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It is widely reported that the shooter in our latest school shooting was a classic rotten kid: in constant disciplinary trouble in school, getting into fights, getting expelled, killing small animals, boasting about his gun collection, joining a racist militia group, and posting on social media about his violent intentions. His schoolmates even joked that he was the kid most likely to shoot up the school. In the clear light of hindsight, it is argued that somebody should have done something. But what? The would-be shooter in Florida had as yet committed no crime. He truthfully checked all the boxes on the federal background check form—he had neither been indicted nor convicted of a felony, nor been in a mental institution, nor, so far as has been reported, used drugs. The criminal law has only a limited reach to forestall crimes that may or may not ever be committed.

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