The Troubling Inversion of Responsibility after Parkland


Broward County Sheriff Israel visits a shooting victim his department could have prevented.

After any mass shooting it is typical for the National Rifle Association to become a convenient scapegoat for liberal outrage. But the national conversation after the Parkland massacre has turned a dark corner, and even those on the ground who bear actual responsibility for how it unfolded are being excused instead.

Less than two weeks ago, or what seems like a lifetime of cable news and Twitter wars, Nikolas Cruz killed 17 of his former classmates at Stoneman Douglas High School. Since that horrific day, several troubling facts have been reported about Cruz and his relationship with local and national law enforcement behavior that have called into question how the death toll could have been reduced or the event avoided completely and who deserves to share part of the blame.

The Broward County Sheriff Department visited Cruz 39 times in the last seven years to investigate various behaviors. Twice in the last six months the FBI received tips about Cruz’ behavior both online and off and failed to follow up. One YouTube comment could not be verified as posted by him (though it used his exact name) and the Florida office was never notified. One Broward deputy investigated Cruz in 2016 but refused to provide information to state officials about the incident.

So in February last year, Cruz passed a federal background check and bought his AR-15. Had any one of those 39 sheriff visits, FBI tips, or state health investigations resulted in a charge, conviction, or mental health judgment, he wouldn’t have been able to buy his gun or he could’ve been monitored after having done so. We have a strong security system in place to keep people from buying deadly weapons who shouldn’t have them, but it requires proactive care by government officials all the way up and down the line. But once the shooting began, the abdication got worse, viscerally so.

After the incident was reported, Coral Springs police officers were the first law enforcement personnel to enter the building. Coral Springs PD is twice as far away from the school as the Broward County Sheriff’s office.

parkland map

But Coral Springs officers weren’t the first in the building because they were on scene first. When Coral Springs arrived, four Broward deputies had already responded to the call…and were positioned outside the school defensively instead of entering to locate and neutralize the threat to the students and staff inside. Even worse, they prevented emergency medical personnel from entering the building to treat and retrieve victims until the shooting stopped. As one veteran EMT said, that’s exactly the opposite of what they are trained to do.

If Broward County, the state of Florida, or the FBI had acted responsibly just once in literally dozens of opportunities over the last few years, Cruz wouldn’t have had a gun. If Broward had gone in immediately after the shooting began, Cruz could have been stopped sooner and lives saved. If EMTs had been allowed to go in, lives that were lost could have been saved instead of bleeding out for 45 minutes on their classroom floor.

And while some have been critical of FBI and Broward County’s dropped balls that literally cost lives, the national outrage effort has maintained its focus on the NRA. So far several corporations, including Enterprise car rentals and Delta airlines, have been bullied into ending contracts that provide discounts to 5 million NRA members and potential customers. This is, of course, going to exactly the opposite effect.

I wonder if the Broward County Sheriff’s Department has any corporate benefits…

Instead of demanding accountability for the law enforcement officials who botched this incident top to bottom, including preventing it from being possible in the first place, some are defending them, including the survivors themselves.

This is pathological. The inversion of normal chains of responsibility here is a symptom of something rotten deeper in our culture, something likely related to why we have so many public mass shootings while overall crime rates continue to decline. New gun laws will not solve that problem.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s