And the carnage continues.
From Columbine to Virginia Tech to Newtown to Fort Hood to Tucson to Aurora to San Bernadino to Killeen to the Navy Yard in Washington, D.C., to Charleston to Orlando to . . . Fort Lauderdale.
The feared “active shooter” arrived in South Florida on Friday afternoon at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport.
The scenario was heartbreakingly familiar: People, basically, living their lives, this time at baggage claim. Out of nowhere, there’s a gunman. He shoots, indiscriminately.
Florida was not spared in 2016, and has started out the new year with another tragedy. The shootings were the horrific end to what might have been a wonderful holiday getaway or a return from college break.
We know that five people were dead Friday, with eight more hospitalized with injuries. We know hands will be wrung, fingers will be pointed, security tightened and many tears shed. And we also know that the first-responders, as usual, are the heroes.
We’ve been here before, unfortunately, which is why there are some other things of which we’re certain:
▪ Broward Sheriff Scott Israel appeared large and in charge as reporters peppered him with questions before the chaos of the shooting subsided. He responded to each question as forthrightly as he could. He paid his respects to the dead and their families. CNN’s insinuation that the BSO was not in full control of the frightened crowds was competently swatted down by Broward Mayor Barbara Sharief, who said that people were just running for their lives, especially during the false reports of a second shooting.
▪ For all the hoops travelers jump through to get onto an airplane, the public areas remain a threat to airport security. On Friday, police said shooting suspect Esteban Santiago retrieved his luggage from baggage claim. Inside was a gun. Santiago allegedly went into a rest room, then emerged armed and shooting.
The gun was in a checked bag as per aviation rules. But innocent people were vulnerable anyway.
The danger came from inside the terminal this time, but a gunman could have charged in from outdoors. Security experts call this a “soft targets.”
Closing that gaping hole seems to be a no-brainer. But nationwide, it’s been the subject of debate between those who would screen everyone coming through the entrances and aviation-industry opponents who cite sky-high costs and inconvenience. Still, these shooting incidents spawn new security measures. This latest should not be any different.
▪ Guns are a problem. Hundreds killed in mass shootings have not persuaded a recalcitrant Congress, a majority cowed by its patron, the National Rifle Association, to take common-sense action on who can buy a weapon and who cannot. And if 20 slaughtered first-graders in Connecticut weren’t persuasive enough, then five innocent victims in Fort Lauderdale likely won’t do the trick, either. That, too, is a tragedy.
▪ Guns in the hands of mentally ill individuals, and Santiago may be among them, is a problem, too. See above.
Friday, Santiago was in custody, alive. It’s one small bit of solace, in that it’s possible that he will fill in the unfathomable blanks as to why. But already we know something else — there is never a credible reason for such a hateful act.