The Real Lesson From the Airport Shooting

Not much is known about what trouble Estaban Santiago got into during his remaining military service after returning from Iraq. We only know that he went AWOL several times, that he was under some sort of investigation, that he was dismissed for “unsatisfactory performance” from the Alaska National Guard.

Not enough to keep him from possessing a firearm.

He had seen friends die in Iraq. A bomb had killed two as he watched. His family says the experience changed him. He was angry and bitter, sometimes hallucinating, seeing things others could not see.

He tried to get counselling, at one point at one point succeeding in getting into a psychiatric program.

Should that have been enough to keep him from possessing a firearm?

Perhaps.

But current gun law does not cover someone, no matter how dangerous, who voluntarily goes into treatment. Laws have been proposed, but conservatives, gun manufacturers, and the National Rifle Association are opposed.

He was convicted of domestic violence in early 2016. He broke through a locked door to get at his girlfriend in her home. He beat her and fled when police arrived. He was later arrested and tried. It was not the only time he had assaulted the woman. He had become well known to local police. Emergency calls had become routine. A restraining order was obtained, but he ignored it.

Should that have been enough to keep him from possessing a firearm?

You would think so.

But current law in most places does not keep someone from owning a firearm, just for beating a spouse. There have been proposals, but … you know … conservatives and the NRA.

Close relatives and immediate family agree. He seemed to be losing his mind. But no law would present any obstacle to him getting a gun.

In November 2016, he showed up at an FBI office. Agent Marlin Ritzman tells us what happened.

Mr. Santiago walked into the FBI office to report that his mind was being controlled by US intelligence agencies. During the interview, Mr. Santiago appeared agitated, incoherent, and made disjointed statements.

Marlin Ritzman, FBI, January 7, 2017

He told agents his mind was being invaded by US intelligence agencies. That he was being forced by voices to watch whatever ISIS terrorist videos he could find on the internet.

It would be hard to find a more determined, motivated warning. Telling the FBI a personal story, face-to-face, that included auditory hallucinations, ISIS videos, delusions of mind control, and a propensity for violence.

It would be hard to imagine a more definitive cry for help, but it got worse when agents located his car on the parking lot outside the FBI office. The gun that he later turned into a deadly weapon was in the car.

Should all of that have been enough to keep him from possessing a firearm? Is there any possible argument? FBI Agent Ritzman explains that he and his colleagues did all the law allowed.

Although he stated he did not wish to harm anyone, as a result of his erratic behavior, our agents contacted local authorities who took custody of Mr. Santiago and transported him to the local medical facility for evaluation.

They did take his gun. But only for a while. After he was released from medical evaluation, he asked them to give it back. They had no choice. They could keep it from him for a few days after release, to prevent immediate suicide, but that was about it.

Karen Loeffler is the United States Attorney for the District of Alaska. She knows the law.

There is a federal law with regard to having a gun by somebody who is mentally ill, but the law requires that the person quote be adjudicated mentally ill, which is a difficult standard.

There have been efforts to keep seriously disturbed, violent people away from deadly weapons. The NRA has made its own proposals, with much fanfare. But legislation pushed by the NRA would eliminate even the few days a gun could be kept away from a seriously delusional person after treatment.

Mr. Santiago could not be put on a terrorist no-fly watch list. There was no actual detectable link to a real terrorist group, except for the imaginary group in his fevered mind. There was no record beyond his demented insistence that he had been pursuing terrorist contacts.

But even if there had been some actual link, even if he had been placed on a watch list, there was nothing authorities could have done to keep him and his gun apart.

Nothing.

Under current law, known terrorists cannot be prevented from buying whatever weapons they can afford. Conservatives and the NRA.

There are some safety measures in place. Air Marshals can carry firearms onto a commercial aircraft. Ordinary citizens cannot. All things considered, that makes sense.

But airlines have bowed to conservative pressure. Guns can be checked onto a commercial flight with other luggage and then picked up at any luggage carousel after arriving at a destination. That is how Estaban Santiago managed to carry a weapon through the terminal in Fort Lauderdale.

President Obama seemed to have had this future, extreme case in mind in June, 2016.

I just came from a meeting today in the Situation Room in which I’ve got people who we KNOW have been on ISIL websites, living here in the United States – US citizens. And we’re allowed to put them on the no fly list when it comes to airlines.

But because of the National Rifle Association, I cannot prohibit those people from buying a gun.

