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JPFO: Tell us about your background, and your involvement with firearms, and the right to keep and bear arms.
SCHILLER: The name is Dr. David Th. Schiller, currently residing in the little town of Nassau, 70 km northwest of Frankfurt. I work as editor-in-chief of VISIER, a 168-pages strong general interest gun magazine which I started eleven years ago in Stuttgart and which has now grown to be the most influential and best selling gun magazine in all of Europe. Of course with a gun magazine published in Germany, politics are at the forefront of our editorial work, and we have an eye toward the past. NRA's Steve Halbrook has been just over here and I was glad to help him with his research on Jewish resistance during WW II.
I was born in (West) Berlin in '52 in Germany, moved to Israel in '72 and served in the Israel Defense Force's Airborne, which means I am now a veteran of the '73 war, the Lebanese war, and a number of border raids and actions in the occupied territories. Wounded in 1973 on Suez canal, I later studied political science at West Berlin's Free University and mastered with a thesis on the origins of the Civil War in Lebanon and a Ph.D. in '82 with a work on the Palestinians' "love affair" with terrorism and paramilitary activity. When I returned to Germany in '74-'75 for studies I was called upon by the Berlin Police department to consult and teach their SWAT team, which just came into being after the Munich massacre during the Munich Olympics. Over the years this extended into a whole series of work obligations with various police departments in Germany and other places in the world. Due to my work in the Israel Defense Force (IDF) as a drill instructor and weapons specialist and through my academic interest, I had something to teach to these people. I also worked some years for the terrorism research department of Santa Monica's RAND Corporation, and have continued my academic pursuits.
Over the years I published a number of books on shooting, police, terrorism, military history etc., most of these under the pseudonym of "Jan Boger". You probably might find a photographic journal of mine in English on the IDF, called "To Live in the Fire...", published in 1977 by the John Olson Publishing Co. in New Jersey.
As you can see, I experienced violence and gun control from both ends of the barrel, one might say. And of course, I grew up to be a strong believer in the personal right to self defense, especially as I spent my childhood in the Berlin equivalent of the Bronx.
JPFO: What kind of advice could you give the USA to combat the recent school massacres that seemingly have become quite common upon our soil?
SCHILLER: Now for Jonesboro and the US gun control laws in regard to schools: Way back in 1973 - '74 I lived in a Kibbutz in Northern Israel, called Ramat Yochanan. During Passover week in '74 we in Galilee experienced the first of a number of specific PLO attacks targeting specifically schools and children houses, kindergartens, school buses and the like. It started with an infiltration in Quiriat Schmoneh on the Passover weekend, where the perpetrators found the school empty and locked (of course during the holidays!) and took over a nearby residential building, shooting people and in the end blowing themselves up. A few weeks later the worst of this series of incidents took place in Maalot on May 15th: Three PLO gunmen, after making their way through the border fence, first shot up a van load full of workers returning from a tobacco factory (incidentally these people happened to be Galilee Arabs, not Jews), then they entered the school compound of Maalot. First they murdered the housekeeper, his wife and one of their kids, then they took a whole group of nearly 100 kids and their teachers hostage. These were staying overnight at the school, as they were on a hiking trip. In the end, the deadline ran out, and the army's special unit assaulted the building. During the rescue attempt, the gunmen blew their explosive charges and sprayed the kids with machine-gun fire. 25 people died, 66 wounded.
After this a controversial debate erupted in Israel in regards to guns, self defense etc. We heard of course the same dumb arguments by some good people, you always hear on these occasions like " We do not live in the Wild West here!" Or: "Guns don't solve problems!" or similar silly things.
JPFO: Were there any gun laws in Israel in those days?
SCHILLER: Now, one has to remember, that Israel still had and has most of the old and very strict gun laws dating back to the days of the British Mandatory (1918-1948) on the books, and we in the promised land have meanwhile grown our share of idiotic bureaucrats and dumb politicians, too. But with the help of some smart people, not the least the then Commander-in-Chief, Northern Command Paratroop General Raful Eytan, all the reservists on the settlements were issued their personal weapons, and whoever had a clean track record could get a concealed weapons permit. I for instance had and still have one.
