Jacksonville sheriff: "The problem is the individual", not guns

(AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)

As news of the racially-motivated attack on customers at a Dollar General in Jacksonville broke over the weekend, gun control activists were quick to point the finger at Florida’s permitless carry laws and the “easy availability” of firearms in the state; ignoring the fact that California’s stringent restrictions on legal gun owners didn’t prevent last week’s shooting at a bar and restaurant in Orange County, California in favor of advancing the false narrative that putting more laws on the books is the only way to stop the violence.

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Jacksonville Sheriff T.K. Waters has another idea. Instead of blaming the inanimate object or the state’s gun laws, at a briefing over the weekend Waters put the blame squarely on the cowardly individual who pulled the trigger.

“The story is always about guns — people are bad — this guy’s a bad guy,” Waters said. “If I could take my gun off right now, and I lay it on this counter, nothing will happen. It’ll sit there — but as soon as wicked person grabs ahold of that handgun and starts shooting people with it — there’s the problem.”

“The problem is the individual,” he added. “Now guns are a tool that people use to do horrible things. But it’s the individuals that wield these things. So we are working hard to try to stop that. But in this situation, in this case, there was nothing saying—, there was nothing illegal about him owning the firearms.”

According to authorities the killer was able to lawfully purchase two firearms earlier this year despite previously being “involved” in a domestic violence incident and had been subject to a mental health hold in 2017. Neither incident led to formal criminal charges or an adjudication of mental illness, which would have blocked him from legally acquiring a firearm, though we still don’t know the details of those previous encounters with law enforcement.

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Waters went on to say that while the community “is grappling to  understand why this atrocity occurred,” looking for sense in a “senseless act of violence” isn’t going to lead to answers; declaring “there is no reason or explanation that will ever account for the shooter’s decisions and actions.” As far as an explanation that would make sense to us, I suppose that’s true, though I suspect that the investigation into the killer will reveal the same toxic blend of self-loathing and hatred for imagined enemies that we’ve seen in other targeted attacks like the Tops grocery store shooting in Buffalo and the Covenant School shooting in Nashville.

The biggest question that I have at the moment is if this coward revealed his plans to anyone, whether online or in person, and what if any, steps could have been taken to alert authorities ahead of time. The investigation has already determined that the killer first went to the campus of Edward Waters University before he was spotted by a security guard and drove away before arriving at the Dollar General about ten minutes later. Did the suspect’s friends or family have any inkling of what he was planning, and could there have been an opportunity to intervene at some point? Hopefully, we’ll soon learn those answers, which will tell us far more about how to prevent these types of attacks than blaming and banning the inanimate objects he used to carry out his evil and despicable deeds.

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