As you probably heard, a man today pulled out a gun in the non-secure area, near baggage claim, of Ft. Lauderdale/Hollywood Int’l Airport (FLL) and shot and killed at least 5 people, wounding several more.
The man was identified by the media as a 26 year old active U.S. Army soldier with no immediately apparent motive. And I sit here shaking my head, because this brings up not 1 but 3 recurring themes in our society that we simply refuse to address:
Mental healthcare is lacking, especially for our military. I’ve watched enough of my fairly well-functioning (i.e., hold down jobs) friends let anxiety, depression, or other mental health conditions go untreated or under-treated because treatment is simply too expensive. But for those without resources — such as the homeless, or those that come back from war injured or deeply traumatized — the rates of untreated mental illness are astounding. A report from a year and a half ago noted that going to the VA to seek mental health treatment can result in waits up to 279 days, and yesterday the L.A. Times reported that there are 1,200 veterans in that city who don’t even have a roof over their head. The cost to our society of letting mental illness go treated far exceeds what we would spend on treating it, and when we refuse to provide it to people who go to war for us, we are flatly failing our duty to those people. I am certain the 13 people with bullet wounds in Broward County today would agree.
Gun-free zones don’t work. As a Florida weapons license holder, I’m aware that Fla. Stat. 790.06(12)(a)(14) prohibits me from walking into the baggage claim area of an airport with a firearm, essentially making all airport structures “gun-free zones.” I remember thinking how stupid this was while picking up a friend at FLL airport a couple years ago, because any law-abiding citizen before the security checkpoint is now a target for criminals who know they don’t have guns. I can’t imagine how infuriating it would be to have left your weapon in your car, out of a desire to comply with the law, while helping mom with her suitcase, only to become the next victim.
Pre-checkpoint airport attacks are in vogue, and the TSA makes it worse. Over the last decade, there have been several incidents of violence committed by individuals in airports prior to security screening. Domodedovo airport bombing (2011), LAX airport shooting (2013), Ataturk airport bombing/shooting (2016), etc. etc. etc. The TSA, by creating lengthy checkpoint lines that over the last year have often exceeded 1 hour, has created a target that, again, criminals know is unarmed and unable to fight back. What is the point of putting your blue-gloved hands all over our bodies to ensure that we don’t hurt people on an airplane when any terrorist could just blow/shoot up the checkpoint instead? To make sure that airplanes aren’t used as missiles 9/11-style? Because we fixed that problem with re-enforced cockpit doors and changing our mindset from “comply with hijackers so they’ll let you go” to “fight them to the death in the sky, even if it means risking the plane.” Airport screening should be quick and expedient, looking for the most dangerous items and ignoring your Swiss Army knife, bottle of water, and 10 oz. shampoo bottle, such that there is never a line of more than a few people. This can be accomplished by adjusting policies, throwing out the scanners (or selling them to fascist regimes where they belong), and putting bomb-sniffing dogs at the checkpoints.
This shooting makes me angry, because it is a perfect demonstration of what we, as a society, are screwing up and refuse to fix.