Sunday, December 16, 2012

Fish in a Barrel

Last week, in Connecticut, a vicious lunatic named Adam Lanza murdered his mother.  Then he stole her (legal and registered) handguns, drove to the school where she had worked, marched right in the front door without any difficulty, went to the room of the kindergarten class his mother had taught, walked right in -- then shot the teacher, and proceeded to shoot the students.  There was no one in that room capable of stopping him.

Apparently the school had made some preparations for such an incident, for other teachers -- hearing the gunshots -- locked their classroom doors and made all the kids hide in a corner out of sight from the doors.  They also phoned the police, who arrived quickly and began clearing the building.  Just who finally stopped Lanza -- whether he shot himself or the police did it -- is still unclear, but obviously it was none of the students, teachers, or school staff.  That, thank you, is because the school's -- possibly the state's -- Zero Tolerance Policy forbade anyone, from the principal down to the janitor, and certainly the students, to bring a firearm or any other effective weapon into school.  That policy, of course, did not prevent Lanza from doing it.  That policy made the students and teachers into helpless targets.  Everyone has heard the phrase 'like shooting fish in a barrel';  it could easily be replaced by 'like shooting kids in a zero-tolerance school'.  Or, for that matter, a 'no weapons allowed' theater or shopping mall.

Of course, the moment the news came out, the professional liberals of the media began howling for More Gun Control, with such well-crafted phrases that they must have written up their appeals long in advance.  Of course President Obama was asked for his opinion, and he made a stirring speech about the 'tragedy', but was careful to say only that 'something must be done'.  A few media pundits bothered to say that we need better vicious-lunatic advance detection.

What nobody bothered to mention is this odd little fact.  For the past several decades, whenever some vicious lunatic wants to go kill a lot of innocent people, and decides to use guns instead of bombs, he'll go to, in order of precedence:  a) a school, b) a theater, c) a shopping mall.  You never see a vicious homicidal/suicidal lunatic go shoot up: a) a police station, b) an army base, c) a shooting range.  There has been just one case, and that in recent years, of an Islamofascist sleeper-agent shooting up a military base -- but even that base had a strict policy of keeping the guns locked away from the soldiers, leaving the armed military police to take the killer down.

Another odd little fact: you never hear of a vicious lunatic shooting up schools, theaters or shopping malls in Israel.  This is because in Israel: a) the schoolteachers have usually had military or police training, and are always armed, b) the theaters have armed guards always watching, if not armed police or soldiers in the audience, c) the shopping malls have guards armed with rifles or shotguns, placed in strategic positions, always watching the crowds -- and never mind how many of the shoppers are armed.  The teachers, guards and even civilians are trained and prepared to recognize a threat, and shoot him before he finishes saying the "-hu" on "Allahu akbar".  Likewise, when was the last time you heard of a vicious lunatic shooting up anything in Switzerland?

Gee, are we seeing a pattern here?

Yes, it would be nice if we had some reliable public system for detecting vicious lunatics before they kill anyone, and quietly trundling them off to the Happy Home.  The problem is that nobody has any idea how to go about doing that little thing.  We've seen from too-long experience that Gun Control doesn't work, despite the pious insistence of various liberals.  Getting Guns Off The Streets campaigns have only increased markets -- and prices -- for illegal gun-dealers.

The only tactic that works is arming, and training, the public at large -- as in Israel and Switzerland -- and providing realistic security systems, including armed guards, in vulnerable target areas -- such as schools, theaters and shopping malls.

Perhaps a good first step in this direction would be to make up small stickers (with really tough glue on the backs) saying "Helpless Victims Here" and showing an icon of a fish trying to leap out of a barrel, and stick them up on walls right under any sign that says "Gun-Free Zone" or "No Weapons Allowed".  Most people will get the hint.  Eventually, even politicians and media pundits will, too.

--Leslie <;)))>< (not in a barrel)   


Antongarou said...

