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Second guessing the second-guessers

POSTED: March 12, 2018 7:00 p.m.
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Bob Franken is an Emmy-award winning broadcast journalist.

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Allow me to play devil’s advocate. It’s what I do as a journalist, plus I personally enjoy taking on orthodoxy, particularly when it involves a binge of second-guessing. That’s exactly what we are witnessing in the wake of the massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.

I’m about to defend the Federal Bureau of Investigation. I’m not necessarily a fan of the FBI or, for that matter, of so many police agencies that can be overzealous in pursuit of what they perceive to be law and order.

That said, I think the feds and all the other agencies that failed to intercede when presented with warnings about the alleged Stoneman Douglas assassin Nikolas Cruz are getting a bum rap. For starters, the FBI tip line must sift through a flood of calls and emails — slightly more than a million and a half last year.

But these warnings, you say, deserved special attention.

What might that special attention entail? At what point do agents put on a full-court press? At what point do they put under surveillance or take into custody someone who has been anonymously accused?

When were social agencies, which had years of experience with Cruz, to decide that they may impose on his right to not be institutionalized? First of all, our politicians have made sure that we have a shortage of mental health facilities. In many ways, social workers, psychologists and educators are impotent; there is little they can do.

Let’s face it, that mantra from officials — "If you see something, say something"— is not realistic.

While it’s probably a good thing to err on the side of caution, it is not cool to err on the side of error and cause humiliation to someone who is just minding his business until he’s hassled by someone in uniform. Besides, that’s just an invitation to those who have malicious motivations, such as pranksters, to cause someone embarrassment.

How many false alarms or "swatting" incidents do we need to realize that our national paranoia is a slippery slope? The FBI and other entities on the receiving end must factor all of that in. When they do react, there is always a danger that they’ll overreact.

The same goes for the harsh criticism leveled at the deputy sheriff who didn’t charge into the building during the assault rifle fusillade. We don’t know what was in his mind. Maybe we should before we second-guess. Perhaps we can focus on the decision to assign just one armed cop to such a large school.

Let’s engage in a little justified second-guessing about those goofy proposals to arm teachers. All we need to know about that idea to realize that it’s ridiculous is that it’s supported by the National Rifle Association. ‘Nuff said.

These are the same people who make the vile charge that media love school massacres because they’re good for ratings. Let me counter by arguing that it’s the NRA that loves school massacres, because the outcry that follows is good for fundraising.

Here’s a little first-guessing: Our lawmakers need to do something about restricting guns in a society that is saturated with them. It won’t solve our deadly problem, but it’s a step in the right direction. Nothing else is.

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