In the wake of a Florida school shooting carried out by a man who had been the subject of repeated calls to law enforcement, U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham said lawmakers need to focus not on guns but on changes that give police more flexibility in dealing with someone who’s “about to explode.”
The comments from South Carolina’s senior senator came during an interview with Greenville media outlets, video of which was posted Monday to Graham’s YouTube channel. Graham said what stood out to him most about the Valentine’s Day shooting that killed 17 students and teachers in Parkland, Fla., was the number of warning signs displayed by confessed shooter Nikolas Cruz.
“They did everything but take an ad out in the paper,” Graham said of people who called law enforcement to warn them about Cruz before the shooting. “The system was told time and time again, ‘This man’s about to explode.’”
The recurring theme in “almost all” mass shootings, Graham said, is the gunman’s mental health.
“You can’t just grab somebody off the street and put them in a mental health institution – there is due process,” he said of shooters who display warning signs. “I’m going to look at some laws at the state level that allow a law enforcement agency to petition a judge and say, ‘This person is becoming a danger to themselves and others. They haven’t committed a crime, but all the information we have about this person (says) they are unstable.’
“If a law like that existed in Florida, the cops would have had somebody to go to,” he said.
Graham said he supports arming teachers, a proposal floated by lawmakers and officials around the country, including President Donald Trump. But, it has to be part of a multi-tier security plan in schools.
“I don’t mind arming people in the school who want to volunteer for that job, who are well-trained and capable,” he said.
The senator said perimeters around schools, monitoring equipment and two layers of defense – school resource officers and “a couple of teachers or coaches” who volunteer to carry weapons – need to be part of any school security plan.
Graham, who noted that he owns an AR-15, said a ban on assault weapons like the AR-15 is not going to happen. But he supports a ban on bump stocks.
“I’m not going to focus on the gun,” he said. “I’m going to focus on the man behind the gun and a system that could not react.”