As an Israeli, I have some corrections and clarifications to make to those claims about Israel:

a) This is mostly correct outside Ultra-Orthodox and Arab schools, but just by dint of nearly every not of these populations serving in the army. As someone who did it, I'd lay odds that at least half were REMFs like I was and never heard a gun fired in anger.

b)The theaters do *not* have armed guards. The malls they are in might. And most on-leave police and army personnel leave their weapon home , thank you very much.

c)The mall guards may or may not be armed. When they are armed it is with handguns, which are much more useful then either shotguns or rifles at shooting a lone lunatic in a crowd at close quarters.Depending on the day of the week and how near the mall is to a transportation hub, there may or may not be soldiers on their way back home carrying rifles. The setup you describe sounds like top alert situation in The Ben-Gurion airport, not a typical Israeli mall.

Also worth noting is that the gun control rules here are extremely strict- you want a handgun permit, you need to show sufficient reason for owning one(i.e. lives in the settlements, does business in same, etc) and prove competence with it, and permits need to be renewed either annually or semi-annually. Those handguns the security guards are toting?Usually don't go back home with them at day's end- they are locked up in a gun safe *on company premises*, because they have no proven need of them when not at work. Want anything more powerful then a handgun? you claim it as a show-piece, at which point it is disabled, you claim it as competition weapon, with written confirmations from the relevant sports associations, or if you want a shotgun you can ask for it as a hunter, but you will need a hunting permit, and the ammunition isn't sold- it is portioned out by the wildlife authority according to its own criteria.

Antongarou said...

addition to last post: from preliminary internet research hunting permits are no longer available to the public

Godel Fishbreath said...

It is a problem that none of the heroic adults could stop him.

That said, I want to post a quote from Sailor Jim Johnson: "

I don’t like guns.

I spent most of my adult life with guns and around guns and using guns … I still don’t like guns.

However, I believe – and have long believed – the saying that “when owning a gun is criminal, only criminals will have guns.” I believe that criminals, most criminals, certainly might have the wherewithal and connections to find and purchase just about any weapon on the black market.

But what I have come to equally believe is that mentally upset or psychologically damaged individuals WON’T! They don’t have the connections, they don’t have the wherewithal, and I also believe that any one of them that tries to somehow buy a gun under the table will end up losing their money for a bag of rocks.

I also believe that the individuals who are shooting up schools, malls, and theaters are not – repeat, NOT – criminals.

So, since it is impossible to stop the criminal class from owning guns, but it is possible to stop the emotionally and psychologically damaged from doing so, I have come to believe that outlawing the sale of guns can only make things better."

At one time Joe Bethancourt had a song that said that the second amendment protected the rest. I got on the pro-gun side from that song alone. But if you can not really stop such a minor force player as the ATF, then you really have not a chance against the state or national guard, and the army is totally out of your class. What protects the rest is the armed services are sworn to uphold the constitution. So the same thing that worked in the french revolution would work or fail here: the army either supports or blocks the revolution. Seeing that we did have a revolution of sorts in 1877, and that the local armories are there more for internal suppression than for any other reason, well that just points to the army not an informal militia being what counts.

Godel Fishbreath said...

Sailor Jim is on medical discharge from about 20 years with the coast guard. He has shot it out with people, he has had some of his own people killed.
Some of which is detailed in his somewhat exaggerated and somewhat adult stories: Naked Through the Snow.

Leslie Fish said...

Hi, Anton. Thanks for the update; the last Israeli I'd talked to about this WAS a mall-guard, and he'd sat at a strategic point on the top balcony holding a shotgun -- full length, full choke, very tightly directional. I suppose it varies with the shopping mall. Those civilian gun-laws sound very much like New York. ...Then again, aren't a lot of Israelis current or veteran military or police?

Hi, Godel. Bear in mind that a lot of the military is in the Reserves, and a lot more are veterans. The rank and file are not too happy with the govt. right now, thanks to the idiotic management of the so-called War on Terror. In case of revolution, I don't the the govt. could count on the military to put it down.

Antongarou said...

Yes, they are. Unless you served long enough to become a lieutenant-colonel or higher you don't get to keep a handgun only on that strength. People serving in the police have permit for one personal handgun, but often don't wear it when not on duty, because it causes extra hassle.Ex-police don't get permits on strength of that alone.

When was your Israeli friend a mall guard? As of(IIRC) the mid-90s arming them with anything heavier then handguns is illegal.

Leslie Fish said...

Hi, Anton. Yes, I believe he worked as a guard in the late '80s to early '90s.

Leslie Fish said...

Oh, correction: the doors to the school were locked. Lanza got in by breaking a window. Gee, isn't breaking windows a crime too? That didn't stop him either.

