[Michigan April 25, 2022]:
There is no doubt that mass shootings and gun violence crimes are widespread and increasing beyond everybody’s expectation. It has become just another news item, sometimes in areas and locations that are the least expected. These mass shootings are becoming our lived reality. They require more serious attention and pro-active planning.
No one is naive to assume that there is a magic solution. It is important not to be alarmist. The reality is we live in a heavily armed society and the right to bear arms is protected in the US Constitution and it is a right older than the country itself. There are hundreds of millions of weapons in ordinary citizens’ hands. Overwhelmingly, these citizens are law abiding and responsible gun owners. The issue is that mass shootings are increasing in frequency with no discernable pattern or profile.
Why do we have mass shootings? It’s a very complicated phenomenon. It is hard to profile and say this is the picture of a mass shooter. If it were possible, it would make the lives of citizens and law enforcement much easier. But that’s not the case. It is unpredictable as to who would engage in such a heinous crime. Sometimes with the benefit of hindsight we see the signs, but hindsight is 20/20.
This country has thousands of public safety departments and hundreds of thousands of law enforcement officers. They make millions of arrests every year. Our law enforcement is overwhelmingly competent and professional. But, by definition, their work is reactive. With mass shootings they are not dealing with the typical law enforcement event. Mass shootings are more of a war- zone phenomenon superimposed on a society not living in a state of war. We live in a big nation with huge population- more than 330 million people. We have the First Amendment which gives a lot of protection to speech unless it is advocating imminent lawless action. Police can’t just arrest people or even detain people just for exercising their rights in an obnoxious way. They are constrained.
Law-enforcement alone can’t solve all society’s problems. They arrest people after they commit crimes. An enlightened approach to public safety sees it as a collective effort. Time is due for groups, civic, business, religious, and from all walks of life to take the lead and launch, enhance and advance public safety education and awareness on an ongoing basis.
We are a free society but that does not mean we shouldn’t be safety minded. Risk is part of everyday life. We have to live with risk and adjust our living accordingly. Time is overdue for the public at large including all worship places, shopping centers, schools, health-care facilities, public transportation outlets, public gatherings to elevate safety preparation. All must invest in safety. No place is immune from a mass shooting.
We have to commit the needed resources for public safety. It will cost time and money to prepare for mass shootings. It is our moral and legal obligation to do all we can to protect those we bring to our forum, whether to a house of worship, a mall or a music festival. Investing in security measures, obtaining the right training, and having a plan of action ready are necessary measures.
As with any social problem, we can either be part of the problem or part of the solution. Nobody should sit on their hands and expect others to solve the problem. We should all do our part and hope for the best.
Giving up on being proactive is not morally or legally defensible and is indeed, inexcusable.
Imad Hamad, AHRC Executive Director
Photo Credit AP
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