Over the past few months America -- and now, unfortunately, Florida -- has witnessed horrific mass killings by individuals who have adopted violence as a way to advertise their allegiance to ISIS or enshrine themselves in infamy.
Yet, mainstream television stations and Democrats, by and large, have attempted to turn these tragedies into a debate about guns because they can’t help themselves waste a good tragedy to advance their favorite cause.
To wit: Leave us all helpless and unarmed so that only criminals and terrorists will have guns, and trust me, they will get their guns.
How simple-minded these people really are.
They just don’t get it. Quit trying to score political points and let’s talk frankly about the issue no one wants to talk about.
This isn’t about guns. When people are deliberately shot to death, it shouldn’t really be about how they’re killed; it should be about why they’re being killed.
The simple truth is, putting aside the terrorist for a moment, many of these individuals have serious mental health issues.
We need to be focusing on the root cause of our problem, which is that too many people in our society have mental health concerns that aren't being properly addressed.
Whether the person is just a little off or they make occasional threatening statements or they’re introverted loners or not taking their meds when they should, we have to figure out how to fix this.
The Florida Legislature, after two years of exhaustive groundwork, just passed two months ago pioneering legislation that will take our state in the right direction by creating a treatment framework called “No Wrong Door.”
That is, regardless of how a person becomes identified, through the criminal justice system, by referral from school guidance counselors or colleges, or a returning veteran suffering from PTSD, we now know that if we can intervene in a timely fashion with the appropriate services, we can help most of these people cope with their demons.
In reality, every county jail in Florida is that county’s largest mental health provider.
Not because they want to, but because they have to.
The same is true for our state prisons. The Florida Department of Corrections (FDC) is the single largest provider of services to felons who have mental health issues.
And the problem is growing exponentially.
To make matters worse, law enforcement officers and correctional officers aren’t trained mental health professionals. Yet the Florida Legislature again, at the behest of the Florida Sheriffs Association, has started funding Crisis Intervention Training (CIT) for select law enforcement officers.
Other funding has also been made available to FDC so that their officers can understand the nuances of how to “handle” someone with mental health problems.
Officers are now being trained to understand and appreciate that in some cases it’s better not to even touch some individuals physically because their reaction will only make the situation worse, especially for someone diagnosed within the autistic spectrum.
It could mean the difference between a “domestic” disturbance and something that turns into an unnecessarily violent one.
But training law enforcement officers obviously isn’t enough.
Each of us has to become more aware of other people’s comments on social websites like Facebook, and Facebook also has an obligation, even under free speech, to monitor probably through sophisticated algorithms, key words that could provide an advance signal of future violent acts.
I fully understand that some people will rebel at this thought because it’s Big Brother watching us. But if we’re going to propagate a system where anyone, anytime, can say anything, then there needs to be a corresponding commitment to try to avert these inexcusable violent acts.
On the other hand, as for terrorists, we need to be ever more vigilant and we have to redouble our efforts to teach everyone that “If you see something, say something.”
In some of the killings, we’re learning there were indeed subtle telltale signs. But there was no clear pattern to them and no one agency has the unlimited resources to keep track of all of these disparate acts.
This is why I’ve been supportive of governments' Big Data haul, because the only way to know about potential future acts of domestic terrorism is to comb the World Wide Web, cellphone calls, tweets, Facebook, etc. to discern what is being contemplated.
Sure, they’re going to capture a lot of personal information that has nothing to do with terrorism; but because of the volume of data, the only way to find the proverbial “needle in a haystack” is to go through the entire haystack.
What protects our privacy is that the data haul is so huge, government only has the time and resources to look for signs of violent actions.
Our government has the tools to accomplish this, but once it became known, privacy activists howled until it was shut down.
We can’t afford to let personal rights, in my opinion, trump national security concerns.
The ultimate threat isn’t from an ISIS-lover using an AK-47 to massacre innocent people; it’s from a terrorist building homemade bombs, or dirty bombs, or a tactical nuclear bomb, or putting poisons into our water supply.
So we can ban the guns as the lefties want. But don’t believe for a second this will stop the killings.
Criminals, terrorists, mentally ill people will still have too many ways to get their hands on a gun.
And if they can’t get a gun, if they’re committed and so many of them unfortunately are, they’ll simply turn to other destructive methods just like the Oklahoma City bomber, the Unabomber or the Boston Marathon bomber did.
Appropriate mental health treatment, a vigilant society, a government that can collect massive data to identify targets -- those things represent our best hope, perhaps our only hope.
Barney Bishop III is a serial entrepreneur, a conservative Democrat who believes that the cornerstone of our democracy and our freedom is a strong and vibrant private enterprise system. He can be reached at Barney@BarneyBishop.com