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Home | 2018 | February

Mass shootings in the USA

Posted by Thersites on UTC 2018-02-23 10:49.

We haven't commented so far on the massacre of 17 pupils that took place in a Florida school on 14 February. We have no special knowledge to add to the debate, but most of the solutions that have been proposed in the time after the incident seem to be very defective. Before outrage fatigue overcomes us all, here are one or two thoughts.

Gun control?

Gun 'control' – whatever that is: forget it. For reasons explained here it is never going to happen. If you don't follow the link all you need to do is to consider the task of disarming hundreds of millions of Americans who own around 350 million guns. House raids on law-abiding citizens, SWAT teams in law-abiding suburbs, leaving the bad guys as the only gun owners. No, forget it. That way lies civil war.

It would be helpful if we didn't sell guns to psychopaths, but there is no proposal, however sensible, that cannot be turned into an administrative mess by the American administrative state. Remember background checks?

Armed guards? Armed teachers?

The psychopath always has an advantage over his victims. The normal members of the normal society go about their daily lives under the assumption that their fellows are not going to kill them for no reason at all. We all live with our soft underbellies permanently exposed. The only solution for the normal person is to stop being normal, which is a very difficult thing for well-socialised people to do.

Today's news that there was a security guard at the school, who when the action started went and hid out of the way, shows how difficult it is for socialised humans to stop being normal. Let's consider the skillset of a school guard (whether a dedicated guard or armed teacher).

  1. Carry a loaded gun.
  2. Be schooled in its practical operation.
  3. Have plenty of firing practice.
  4. Be schooled in its practical operation under fire. Just popping off leisurely shots at a passive target is not enough.
  5. Be trained to be tactically calm under fire – just emptying the magazine in the general direction of the assailant will probably do more damage to the kids than the assailant. Even trained police officers have been known to go wild when the adrenalin starts pumping.
  6. Be aware that in any attack you will be the first to be shot by a calculating attacker, who always has the advantage of surprise.
  7. Be mentally able to shoot and kill people.
  8. Be trained to have the bravery to enter a combat situation as a free choice.

Readers will have realised that these skills become almost exponentially rarer as we move down the list. The full skillset is only possessed by specially trained professional soldiers, who, it has to be noted, are currently busy being soldiers. The danger exists not only in schools, but also in churches – in fact anywhere that people congregate. There is, however, still more needed:

Guards or armed teachers will need to drill and train at least once a month. If there are several guards or armed teachers this will be even more vital.

If you are a dedicated guard you will have to cope with crashing boredom for entire days, day in day out for years on end and still stay sharp. You will also need to be able to refuse to take on distraction jobs that the school management will invariably try to put on you in order to make all that hanging around seem useful: distributing mail, handyman jobs, watering plants etc etc. As compensation you will probably earn the minimum wage, in which case burger-flipping or shelf-stacking is definitely safer and much more interesting.

One guard or one teacher has little chance against a determined attacker who is capable of unhesitatingly killing someone. The only chance is in a coordinated takedown by multiple defenders from different directions, who don't even need to be armed – just be courageous and instinctually coordinated. The successful takedown of an attacker on a French train was the model for this, but that was a fluke. Half a church congregation carrying weapons may be able to achieve something, however.

The fashion for the use of multi-round rifles in school shootings – and it is a fashion in this copycat world – is the defenders' greatest advantage, since these are not suitable as close-range weapons. Once a defender has got near to the attacker, the latter is almost defenceless. The psychopath's need for a big, powerful looking gun may be his undoing. But where are these heroes in our daily life? Currently disturbing rubble in Afghanistan.

Teachers do not need to be armed. As we have seen, the skillset required is beyond most of them and we risk starting a gun fight that may kill even more people. But if you are not already a gun fan, then such stuff is not for you. And we should remember that teachers and guards can also become psychopaths, in which case the fox really is in the hen coop.

So what then?

Our solution: a) fewer psychopaths and b) more places to keep the ones we have safely out of the way under humane and secure conditions before they do damage. These are not prisons, they are not there to punish but to confine and, if possible, rehabilitate. Such a system will cost money, but nothing like the cost of the global warming scam or enquiries into Russian collusion. Unlike these, it could be money well spent.

Then the well-adjusted can carry on spending their weekends shooting at beer cans and targets and the rest of us will be left with the problem of how to stop preventative confinement also being used to dispose of the merely odd, the non-conformists, the harmlessly bloody-minded. Will your carefree words on Twitter or your obstreperous behaviour in class get you sectioned?

Oh brave new world, that has such people in't!