MIKE MASTERSON: Our complex dilemma

As killers thinketh

Posted: February 25, 2018 at 4:30 a.m.

There should be no better protected sites in our free country than schools, churches and hospitals. They are places where expectations of safety and security are justified and deserved.

My friends, if we can protect points of commerce as well as even our local athletic events with armed security, it's apparent we've reached the point in 2018 where we also must find effective ways to do the same for those who can't protect themselves from those who wantonly kill.

I sometimes wish we still lived before the 1990s when not even the most deranged chose to so frequently mass murder the innocent out of urges to commit irrational slaughter, as if they were actors in a violent video game.

Obviously we don't. So how do we adequately adjust to prevent further horror? More of the same hand-wringing and emotional political posturing are unacceptable. We already have lost so many precious lives because of our paralysis at dealing with a complicated dilemma.

Legally restricting or prohibiting firearms as a remedy might sound like an immediate workable idea to some. But it's not even close. Those willing to commit suicide couldn't care less about the law. Seen the murder stats lately in supposedly gun-controlled Chicago?

We all know this emotionally comforting yet ineffective and knee-jerk approach is akin to blaming cars for highway deaths, or blades, or pressure cookers, or fertilizer, or hammers, or anti-freeze for murders by those intent on killing.

A modicum of thought assures our problem lies within the minds of those who commit such acts. Their hands and arms and eyes acted as the tools, but the cause and origin stemmed from the electrical impulses of intangible thoughts. We can see and touch a gun which makes it the simple-minded target of repulsion.

A brilliant little book by James Allen called As a Man Thinketh explains our problem better than I can. In only 72 pages, Allen explains how everything we bring into the world, good or bad, begins as a seed in the mind. From our thoughts blossom the fruits of all human action. "Man is made or unmade by himself," Allen writes. "...Good thoughts and actions can never produce bad results; bad thoughts and actions can never produce good results. ... The body is the servant of the mind."

Where do Americans turn to recognize those most likely, through their behavior and words, to harbor dark and threatening actions? First to their family, friends and social media. I also believe teachers can clearly recognize when one is troubled and needing assistance.

By help, I mean professional counseling by those skilled at hopefully helping transform the potentially devastating thoughts in a child's mind and help steer negative thoughts in positive directions. I realize what a enormous role a child's home life has in shaping behavior, including the widespread absence of positive male role models.

Like everything, this proactive approach will require money. Having publicly funded mental health counseling for each school district would require taxpayers to vote for sponsoring it. Any effective remedy to end this unbearable madness our society's ills have helped foster will be costly to implement. It's one price we must pay.

Another equally costly idea is to hire more trained armed guards at schools, up to and including retired and qualified military veterans and police part-time. Yet, even at that, students depart their safety of their buildings en masse at the same time daily. Remember the Jonesboro school shooters who simply pulled the fire alarm and waited outside?

I've also written before of my belief that, today, every adult American who is qualified and trained should acquire a concealed-carry permit. Yeah, it's sad we've come to this. But we must face the reality in 2018 America that self-defense only makes sense.

A story by Liel Leibovitz in the online blog Tablet told of Lior Nedivi, an independent firearms examiner in Israel and co-author of an in-depth report comparing Israel's strict gun laws and faith-based culture with the U.S. Nedivi quotes writer Robert Heinlein saying: "An armed society is a polite society. Manners are good when one may have to back up his act with his life."

Nedivi said Israel is indeed a polite society because of that fact, saying, based on Heinlein's belief: "When everyone has a gun, guns are no longer seen as talismans by weak, frightened and unstable men seeking a sense of self-validation, but as killing machines that are to be handled with the utmost caution and care."

Finally, another large piece of the puzzle in helping resolve the horror of school shootings clearly lies with better background checks (also see Israel), as well as law enforcement agencies such as the FBI and local police who receive warnings about a troubled person, often well before any killing begins.

Yet, too often, as in the shameful case of Florida, they have failed to adequately follow up. Such inaction is inexcusable when we realize nothing else matters if we can't rely on those who are responsible for properly doing their jobs.


Mike Masterson is a longtime Arkansas journalist. Email him at mmasterson@arkansasonline.com.

Editorial on 02/25/2018