Sane Solutions in an Insane and Violent World



By Rob Morse, December 15th, 2012

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A mentally ill person shot women and children in a Connecticut school. That is crazy. It is painful enough to last a lifetime. It is also avoidable. We could easily keep our children safe if we were willing to recognize violence in our society. In this case, we had a mentally ill person with a weapon in a gun free zone where he would not be challenged. That is a failure at many levels and we can address each one. The solutions are not new. I hope we will stop ignoring the problem and push for real solutions.

First, stop the political posturing! The biggest barriers to a solution are identity politics and media sound bites. Liberal politicians and disarmament groups call for more gun control after every public shooting. They do not promote armed defense every time an armed citizen stops a multiple victim murder. Instead, these politicians and newscasters play to our pain as much as any prostitute appeals to a john's vanity. The first step towards safety is to turn off the political lies and take a serious look at public violence. There are security professionals who know everything about public violence. They have quietly advocated changes to our public security for years. I've listened to a few of them and read a few more. These security specialists are mostly ignored by the politicians because their solutions do not conform to the current political narrative. We can have safety without sacrificing liberty and becoming a police state.

Security professionals know how to make schools much safer. It is neither difficult nor expensive. We have first aid kits in schools. We have fire extinguishers and fire drills in schools. Yet when it comes to school shootings, we can't bear to look at realistic violence prevention and response even though our children are much more likely to be hurt in school violence than in a school fire. To continue the analogy(*1*) between fire and violence in schools, it is as if we decided to prevent school fires by outlawing matches at school while the campus is made of grass huts. Then we chose an honor system to keep the matches off campus. That sounds like an absurd way to prevent fires, yet those are exactly the measures we've adopted to protect our schools from violence with gun free zones. We don't ignore fire, and thank you to the fire marshal for that. We don't ignore heart attacks, and thank you to the EMTs who taught us civilian CPR. If we want safety and liberty, then we must listen to the security professionals and follow their advice.

Public violence isn't a new problem and we can learn from existing solutions. Though society has grown more violent in the last hundred years, we've had multiple victim crimes for a very long time and the rate is stable. Public violence isn't new in the United States, but Israel faced similar problems to a much greater degree. The problem is that an armed person can usually injure or kill an unarmed person. That is why attackers arm themselves when they want to injure many others. A good person with a weapon is the best agent to stop a bad person with a weapon. Israel armed their teachers. Israel also closed and locked their school doors as they had their home and office doors. That will not keep bad people out of their schools permanently any more than a locked door by itself keeps thieves from breaking into our homes. A secure building buys time for the good guys to react. It doesn't take an army to react to a public shooting, but it does take someone nearby to react quickly. That model works in Israel.

That model also works here in the United States. We are a large country with a long history as an armed population. We have clear evidence that local defense works better than other models, and more evidence is listed here.

Reject more prohibition. Instead, advocate for more freedom. Some people suggested that guns should go away. That approach failed miserably everywhere it was tried. It led to both more crime and also the worst examples of public violence in history. The Norway massacre and the Beslan massacre are only the most recent examples. I don't want to see massacres like that in the US, though I'm sure some politicians will propose the same solution that failed there.

Let school staff and teachers bring the tools they need onto campus. Many of the adults on campus are already trained. They are precluded from bringing a weapon on campus by local laws and school regulations. We imposed that rule on ourselves in1990 and it made the situation worse rather than better. Many training institutes have extended offers to teach self-defense to teachers and school staff for free and more here. Armed staff are not a panacea. Some domestic terrorists used bombs instead of guns. Despite their imperfections, we should implement these security solutions that work rather than wait for politically perfect solutions as more children are hurt.

Gun free zones are a failure. The claim of a gun free zone is that you will stop evil people with a laminated sign. I understand the mindset that wants that to be true. That feel-good and play-nice attitude has left thousands of students injured from violence on campus each year. That attitude has now left hundreds of our children dead. Gun free zones fail everywhere they are tried; in schools, in churches, in shopping centers and in restaurants. Gun free zones remind me of my young children as they played peek-a-boo and pretended they were invisible when they put a towel over their head. We pretend that violence can't find us at school or at church as we hide behind a plastic sign. Magical thinking is cute in small children. Magical thinking is deadly in public policy where we refuse to recognize the threat of public violence. We must demand that our schools have a serious security policy rather than a fantasy policy. You would not send your children to a school that turned off their fire sprinklers and their fire alarms. Don't allow your children into the care of a public institution that will not protect their physical safety!

Hold mental health professionals accountable for their diagnosis. We would sue and strip the license from a doctor who misdiagnosed an illness and released a plague into the community. We put engineers in jail for negligence when physical structures fail and put the public at risk. We should hold mental health professionals accountable for their judgments in the same way. I imagine that psychologists will claim the human psyche is too difficult to map and predict. Is it really? I was examined for a pilot's license, for national security ratings and to purchase dangerous weapons. Professionals make such judgments every day. Doctor, you earned the liability when you took the client's money and made a diagnosis. Too often the doctor's reports are so carefully phrased as to be meaningless.

Stop the media circus that promotes violence. Mass violence is done for notoriety. The rate of public violence drops dramatically when the murderer is denied the publicity that feeds the murderer's ego. Canada refuses to publish the name of young public murderers. That single measure has been extremely effective in reducing the rate of public violence in Canada. Violent video games are also a contributing cause to multiple victim public violence. Like any dangerous substance, violent video games should be denied to children and the mentally ill.

Address mental illness. Some people can not live on their own and care for themselves. We deinstitutionalized the mentally ill so they are cared for in the minimum security setting of the home. That has helped some and hurt many. We are not helping the mentally ill by ignoring their illness. When compared to sane individuals, the mentally ill are both more violent and much more likely to be the victim of violence. They won't and can't disappear. It is cruel and dangerous to expect them to suffer in invisible silence.

Do it now. None of the factors influencing public violence are new. They have been recognized for years and ignored for just as long. That is a profound indictment. We ignored public violence because we did not want to face it. Well that kumbayah moment has killed enough of us. I hope we will recognize the causes of violence and do the simple things that will drastically reduce it. If not, then we have our own mental illness to examine.

Yes, the Connecticut murders are a tragedy. It will be a larger tragedy if we let politicians divide us and let the news media sell us the next tragedy. That serves their purposes, not ours. If you read and understood this article, then you know more about public violence than most politicians and school administrators. Tell your school officials what you know. Tell your state and federal representatives too. Boycott schools if they don't respond.

None of us can do this alone. I beg you. Please help me change how we address public violence.

(*1*) I first heard the analogy between fire prevention and violence prevention from Colonel David Grossman.

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