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How Can We Solve the Problem of Future School Shootings?

April 10, 2018 - 9:00pm

The Parkland school shooting was a terrible, heinous act by a person who, in my opinion, deserves the death penalty.

Coming as it did during the closing weeks of the 2018 legislative session, the Legislature was forced to address the issue in a fashion that is little more than window dressing.

Sadly, it won’t stop this from happening again because the solution didn’t focus enough attention on the crux of the problem.

This isn’t a gun issue despite what students, parents and others want to make it.

It has to do with the fact that our country has failed us because we won’t institutionalize people anymore, except for those who commit violent acts.

Mental Health is the issue that must be confronted if we’re going to try to stop this violence.

The Florida Legislature did do some things right:  it created a “red flag” system that if properly operationalized, will help tremendously; it decided, upon the Governor’s recommendation, to harden schools, though enough money wasn’t appropriated; and it increased the use of school resource officers, which are part of the front-line defense of our young students.

Where the Legislature missed the boat is on mental health funding and the integration of the disparate databases that law enforcement, schools, behavioral healthcare providers, and the courts use daily.

The Florida Smart Justice Alliance, under our chair, Chief Chris Summers of the Leon County Sheriff’s Office, Law Enforcement Division, has created a small but well-connected task force that is working on this critically important issue.

First, we must acknowledge that we don’t expend enough state dollars to sufficiently attack the recurring and constant problem of mental illness.

Though Sen. Rene Garcia and Rep. Gayle Harrell championed “No Wrong Door” legislation in 2016, a major rewriting of the Baker Act for the first time in a generation, the Legislature has failed to properly fund it.

Without the necessary funds to manage the growing scope of the problem, to ensure adequate capacity to house these individuals temporarily or on a longer-term basis, and then understand better the need to coordinate psychotropic drugs and their unintended side effects, we’re never going to do anything more than scratch the surface of the problem.

We not only have to fund the system better and appropriately, we must build to capacity to address the number of people who will need help.

This means that Managing Entities, which oversee the behavioral healthcare system for the Department of Children and Families, will need more dollars for more staffing and case management, but it also means that Crisis stabilization units around the state will also need financial help.

Treatment and proper intervention must be the order of the day because without it, the system will fail, and people will continue to slip through the cracks.

We’re going to need physicians and pharmacists to better coordinate the many drugs these individuals will be prescribed, and the unintended side-effects must be closely monitored.  
This probably means incorporating psychotropic drugs into the current electronic drug registry for medical marijuana and pain medications.

Many of the school/mass shooters have been individuals who have just stopped taking their meds or who have just started.  Making sure these individuals stay medicated will be key.

Second, we need to encourage the private sector so that eventually all of the various IT silos of law enforcement, schools, behavioral healthcare providers, and the judiciary are integrated so when one part of the system identifies a person who is a threat to him- or herself, or more importantly to others, everyone who has the proper security clearance can get access to the available data.

Since all these entities contain confidential information in their data systems, with limited access, this seems to be an attainable goal.

That way, when a principal/teacher, law enforcement officer, healthcare provider or judge needs access to the status of an individual, all information should be readily available.  Such access will enable the person of authority to make a better-informed decision with better outcomes.

The Legislature did one other thing of note. Lawmakers enabled the courts to adjudicate whether someone with a history or instance of mental illness can have his guns temporarily removed for safekeeping, and thankfully judges are already making these decisions which will help safeguard our citizenry.

No project such as this can be successful without longitudinal research to document its success and its failures. To do this from the outset will demonstrate that we’re serious about knowing what works.

Finally, the crux of most issues always comes down to money. There isn't any readily available funding source. But there is outside-of-the-box funding that we’ll be looking at that could make this pilot program operational.

Ultimately, we must understand that to solve this problem we have to appreciate what the real problem is, and it’s all about mental health and how key data will be made available to those who need it, when appropriate action must be taken.
Barney Bishop III is CEO of Florida Smart Justice Alliance, a law enforcement-centric, center-right advocate for criminal justice reform that always emphasizes public safety as Job #1.  He can be reached at


Wow Frank. Easy to be critical and add the word "PATHETIC" when responding to sincere suggestions and recommendations. Try the more difficult route of offering your own contribution to the solution. All ideas add to the improvement of safety and prevention. There is no one silver bullet. (Hope that last word does not offend you)

Gee . . . . . another 1st time SSN commenter . . . . . . . why do I always seem to get the newbies on SSN (who seldom reoccur) . . . . . some of that language seems very familiar . . . . . . . now who on SSN could that be . . . . . . . . who thinks it cute to make puns using the word "bullet" in relation to a Parkland-students-killed-in-school article . . . . . . . . sadly . . . . . PATHETIC . . . .