Leslie Fish said...

Latest news: a lot of people, including the NRA and several senators, have publicly proposed arming teachers. You can tell how many people are proposing this by the number of near-hysterical put-downs of the idea you can see and hear pushed by the pundits on CNN and MSNBC.

--Leslie <;)))>< )O(

Antongarou said...

I think that arming teachers is an extremely bad idea, for several reasons:

1) Hand-eye coordination is not a requirement of the profession. This means that during a confrontation a big percentage will, at best, shoot their foot off, and at worst miss and hit an innocent kid.

2) This makes the potential for accidents *soar*. You can bet anything a teacher carries around on a regular basis will fall into student hands, and probably earlier rather then later. Guns are not kid safe, and probably never will be.

3) Teachers are not put through any kind of psych screening aimed at this. They may be bad at handling this type of pressure, they might be the kind of person who would never get a gun but when they have it they become terrible bullies, etc.This can mean bad results as per 1, plus them shooting someone by mistake because they were strung up.

4)Who will pay for certifying them and buying the firearms?Will you support a tax hike to get the funds for this? And it will be high. IIRC there are ~7 million teachers in the US, and training and maintaining proficiency of an infantryman costs, at minimum, ~800K annually. Say you train 1 teacher in 10, and spend 1/8 of the amount you spend on an infantryman. This computes to 70 billion dollars annually, about 2% of the whole federal budget. And that's while using very generous estimates, if we raise the cost estimate to 400K annual(probably more realistic), then we're looking at nearly 10% hike in expenditures.

5) This doesn't deal with the basic problem: that schools are seen as targets in American culture. As an Israeli I can understand someone shooting up a hospital where, say, a family member died, or a government agency, or a mall. I won't do this thing, but it makes sense in my world. Shooting up a school?Does Not Compute, it has no place that even makes sense in my world.

Leslie Fish said...

Hi again, Anton. Actually, there are solutions to all those problems you're concerned about. First, eye-hand coordination can be improved with training and practice. Roger Young, famous Medal of Honor winner of WWII, had such bad eyesight that he was turned down when he volunteered for the army. He joined his state's National Guard instead, and wound up in the army when his Guard unit was nationalized. His years of intense practicing in the Guard made him a very good shot, despite his rotten eyesight.

There's also another phenomenon, noted by the writer, Col. Crossman: intense target practice teaches you to control your breath and heartbeat in order to hold your hands still. This leads to a sort of Zen calm, and in time you condition yourself to fall into that Zen state whenever you close your hand on the gun. This prevents panic, as well as improving accuracy.

2) Who says the training and arming must stop with the teachers? There's no reason not to teach gun-safety, gun-maintenance and target-shooting to the kids, too -- whereupon the kids also learn the Zen of shooting. Until the mid-20th century, it was common for the schools to teach gun-handling as part of the sports program -- and there were no school shootings then. For a modern example, study Switzerland -- where the kids are likewise taught shooting, and tote guns around -- and there are no school shootings there, either. Yes, it's possible to make guns kid-safe -- by making the kids gun-safe. The more training, the fewer accidents -- and the younger you start, the better. Besides, even a troubled kid can benefit from learning Zen calm and self-control.

3) There's no reason that teachers can't be put through psych screening. In fact, they should be -- whether they're armed or not. An unstable teacher has no business being in the schools, anyway.

4) Who's going to pay for this? Heheheheh. The NRA! The NRA could be talked into giving the training for free, and decent guns (I've priced them) can be purchased for as little as $100. Teachers could buy their own, just as drivers pay for their own (required) car-insurance. Gun-training civilians, for some mysterious reason, costs a helluva lot less than training soldiers.

5) Why are schools particular targets? Two reasons, depending on age.

Most school shootings have been done by kids who went to those same schools, and were made miserable there; their motive is revenge, based on desperation. (And the theory that they're encouraged by Vi-o-lent Video Games is claiming that the tail wags the dog. Miserable kids console themselves with violent fantasies, including games, often for several hours a day, rather than the game brainwashing the kid.)

