It’s been four years since a former student walked on to the campus of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida and murdered 17 people, and the White House is commemorating the anniversary of that awful day by stumping for Congress to impose new gun control laws and largely ignoring the victims, survivors, and those families who don’t believe that more gun laws are the answer to stopping these types of attacks.
The Associated Press reported on an advance copy of Biden’s prepared remarks today, and based on the excerpts they released, Biden’s supposed strength as empathizer-in-chief is nowhere to be seen, with the White House choosing instead to highlight how the murders supposedly reinvigorated the gun control movement.
“Out of the heartbreak of Parkland a new generation of Americans all across the country marched for our lives and towards a better, safer America for us all,” Biden said in a statement obtained by The Associated Press ahead of Monday’s anniversary of the deadly shooting of 14 students and three staff members.
“Together, this extraordinary movement is making sure that the voices of victims and survivors and responsible gun owners are louder than the voices of gun manufacturers and the National Rifle Association,” Biden said.
The White House narrative conveniently leaves out the fact that there are victims, survivors, and responsible gun owners who don’t believe that we can ban our way to a safer society. What’s more, those who disagree with White House’s anti-gun agenda are smeared as standing in the way of student safety, which in Biden’s view apparently can’t be achieved without criminalizing common aspects of the right to keep and bear arms.
Biden said he’s asked members of Congress to provide funding to help reduce violent crime and said they must pass legislation requiring background checks on all gun sales, banning assault weapons and high-capacity magazines and eliminating immunity for gun manufacturers.
“We can never bring back those we’ve lost,” Biden said. “But we can come together to fulfill the first responsibility of our government and our democracy: to keep each other safe. For Parkland, for all those we’ve lost, and for all those left behind, it is time to uphold that solemn obligation.”
If Biden wants to talk about the responsibility of government to keep each other safe, he should have talked about the failures of government that led to the killer being able to stroll onto the Marjory Stoneman Douglas campus, including the FBI’s lack of a response after someone close to the murderer called the agency’s tip line several days before the attack warning of his “erratic behavior” and specifically stating that he was capable of shooting up a school.
The government recently settled a case brought by several families of those who were killed at Marjory Stoneman Douglas, but that doesn’t excuse the agency’s failure to act, nor does it absolve the school district or local law enforcement for their failures in the days, weeks, months, and even years before the attack. As Andrew Pollack, whose daughter Meadow was murdered by the shooter, detailed in a 2019 column:
The confessed shooter allegedly threatened to kill other students and threatened to rape. He threatened to shoot up the school, according to the sheriff’s office. Classmates said he brought knives and bullets to school. He wrote hideous racial slurs on his backpack. He carved swastikas in the lunchroom tables.
But the assistant principals at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School didn’t have him arrested. Rather, they simply banned him from bringing a backpack to school and frisked him every day, according to the sworn testimony of the security guard who searched him, for fear he’d bring a deadly weapon and kill.
Broward’s policies allowed juveniles convicted of crimes as serious as murder and rape to go back into normal classrooms. Broward’s “Policy 5006” said that referring serious felonies like sexual assault and arson to the police was optional. Principals were trained to not cooperate with law enforcement, refusing to even tell officers whether suspected felons were on campus.
Ryan Petty’s daughter Alaina was murdered in the attack as well, and he too has spoken out about the need to change policy in order to protect students and staff. Rather than push for a gun ban, however, Petty has worked with everyone from his local sheriff to the Secret Service to let students, teachers, and parents know the single most effective thing that can be done to prevent these types of attacks: speaking up and acting when you see something wrong.
According to a Secret Service report on targeted school attacks, more than 90% of suspects communicated their plan beforehand. When authorities take those threats seriously, lives can be saved. If they’re ignored, as they were at Marjory Stoneman Douglas, lives will be lost.
Instead of talking about what truly can prevent these types of attacks, Biden decided to use this solemn occasion to stump for gun control bills that not only wouldn’t thwart any targeted school violence, but have no chance of passing Congress. Maybe the president and his advisors believe that’s smart politics, especially with the gun control lobby grumbling that Biden hasn’t done enough since taking office, but to me it’s a fundamentally unserious and needlessly partisan response to a serious issue.