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Bluegrass Beacon: Simple awareness can thwart threats

“Do something!” emotional protestors shouted at politicians in the wake of the recent mass shootings which killed at least 31 people and wounded dozens of others in Dayton, Ohio, and El Paso, Texas.

What, if anything, can and should be done that will actually address such violence?

While we should always work to dig to find the root causes of such destruction of human life, these types of attacks are “heinous and senseless,” as Texas Gov. Greg Abbott bemoaned in the aftermath of the murderous assault by a deranged gunman on a crowded Walmart on a Saturday morning along the nation’s southern border with Mexico.

No law – including those controlling access to and purchase of weapons – is going to change hearts of hate-filled individuals intent on doing such evil to another human being. If a madman is committed to getting the weapons necessary to committing capital crimes like murdering innocent parents shopping for their kids’ back-to-school needs in a Walmart in Texas, he’s certainly not going to care much about abiding by gun-control laws.

While I and many other level-headed Kentuckians and Americans are not ideologically opposed to a federal version of a “red flag” law, which would allow family members or law enforcement officers to petition courts to confiscate guns of individuals which pose a threat, there’s a legitimate concern both about whether such a law would actually address the violence and if such policies could result in a power grab by government and erosion of our freedom.

Conservative commentator Ben Shapiro maintains in the wake of the recent mass shootings that while he supports the passage of a federal red-flag law, he and other Second Amendment advocates are wary that such measures would allow adversaries to institute gun seizures against individuals they simply dislike or disagree with politically.

Such concerns by constitutional conservatives are not unreasonable, “given the way the left is treating the right, right now,” Shapiro said.

Certainly, as he also rightly urges, any red-flag law should include “blowback” upon anyone who makes a “frivolous claim to try and deprive somebody of their Second Amendment rights.” Individuals taking the initiative to convey information regarding disturbing and potentially dangerous situations or people with the full assurance their concerns will be taken seriously and investigated by trained law enforcement officers seems to work as good as any new law would.

For example, students at Paul Laurence Dunbar High School in Lexington helped thwart a possible attack by reporting threats made by then-18-year-old Timothy Felker, from whose home police confiscated a rifle and 500 rounds of ammunition bought with money given to him by his mother for a tattoo. Felker was arrested, convicted of second-degree terroristic threatening, spent 1 year and six months in jail and will soon be getting out with plans to attend college in Indiana. His life and countless others likely were saved because sharp students were aware of what was said around them and told authorities.

Also, the Kentucky Center for School Safety has developed an online reporting tool allowing students, parents or community members to anonymously report bullying, weapons, drug or alcohol abuse or any other potentially unsafe situation in their school district. Each district has its own link, which can be found by accessing the S.T.O.P. icon on the right side of the home page on the center’s website.

Law enforcement agencies also have anonymous tip lines, which have been instrumental in bringing many dangerous criminals to justice.

Kentuckians taking advantage of these safety tools – along with just being aware of what’s being said and done around them – seems more effective than standing around yelling at politicians or passing more gun-control laws.

Jim Waters is president and CEO of the Bluegrass Institute for Public Policy Solutions, Kentucky’s free-market think tank. Reach him at and on Twitter @bipps.

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