Everything that happened in Florida that led to the horrific shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School is a lesson in leadership, or the lack of it. And solutions that focus on laws instead of leadership are bound to fail. The disgraced Broward County sheriff, Scott Israel, whose office repeatedly ignored pleas to arrest the killer before the massacre and told officers at the scene to stand down, deserves much of the blame for the mishandling of the Parkland shooter.
The school resource officer who refused to do his duty and protect the children in that school when he heard them being gunned down was Israel’s responsibility. But Israel passed the buck. The deputy sheriff who told officers not to charge into the building to stop the shooter was Israel’s responsibility. He passed that buck, too. His office was repeatedly told prior to the shooting that the individual responsible was a violent threat to the community. Israel ignored that as well.
When Israel appeared on a CNN town hall after the shooting and was given the opportunity to take responsibility for his actions, he blamed the National Rifle Association. And when it was suggested that perhaps teachers be allowed to defend themselves and their students with firearms in the event that police failed to properly respond to an active shooter, the coward from Broward panned the idea, saying that was the job of the police, not teachers. If that’s the case, why did his police officers fail to do their jobs?
Israel sang a different tune when it came to mosques. He personally approved the hiring of Nezar Hamze, who moonlighted as a paid representative of the Council on Islamic-American Relations (CAIR), an unindicted co-conspirator in a sprawling federal law enforcement investigation of Hamas and other terrorist organizations. With Israel’s blessing, Hamze reportedly encouraged mosque-goers to carry concealed weapons and return fire if necessary. Israel never explained why preachers should have special self-defense rights that aren’t available to teachers.
And if all that weren’t enough, several SWAT officers were reprimanded for running toward the sound of gunfire in order to help save lives. That’s right: They were punished for doing what Israel and his team refused to do. Israel’s office even told reporters that the SWAT officers who rushed to help were “not needed.”
Our nation’s violence problems, however, are bigger than the leadership failures of one person.
America Isn’t facing An AR-15 Crisis, It’s Facing A Leadership Crisis
This brings us to some of the proposals to change various laws to address what happened in Parkland. One of the ideas circulating is to “fix” the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS). If I thought it was possible to wave a magic wand and fix the illegal gun violence problem overnight by tweaking NICS, you could count on my support. Unfortunately, that’s not the case. Would the NICS bill end gun violence in the killing fields of Chicago, or Baltimore, or Washington, D.C., where legal gun ownership is strictly limited by law? Of course not. Since 2001, more Americans have been killed in Chicago alone than in the wars of Iraq and Afghanistan combined.
Yet for some reason, we’ve convinced ourselves that gun-free zones and legal tweaks like the bill to “fix” NICS are the solution to the nation’s violence problem. When I was in the Army, we used to say that “friendly fire isn’t.” The same is true of gun-free zones: gun-free zones aren’t. People who don’t respect life aren’t suddenly going to respect a sign that bans guns.
This nation doesn’t need gun control, or legal tweaks, or feel-good marches on Washington. We need leaders in government, in our communities, and in our families who are willing to do and say what’s right. We all need to take responsibility for our failures to raise a generation that values the sanctity of human life. This nation isn’t facing an AR-15 crisis; it’s facing a family and community and leadership crisis.
We need to pay attention when little Johnny seems to have mental health issues, or anger issues, or has immersed himself in the imaginary gaming world where killing is so easy. As men and husbands and fathers, we need to stand up and lead our families by example. We need to teach our sons to be accountable for their actions. We need to teach our boys to explore the outdoors, to hunt and fish, to play sports, to be involved in their communities. We must take them to church and teach them to love God and their neighbors. We have to encourage them to learn history, to talk with us at the dinner table. We have to turn off the television and put down our phones and be present with our kids. We have to raise our boys to be men who understand what it means to be responsible and accountable.
A new law or two cannot accomplish that task. Only moms and dads working together can accomplish it. Better leadership, not new laws, is the only thing that can stop this epidemic of violence. The solution isn’t a fixed NICS. The solution is getting America back to being America, where we look out for each other, defend the weak, and help the needy. We need to focus on teaching right from wrong, loving each other, and treating each other with respect. This nation doesn’t need new laws. We need better leadership.