This is somebody who is a known ISIL sympathizer. And if he wants to walk into a gun store or a gun show right now, and buy as many weapons and ammo as he can, nothing is prohibiting him from doing that. Even though the FBI knows who that person is.

President Barack Obama, June 1, 2016

Video has captured the incident. There was nothing to warn those in the line of fire as he quickly pulled out his weapon and fired several shots at those in his path. It was over in a little over a second.

The most conservative of conservatives are waking up to the problem. They agree the shooting in Fort Lauderdale should have been prevented. And they know why and how Estaban Santiago was able to kill.

It is was because of American Muslims.
It was brown skinned people.
It was news media.
It was President Obama.

There was a picture of the crazed gunman pointing a finger. A pointing finger is a terrorist sign and that means followers of Islam. Well, doesn’t it? So that means Muslims.

CNN broadcast a photo of the gunman, altering the picture to make him appear lighter than the guilty dark-skinned person he is. Sadly, that turned out to be an error. CNN never broadcast a photo, and the altered photo some conservatives had discovered was that of the wrong Estaban Santiago. It was someone else with the same name.

Still, media covered up the fact that he was an immigrant from Puerto Rico. Okay, so Puerto Rico is part of the United States, which … means … Estaban Santiago was not an immigrant. Well, so what?

Most of all, conservatives know President Obama is to blame for the shooting. This from The American Thinker:

And every element of our degraded press and the law enforcement system Obama has systematically enfeebled will do everything they can to keep us from finally learning the consequences of our tragically failed policy with young American men in this, as in so many other cases.

After all, the FBI works for the President. And this President has no real interest in stopping such tragedies.

The American Thinker:

The FBI takes no interest in his access to firearms or perhaps placing him on a watch or no-fly list until some follow-up check on him.

The danger is not the ease with which anyone, terrorist or domestic batterer, mentally deranged or stone cold killer, can purchase a deadly weapon. The issue is not extremist opposition to even minimal gun safety laws. The problem is not the National Rifle Association, or the firearms manufacturers who finance the organization.

It is dark skin. It is Islam.

It is a President who should have done … well, you know …

Something.


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3 thoughts on “The Real Lesson From the Airport Shooting”

  1. I think some of your assertions are not quite accurate, Mr. Deming. Federal gun law states that anyone convicted of a misdemeanor domestic violence charge or having a protective order against them, cannot legally possess a firearm. As such, Santiago’s guns should have been confiscated, as I read and understand the law.

    “The 1968 Gun Control Act and subsequent amendments codified at 18 U.S.C. § 921 et seq. prohibit anyone convicted of a felony and anyone subject to a domestic violence protective order from possessing a firearm. The intended effect of this new legislation is to extend the firearms ban to anyone convicted of a ‘misdemeanor crime of domestic violence.’
    This bill passed with almost unanimous support and represents Congress’s recognition that ‘anyone who attempts or threatens violence against a loved one has demonstrated that he or she poses an unacceptable risk, and should be prohibited from possessing firearms.’ ”

    https://www.justice.gov/usam/criminal-resource-manual-1117-restrictions-possession-firearms-individuals-convicted

    Further, as a Life Member of the NRA, I have read and been involved with their ILA (Institute for Legislative Action) for years and have seen nothing of the charges you have claimed. If anything, the NRA wants, supports, and lobbies that the mentally ill, violent, illegal aliens, and violent felons not be able to legally acquire or possess firearms.

    It is when the government over-reaches and tries to take away the firearm rights from law-abiding citizens that the NRA-ILA pushes back hard. There is a reason that our Founding Fathers listed the right to bear arms as the 2nd amendment in our Bill of Rights. It helps to ensure that we retain all of our constitutional rights.

    1. Thank you for the link, T. Paine.

      As I read the statute you present, it safeguards the person who has obtained the order for as long as the order lasts. There is no consideration for any danger the mentally disturbed individual may present to others after the order has lapsed. That seems to have been the case here, where there was no conviction, the protective order had run its course, and yet the person clearly was a danger to himself and others.

      The NRA says that they lobby in the direction you suggest. The details of their proposals reveal something different. For example, the clearly disturbed Mr. Santiago was able to force local law enforcement to give back his weapon, despite the danger this presented to the public. The principal objection from the NRA to that very procedure has always been that it takes too long. They insist that there should be no waiting period.

      Do you agree with the NRA that it took too long for this individual to get back his deadly weapon?

  2. In light of Mr. Santiago’s numerous assault and domestic violence arrests, I think that he should have lost his constitutional right to bear arms through proper adjudication.

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