Thoughts on Mass Shootings: 75 Days is Ample … and Some Longer-Term Thoughts
Dov Fischer
by

For the purposes of this discussion, I will define “mass shootings” as any shooting that kills three or more people, not including one’s immediate relatives. That is not to discount the shooting of one’s relatives nor the shooting of fewer than three. I do not subscribe to a definition that starts at four. Three is mass.

There is no easy solution. The Left wants to take away guns and blame Trump. The Right wants to protect the Second Amendment but often flails at proffering solutions that solve. I offer my thoughts.

This mass-shooting phenomenon never before has happened with such prevalence. Therefore, I deem it a unique crisis comprising a clear and present danger. There is no rhyme nor reason. It can be at a Batman movie in Colorado, at a Congressional softball game attended by a Bernie Sanders supporter, at a political rally where a female Democrat Congressional representative is shot by a former campaign volunteer, at churches, at mosques, at temples, at state fairs, at garlic festivals, at Walmarts, at schools. Because it is a crisis, I believe my first proposal must be implemented only for an initial two-year trial period, but I believe it should be tried. Here goes — and I am absolutely serious:

  1. First and Foremost: Trial, Appeal, Higher Appeal, and Execution — All in 75 Days

Any mass shooter should be put on trial on an accelerated basis — a rocket docket. Typically, these shooters are discovered on-site or within a day or two. The evidence usually is overwhelming. A mass shooter should be put on trial within three weeks of the shooting. That is ample time to prepare a defense, because only two defense pleas should be acceptable: 1. “I did not do it,” and 2. “It was an accident.” No other defense plea should be acceptable, including mental/psychological defenses. It is not humane, in this environment, to allow that kind of insanity plea. If they do not know they killed three or more people, they will not know they are dead a few weeks later.

The shooter should be put on trial within three weeks of the shooting, and the trial must not last more than one week. I have litigated in civil courts for more than a decade. We attorneys sit with a judge at a case management conference, where the judge sets the length of trial. Sometimes we ask for three weeks, and sometimes the judge sets it at three days. The O.J. trial ran for 200 years, and the jury still is examining the evidence. When a trial runs for months, the jury is overkilled with too much information. It does not take six months to figure out who shot the people in a public mass shooting when 20 smartphones filmed it, and the police have the evidence. The trial should last no more than one week. No psychiatric testimony or counter-testimony because there are only two facts to determine: 1. Did the defendant do it, and 2. Was it purposeful or accidental?

If the person did it deliberately, we now have a guilty verdict within four weeks of the incident. Next there should be a two-week window to file appellate papers. That is plenty of time to argue why the jury got the facts wrong. The rule for mass shooting appeals must be that the three-judge panel must rule within seven days. If the appeal loses, we now are at seven weeks. And the same time frame should be set to appeal to the highest court, and for the Supreme Court to rule. If all appeals fail, we are at 70 days from the incident. The execution then must be carried out — executed — within five days.

I hope the defendant wins. I hope he or she can show that she did not do it, or that it was an accident. I hope that, if she or he loses at trial, he or she wins on initial appeal or at the high court. I really do. But if not, the person is dead in 75 days — and finished.

Mass killers who act deliberately and without accident need to be executed within 75 days of the mass shooting. Sooner would be better, but 75 days is fair. Abraham Lincoln was shot on April 14. Four of the co-conspirators were executed on July 7. That is 84 days. But that was before modern technology. By the time Charles Guiteau assassinated President James Garfield, it took two days shy of a year to try, convict, and execute him. On the other hand, Garfield did not die until September 19, and Guiteau was convicted on January 25 and executed after appeals on June 30. But President William McKinley’s assassin, whose surname is too complicated to spell, went on trial September 23, only nine days after the president died. He was electrocuted on October 29 — only 36 days later.

That is justice. Swift. Efficient. Yet careful. An honest trial, an honest defense, open court, no government interference, opportunity to appeal. All transparent. That is justice. If “justice delayed is justice denied,” then efficient justice is sufficient justice.

