Friday, July 20, 2018
Editorials

Editorial: The real forces behind mass shootings

Itís the refrain by gun advocates in the wake of every mass shooting: The attacker was mentally ill. They obtained their gun illegally. The message is that gun violence isnít about guns but mental instability and gaps in law enforcement. But a recent FBI report suggests this is not the case: Most attacks are planned and carried out by people who legally own a weapon and have no mental health histories. The findings show more needs to be done in restricting access to weapons and in identifying and responding to warning signs.

The FBI study, provided last month to the Washington Post, found that while the attacks differed in locations and in their level of carnage, some common elements were apparent. The shooters were often motivated by grievances in their lives, the study found, and many planned their assaults methodically and used guns they legally owned. The study examined dozens of active shooters between 2000 and 2013, and in a first of its kind, relied almost entirely on law enforcement files rather than court records or media accounts. That focused study gave the FBI a perspective of the shooter through interviews with people who knew him, and through the attackerís personal writings and school or work record.

"Offenders donít snap," said Andre Simons, a special agent of the FBIís Behavioral Analysis Unit, and the studyís co-author. Rather, he said, the decision to attack is part of a long process. The study found that 77 percent of attackers spent at least a week planning their assault, which suggests forethought and design. Most shooters were driven by a grievance ó legitimate or not ó that gave the shooting a sense of purpose. Whether the spark was the loss of a job or a breakdown in a relationship, many shooters responded by launching attacks in places familiar to them and singling out people they held responsible.

The findings counter the assessments by gun rights advocates and some conservative politicians in the wake of mass shootings that the attackers must be mentally ill or must have taken advantage of weak enforcement of existing gun laws. While the study found that some shooters had experienced depression or anxiety, it noted many Americans exhibit the same symptoms and found only 25 percent of attackers had been diagnosed with mental illness. That is a cautionary note about making any link between shootings and mental health, and it is consistent with other recent research that attributed most violent behavior to other factors. And most used guns they bought legally, which authorities say was the case in the Las Vegas massacre that killed 58 people last year and in the shooting in February at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland that killed 17 people.

The FBI study noted friends and family typically have observed a string of warning signs before a shooting. That underscores the need for more intervention to address a personís troubles at home, work or school from festering into a plan for violence. And the gun laws still make it too quick and easy for almost anyone to get their hands on a firearm. A ban on assault-style weapons and high-capacity magazines would reduce the level of carnage shooters have visited on schools, churches, movie theaters and other public places. But as the latest study confirms, it will take an all-the-above strategy to spot danger before shootings and to be proactive in restricting access to guns that have no legitimate civilian purpose.

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Editorial: Scott should order investigation of concealed weapons permitting

Editorial: Scott should order investigation of concealed weapons permitting

To his credit, Gov. Rick Scott says he is considering requests to order an independent investigation of how Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnamís office screens applications for concealed weapon permits. Itís a reasonable request, and the governor h...
Published: 07/18/18
Editorial: Algae blooms, toll woes and beach battles -- Floridaís fouled up summer

Editorial: Algae blooms, toll woes and beach battles -- Floridaís fouled up summer

July in Florida. The height of summer tourist season. Rental cars clog the highways and tourists crowd the beaches, motels and all-you-can-eat shrimp joints. Many of our neighbors are off to North Carolina or somewhere cooler. So itís an awfully inco...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Editorial: Sacrificing two kayaks and a Toyota for free speech

Editorial: Sacrificing two kayaks and a Toyota for free speech

Maggy Hurchalla joked this spring that all she could offer a billionaire who won a $4.4 million judgment against her after she exercised her free speech rights were "two kayaks and an aging Toyota.íí The billionaire didnít laugh. This week, Martin Co...
Published: 07/17/18
Updated: 07/18/18
Editorial: Trump sides with Putin over America

Editorial: Trump sides with Putin over America

In one of the most surreal news conferences of our time, President Donald Trump actually stood next to Russian President Vladimir Putin Monday and called the federal investigation into Russiaís meddling into the 2016 election "a disaster for our coun...
Published: 07/16/18
Editorial: A vote for preserving waterfront parks by St. Petersburg City Council

Editorial: A vote for preserving waterfront parks by St. Petersburg City Council

The St. Petersburg City Council made the appropriate but difficult decision to reject a contract with renowned artist Janet Echelman for one of her aerial sculptures. It would be wonderful for the city to have one of her signature works, but Spa Beac...
Published: 07/13/18

ĎEverybody needed to know what happenedí

The brutal murder of Emmett Till, a black Chicago youth, in Mississippi nearly 63 years ago went unpunished, but not forgotten. A decision by his mother, Mamie Till-Mobley, to allow an open casket at Emmettís Chicago funeral represented an act of def...
Published: 07/13/18
Editorial: Personal bias taints Floridaís clemency system

Editorial: Personal bias taints Floridaís clemency system

A recent exchange between the governor and Cabinet and a felon seeking to have his civil rights restored underscores the arbitrary unfairness of Floridaís clemency system. A long waiting period, a ridiculous backlog of cases and elected officials who...
Published: 07/11/18
Updated: 07/13/18

Trump should work with Congress on immigration

Donald Trumpís resounding victory in the 2016 presidential election came at least in part because the New York businessman grasped the disconnect between how millions of Americans and the political establishments of both parties felt about immigratio...
Published: 07/11/18
Updated: 07/13/18
Editorial: Trumpís trade war hurts American consumers

Editorial: Trumpís trade war hurts American consumers

Voters who looked to Donald Trump to make America great might want to look at their wallets. The president escalated his global trade war this week, threatening new tariffs on $200 billion worth of Chinese imports ó everything from seafood, beef and ...
Published: 07/11/18
Updated: 07/12/18
Editorial: Rays stadium cost should be fairly shared

Editorial: Rays stadium cost should be fairly shared

The imaginative Ybor City ballpark proposed by the Tampa Bay Rays fits nicely into the 21st century vision of a sophisticated city and would secure major league baseballís future for the entire region. It also carries an eye-catching cost that will h...
Published: 07/11/18
Updated: 07/12/18