AP Photo/Sarah Blake Morgan
Joe Biden was in Los Angeles for several campaign stops on Thursday, and repeatedly blamed the NRA for the shooting at Saugus High School in nearby Santa Clarita that took place earlier in the day. Speaking at a vo-tech college, Biden vowed to stop school shootings by taking on the NRA if he’s elected.
“I’m so tired of people talking about your prayers. Dammit, we have to protect these kids,” Biden told the crowd. “We have to do it now.”
“If I’m your president I guarantee you I’m going to beat these guys. I guarantee you,” he added.
I’ve got news for Joe Biden; if you want to stop these attacks on school grounds, you won’t do it by targeting law-abiding gun owners or the NRA. You won’t do it by passing a ban on so-called “assault weapons” or magazines of a certain size, or incentivizing “red flag” laws and state-level gun licensing programs, passing universal background checks, or any of the other proposals in Biden’s anti-gun wish list. California has the most restrictive gun laws in the nation, including those gun and magazine bans that Biden wants, a red-flag law, universal background checks, and more. None of them prevented a 16-year old from bringing a handgun to school, shooting at students, and then turning the gun on himself.
Of course Biden didn’t offer up any specific proposals that would have prevented this attack. Anti-gun politicians and activists never do. Instead, they use tragedies like this to push for more laws that would have no impact on the individuals responsible for carrying out these murderous rampages. At one point, however, Biden came close to acknowledging that gun control laws can’t treat the underlying issues driving this type of violence.
Biden recounted that one of the wounded kids being carried out on a stretcher this morning had been heard to say, “What kind of a world is this …?”
“What kind of world is this?” Biden demanded of the crowd. “This has become intolerable!”
He lamented that Americans now send their children to school and the first thing they teach them is how to avoid being shot.
“What does that say about our soul? What does that say about who we are?” he asked his supporters.
It’s not “our” soul that Biden should be focused on, but the souls who pull the trigger. We know that even the most extensive gun control laws don’t prevent attacks like the one in Santa Clarita on Thursday. To do that, we need to reach those individuals responsible before they pull the trigger. To that end, the U.S. Secret Service’s National Threat Assessment Center recently released a comprehensive report on targeted attacks at schools between 2002 and 2017, and found that virtually every attack was preventable.
There’s no clear profile of a school attacker, but some details stand out: Many were absent from school before the attack, often through a school suspension; they were treated poorly by their peers in person, not just online; they felt mistreated; some sought fame, while others were suicidal. They fixated on violence and watched it online, played games featuring it or read about it in books.
The key is knowing what to look for, recognizing the patterns and intervening early to try to stop someone from pursuing violence.
“It really is about a constellation of behaviors and factors,” Alathari said.
In the case of the suspect at Saugus High School, the 16-year old’s father died in 2017, and some of his classmates say they had noticed a change in his behavior in the days before the attack, which took place on the suspect’s 16th birthday. Recognizing those warning signs and getting the individual the help that they need is crucial to stopping these types of attacks, according to the Secret Service’s report.
All attackers exhibited concerning behaviors. Most elicited concern from others, and most communicated their intent to attack: The behaviors that elicited concern ranged from a constellation of lower-level concerns to objectively concerning or prohibited behaviors. Most of the attackers communicated a prior threat to their target or communicated their intentions to carry out an attack. In many cases, someone observed a threatening communication or behavior but did not act, either out of fear, not believing the attacker, misjudging the immediacy or location, or believing they had dissuaded the attacker. Students, school personnel, and family members should be encouraged to report troubling or concerning behaviors to ensure that those in positions of authority can intervene.
Biden didn’t mention the new report by the U.S. Secret Service while he was in Los Angeles on Thursday. Instead, he offered soundbite solutions, blamed the NRA, and avoided any discussion of the failures of California’s gun control laws in preventing this attacks. That might be a winning strategy to get votes in California’s primary next year, but it won’t do a damn thing to protect our kids or save lives.