Here is why this matters. We now are in need of something dramatic to staunch the flow. Yet it must be just, humane, and constitutional. The problem now is that mass shooters never seem to go on trial, to get convicted, to get executed. If they do get executed, it is so many years later that the execution does not even make the news. It ends up in the “Sports and Wildlife” section. It is imperative that it became known to one and all that mass shooters who act purposefully are dead within 75 days.

  1. Medium-Term Step: Become Extreme Against Marijuana

Ann Coulter wrote an article that was so powerful in connecting marijuana use with mass shootings and other beyond-heinous crimes that I recommend it to everyone. The role of psychedelic drugs — absolutely including marijuana — in creating psychoses that result in murder is incontrovertible. Coulter’s piece was based on an extraordinary book by Alex Berenson, Tell Your Children: The Truth About Marijuana, Mental Illness, and Violence. Coulter quotes Berenson: “Cannabis-dependent psychotic patients were four times as likely to be violent. No other factor was nearly as important. Alcohol use, which was common among the patients, made no difference.”

  1. Medium-Term Step: Become Serious About Mental Illness

The United States has become increasingly lax in its approach to mental illness. This despite psychological counseling no longer carrying the stigma it once did. People who should be in treatment centers instead are celebrated as the “homeless” on the streets of Los Angeles and San Francisco, held up by liberals as paragons of a society persecuted by conservatives like Ronald Reagan and Donald Trump. Somehow they always end up in Democrat Congressional districts, where local governments throw more and more money and free needles at them, Malibu and Silicon Valley do-gooders bring them leftovers from their fancy soirées, and then even more money is sent their way.

That does not help the mentally ill. Professional psychological care and institutionalization helps the mentally ill.

Guns need to be kept away from the mentally ill, and society needs to create clear standards for withholding from them access to firearms and munitions.

  1. Longer-Term Step: Restore Prayer and the 10 Commandments to the Public Schools

I would like to see G-d back in the public schools. My wife attended public school in upstate New York, and, in order to sing in school choir, she had to learn all the Christmas songs. Fine. Wonderful. She still came out an Orthodox Jew, married an Orthodox rabbi, and every year for nearly 20 years won first prize at the annual office Christmas Party’s contest on knowing lyrics to Christmas carols. No one could touch the Rebbetzin (Rabbi’s wife) until they finally hired a guy for a position at the company simply because he had been a church choirmaster so that inside ringer could beat my wife. Well, it was no cakewalk on ice. Rather, that showdown was like watching two American kids of Indian parentage competing in a spelling bee. No one can touch my wife on Christmas carols. For she is the queen of Isra-el (when it comes to Christmas carols lyrics quizzes).

America made a huge mistake when it removed G-d from the public schools. I know we cannot bring Him back in the front door. But we can bring back a daily morning prayer. Let it be a silent prayer. But every kid stands for three minutes of silence at the start of Home Room. If he or she prays, fabulous. If he or she has atheist parents who tell the kid, “Don’t pray. Don’t let them make you pray,” fine. Let the kid stand there and contemplate batting averages or count in his or her head the number of Democrat candidates for president. It is healthy, in and of itself, for every kid to stand quietly for three minutes — no texting, no Facebook, no tweeting, no Instagram. And it will impact them over the years knowing that really cool kids — kids who curse and who drink underage and who are great athletes — that even they stood silently and prayed every morning. It impacts, just as it does when you watch every baseball player who hits a home run point a finger to Heaven, to let everyone know that his power and his skill comes from a higher source.

America took prayer and G-d away from kids. What changed in America? That did. And, while at it, they should put a 10 Commandments poster or logo or something at every school.

  1. Longer-Term Step: The Need for a National Conversation About Social Media

I put this out there for now, without a solution on this front at this time. We need to have a national conversation about the social dangers of social media.

When Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and each new social medium emerges, we celebrate how wonderfully closer we all become. We can share thoughts, ideas, and photos to all the people who “like” us and “follow” us. We are one big “community,” divided only by the rules of Silicon Valley that allow them to leverage their corporate monopolies to control speech they do not favor.

