We’ve already seen repeated calls for gun control in regards to yesterday’s shooting at Old National Bank in Louisville KY. It is the same tired refrain we’ve heard before, and we will hear again, when a person with no known flaggable background attacks people after a triggering event. Disgruntled employee or former employee is one of the highest risks any location has for workplace violence.
So surely gun control? Right? We should have red flagged this man.
That is, how we say, a slippery slope.
All indications we have are that the shooter was intelligent, polite, no prior history with police, was educated (bachelor and master programs simultaneously) and was otherwise a very normal person with normal struggles working his way into modern society. I work with half a dozen of these young college educated men and women.
So how do we reduce the likelihood of a repeat event?
No, don’t give me ban ‘assault weapons’ again. It’s a childish argument from an emotional source.
I and numerous others have gone on ad nauseum about how that won’t work, it is a waste of efforts, has significant secondary negative impacts, and is a violation of everyone’s rights to try. We aren’t going to vanish tens of millions of semi-auto rifles (and not even touch handguns which are 77% of crime guns) by passing a law. Even if we could, we can’t, but if we could vanish them upon signing a law, doing so wouldn’t shift the available method of injury index enough to matter.
Termination of employment, expulsion, or disciplinary action is a known triggering event and workplace/school safety policies for management tend to mention it, at least in passing, when an employee or student is let go. Most retaliatory actions, when there are any, tend to take the form of negative reviews or vandalism of some manner and not escalate to lethal violence. But there are many documented instances
So how does one go about filtering the mass shooters out from the *f*ck this place, it sucks!* online review leaver types, especially in a circumstance like this one where the attacker didn’t give off any pre-violence indicators and was not in any way a prohibited person. Prior to this act of retaliation for his termination he was a model citizen.
The most obvious answer to this vexing question is a troublesome one, you flag everyone who gets fired. Everybody who is ever terminated from their job gets flagged. You add a question onto 4473s that asks, “Have you been terminated involuntarily from your job in the last 30, 60, 90 days?” You notify local police of terminations and they schedule a house visit to take temporary custody of firearms for those 30, 60, or 90 days.
If all this sounds like a nightmare that could never possibly work, that violates the rights of those recently terminated from employment for non-criminal reasons, and that would add additional stress and increase the likelihood of a triggering event occuring by harassing the terminated employees… well, you’d be right. All of those are significant negative downsides to ‘red flagging’ an exiting employee to try and lower the chances one comes back for retribution. The solution actively exacerbates the problem.
Even if employers could file a specific report, which they already can if there is any evidence the employee is a risk, all of that takes processing time, resources, and does nothing to truly inhibit (merely inconvenience) a motivated person from attacking their former school or job. This is further complicated by a lack of notable pre-assault indicators, all the screens can fail and they are most likely to fail for those most motivated to circumvent them. The most likely to circumvent them are the highest risk group.
We don’t have pre-crime. There is no accurate way to pluck future killers who have done nothing wrong from the general population who have done nothing wrong.
So an assault weapon ban is out, probably illegal and truly impractical. Red Flag laws aren’t going to be of any more help or any quicker about it than they already are. Additionally, the first instance a ERPO is used and someone it is used against ends up injured or dead for not being able to protect themselves there is going to be a new series of referendums that eat up more law hours on the constitutionality of the ERPO and the limits on them.
What to do
First, we stop pretending there is a law we can pass that will make these already illegal and immoral acts just enough more illegal and immoral that they won’t happen anymore. Gun control is one of the greatest Utopian delusions of our time, that we can prevent the most extreme examples of retributive human behavior by making it slightly less convenient.
The harder and more effective path remains shifting the social conscious of the nation, more specifically the various factions of society who feel threatened, into a more content and peaceable status quo. This is hardest, and most effective, because it cannot happen quickly and is easy to lose progress on. One of the key components, one that is sorely lacking, is trust. Especially trust in our political rivals, those whom we disagree with but would in better circumstance still be trusted to hold the offices and execute the duties of the office with diligence. We lack that. We lack that and we lack the ability outside our political circles too. Political broad stroking as part of how we construct our social circles and social interactions has infected most ways of how we interact with each other. There is nothing easy about this, but it will result in the most appreciable long term gains in safety and societal contentment while leaving people largely to their own cognisance.