Arizona lawmakers are trying to do a good thing—but even the best of intentions can’t stop the worst kind of predators.
A bill kicking around the Legislature hopes to prevent future incidents like Tucson’s Jan. 8 mass shooting that left six dead, multiple people wounded and Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords shot through the head.
Not unlike measly orders of protection, the bill aims to halt violence before it really gets out of hand. Its intent is to intercept potential volcanoes, like former Pima Community College student and alleged shooter Jared Loughner, before they erupt.
While we applaud the elected officials’ efforts and find their intentions noble, House Bill 2559 seems about as effective trying to knock down Mount Lemmon with a stick.
The bill makes it obligatory for colleges and other government entities to alert local law enforcement if a person was expelled, suspended, fired or terminated from membership because of “violence, threats of violence or behavior that constitutes a danger to self or others.”
Law enforcement officials, in turn, must forward the information to the appropriate local or regional health agency or crisis center.
Twenty-four hour surveillance? Intervention with a needle full of thorazine?
While the bill sounds like it could help someone, somewhere, maybe—and certainly makes it appear as if “something is being done” to stop future loose cannons—the cannons are much too loose for such legislation to make much of a difference.
First off, Loughner himself would not necessarily have been a candidate for the very legislation which he purportedly prompted. Yes, he had been a student at PCC, and yes, he had been suspended.
But Pima Community College spokeswoman Cindy Klinge’s statement to The Associated Press said that Loughner “was not violent nor did he threaten others or himself. He had no known history of violence.” She said he “exhibited disruptive behavior in the classroom,” sure, yet his behavior merely interfered with teaching and learning and did not necessarily pose a threat.
Secondly, the bill only applies after the perpetrator has already done something horrifically violent enough to get exiled in the first place. By the time someone is suspended, expelled or terminated for violent behavior, we can bet some damage has already been done.
Finally, folks who are often the biggest dangers to themselves and especially to others are the smooth-talking, manipulative sociopaths. They are much too cunning, crafty and busy winning people over to get suspended, expelled or fired.
Think Ted Bundy.
Bundy was savvy enough to persuade his victims to actually help him before he slaughtered them. He had enough of a caring and charming façade to fool even hardened cop and true crime writer Ann Rule, who outlines her disbelief when he was accused of murder in her book The Stranger Beside Me.
The deepest, darkest and most twisted souls can be the most carefully hidden behind a wide, welcoming grin. None are ever the wiser until it’s much too late.
And no, Bundy was never suspended or expelled from college.
Ryn Gargulinski, aka Rynski, is a writer, artist, performer and poet. Her radio show airs every Wednesday and her column appears every Friday. See more writing and art from RYNdustries at ryngargulinski.com and rynski.etsy.com.
What do you think?
Does the bill sound like it will do any good or only serve to perpetuate paperwork?