This editorial was first published in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. Guest editorials don’t necessarily reflect the Denton Record-Chronicle’s opinions.
After yet another mass shooting, the predictable proposals begin, ideas that either wouldn’t have prevented the attack (universal background checks for gun purchases) or that address one small thing that might not even be a factor (violent video games).
Instead, we must call the attack in El Paso what it is — white nationalist terrorism — and react with alarm and speed.
We’ve done it before, when we were brutally attacked by Islamic extremists in 2001.
There are no quick solutions. The mass shooting problem, and the racism that fuels so much hate, aren’t going away soon. And tackling white supremacist violence won’t cover every shooter.
But by naming the biggest threat, marshaling resources and building national unity around tackling it, we can make real progress and ultimately save lives. Here’s what a serious, sustained effort to defeat the anti-Hispanic, conspiracy-driven hate that allegedly drove a young North Texas man to slaughter 22 innocent people in West Texas might look like:
More law enforcement attention
After the Sept. 11 attacks, FBI leaders reoriented the agency around preventing future attacks. Now, law enforcement at all levels need to make the white supremacist terrorist threat a priority.
It’s a challenge — there isn’t a central organization to pursue, as there was with al-Qaeda. Tracking and stopping individual haters is a tall order.
But almost without exception, there are signs that shooters could become violent. The Dayton, Ohio, killer apparently had a high school hit list that many of his fellow students knew about. Police need to take these threats seriously and follow up.
It’s not just a federal job. Gov. Greg Abbott and other state leaders have pushed state law enforcement agencies to supplement federal border security efforts.
Leadership from the top
President Donald Trump said all the right things Monday about America being no place for hate.
The problem is everything he said before that. For four years, as an attention-grabbing candidate and as president, he’s framed immigrants in ugly terms, portraying a false picture of an invasion force at the border.
Trump did not directly cause the shooting. But his words and ideas offer refuge for the worst kind of conspiracy theorist and those who would turn to violence in response to the idea that white Americans are losing their edge in life or even being “replaced.”
Yes, this new gun law would help
Expanding background checks is the preferred immediate policy of most gun control advocates. But many mass shooters have passed such checks to buy their guns. That appears to be the case in the El Paso and Dayton shootings.
A better first step would be the creation of gun violence restraining orders, also known as “red-flag” laws. This popular idea would allow police, with a judge’s supervision and approval, to remove weapons from someone found to be an imminent threat.
We trust judges to allow law-enforcement incursions upon other liberties, such as the right against search and seizure, every day. Texas Republican Sen. John Cornyn led an effort last year to improve the National Instant Criminal Background Check System, a good start.
Help young men with anger and fear
Trump talked at length Monday about the impact of the internet. But there’s a bigger issue — young men who don’t know how to deal with anger, rejection or fear.
Boys are falling behind in education. The culture doesn’t often provide the best male role models. And yes, finding fellows online with tidy theories about who’s to blame can lead a vulnerable mind down a dark road.
Preventing radicalization is one of the biggest challenges of dealing with any terrorist movement.
These steps require a national commitment. There will be debates about how to proceed and difficult choices to make. But if we approach this problem with the same spirit as we did the Sept. 11 attacks, we can reduce violence and curtail hate. The victims of El Paso deserve nothing less to honor their memories.