When the words "shooting rampage" become commonplace in our collective lexicon, something has gone horribly wrong. I confess that it occurred to me to be outraged and disconsolate after the shooting rampage last weekend in Fort Lauderdale's airport. Estaban Santiago took a gun he had legally checked in his baggage to a bathroom, loaded it, then walked out and proceeded to kill five people and wound six others. I leave it to you to try and come up with a motive. The murder of strangers has become such a piece of our national fabric that we don't question it anymore. Terrorism is a convenient blanket to toss over the mess. Mental health is a great excuse, but it doesn't explain the path. How did we get here?
Innocent bystanders used to be those caught in a crossfire. These were victims who died as an afterthought. There was someone targeted in those days, and an errant shot that missed an intended target brought sadness and quick retribution. These have become more the rule than the exception. Firing indiscriminately is the method to this madness and while many connections can be made to shooters such as Mister Santiago and their military training, it doesn't take a marksman to mow down a half dozen unsuspecting travelers in a crowded airport. Another in a series of tragedies that seem to have a numbing effect on everyone associated with them.
What's the answer? Increased security. At New York City airports, Port Authority Police deployed officers with heavy tactical weapons, positioned armored vehicles outside terminals, stepped up K-9 patrols and increased random bag checks. In Los Angeles, police went into "high visibility mode" with officers patrolling terminals with long guns. Boston Logan maintained a rigorous security plan, including tactical units, commercial vehicle inspections and roadway blockades. All of which would do wonders if there had been a commercial vehicle involved or a clever K-9 would have sniffed out the legally checked gun in Estaban Santiago's luggage or those armored vehicles had been parked proactively in front of the innocents who were killed by the legally bought, carried and loaded gun that someone decided to make a shooting gallery out of baggage claim.
What do we have left to our disposal? Ask people not to carry guns on airplanes. Or box cutters. Or shoes. And while we're at it, maybe we should just steer clear of airports all together.