Our society has not yet confronted how profoundly social media have ruined our lives and culture. We joke about teens who text at the dinner table. Public offices have signs asking people not to make phone calls there. Morons text while driving, causing more deaths and life-destroying injuries each year than do mass shootings. Fools post tweets that end up getting them fired from good jobs, their careers ruined because the electrons do not quite disappear. Others post compromising photos of themselves on Facebook, preferring the slow-cooker approach of having their lives ruined 10 years later when the photos come back to haunt them.

Yet another price we pay for social media is the uptick in mass shootings. A national conversation must be had.

  1. Things That Do Not Convince Me

I am not convinced that the culture of violence in our video games, television, and movies is a major cause of mass shooting. Other countries do not have the same prevalence of mass shootings even though they have the same games. The games are sold everywhere in the world and are played on the internet. Movies can be accessed all over the world on Amazon, Netflix, Hulu, and other streaming sources. Same with TV. Yet other countries do not seem to have quite the problem we have.

We have had mafia movies forever. The first Godfather was in 1972. “Bloody Sam” Peckinpah’s Straw Dogs was in 1971. The terrible ending of Easy Rider was in 1969. Joe and its bloody ending was in 1970. Lots of blood in the entertainment media was commonplace in popular culture in the 1970s.

Yes, I despise our entertainment culture’s shift to more and more violence, as I do its shift to more and more film-depicted sex. The movies before explicit scenes became de rigueur had no problem conveying when people were being intimate, when they were being adulterous or otherwise unfaithful. In the same way, the mobster films before the 1970s often conveyed the same violent messages without all the bloodshed. I wish it would stop. I wish the Hollywood corruption of America’s culture could be reversed. I am not persuaded, however, that the prevalence of mass shooting is attributable to that.

Likewise, the Left’s rush to blame everything on Donald Trump is disgraceful. Trump explicitly has condemned haters on all sides, and often. It is as fair to blame Bernie Sanders for the shooting of Rep. Steve Scalise or Rep. Gabby Giffords for her shooting by her former volunteer. Likewise, former Rep. Allard Lowenstein was murdered by his own former campaign aide. As a general rule, when Democrats react to a tragedy by piling on with a predictable blame that suits their leftist narrative, I immediately disregard it. It is wicked to blame President Trump for societal ills that long pre-dated him. There were plenty of mass shootings on Obama’s watch, as well as one-after-another-after-another urban riots in places from Ferguson to Baltimore. It is too patently easy to blame things on an individual we do not like. This article aims to suggest solutions, not to blame political opponents and repeat mantras.

Likewise, so many of the mass shooters get their guns legally, often in cities and states that have the nation’s strictest gun control laws. So the Left’s knee-jerk response to ban guns or to abridge the Second Amendment, though it plays well to the Left, avoids confronting deeper causes: justice unjustly delayed, liberalized massive use of psychedelic drugs in society, lax attention to mental illness, and even politically cynical celebration of the mentally ill on the streets, the values-free removal of G-d and prayer from the schools, and the social curse of a social media culture we were not prepared to confront.

These suggestions are worth trying. The others have not moved a solution closer.

Dov Fischer
Dov Fischer
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Rabbi Dov Fischer, Esq., a high-stakes litigation attorney of more than twenty-five years and an adjunct professor of law of more than fifteen years, is rabbi of Young Israel of Orange County, California. His legal career has included serving as Chief Articles Editor of UCLA Law Review, clerking for the Hon. Danny J. Boggs in the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, and then litigating at three of America’s most prominent law firms: JonesDay, Akin Gump, and Baker & Hostetler. In his rabbinical career, Rabbi Fischer has served several terms on the Executive Committee of the Rabbinical Council of America, is Senior Rabbinic Fellow at the Coalition for Jewish Values, has been Vice President of Zionist Organization of America, and has served on regional boards of the American Jewish Committee, B’nai Brith Hillel, and several others. His writings on contemporary political issues have appeared over the years in the Wall Street Journal, the Los Angeles Times, the Jerusalem Post, National Review, American Greatness, The Weekly Standard, and in Jewish media in American and in Israel. A winner of an American Jurisprudence Award in Professional Legal Ethics, Rabbi Fischer also is the author of two books, including General Sharon’s War Against Time Magazine, which covered the Israeli General’s 1980s landmark libel suit.
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