Editorial: Bill would require notification of mass violence planning
BY World's Editorials Writers
Saturday, February 02, 2013
2/02/13 at 6:57 AM
State Sen. Brian Crain wants to pass a law making it a crime to fail to report to authorities any potential "crime of mass violence" that comes to a person's attention.
Senate Bill 995 could provide severe penalties against those who know or suspect such a crime is being planned but don't report it.
"We want people to know, don't even begin to plan something like that," the Tulsa Republican said. "And if you know someone is planning something, you have a duty to report it."
Existing laws already make it a felony to plan acts of violence or harm, punishable by up to 10 years in prison. Crain's bill would increase the sentence to 10 years to life and expand it to include people who don't report planned mass violence. People with advance knowledge of an unsuccessful act could be charged with a misdemeanor.
Crain's legislative response to such tragic incidents is understandable. We do need more effective means of getting such information to the proper authorities as soon as possible, and research shows these mass killers typically do communicate their intentions, sometimes in more than one way. School reports and projects, the social media, verbal communications and other methods all have been shown to be ways that these individuals telegraph their intentions.
But are we ready to criminalize someone's reluctance to speak up?
Crain reasons that since it is a crime to fail to report suspected child abuse, the same rationale can apply to the failure to report a suspected massacre.
Surely there are other measures to consider that could be just as effective as making failure to notify a crime, maybe even moreso. Some experts suggest instituting notification systems that protect the confidentiality of the person making the report. Also recommended is training for faculty and staff in spotting danger and assessing potential risks. Even students could be given some training in what to take seriously.
It may someday come to the kind of measure Crain is proposing. But a thorough review of the other options that could encourage early notification of such activities wouldn't be a bad idea.
Original Print Headline: Spotting killers