Tuesday, February 27, 2018

The Not So Easy Solutions to School Shootings

Once again a crazed madman shot up a school. The teenager, whose name shall not be mentioned, killed 14 students and three adults at the Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. Once again the cries emotionally scream out “We have to do something.” They plead “Never Again.” The students justifiably exclaim “They want to be safe at school.” Let us though remember H.L. Mencken’s sage admonition: “For every complex problem there is an answer that is clear, simple, and wrong.” Here are the cries: 1 Ban Assault Weapons 2 Ban Semi-Assault Weapons 3 Ban Saturday Night Specials (in the past) 4 Ban Guns 5 Ban Bump Stocks 6 Repeal the Second Amendment 7 Boycott the NRA 8 Require Background Checks for all Gun Purchases 9 Improve the background checks 10 Raise the age to 21 for gun purchasers 11 Keep guns out of the hands of the mentally ill If only if it were that simple! There’s almost one gun per person in the United States: an estimated 357 million guns for 327 million people. These guns are not going to disappear in the United States. None of these would have mattered in Parkland once it became clear the Broward County Sheriff’s Office, social service, mental health experts, and the FBI’s action failed to meaningfully act in light of dozens of specific warnings. The animus towards the NRA diverts attention from the real causes of the Parkland tragedy. Demonizing the NRA is a slogan, not a solution. The NRA did not fire the guns; nor did a NRA member. The NRA did not adopt a soft arrest and policing policy, but both Broward County and the school board did. The NRA did not ignore the warnings. The Broward County Sheriff originally said they had 23 calls about the assailant. The number is now up to 45. The NRA did not ignore the explicit phone call warning: “I know he’s going to explode.” He might slip “into a school and just shoot the place up,” The FBI took no action. The FBI also failed with San Bernardino, Pulse Nightclub, Fort Hood, the Boston Marathon bombers, and even 9/11. America must adapt to the new threat to our nation’s schools. The existing paradigm of open, safe schools needs to be reassessed. One clear safety step to protect students is to harden the target. K-12 schools often have one or two entrances, unlike the spread out college campuses with scores of facilities. Entrances can be guarded, although that is not a complete solution. The Red Lake Senior High School shootings on the Red Lake Indian Reservation are illustrative of the complexity of the security problems. The shooter killed his grandfather and his grandfather’s girlfriend one night. The slain grandfather was a tribal police officer. The shooter showed up at the school the next morning with his grandfather’s guns and shot to death an unarmed security officer at the metal detector. He then killed five students and a teacher and wounded seven victims before committing suicide. Red Lake School is not the only case of family guns being used in these shootings. The killer at Sandy Hook Elementary School killed his mother and then used her guns to kill 20 first graders and six adults before committing suicides. Other protective measures include bullet proofing the windows. Means should exist to lock classrooms against intruders. Teachers should have access to a panic button in their classrooms. Active shooter drills should be practiced, just like fire drills. Active Shooter Drills saved lives at Sandy Hook and Parkland. “Gun free zones” are a green light to potential shooters. Concealed-carry is not the complete solution, but it a partial solution with trained teachers and staff. Even if it cannot prevent an incident, it may reduce the carnage. Three or four or five undercover defenders are better odds than a campus security officer who might be nowhere near the attacker. Washington State Governor Jay Inslee said yesterday at a governors meeting on school security with President Trump: “I have listened to the first-grade teachers who don’t want to become pistol-packing first-grade teachers.” Governor Inslee seems to have forgotten that second graders were the primary victims at Dandy School Elementary School. Law enforcement and school authorities should engage in intensive social media searches. The potential assailants often post their thoughts in advance. One clear step is to not publish the shooter’s name or picture. Don’t give the warped demented souls the 15 minutes of notoriety (fame) they crave. The media wants to publish the name, picture and background of the shooter to help explain why this nutjob did it. Yet, with all the publicity on the Vegas shooter, we still don’t know why he shot up a concert. “Madmen” should not have guns, but psychotherapists lack the means to accurately determine who will become dangerous. It can’t simply be based on those receiving pyschotropics; that would include millions of Americans on these medications. Only rarely as with the shooters at Virginia Tech, Simon’s Rock College of the Bard, and Parkland do people immediately was the assailant before his identity is discovered or discovered. (One commonality in these incidents is that the assailant is usually a white male). We also cannot predict who will go off their meds, as did the shooter at Northern Illinois. Yet the Parkland shooter displayed many warning signs, including a cry for help, slitting his wrists, shooting animals, making threats, and having an ISIS flag, which apparently A major concern a few decades ago was teenage suicide. Now it seems that some of these suicides want to kill others before themselves. Protocols need to be developed and refined both to identify the threats and to respond. Law enforcement changed its response protocol after Columbine to immediately confront the shooter. Broward County held back. Its response should be an object lesson on how not to plan or respond for an active shooter. At least one, if not three other deputies, held back outside the school while the shootings continued. The police had no hesitancy went they arrived. The general rule after Columbine is that the first officers on the scene should engage immediately. That was not followed at Parkland. Why? One suggestion, anathema to the younger generation, is to ban violent video games, or age restrict them. Life is cheap in many of the games while extra lives are readily available. These games cheapen human life. Of course, these games will not be banned. Hollywood is very sanctimonious as it grinds out films extolling violence Guns are usually the weapon of choice for the attackers. Cars, as in Santa Barbara, and knives also show up as the instrumentalities of death. The Columbine and San Bernardino shooters were unsuccessful in detonating bombs In addition, many of the gun incidents do not involve automatic or semi-automatic guns, but involve hand guns. As to unpredictability, a milk truck driver on October 2, 2006 dropped his children off at the school bus, and then drove to the West Nickel Mines School, an Amish school. He killed five schoolgirls and wounded five before committing suicide. Universal background checks sounds good, but trying to apply that to parents passing on firearms to their children is unrealistic. Children in rural America often grow up as familiar with guns as tractors. Banning bump stocks seems easy, but the effect will be minimal. They haven’t been used in most shootings, and apparently anyone competent with a 3D printer can produce one. Students often are the key to stopping these shootings. Several students have warned the authorities of fellow students who have made threats. It’s tough being a “fink,” but it saves lives. However, those calls must be taken seriously and investigated. Students will have no incentive to warn if the authorities, such as the FBI and local law enforcement, flub the investigation. Bans on assault and semi-assault weapons have been unsuccessful. Congress enacted in 1994 a ten-year ban on the manufacture and sales of semi-automatic assault weapons. Studies have shown the ban was ineffective. “Never Again” is a great slogan. The students mean it. It won’t work!

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