It takes less than five minutes for a shooter to gun down unsuspecting people at public places (in most cases, schools). Regardless of how they occur or how they are classified, they often play out in very similar ways: a gunman, commonly male, working alone brings untold grief to many unwary innocent people. It is with great ease that he does this, not stepping back once during the whole process.
The account of nineteen-year-old Nikolas Cruz walking into his former school, armed with a Smith and Wesson semi-automatic rifle, is sure to reveal the coldness, the bitterness that makes the gunmen nonchalantly fire. Cruz set off the fire alarm and students rushed out of their classes, hoping to flee, to escape; little did they know that awaiting them on the other side of their classroom doors was an actual danger. Cruz, done with his firing, casually walked away to exit the scene.
This narrative of the shooting resurfaces to the mind of every American when news of mass murders and crimes show up online, in the papers and on TV. Along with this, creeping into one’s thoughts is the realization that the legal system has loopholes that allow these vicious animals who go on sprees of shooting and murderous pursuits to find a way to escape. Nothing’s been done in the past decade to better the situation or provide speedy resolutions and closures to these cases; by closures, what is meant is a suitable punishment or the appropriate consequence that upholds justice.
With Seth Ator killing seven people and injuring twenty-five in Texas, a month after the El Paso shooting, the gun debate has been awakened yet again. But, this time around, the difference lies in the reaction from the current administration’s side. It has acted positively by choosing to expedite capital punishment for convicts involved in mass murder cases. Despite the opposition claiming that it is irrational of the President and his team to do so (Biden’s remark was along this line), the call for quick action and removal of delaying factors in the legal framework is remarkable. What answers do one place in front of the wailing kin of the educator, the postal worker, the visiting relative, or the teenage girl who succumbed to the heat of Ator’s rage on last Saturday? Words of solace wouldn’t work here. Only justice would.
Early in August, speaking to the officers at the Fraternal Order of Police Conference, Bill Barr, the Attorney General, shared that among the proposals that would be advanced after Labor Day was that revolving around a “timetable for judicial proceedings that will allow the imposition of any death sentence without undue delay”. The most important comment that he made was this – “Punishment must be swift and certain”. Federal executions have not been held since 2003 and this reflects how the general attitude towards crime hasn’t been tough enough. When the perpetrators of crime claim that their acts were molded by a greater purposed or that they were angered by the loss of prospects that came their way, cognizance of their irrationality dawns upon you. Often jingoistic or extremist perceptions of the world and the people around (accompanied by the sense of white privilege) form the root of these shooters’ actions. To meet with this element of jingoism, strict action must be pursued. As long as capital punishment does not unnecessarily target the marginalized or the minorities in society, it is the right means of attaining closure in the case of heinous crimes (mass murders in particular).
There are arguments against death penalty that focus on the ‘humanitarian’ shifts that human beings must adopt – some say that the suffering that the convict faces upon being placed in the death row for years is far more torturous than actual execution; this, apparently, serves the purpose of letting the convict know of how erroneous an act he has committed. But the reality shows you the contrary- long years of suffering do not alter the perspectives of dim-witted thinkers who are rooting on their extremist fundamentals and belittling all else. The humiliation and the pain strewn over the convict by the death penalty will keep others away from possible temptations to commit crimes. Drawing a period ahead of adversely contagious thoughts is the need of the hour.
If one views federal execution as a ‘cruel and unnecessary conclusion’, then he or she must think of how much crueler the deaths of the innocent victims had been. In fact, the word ‘cruel’ undermines the gravity of the situation. No explanatory remark or reason would calm a father, a mother, a sister, a brother, a wife, a daughter or a son who got a call out of the blue that told them that they had lost a loved one, a child whom you had just taken to their first day of school. Cruel was the forced departure of children who did not know of the complexities of the real world or the pains inflicted by it.