Editorial: It’s time to stop mass killers before they kill

Police conceded that neighbors had repeatedly complained about Kevin Janson Neal firing hundreds of rounds from his house. Tehama County Assistant Sheriff Phil Johnston said authorities responded to calls several times, but the 44-year-old Neal wouldn’t open the door, so they left.

– Associated Press

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It’s getting to be a cliché. A crazed killer commits mass murder and everyone asks, “How could this happen? Why didn’t someone realize this individual was dangerous?” Then we find out: Someone, maybe many someones, did know he was dangerous. And did nothing about it.

In the case of California school shooter Kevin Janson Neal, the man’s neighbors and even local police were aware he was a menace, a human time bomb armed with weapons a court order barred him from possessing. Texas church shooter Devin Patrick Kelley’s mental instability and proclivity for violence were well known to authorities, including the United States Air Force, which drummed him out of the service for choking his wife and cracking her son’s skull.

The deadly outbursts that have become so tragically common in this country are rarely a surprise to those who know the perpetrators. So why doesn’t someone stop them before they strike?

Place the blame on this country’s foundational and mostly admirable reverence for civil liberties, a mindset that prevents us from taking preemptive action. Our Constitution prohibits “unreasonable searches and seizures” and we’ve always heard it from law enforcement: “We can’t arrest someone for what he might do.”

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But why not? The 9/11 terrorist attacks created a level of fear that made unreasonable searches, seizures and arbitrary detention acceptable in America; have you been to the airport lately?

The mass murder epidemic is no less a threat to national and individual security than foreign terrorism. If we need to start arresting people for what they might do, so be it.