsor trainings. Each and every American should practice 360-degree situational awareness and, as we have been told time and time again, we must say something if we see something.
We can prevent mass shootings, but turning to politicians with the faint hope of banning gun sales while we buy bullet-proof backpacks for our kids is not the answer.