Sessions: ‘We Can And Must Do Better’ At Intervening Before Attacks Happen

On Abraham Lincoln’s birthday, US Attorney General Jeff Sessions delivers remarks in the Lincoln Hall of Union League of Philadelphia in Philadelphia, PA, on February 12, 2018. (Photo by Bastiaan Slabbers/NurPhoto)
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During a speech addressing sheriffs in Washington, D.C. Thursday, Attorney General Jeff Sessions called the school shooting in Parkland, Florida Wednesday “an image we don’t need to continue having to see” and said law enforcement “can and must do better” at intervening before attacks take place.

He said the Justice Department is working with the Departments of Health and Human Services and Education to study the “intersection of mental health and criminality” to “better identify how we can stop people before these heinous crimes occur.”

“We had a brief meeting with your leaders before this speech and they all agree that every one of these cases, we had advanced indications and perhaps we haven’t been effective enough in intervening immediately to deal with that,” he told the Major County Sheriffs of America, an association of elected sheriffs. “I suspect it appears that we have seen that again in this case. So you are experienced professionals. You and I know we cannot arrest everybody that somebody thinks is dangerous. But I think we can and we must do better.”

He then touted his office’s clamp-down on violations of federal firearms laws, saying “we have got to reverse these trends we’re seeing in these shootings.”

“And this situation that we have seen just cannot continue, and we will take such action as we’re able to take,” he said.

Sessions’ response closely mirrors President Donald Trump’s take on the attack at a Florida high school Wednesday. Both argue that it is up to law enforcement and citizens to better report “signs” of disturbing behavior, while only vaguely alluding to concrete policies that could prevent future shootings.

While Democrats such as Sen. Chris Murphy (D-CT) have already requested that Congress act to pass stricter gun control policies, Republicans, including Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), are calling for caution. Following the shooting in his home state, Rubio on Wednesday said it is important to get all the facts of the case before “you jump to conclusions” about policy.

“We owe it to every one of those kids, crying outside their school yesterday, and all those who never made it out of that school,” Sessions said, after urging law enforcement to “do better.”

“Our hearts are hurting today, and all the law enforcement community knows that we have a challenge in front of us, and I know together we’ll meet it,” he said.