Laws Punish---Not Prevent

Bill Neinast

Here is an easy one.  What would you do to preclude a recurrence of the following scenario?

A 16 year old honor student gets high on some drugs he got from a classmate in the school parking lot.  On the way home, he sees a car idling in the front of a convenience store.  Too lazy to walk home, he jumps in the car and drives off.  As he drives by a bank, he notices a pistol on the console beside him.  He thinks, “Hey, I need some cash for some more drugs.”  So he turns around, goes in the bank with the pistol and robs a teller of several thousand dollars.  On his way out the door, he takes two young women with him as hostages.  He promptly kills one of the women and dumps her out of the car.  He drives into a wooded area across the state line before he rapes, kills, and dumps the second woman.  A short while later, he realizes what he has done, gets remorseful, and commits suicide.

So what is your solution?  How will you prevent a recurrence?

If you follow the norm, you will march to the capitol in Austin and demand that the legislature pass laws to keep any of this from happening again.

As anticipated, that is exactly what happened after the tragedy in Santa Fe Friday.  The protest covered on TV Saturday, however, was not in Austin.  It was another state capitol that I cannot recall.  The chants, however, were the same as always.  There have to be laws to prevent this type of murder.

One of the protestors who was interviewed said that if the legislators did not do something before they adjourned to prevent tragedies like those in Santa Fe, they would regret it on election day.  

Those remarks were made Saturday.  That legislature was scheduled for adjournment on Monday and could not consider any legislation after midnight, Sunday.

That is the best illustration possible of the prevailing lack of knowledge of law and how the government works.  Moreover, there was not even a hint from this protestor of what laws were needed to prevent another Santa Fe.

This is just a long, rambling way of saying there are already multiple laws on the books to prevent what happened at Santa Fe.  Laws, though, do not prevent crime. They just make it possible to punish those who violate or break the law.

As illustrated by that ridiculous paragraph above, there is a long list of specific laws prohibiting every act taken by that teenager.  

The same is true of the situation in Santa Fe.  The young man broke the law prohibiting theft when he stole his father’s legally purchased shotgun and pistol.  He then broke another law when he took those weapons onto the gun free zone of a school campus.  He broke the law against murder multiple times when he killed ten students.  Finally, he broke the law against assault with intent to kill when he wounded the other individuals.

So  where is the genius who can propose a law or laws that no one can break that would prevent another Santa Fe tragedy?

There will probably be a chorus of, “Sure!  Just prohibit the ownership of firearms.”  Yep. That’ll do it. No one in his right mind would own a gun if that law were on the books.  

Unlike all the other laws on the books, this one surely would be obeyed by everyone intent on murdering a bunch of students, movies goers, or others.  They would meekly forego using firearms and rely on knives, explosives, or other modes of killing.

Let’s get realistic for a change.  The instruments of death cannot be eliminated from society.  There may be a chance, however, to influence the psyche that guides one to go on a killing rampage.

A good place to start in this broad field is with the media.  The 24 hour coverage of Sutherland Springs, Parkland, and now Santa Fe for days on end gives the killer nationwide notoriety.  His or her name will be emblazoned in history forever.

That provides a tempting straw for someone craving either recognition 0r an opportunity for publicly getting even with bullies who have been tormenting him.  It is very easy to be a copy cat and become recognized throughout the country.

So here’s the perspective.

Is the massacre in Santa Fe really newsworthy outside the immediate area of that community?  Do the residents of Boston and Seattle really need to know or have an interest in every Texas student’s story?

If the media coverage of an individual wreaking havoc in a public gathering were limited to a day or so in the immediate area of the incident, the chances of motivating a copy cat would be severely limited.

Removing a copy cat image or eliminating a blue print for acquiring nationwide recognition might be more effective in preventing recurrences of Santa Fe than another law on gun control.

Unfortunately, however, getting the media to go along with such a curtailing would be more impossible than drafting an effective law on more gun control.

In other words, the 1st Amendment trumps the 2nd.  


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