The Cascading Failures of Government

The Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School shooting illustrates the sad reality that my organization, Judicial Watch, ceaselessly tries to expose through its investigative and legal efforts: that the left's constant attempts to usurp the sovereignty of the individual in favor of the sovereignty of the state lead to the loss of liberty, self-reliance, and life itself.

These are not abstract concepts.  As Judicial Watch has demonstrated countless times through its work, the operations of the government – at the federal, state, and local levels – and its failures are a direct threat to American lives, as we've ceded personal control to this growing monolith.

In the aftermath of the mass shooting in Parkland, Florida, we see an almost breathtaking cascading of failures by the various government agencies we've authorized to protect us.  It recalled something I learned many years ago, when I conducted death investigations for life insurance companies.  I was investigating the crash of an airplane in which a family of five from the Midwest was traveling to a vacation home in the South.  They encountered inclement weather en route, and the father, who was piloting the aircraft, was diverted, began to run low on fuel, and sought to land on a fog-shrouded airstrip.  Following a series of problems, the two-engine plane stalled when an engine cut out while he banked in circling the small airport.  The plane lost lift, nosed into the ground, and tragically killed the parents, leaving their three children orphaned and badly injured.

In the course of the investigation, I learned from aviation experts that many, if not most, airplane crashes are the result of not a single failure, but rather a series of cascading failures.  Cascading failures occur in interdependent systems, where the failure of one component leads to the failure of other components, eventually ending in catastrophe.  In the case of an airplane, the failure may be either mechanical or human, such as icing on a wing preventing lift, the pilot trying to correct for the disruption of airflow over the wing's surface by pointing the plane up, further reducing lift and causing a stall.

In the case of the Parkland high school shooting, the cascade of failures began at the very top of government, with Barack Obama and his push to reduce the number of disruptive students sent into the "school-to-prison pipeline."  Like so many feel-good leftist initiatives, the unintended consequences of this Obama policy contributed to disaster.

As the Washington Post reported, "In recent years, Broward schools became a leader in the national move toward a different kind of discipline – one that would not just punish students, but also would help them address the root causes of their misbehavior.  Such policies aim to combat what is known as the 'school-to-prison pipeline,' giving teenagers a chance to stick with their education rather than get derailed, often permanently, by criminal charges."

They continue: "Beginning in 2013, Broward stopped referring students to police for about a dozen infractions ranging from alcohol and drug use to bullying, harassment and assault.  Instead, students who get in trouble for those infractions are offered an alternative program that emphasizes counseling, conflict resolution skills and referral to community social service agencies."  The article noted that Barack Obama hailed Broward County as a "national model" for his new initiative, having reduced arrests in Broward schools from 1,057 in the 2011-12 academic year to 392 in the 2015-16 academic year.

Nikolas Cruz, the Parkland killer, according to disciplinary records obtained by a local news station, was involved in an assault at Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School on January 19, 2017 – more than a year before his shooting rampage.  However, he was not arrested.  Instead, he was subject to a "threat assessment" by the school district and removed from the school three weeks later.

According to CNN, citing law enforcement sources, Cruz purchased ten firearms in the past year.  That would be the year after the January 2017 assault occurred.  Had he been arrested and convicted for felony assault, those firearms purchases would presumably not have been possible, per federal gun law.  Additionally, in January 2013, police were called to Cruz's home when he assaulted his mother after she took away his Xbox at age 14.  He was handcuffed and put in the back of a police car until he calmed down.  Had he been charged in that incident, even with a misdemeanor, federal gun law would have prevented his purchasing firearms based on a misdemeanor domestic assault provision in the law.

Then you have Florida's "Baker Act," which allows for the involuntary examination and commitment to a mental health facility of persons whose behavior demonstrates potential harm to themselves or others.  The act appeared designed specifically for people like Nikolas Cruz.  Despite police notifications that Cruz was cutting himself in September 2016 and posting pictures of it to Snapchat, no effort was made to commit him.  Involuntary commitment to a mental health facility would also have precluded his purchasing firearms.

So with all these systems in place to prevent a deranged individual from committing an atrocity like what happened in Parkland, we saw multiple incidents of cascading failure.  When I mentioned my analogy to friend Lou Churchville, a commercial pilot and flight instructor, he noted that my comparison was not only "spot on," but more apt than even I realized.

Lou said you could liken the evolution of American society to the evolution of aircraft.  In the "old days" of flying, the pilot had to be engaged with and attentive to the aircraft, just as before the growth of big government, we all had to be engaged with and attentive to our communities and our children.  Everyone knew what was happening with everyone else.  Today, on the other hand, modern aircraft, like modern society, is largely run on auto-pilot.  The result, occasionally, is that things go haywire in an aircraft before the pilots even realize there's a problem or have time to correct for it to save the aircraft.  This is much like what happens when our auto-pilot society allows lunatics like Nikolas Cruz to go haywire.

As Lou says: "Contrast today, where most of us do not have very much direct and abiding contact with key elements of our lives.  Do teachers and school administrators really know their students, the families?  Does today's current social fad of political correctness and legal climate allow for effective action, or even vague mindfulness?  Does anyone really pay attention to those around them – or is it all through the social auto-pilot of an iPhone?  Who is tracking the course line?"

Our problem in society is not guns.  It is the expectation that government will take care of us and our children.  We need to take our society off auto-pilot to avoid the cascading failures.

William F. Marshall has been an intelligence analyst and investigator in the government, private, and non-profit sectors for over 30 years.  Presently, he is a senior investigator for Judicial Watch, Inc.  (The views expressed are the author's alone and not necessarily those of Judicial Watch.)

Image: Staselnik, via Wikimedia Commons.

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