TAPS Is Not The Answer

We live in an age where fear is dominant and the threat to the Bill of Rights and the Constitution are real. It did not start with the terrorist attacks of 9/11/01 or the shooting at Columbine High School in 1999. We can go back to the McCarthy era of Communist bating and blacklisting. It is an “us versus them” mentality that has gone from “‘they are evil” to “everyone has the potential to be evil.”

HB 838/S.265, introduced by Brian Babin, R-Texas, would establish the “Threat Assessment, Prevention, and Safety (TAPS) Act of 2019.” The purpose of the Act:

“Establishes the Joint Behavioral Threat Assessment and Management Task Force to develop a National Strategy to prevent targeted violence through threat assessment and management, and evidence-based processes to identify individuals that exhibit patterns of dangerous behavior that may precede an act of targeted violence.”

In addition, it:

“Creates a grant program for states, local governments, tribal organizations, educational entities, and nongovernmental organizations to help establish community-based behavioral threat assessment and management units.”

In short, TAPS is meant to “identify, investigate and mitigate threats before they happen, promoting the safety of schools, police officers and communities at large,” according to Representative Katie Hill (D-California).

Through the community-based threat assessments and management tools, the TAPS Act would give states the resources that they need to protect the lives and train the next generation of officers to embrace the best policies to keep themselves and their community safe,” said Rep. Abigail Spanberger, D- Virginia.

Reading the proposed law, it is obvious that all communities, from K-12 through college and beyond will be suspect. It appears that every person will be subject to an “evaluation” to determine future threats to the public at large. The purpose of the proposed law would be to:

“…provide recommendations to the appropriate committees of Congress and the Secretary (of Homeland Security) on the development and implementation of a national strategy for preventing targeted violence through behavioral threat assessment and management…”

It will accomplish this goal by developing a behavioral threat assessment and management system. The exact use of the information gathered and who should be subject to such assessments is not made clear in the bill.

What is clear is that shootings, like the one by DeWayne Craddock earlier this month in Virginia Beach killing 12, would not have shown up on its radar. There was nothing in Craddock’s prior behavior that would have indicated his propensity toward such violence. He had a satisfactory work record and submitted his resignation on the morning of the shooting without a prompt from his employer.

Other than owning a silencer or suppressor for his two semi-automatic .45 caliber pistols, the handguns were evidently purchased legally, as is the case for many of the mass shootings in the United States; nothing raised a flag. According to CNN, “Authorities are searching for a motive. Those who knew him say they didn’t see the horror coming.”

We may never know why Craddock entered the city building with the intent to murder his fellow workers. What we do know is that a national threat assessment program would most likely not have caught Craddock before his rampage.

We also know that “a good guy with a gun” is not the answer to the problem of mass shootings in the US. At the time of the purchase, Craddock was considered a “good guy.” Even the best-laid plans cannot see into the heart and minds of every person. Cracks will always be there.

Unfortunately, there is no simple answer to this plague in which the United States finds itself. The arguments concerning the Second Amendment on both sides are strong and essentially concern the placement of two commas and the intent of the Founding Fathers when this was ratified in 1791.

“A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”

HB 838/S.265 is an attempt to show that the government is doing something, regardless of if that something is good or bad, or in direct conflict with the Constitution.

HB 838/S.265 is not the answer to the epidemic. Future predictors of threats are usually wrong. What will the government do if a person is flagged; will she or he be promptly hauled off to an institution or jail for observation for an indeterminate time without the due process written into the Fourth and Fourteen amendments?

About David Rosman

David is the winner of the Missouri Press Foundation's "Best Columnist" in 2013 (First Place) and 2014 (Second Place), the 2016 Harold Riback Award for excellence in writing, and the winner of the 2007 Interactive Media Award for excellence in editing.
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