Tuesday, June 21, 2022


Here's a news story from Fox:
Texas officials holding a special Senate hearing on the Uvalde elementary school mass shooting recognized how despite the 18-year-old gunman’s prior "abhorrent behavior" and animal abuse being common knowledge in the small town of just 17,000 people it was never reported to law enforcement.

During his testimony, Col. Steve McCraw, director of the Texas Department of Public Safety, ... said that through interviews, many residents observed seeing [Salvador] Ramos carrying a bag of dead cats. Despite what Bettencourt described as such "animal abuse" and "abhorrent behavior," there was no known record of it from either the school district or law enforcement before the shooting.

"That’s a major failure," Bettencourt said.
Most people don't realize that animal abuse is, as the Justice Department says, a "gateway crime."
Reprehensible in themselves, these acts are almost always precursors to violent crime directed at humans. Researchers have connected children’s abuse of animals to bullying, aggression, school shootings, and sexual abuse. Through these activities, children who feel powerless torment their own victims to gain a sense of control and power for themselves. Moreover, FBI research indicates that most serial killers, school shooters, and mass murderers tortured animals as children.
But a bill to ban anyone with even a misdemeanor animal cruelty conviction from obtaining a firearm --introduced by Massachusetts congresswoman Katherine Clark -- has languished for years and is highly unlikely to be enacted. And it's hard to believe that local law enforcement authorities would want to criminalize every act of animal abuse.

I don't love "the carceral state." But we're missing the opportunity to flag troubled individuals before they can commit acts of serious violence. In my ideal America, we wouldn't necessarily criminalize an act of animal cruelty -- a mental health intervention might be more appropriate -- but we would flag it as a reason to deny the perpetrator a gun. In the actual America, though, automatically depriving every animal abuser of access to weaponry is probably unthinkable.

(Buffalo shooter Payton Gendron was also guilty of animal cruelty.)

Ramos, in addition, was known to be extremely abusive online, as The Washington Post reported last month.
In a video from a live Yubo chatroom that listeners had recorded and was reviewed by The Post, Ramos could be heard saying, “Everyone in this world deserves to get raped.”

A 16-year-old boy in Austin who said he saw Ramos frequently in Yubo panels, told The Post that Ramos frequently made aggressive, sexual comments to young women on the app and sent him a death threat during one panel in January.

“I witnessed him harass girls and threaten them with sexual assault, like rape and kidnapping,” said the teen. “It was not like a single occurrence. It was frequent.”

He and his friends reported Ramos’s account to Yubo for bullying and other infractions dozens of times. He never heard back, he said, and the account remained active.
Now we're in the area of free speech. Would we really want abusive online language routinely reported to the government? And yet if this didn't seem excessive and Big Brother-y, it might be effective in preventing future bloodshed, at least in the case of those who repeatedly threaten violence. I throw up my hands trying to imagine how you'd tap into this kind of information about emotionally troubled people while protecting civil liberties. But since we're never going to do it, we should expect to learn about the obvious warning signs sent by future mass shooters only in retrospect.

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