JPFO: What happened then?
SCHILLER: Teachers and kindergarten nurses now started to carry guns, schools were protected by parents (and often grandpas) guarding them in voluntary shifts. No school group went on a hike or trip without armed guards. The Police involved the citizens in a voluntary civil guard project "Mishmar Esrachi", which even had its own sniper teams. The Army's Youth Group program, "Gadna", trained 15 - 16 year old kids in gun safety and guard procedures and the older high school boys got involved with the Mishmar Esrachi. During one noted incident, the "Herzliyah Bus massacre" (March '78, hijacking of a bus, 37 dead, 76 wounded), these youngsters were involved in the overall security measures in which the whole area between North Tel Aviv and the resort town of Herzlyiah was blocked off, manning roadblocks with the police, guarding schools kindergartens etc.
No problems with gun safety there, as most kids in Israel grow up used to seeing guns on the street (in the hands of army personnel on leave -- every soldier takes his/her gun home when on leave!). When the message got around to the PLO groups and a couple infiltration attempts failed, the attacks against schools ceased. Too much of a risk here: Terrorists and other evildoers don't like risks.
But what does all that teach us?
(A) schools/kindergartens make for very attractive targets for the deranged gunman as well as for the profit-oriented hostage gangsters or terrorist group, because:
(1) everybody sane will cave in to the demands of the evildoers (even somebody as hard-nosed as Golda Meir, may she rest in peace, said during the Maalot incident, that one does not make politics on the backs of one's children). Nobody wants to play the principles-game when kids are involved. Kidnapping has thus often resulted in the paying of ransom demands.
(2) if you crave media attention, as for instance the PLO did in the 70's, nothing will catch the headlines better than an attack on a school-full of kids.
(B) Now THAT is the underlying "reason" behind each and every incident that involved killing sprees in schools... from Maalot to Dunblane to Jonesboro. Only recently the French had a hostage/barricade incident in a kindergarten: the guy wanted money, and the French authorities solved that problem very neatly with a stealth-type approach by one of their special teams and a .357 bullet in the head of the perpetrator, when he refused to surrender. No follow up imitations occurred in France.
JPFO: Were there any similar incidents in Germany?
SCHILLER: Germany has some of the strictest gun laws this side of Britain and Japan And needless to say, they are a continuation of the Nazi Gun Laws, even using the same wording.
Still, we have a multitude of illegal guns on the streets. Currently the police estimates that there a ten million legal, licensed guns and 20 million illegal -- in a total population of less than 80 million people! And we had our school massacres, too: In the early 60's one incident took place in Cologne involving a deranged person who, not having access to guns, built himself a flame-thrower. In another incident a few years ago in the vicinity of Frankfurt, another crazy individual shot his way through a school with two handguns, and later committed suicide.
Also, prior to the Lockerbie plane bombing (which was only one item in a whole spree of planned and coordinated terror attacks luckily foiled by the authorities), German security services detected in September '88, that a Palestinian splinter group had made plans for a raid on the Jewish kindergarten in Munich. We found the photos, ground plans etc. Apparently the planning of the attack was pretty far along.
So you do not have to be a prophet to foresee, that we will see more school-shooting incidents in the U.S. or other western nations, where media attention is focused on these things and where every incident is replayed second by second umpteen times on the tube, thereby creating in the minds of certain viewers examples to follow ...
Now, can we stop the media from playing out these scenarios in full color and gruesome details for hours and hours, again and again? Certainly not. We in the terrorism research field have argued for decades that it was exactly the media coverage that spurred more and each time more violent and extreme terrorist incidents. Could we stop the media from advertising the terrorist message? Certainly not.
That is apparently one price we have to pay living in a worldwide infotainment society. The airplane hijackings in the 70's and 80's are a case in point.
The only thing we can do is protect possible victims...And laws written in some books will not achieve that. Never have, never will...Enough said. I rest my case.
JPFO: How can our readers and members contact you?
SCHILLER: Our e-mail address is: firstname.lastname@example.org
or my mailing address:
Dr. David Th. Schiller - VISIER, P.O.Box 1363, D-56373, Nassau, Germany