I enjoy Yochonon Donn’s writing in Hamodia and agree with many of his views. However, his article, “FBI – Paging the Grown-Ups” in the February 21, 2018 Hamodia Features section, has embedded in it certain misconceptions. First, the article links the FBI’s mishandling of warnings regarding the shooter that led to the horrible Florida school shooting with an FBI obsession on the Moeller probe. The bureaucracy in Washington, D.C. has an old saying, “sorry, that’s not my department.” True, it appears the local FBI office as well as state law enforcement likely displayed ineptness in ignoring warning signs.
However, to say that the 16 or so FBI team members of the Russia probe somehow contributed to a lack of resources for the Florida FBI office, or that the thousands of FBI agents not involved in the Russia probe were so absorbed following the probe that they shirked their day-to-day mission does not sound plausible, and Mr. Donn provides no basis to support that theory.
Second, Mr. Donn points out that the liberals’ ceaseless push for gun control as a cure for school violence is fantasy-based. I have no problem with gun ownership — hand guns and rifles for protection or hunting. However, I draw the line with machine guns and other weapons with no purpose other than mass murder. No, I do not believe that banning AK47s and other machine gun-like weaponry will, alone, solve the tragedy of mass shootings in schools and elsewhere.
A multi-pronged approach to school safety is warranted, just like other complex issues such as border safety. I would not pretend to be an expert on such issues, but a program to minimize the risk of future tragedies could include: (1) earlier identification and communication regarding potential shooters; (2) appropriate mental health assistance; (3) a pilot program that allows weapons-trained teachers (such as ex-military and law enforcement) to carry weapons in schools; (4) a pilot program for gun screening at schools; and (5) a ban on the purchase of machine guns. Even then, the best we can hope is to minimize the risks of future tragedies, but to save lives it is worth it — even if it means a rational and limited incursion on the right to bear arms.
Yosef First, Baltimore, MD
Rabbi Donn responds:
Thank you for your communication and warm words. I’m glad you don’t agree with me on guns — I myself didn’t agree with me until recently when I studied the issue.
Here’s a fact mentioned in the 9/11 Commission’s report on the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks — the FBI’s top focus in 2001 was the war on drugs, even as terrorism crept up on the West. Does that mean that they were taking agents away from counterterrorism work to go after the drug lords? No, it meant that the mindset was in the wrong place for the given time.
The United States has had enough mass shootings these past few years that this should be the focus of the law enforcement agencies. But the leadership is busy with playing president. Why weren’t the dozens of tips about Nikolas Cruz given enough of a priority to inform the Miami office that a killer lurked within their jurisdiction? The answer is that the best agents were off to Adventureland — the special counsel’s investigation into Russia’s meddling in the presidential election. The focus is on the wrong place. Who is the FBI director meeting with these days, the agents on the Russia probe or those out to catch the next mass shooter? The answer, I’m afraid, is the Russia probe agents. It gets more exposure and better press.
It took the 9/11 attacks to wake up the FBI and get them to refocus. Will the Florida tragedy be this generation’s 9/11? So far not. They’re still focused on President Trump. And the media is not putting them on the spot since they’re focused on gun control.
On a side note, I could not care less if Russia meddled or not. It had absolutely no influence on the outcome. What I do know is that countries have been doing it since, um, thousands of years. It’s called espionage. The U.S. does it, and would be remiss if they didn’t. Our job is not to spend millions of dollars placing the FBI’s focus on this nonstory.
As for your suggestions for gun control, I responded to that in a previous letter but I’ll reiterate here — there are some 300 million guns in the country. The number of them that are problematic is so infinitesimal that it makes gun control a non-solution here. Both Florida and the federal government have gun-control laws that were just ignored here, allowing Cruz to lawfully get his weapon. “Strengthening” laws and adding new ones are the liberal reaction to feel that they did something. But it won’t help.
I thought President Trump’s remarks last week were on the mark. He said that the cause of these shootings is the diminished respect people have for the sanctity of life. He blamed violence in the film industry for immunizing people to the reality of life. You can pass the whole wish list of laws you suggest here, but, sadly, it won’t make a difference to people who have lost their moral compass and will just antagonize tens of millions of law-abiding citizens.
It’s tough. I wish a simpler solution were here. Gun control may be simple but it’s not a solution.