"Do Something"

The tragic murders and assaults at Parkland High School in Florida certainly shake our confidence in humanity in many ways. Although those of us who are advocates of what the Second Amendment stands for are often criticized for expressing condolences to the family and friends of the victims, we do, nonetheless, want to send our condolences. I can't imagine what they are going through.

Unfortunately, the emotional reaction many have to these events, are simply that - emotional responses. While I can understand the emotion, we must focus on rational thought. You can see the emotion in responses such as we have to do "something." That emotional plea for "something" is what can cause further harm.

Let's look at a few issues regarding these so called "school shootings." First, I noticed reporting that have exaggerated the number of "school shootings" this year. Any murder in a school is horrible, but let's not equate school shootings with murders in school or even mass murders in schools. I believe Everytown for Gun Safety, supported by Michael Bloomberg with its decidedly anti-freedom and anti-gun stances, is the source for this misinformation. That group defines a school shooting as "any time a firearm discharges a live round inside a school building or on a school campus or grounds." This definition includes a 31-year-old man that killed himself in a school parking lot. At the time of suicide, there were no teachers or students at the school as the school had been closed for 7 months. This also includes a situation that occurred in Indiana in which a school employee arrived at work in the morning, and while attempting to lock his handgun in his car's glove compartment, he unintentionally discharged his gun. It also included another incident in which a 24-year-old entered a beauty college and shot a 29-year-old and 20-year-old, before shooting and killing himself. The perpetrator was reportedly upset after one of the victims refused to date him. For more information see school-shootings.

What does all this mean? Please be skeptical about becoming so frightened that you cave to the emotional plea to do "something." The chances of any particular child being a victim of a "mass murder" in a school are probably less likely than they are to die from a lightning strike. Our children are certainly more likely to die in an auto or bus crash going to or from school. If you want to "do something" - buy and learn to use a tourniquet for that much more real possibility. While any incident involving the death or serious injury to a child is very unfortunate and tragic, we must keep a proper perspective grounded in fact and not react with bad policy and in ways that traumatize our children with fear of a mass casualty event. We do not generally have data at our fingertips to help us make accurate estimates about the likelihood of certain events like mass murders at school. However, we have our memory. Although, I'm certainly no psychologist, I understand that the more often we hear about certain events, the more likely our mind is to conclude that the particular event is likely to occur. I understand psychologists refer to this as availability heuristic. I would encourage you to "Google" this for more information. What is my point? Be on guard to the barrage of news coverage regarding "school shootings" that relentlessly reinforces your memory about the event so you will succumb to the drumbeat of "do something." Essentially, the media is trying to take advantage of the availability heuristic to make an unlikely event seem likely. An article from Psychology Today by Joshua D Foster indicated:

"As this relates to the recent mass murders, it is likely that people will become, at least for a time, more fearful that they or someone they know will be the victims of the next shooting incident. Politicians, whose jobs depend upon being in tune with the concerns of their constituents, and who are likely themselves to overestimate the likelihood of the next mass murderer coming to their towns, will probably introduce heavy-handed policies, . . . While these interventions will likely have little to no effect on future occurrences of mass murder, they will make people feel like something is being done to protect them from the boogeyman that now seems certain to live in their neighborhood." See Mass Murder is Nothing to Fear.

So, take a deep breath, and really reflect before you support the "we have to do something" mantra. If we have to do something, we should probably focus on what we can do to reverse the effects associated with broken families, violence in video games, social media, and the media. But, if you really want to do something that might help, listen to plans like the one advocated by Polk County Florida Sheriff Grady Judd. His official Facebook page indicates he was interviewed by several local media outlets about active assailant threats on a school campus. Sheriff Judd provided information about the Sheriff's Sentinel Program already established at Southeastern University since 2017. The Sentinel program creates special deputies who are selected by the University and screened by PCSO staff, including criminal background checks, drug testing, and a psychological evaluation. The Sentinels are appointed by the Sheriff as volunteer "Special Deputies" for the limited purpose of providing security on Southeastern University's campus during an active assailant incident. Special Deputy Sheriffs in the Sentinel Program are required to successfully complete training with the Polk County Sheriff's Office Training Section prior to his or her appointment, which will consist of 132 hours of comprehensive active assailant, firearm safety, and proficiency training. They are authorized to carry approved firearms concealed on campus. The firearms are specifically purchased and issued for the sole purpose of the Sentinel Program.

I'm not sure I would support all the details of Sheriff Judd's program, but it is certainly a good start. When an active murder situation begins to unfold in a school, we call 911 to get someone who we hope is competent with a gun to the school to stop the threat. Why do we have to wait several extra minutes for someone in an official polyester uniform to arrive with the gun while children are killed. I have never understood why it matters who responds with the gun - as long as the response with the firearm is a highly trained response. I can only imagine how the Parkland incident may have turned out differently if one of the brave coaches that purportedly shielded the students had a gun and was trained. I would also suggest these cowards that go into these "gun free zones" to murder children would pick another venue if they realized there were trained teachers, staff, or administrators prepared to protect the students. It seems obvious these mass murderers cease their attack when confronted with armed opposition. So - if you believe "we must do something"- at least make it rational and avoid the self-deception that purported gun-free zones or an "assault weapons" ban will serve as a solution. Almost all mass killings occur in gun-free zones, and the "assault weapons" ban has already been tried by President Clinton. The ban was entirely ineffective and expired in 2004:

"Since the federal ban expired in September 2004, murder and overall violent-crime rates have actually fallen. In 2003, the last full year before the law expired, the U.S. murder rate was 5.7 per 100,000 people. By 2014, the murder rate had fallen to 4.5 per 100,000 people. In none of the years since the ban ended has the murder rate been higher than it was in 2003. The average murder rate during the 10 years of the ban was 6.7 per 100,000 people and in the 10 years after it was 5.1."

More gun-free zones or "assault weapons" bans might make some people feel better, and the politicians will capitalize on the vulnerability that many people feel to convince voters to vote for them to "do something" at the next election. Acting on this emotion will be for naught. It will result in failed policies, many of which have already been tried, and it will certainly result in a loss of freedom – the freedom that many innocent people exercise to protect themselves and their loved ones. So, once again, let's not act on emotion. Let's act in accordance with reason and take steps similar to those offered by Sheriff Judd. 

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Sunday, 02 October 2022

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