Sometimes the Republican Party inadvertently gets it right.
Such is the case with the shooting last week at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Lakeland, Fla. Instead of blaming the ridiculously easy access Nikolas Cruz, the accused killer, had to guns, including assault-style rifles like the AR-15, the GOP blamed the FBI and the Florida Department of Children and Families for the tragedy.
By complaining that the FBI, in particular, should have done more to stop the shooter, Gov. Rick Scott and President Trump are subtly suggesting — and this is where they get it right — that law enforcement officials, and even social service agencies, should have the power to block suspicious individuals from buying guns. And if those agencies’ assessments of an individual suggests that he might be seriously considering an attack, police and social workers should have the power to confiscate his guns as well.
Republican leaders, and their surrogates on TV, pointed out that the FBI did not investigate a tip it received on Jan. 5, when a person close to Cruz told the bureau about Cruz’s “desire to kill people, erratic behavior and disturbing social media posts.” It was the second tip the FBI received about Cruz in four months, but instead of investigating and potentially thwarting the attack, the bureau let it sit on a desk.
Republican leaders also pointed out that the Florida Department of Children and Families received a tip about Cruz almost a year and a half before the shooting. A social worker visited Cruz and talked with him in his home, but determined that he was not a danger to himself or anybody else, an assessment we now know was terribly wrong.
In their zeal to keep guns out of the conversation at all cost, the GOP has accused the FBI and the Florida Department of Children and Families of incompetence. Scott called for FBI Director Christopher Wray’s resignation on Friday, saying, “Seventeen innocent people are dead and acknowledging a mistake isn’t going to cut it.”
And, over the weekend, President Trump added on Twitter, “Very sad that the FBI missed all of the many signals sent out by the Florida school shooter. This is not acceptable. They are spending too much time trying to prove Russian collusion with the Trump campaign — there is no collusion. Get back to the basics and make us all proud!”
Gov. Scott and President Trump are not suggesting that the FBI or the Florida Department of Children and Families should have the power to pre-emptively arrest suspicious individuals before they commit a crime. But they are suggesting they should have the power to disarm them and limit the damage they might cause.
I know this sounds unusual, but all of us should support President Trump and Gov. Scott for their bold leadership on this issue: That is, for putting the safety of our children above the special interests of certain gun owners who believe that any form of gun control is a violation of their God-given, constitutional rights.
And we need to do it quickly, too, before the National Rifle Association comes out of hiding — after another week or so has gone by, out of respect for the victims, of course — and not so gently points out the implications of what President Trump and Gov. Scott, in their eagerness to leave guns out of the conversation, have inadvertently endorsed.
Originally pubkished in the San Francisco Chronicle: https://www.sfchronicle.com/opinion/openforum/article/Trump-Scott-are-right-on-blocking-gun-sales-12628422.php