Buss: Don’t reward government for its failure

Kaitlyn Buss
The Detroit News

Marchers at the recent March for Our Lives and many others argue more government authority over firearms is the panacea for gun violence. But as our government continues to fail us — from Texas to Florida to YouTube — it becomes harder to justify giving it more power.

Guns should belong only to the police and the military, claimed students from the Parkland shooting who helped organize the march. Law enforcement should have the power to take supposedly mentally ill individuals and consign them to asylums, students cheered at the CNN town hall held after the Florida shooting. We should strip ourselves of our Constitutional right to self-defense through gun ownership, say advocates of repealing the Second Amendment.

What these arguments amount to is nothing more than a reward for the gaggle of government agencies and officials who continue to fail. And a threat to our individual freedoms.

In Southland Springs, Texas, last year, the Department of Defense and Air Force never sent the prior arrest, conviction and discharge records to the FBI — a requirement by law — for shooter Devin Patrick Kelley. That would have likely stopped him from legally purchasing a firearm and killing 26 churchgoers.

In Parkland, local police failed to cohesively track numerous reports about the shooter, Nikolas Cruz, virtually all of which could have given them the power to monitor him or take away his gun under existing state law. The school resource officer, also a deputy sheriff, failed to go in and try to stop the shooter for four minutes, during which most of the deaths happened. And the FBI failed to follow up on numerous tips about the shooter. None of those agencies communicated in an effective way to build a preemptive case against Cruz, which could have prevented the shooting.

And on YouTube’s campus this week, the government seems to have failed again. Cops were told by the shooter’s father that shooter Nasim Aghdam was missing and could be near YouTube’s campus. When her car was found in Mountain View — 700 miles from home and near YouTube — the police deemed her not to be a threat. But her brother said he then called police to warn them directly about a threat to YouTube.

Why, then, should the response to shootings be to give those agencies even more power, either explicitly or by scaling back our own individual rights?

Despite the narrative that a majority of Americans now want stronger gun control measures, many Americans aren’t convinced that is the answer. A Rasmussen Report from late February shows 54 percent of adults believe it was the failure of government agencies to respond to “numerous” warning signs that enabled Parkland, not access to guns.

But even for those who do want stricter gun control laws, a majority of respondents across all political parties don’t trust the government to fairly enforce them.

“Fairly” is only one issue. “Competently” is another.

Government is made up of people — people who aren’t perfect. No matter their best intentions, they’re capable of error. And those errors can leave you open to possible harm or death.

Gun control advocates argue that more laws would eliminate the possibility of that shooting altogether. But there are 300 million guns in America today, and 3-D printing makes it possible for that number to grow completely under the radar. There is no practical way to round those guns up, even if it were legal.

It’s nice to think if only the police had guns, only “good” people would be able to shoot and bad people wouldn’t. But these measures would take away guns from law-abiding citizens, as if a would-be criminal intent on harm cares about gun laws. And police brutality has been a national issue in recent years just as much as mass shootings. To empower the cops further by limiting our own rights is not the answer.

In Michigan there was a 25 percent increase in concealed pistol licenses from December 2016 to February this year, according to Michigan State Police data. That was before Parkland, but it’s a sign not all Americans are on board with the notion that someone else should — or will — defend them.

That responsibility more often than not lies with each of us, whether or not we like it.