Adults who shoot up schools they didn't go to are simply nuts who want to destroy the world -- ending with themselves -- who go looking for helpless victims so they can kill as many as possible before dying themselves, going out in a blaze of gory glory. Note that the lunatic who shot up the shopping-mall in Oregon -- just a few days before the Newtown shooting -- stopped the moment he saw an armed civilian aiming at him, then turned his gun and his last shot on himself. Ever since the first school massacre -- at Bath Township, Michigan, in 1927 (still the worst school killing in US history, claiming 45 lives)-- adult school-shooters have always ended by killing themselves if the police didn't shoot them first. It's an elaborate and vicious form of suicide.

Antongarou said...

1) Improved? Yes. Improved enough that they are effective in a gunfight...a vary big maybe. Not everybody starts off well enough that they will get to this level, or benefit equally.This is before we go into things like mild epilepsy, that are incurable.

2) You can probably teach gun safety to 9 years old kids. Can you teach it to 5 year olds? I doubt it. And that's before we consider that children have worse impulse control then adults, from all evidence due to biological causes(i.e. the brain hasn't developed those centers fully yet) and the additional costs of these programs - I doubt the NRA is set up to teach additional 6-9 million children, whose instruction requires very different techniques then the ones used with adults.

3) As I noted, they may have passed some kind of psych screening, but it wasn't aimed at these parameters. There are people who would be superb teachers that would fail this spectacularly(say, bad adrenaline reaction). This also means you have to screen the teachers already in place and train replacements for all of them that fail - this is a massive requirement even assuming there are enough people with the right personality to both teach and be armed(for a good inside view on this I recommend you read the comments by "Mary Francess" on this entry in Scalzi's blog. She is a teacher with several decades of experience)

4) Is the NRA set up to teach 700K(at minimum - maybe up to 7M) people to be up to at least LEO marksmanship standards, and maintain both training aimed at keeping these people up to standard and teaching new people as they come in every year, all of this without additional funds? 100K$ annually is the money invested, because you need so many instruction hours to make sure someone is competent, and this requires so many range hours(with the relevant wear-and tear on the guns and range equipment), and since it's work mandated you need to pay the people undergoing training, and probably a dozen other expenditures I don't know enough to even mention

Anonymous said...

I could also point out that back when it was a lot easier to lock up crazy people, mass shootings were almost completely unheard-of, at least outside the context of Prohibition.

I have thought longingly of taking a time machine and making durn sure that Kesey's novel never saw print.

Leslie Fish said...

Hi, Raven. Actually, when Reagan started tossing all the "certified harmless" lunatics out of the nut-houses, it wasn't about anybody's civil liberties; it was to save tax-money. The ACLU jumped on the bandwagon because of a lot of abuses in the earlier system.

Hmmm, note that this was also before the frenzy for gun-control had reached its present holy-helplessness extent, and there was no "zero tolerance" policy in the schools.

Hi, Anton. In order: 1) teachers who are totally incapable of learning to shoot competently can be set to teaching the older students -- who themselves have gone through the training, and are armed. Switzerland, again.

2) When I was a kid, summer camps taught "riflery" (shooting basics) to kids as young as 7, though indeed the counselors used BB-guns rather than real firearms. In fact, teaching kids shooting basics at an early age tends to improve their self-control and eye-hand coordination. Besides, the lower grades are where you should have the best-qualified (in shooting) teachers. In fact, the NRA has been teaching gun-handling to little kids -- for nearly a century -- with quite good results.

3) Unless education schools have gotten a LOT worse since I and my pals were in college, there shouldn't be that many qualified teachers who are mentally/physically incapable of learning competent gun-handling. We probably wouldn't have to shuffle that many teachers around into classes where the students would be protecting them. As for the cost, back when Clinton was pres. he mandated $60 million to put cops in certain "high-risk" schools (a program which is still in force, BTW, which is why you don't see major shoot-outs in slum schools), and neither the media nor the taxpayers' organizations batted an eye.

4) Bear in mind that the NRA has more than 4 million steady members, all of whom pay at least $40/year for their membership. For a project like this, yes, I do believe the NRA could -- and would -- come up with the money. The law could require that teachers qualify every year at their own expense, just as the states require drivers to provide car insurance at their own expense.

Also, bear in mind that neither the teachers nor the staff (nor the students) need be given complete police or military training; they just need to be good enough to recognize a threat, react quickly and shoot accurately. In any case, in any school shooting they'll outnumber the maniacs if not outgun them.

--Leslie <;)))><