I have been asked by several people when I was going to write an article on school shooting in light of the Sandy Hook tragedy. My reply was always the same - I won't comment or pontificate on it until all the children are buried. I have decided now is the right time for several reason. The biggest reason - I'm sick of hearing everyone prattle on about solutions I feel either won't work and/or are solely based on partisan politics.
Let's get to the heart of the matter. This is NOT about gun control. Sandy Hook has nothing to do with gun control. I see you over there having a fit. I know the "talking heads" on cable news says it is. However, it's not. Here's what we know. Adam Lanza was a law-abiding citizen until the moment he entered a school. In other words, he and his mother did everything you're supposed to do as an armed citizen. They went to the range, cleaned their guns, locked them up, got licenses, etc. None of our existing laws or agencies could have stopped Adam Lanza. Adam Lanza was, in my layman's assessment, insane. No one can doubt that. That's where lots of active shooters stray away from the rest of us - they're nuts (it's an academic term) and we're not. In my opinion that places many of us to include our politicians in an un-winnable position. You see, we mistakenly believe people like Adam Lanza will adhere to our cultural norms and values particularly those related to the preservation of human life. Here's what we know about Adam Lanza- he immersed himself into a video game world where life is ended with no consequence at the push of a button. Over time, I believe Adam Lanza came to believe life was meaningless and easily sacrificed for any reason the life-taker chose. In his online world, it is speculated Adam Lanza wanted nothing to do with his human counterparts except to "kill" them virtually. There is a profound disconnect with the rest of humanity there. So what am I driving at. We can't expect people who operate in one world (they function) yet live in another to adhere to the norms and values of this world. Creating additional laws and other measures we think are deterrents will fail us.
Most troubling is the rhetoric in Washington, D.C.. Before I go there, let me assure you I love the Second Amendment and guns. I am a proud gun owner and I believe you should have the right to defend yourself and loved ones when a credible threat is present. You will get no arguments from me there. That being said, there have been a number of laws and proposals presented by various partisans about how to do that. I firmly believe many if not all will fail. Here's why:
- Arming teachers and having armed guards in schools is bad policy. There's a belief that had one teacher been armed they could have stopped a mentally ill teenager armed with an AR-15 and wearing body armor. That's a very dangerous and problematic conclusion to reach. Crazy people count on law enforcement and people with guns to confront them. They rehearse their response to this as much as they do the act themselves. Announcing to the world, we have armed gym teachers will only increase the likelihood they'll show up wanting a fight. Remember James Holmes both wore body armor as did the Columbine shooters. Additionally, as long as you have open spaces to play and mass gathering locations (bus stops) publicly accessible, you will never be able to adequately protect our children. What happens when students are away from the interior of the premises? It is also prudent to note we're dealing with people who have INTIMATE knowledge of their target and the locations they are at. They may also know your contingency plans. Many will be students or former students possibly teachers or parents. What happens when an armed teacher "snaps"? Don't think its possible? Teachers are under tremendous stress and are vulnerable to some of the same issues most active shooters face. No is immune from crazy. In small communities, they may know who the armed teachers and officials are and neutralize them first.
There's the additional concern with what happens when a teacher practices poor weapons discipline and does something stupid like lose a gun, places it in a lockbox and leaves the key at home or forgets the combination, has a negligent discharge, or doesn't wear a retention holster. I know what you're saying "highly trained shooters" don't make those kind of mistakes. Tell that to military firearms instructors. How do you admonish teachers who can't shoot that well? Remember who we're talking about. These are teachers - not soldiers or cops. Will you make using a firearm a prerequisite for new teacher hires? What would be an adequate curriculum? How often should they practice? How often will the state mandate they practice? How many will you arm? Will you teach them to clear rooms? Will they lean to "shoot, move, and communicate"? Will they be adequately prepared for more than one shooter? What about other places where children congregate? Do we arm museums, playgrounds, aquariums, malls, etc.? Who will pay the $18 billion that proposal will take to be effective nationally?
- Taking guns away is equally as bad and even more problematic. Before you post some statistic on gun deaths in this country vs that country, do me a favor and chill out. Here's a lesson on gun laws, gun culture, and gun deaths: Gun laws keep good sane people honest. That's it. Trust me. Bad guys, like crazy people, don't live in our world. They may operate in it but they do not follow our norms or values let alone our laws. Why do you think we have a problem with recidivism? We punish people using a system that will work on people like us. Stick me in a cell for a day and I'm rehabilitated. In places like the U.K., yes they don't have near as many gun deaths as us. Hooray. However, ask any British citizen what crime permeates their media and they will reply "knife crimes". That's right. The bad guys didn't stop committing violent crimes to include murder because the gun went away. Nope they chose another weapons platform.
A war on gun crime will be much like our war on drugs. We can't win it unless we accept we have to kill our appetite for all violence to rid ourselves of this for good. I even heard some people claim only the government should have guns like the AR-15. People claim having the capability to kill is the problem. Let me set the record straight. I, with a bolt action rifle, could have made Sandy Hook as big a tragedy as Adam Lanza with his AR-15. I see you rolling your eyes in doubt. I could have and I'll tell you why. We can't accept to lose one child let alone 20+. I could have killed 5 and would make headline news. Ammunition capacity and expenditure shouldn't make a tragedy less or more of a tragedy in any mass shooting incident. It's prudent to remember this same mentality created the TSA and look where that has gotten us. We're safe but if you bring a water bottle aboard a plane, hello cavity search.....
- The hysteria has to stop. I am so sick of hearing about liberals who want to take away guns and enslave white people and crazy gun owners who want to start the new American Revolution. I think it's high time we all chill out. Seriously. Stop listening or reading your favorite "news" source and remind yourself crazy rhetoric won't save our children from the Adam Lanza's of the world. We're a nation of neighbors. Act like it. Voice your frustration with our government. Start a grassroots movement to increase awareness on your side of the issue. Think of your own solutions. Start a blog. Just do something constructive. Calling each other names and spewing vitriol doesn't save our children.
- Recognize we have a mental health crisis in this country. Don't believe me? Ask a cop about his latest "emotionally disturbed persons" call. It is by no coincidence when we closed mental health facilities in this country we saw a spike in violent crime per capita. Talk with your elected officials about what they propose to mitigate this crisis.
- Become knowledgeable about some of the pre-attack indicators active shooters exhibit.
- Report any and all potentially mentally ill AND dangerous persons to the proper authorities.
- Demand your school be proactive on this. Ask if they have drills and what their procedures with local law enforcement will be for these scenarios. Ask if they've been in contact with law enforcement to work out a plan. Ask about existing protective and detection methods. Do they need upgrading? When was the last upgrade? Have they talked to a consultant?
- Rehearse with your child their actions. Do it until it becomes rote memory. Whatever you practice ensure they recognize they don't have to be a hero to survive and to do EXACTLY what the police tell them to do.
- Become active with your child's school life. Ask about bullying and if the school is doing anything to curb it whether it be your kid or others. If it's not, ensure that the school is. Encourage your child to get to know outsiders early on. Remember most active shooters began retreating into their own world long before they became violent.
- If your child has mental health issues, recognize it, get it treated ASAP, and encourage engagement and not retreat.
- If we can't "bring God back into the schools" as some propose, then let's bring good parenting back. Become active in the school and encourage other parents to as well. Reach out to your neighbors and other parents at the school. Remember we're a nation of neighbors.
- We have to address our appetite for violence. Don't get me wrong. I recognize there is a time when you have to act in self-defense and may have to kill someone. I get and support that. I also recognize there is a profound difference between that and murder. We have to find a way to starve our desire to kill without necessity. Until we can find a way to do this, then we nor our children will ever be safe.