With yet another mass shooting and lagging advancement in effective gun control laws, we must ask ourselves, how many innocent people must die before there is meaningful reform? The recent shooting at the Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport should have been prevented due to the glaringly obvious warning signs the shooter presented preceding the event.
The mounting evidence and so-called apparent “red flags” the shooter demonstrated before the massacre occurred is concerning. In January of 2016, the shooter, Esteban Santiago, was arrested and charged with criminal mischief and domestic violence. But when the case was dismissed in March, he was still able to secure a firearm. In many countries other than the United States, a person cannot own a firearm, let alone purchase one, after being charged and convicted of intentionally using it to harm another person. It is ridiculous that these rules have not yet been instituted in the United States.
As if past violence was not ample reason to restrict Santiago from owning a firearm, he had been discharged from the National Guard because of his increasingly “unsatisfactory performance,” which highlights gradually changing behavior and raises red flags about his mental state. Like many veterans of war and combat, he had experienced significant trauma while abroad. Hernan Rivera, Santiago’s uncle, stated, “When he came back from Iraq, he was a different person.” Not trying to conceal his troubles, he turned himself in to the FBI and explained that he was hearing voices telling him to inflict violence on innocent civilians. He was released after being evaluated for four days with no medication or follow-up therapy.
No matter where one’s views align on the political spectrum, we should all be able to agree that someone who admits having the intent to plot an act of terror against civilians should not have access to a firearm.
There were more than enough warning signs to suggest that the shooting could have been anticipated and, therefore, possibly prevented. Mental health issues and the threat of terrorist groups cannot be simply dismissed. We must create better services for those suffering from mental health issues, especially for the veterans that serve this country. If we, as a nation, cannot act in the face of these horrific killings, then the government — and all of us — are to blame for the future victims of gun violence.