* Just how many tip offs are received each year in a nation so brimming with private fire arms?
* What can the FBI do anyway, unless the guy under scrutiny turns out to have an illegal fire arm or to be so nutty he can be forced into immediate psychiatric treatment?
I see that at least partial answers are at this article at PBS:
FBI assessments are routinely opened after agents receive a tip, which could be sparked by something as simple as noticing odd activity in a neighbor’s garage or a classmate’s comments. Agents routinely face a challenge of sifting through which of the tens of thousands of tips received every year — and more than 10,000 assessments that are opened — could yield a viable threat.And as to what they can do - as I expected, often it will turn out to be "nothing":
FBI guidelines meant to balance national security with civil liberties protections impose restrictions on the steps agents may take during the assessment phase.And, as the article earlier says, some recent high profile killers were looked at by the FBI, who decided nothing could be done:
Agents, for instance, may analyze information from government databases and open-source internet searches, and can conduct interviews during an assessment. But they cannot turn to more intrusive techniques, such as requesting a wiretap or internet communications, without higher levels of approval and a more solid basis to suspect a crime.
“It’s a tricky situation because sometimes you get information regarding individuals and they may be just showing off, blustering,” said Herbert Cousins Jr., a retired FBI special agent in charge.
A vague, uncorroborated threat alone may not be enough to proceed to the next level of investigation, according to Jeffrey Ringel, a former FBI agent and Joint Terrorism Task force supervisor who now works for the Soufan Group, a private security firm.
Many assessments are closed within days or weeks when the FBI concludes there’s no criminal or national security threat, or basis for continued scrutiny. The system is meant to ensure that a person who has not broken the law does not remain under perpetual scrutiny on a mere hunch —- and that the FBI can reserve its scarce resources for true threats.
Had he had pledged his allegiance to the Islamic state, for example, investigators might have had enough evidence to proceed with a more intrusive probe.
Tips like the one that came in about the Florida gunman are among countless complaints that come into the FBI daily with varying degrees of specificity.
“How many of these do you expect the FBI to handle before it becomes the Federal Bureau of Complaints,” said Hosko. “They could spend their entire workforce tracking down internet exchanges that never going to go anywhere.”
In the last two years, a man who massacred 49 people at an Orlando nightclub, another who set off bombs in the streets of New York City and a third who gunned down travelers at a Florida airport, had each been looked at by federal agents but later determined not to warrant continued law enforcement scrutiny.Of course, we all know that Trump and Republicans will make big claims about how this Florida killing was the FBI's fault, because it helps in their self serving PR war with the bureau, and because it provides yet another way to claim mass shootings are about poor enforcement of current laws, despite the fact that so many of them are done with legally purchases assault weapons, or mental health, even going back to decrying liberals for 'de-institutionalisation', as if it would be easy to lock away every loser with a gun collection on mental health grounds.
Amongst other stuff I thought worth reading after the Florida shootings, I liked this piece by James Fallows pointing the finger at the very specific role of Mitch McConnell, old turtle head, on preventing a reasonable set of gun law reforms proposed by Obama after Sandy Hook.
And speaking of Obama, just have a read of this Fact Check piece on the claim that Obama "flip flopped" on gun control. The short answer is that he didn't, and when you read the quotes from Obama, it's hard not to impressed that he was so consistent and reasonable on the whole issue. There used to be a moral adult in the office.
And another responsibility avoiding line the Right is now taking - saying that Democrats used to control congress and why didn't they pass control then? Two points I thought are pertinent:
* just how much of a good argument is it to say "the other side were too cowardly to risk votes to bring in gun control." It's pretty much arguing "if they were cowards, we can be cowards too."
* there have more and more school shootings since then anyway. The reason for action becomes more apparent, and it's a cop out handwave to say "well they didn't do anything so we won't either."
Update: look at the information in this tweet going around: