BOOTH: Failure to heed signs will only lead to more tragedies

The gun laws aren’t the only pieces of legislation that need to be addressed in this country.

The three slain RCMP officers in New Brunswick are just the latest in what seems to be an endless stream of similar tragedies: a lone gunman goes on a rampage shooting, and sometimes stabbing, innocent people before he either kills himself or surrenders to police.

In Toronto in 2012, a gunman opens fire at a neighbourhood block party, killing two and leaving 23 wounded.

In Calgary, five students are killed at a house party celebrating the end of final exams.

In California, a disturbed male stabbed and shot seven people to death while wounding 13 others.

In Seattle, a lone gunman opens fire in Seattle Pacific University, killing one student and injuring two others.

And in Moncton, a disillusioned male sets a trap for responding RCMP officers, killing three and wounding two more, sparking a manhunt that lasted two days before he was finally apprehended.

Granted, two of the incidents took place in the United States, but the circumstances are the same – just as they were with the guy who shot up the movie theatre in Colorado, the gunman at the University of Montreal in 1989, and the kid in Taber, Alberta who shot up his high school in the wake of yet another Colorado tragedy, the Columbine shootings.

And it’s always men. Women have more reasons to be ticked off with the way they are treated in society – glass ceilings, unequal pay for equal work, the "old boys" club, etc. – but they aren’t the ones who start stockpiling weapons while pulling all-nighters working on their 300-page manifestos outlining the ways the world has grieved them.

The wrong party won the election? Girls won’t go out with me? I can’t get the classes I want, but a foreign student did? I got another ticket for parking in a handicap space? I had to wait an extra two days to get my welfare cheque?

Well, by golly, somebody has to pay, and anybody will do.

One problem is, these gunmen aren’t gang-bangers blazing away randomly at rivals in the streets or outside bars. These are seemingly ordinary individuals who, for whatever reasons, elect to take their frustrations out on whoever gets in their way. They plan it out in advance until the tipping point comes that sets them off.

When these things happen, the response is predictable. Neighbours will say he was a good boy, while friends and relatives will note his behaviour had changed lately and not for the better.

Such is the case in Moncton, where one friend of the accused said the suspect "wished me a good life," when they last met and spoke of his desire to "go out with a bang."

These are clear warning signs – along with penning lengthy manifestos and giving away one’s earthly possessions – that all is not right in the mind of the individual.

Even when these concerns are reported to authorities, little can be done to stop the madness. In the California and Moncton cases, the parents of the gunmen inquired with police only to be told there was nothing that could be done.

All police can do is interview the person to determine if he is a danger to himself or others. If the answer is no, then he is free to go.

Everybody in Canada has basic rights that prevent them from being tossed willy-nilly into a psychiatric unit, but clearly there are times where the rights of the individual are secondary to the safety and security of the rest of society.

Just as the right to free speech does not give a person license to shout "fire" in a crowded theatre, we shouldn’t have to wait until an individual puts a bullet in the chamber of a rifle while standing in the food court at the mall before police are allowed to take action.

If the warning signs are there, society and its agents must be able to be proactive to get the individual the help he needs, whether he wants it or not.

Failure to do so will only lead to more tragedies and another long line of red sergeclad RCMP officers marching behind a casket into a hockey arena.

Michael Booth can be reached via email at

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