That rewrite of the Baker Act still left out Nurse Practitioner. Thousand of trained health care providers are unable to get these dangerous indiviuals off the streets and into treatment. I agree with you mental heath needs to be addressed by the legislator.

Bernie, you can't have it both ways . . . . . arguing that the solution is better mental health (i.e. "Mental Health is the issue that must be confronted if we’re going to try to stop this violence") . . . . . then asking for the death penalty as if no mental issues are involved . . . . . . . . . . total hypocrisy . . . . . . . as with your continuing, blind "gun denial", simply . . . . . . . PATHETIC . . . .

There is a simple solution that does not cost anything. Bring prayer back in the schools. We have a new President that DOES pray now in the White House and is trying to restore our religious rights. Our country was FOUNDED on Judeo/Christian beliefs, All of our monuments have religious messages. The Washington Monument makes more sense when you know what is engraved at the top written in Latin:: "Praise Be to God". Religion teaches the values of right and wrong. Schools now have to have many programs trying to correct the influences of immoral entertainment. Religion taught the values of right vs wrong. We made God or religion "personna-non-grata" and replaced it with sex.,violence and profanity. When David Hogg spoke on TV his comments were so laced with profanity, that all you could hear were the bleeps to take them out. Does anyone remember the uproar when Clark Gable uttered "Frankly. my dear, I don't Give a Damn"!! Compare that to today when the F word is used repeatedly. These are the secondary effects when we took God out of the schools. WHY do we allow the ACLU to dictate what is permissible. when our country was founded on Christian principles. We don't deny them a right to be Atheists but they are trying to deny us our Religious customs and beliefs. We can no longer sing Christmas carols in schools or display anything religious in the marketplace but we can have artists use our tax dollars to display a cross in urine. Tell me, what's wrong with this picture?

Yes, simple solution . . . . . simplistic, in fact . . . . . . I simply have to let you preach YOUR religion in my children's public school . . . . . . no one's denying you your religious customs and beliefs . . . . . . the Constitution simply deny's your ability to have the government (i.e. public schools) jam your religious beliefs and customs down my children's throat . . . . . . . . . .

Still skirting the real issue. THE GOVERNMENT FAILED. Between the FBI, School Policy from Obama (Promise Grant) and the Sheriff's policy of non intervention, the faulty curricula that makes victims of students, the "see something; say something" policy is a joke. That would have stopped the crime.

that includes the repub FBI, the Repub DCF and the rest of the Dems you mentioned...

I agree with a large part of the authors conclusions, my only disagreement is with the use of the term psychotropic drugs, I think the better term would be SSRIs-Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors , these are the drugs that are prescribed for these troubled people. There is much discussion about the negative effects of such drugs as Citalopram (Celexa) Escitalopram (Lexapro) Fluoxetine (Prozac) Fluvoxamine (Luvox) Paroxetine (Paxil) Sertraline (Zoloft)

Whoa there Bill, it sounds like maybe you need to stay off of them...

Yeah, too funny, him and ol' Barney boy...

You cannot just keep throwing money at every problem w/o some level of accountability. There were a number of systems in place to address the issues that led to this school shooting that failed miserably. Not because, on the surface, they were bad policies or systems, but because of human error and/or lack of follow through. Until you require LEO, FBI and DCF to follow up on every credible threat or report, not much is going to change. Aside from that, not everyone has active mental health issues, murderers, serials and undiagnosed nut jobs still can initiate deadly actions. That's why for all cases, regardless of nut job, deadly threats should be met with deadly force. SRO's, armed security, crisis response teams are all good options depending on budget and training. Arming teachers is about the dumbest thing I've ever heard of. As a matter of fact, I believe the legislature did it knowing it would fail, knowing that a teacher would eventually shoot a kid in a fight, or some other tragedy. I cannot believe any other reasoning would be that stupid, but then again, this is the Floriduh legislature...You have the power to vote for people who display a basic level of common sense. Until then, we can all expect more of the same...

Obama created the "solution" during his "reign": "Concealed Carry Permits" for EVERYONE who does NOT have a 'criminal background' ! (Omnipresence is the ultimate prevention)...

Yes, yes, as always you must be right . . . . . . concealed carry for everyone, everywhere . . . . in schools, in bars, in planes, in the Capitol . . . . . . . . . no restrictions of any type (EXCEPT NO CRIMINAL BACKGROUND) . . . . . . . . makes perfect sense . . . . . . in an insane way . . . . . . . as always . . . . . . . . . PATHETIC . . . .

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