Diagnosis for Democracy
Insights into the State of Our Union
A Blog by Rob Tenery, MD


Is There a Better Way to Stop School Shootings?

By Rob Tenery, MD on February 19, 2018

Our most important civil liberty is protection from harm. The recent shooting in Parkland, Florida demonstrates how vulnerable these students were to this rampage by a deranged individual who didn’t even have the guts to take his own life after has carnage was over.

Arguments swirl around restricting gun rights, background checks and taking away or modifying the most dangerous of the weapons. These positions raise the concern about taking away the civil liberties of others when their weapons of protection are taken away from them.

Gun control alone is not the answer. In fact, it may not even be the answer. In 1968, Oklahoma bomber, Timothy McVeigh, killed 168 innocent victims with barrels of ammonium nitrate.

Several immediate changes are in order. Armed protection at all schools where an intruder could enter. More stringent background checks, doing away with any devise that changes a semiautomatic to an automatic weapon. Then there is profiling of suspicious persons. Although the Cruz incident probably could have been averted if the FBI had heeded the numerous warning signs, but with no crime yet committed what would his punishment be? And for how long?

We must look at the individual that commits these horrendous crimes and ask why. Is it anger, retribution or depression? Are they more than just mentally unstable? Is it drugs, alcohol? Although it is usually a combination of contributing factors that push them over the edge, one common thread is that they crave the attention. Otherwise, they would sneak around in the dark of night like the Son of Sam killer to take out their victims. Even if it is in the negative, they want the notoriety, and our press feeds it to them by the bucketfuls.

This country is all about being politically correct--- measures that are intended to avoid being offensive to disadvantaged members of particular groups in society. Making certain the guilty party is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. Background checks. Their associates and family. Social communication activities. Proper representation in court. If found guilty and of sound mind, finally sentencing.

The answer, if there is one, is deterrence--- what punishment would keep them from committing a similar crime or others that might copy them. The answer may be found in Singapore. Considered one of the cleanest, greenest cities in the world, Singapore is a popular tourist destination, receiving over eight million visitors a year. At just 700 sq. kms, Singapore has an annual GDP that competes with leading nations of Europe. This gives it the world’s fourth most competitive economy, placing it ahead of the United States. The city-state also boasts a high standard of living, low unemployment, and a literacy rate of 98 percent. Singapore has 12 times the population of Vancouver but just half the crime rate.

According to the Canadian High Commission in Singapore, each year around 80,000 Canadians visit Singapore, with approximately only two encountering legal problems. The offences these Canadians are alleged to commit usually relate to fraud, people smuggling, or drug possession. In Singapore, these offences are subject to much more severe penalties than in Canada.

One of the more recent drug possession cases involving a Canadian occurred in 1996. Associated Press reported Singaporean police found eight kilograms of marijuana in a house where Ronald McCulloch was staying. A resident of Singapore since 1979, McCulloch faced two trafficking charges, each carrying the death penalty, the mandatory sentence for anyone convicted of drug trafficking, murder, or kidnapping. McCulloch was lucky. Instead of death, he received nine years imprisonment after arranging a plea bargain with the prosecution. Pacific Rim Magazine

Most of those executed were convicted of drug trafficking while others were executed for murder or firearms offences. These offences carry a mandatory death penalty, which means that trial judges have no option but to impose a death sentence on those who are convicted. A series of clauses in the Misuse of Drugs Act and the Arms Offences Act contain presumptions of guilt, conflicting with the right to be presumed innocent until proven guilty and eroding the right to a fair trial.

The government claims that the death penalty has been effective in curbing crime. In 2000 the Minister for Law and Foreign Affairs said, “The relatively safe and crime-free environment is one important attraction of Singapore to tourists and investors... Our crime rate has generally been falling for more than a decade now... Singapore has some of the toughest laws in the world such as for drug trafficking and the use of firearms offences, both of which attract the capital punishment. “

It may sound rash and is definitely not politically correct, but when Nikolas Cruz was captured, what if he was stripped of his name, assigned only a number and immediately moved to death row for execution. No instant fame! No notoriety! Just a dark cell with gallows nearby with hangman’s noose waiting to be placed around his neck.

If the severe laws in Singapore were to hold true, the next potential mass shooter may have second thoughts! 





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