Their Father’s Hell

December 22, 2012

Politics

This is just my take as an astronomy teacher so try to keep it sub-orbital, but I never thought Gun Free Zones were ever about preventing mass shootings. That’s seems like a straw man and a rather flimsy one. The odds of being killed by a shooter coming to your particular school are surely minuscule. How many school kids are there in America anyway? According to the National Center for Education Statistics:

Public elementary school pupils, pre-K–grade 8 (2007): 34,592,000
Public secondary school pupils, grades 9–12 (2007): 15,018,000
Private elementary school pupils, K–grade 8 (2007): 4,784,000
Private secondary school pupils, grades 9–12 (2007): 1,368,000
Total higher education enrollment (2006): 17,921,804

So today there must be around 80 million American students give or take. Only one out of every four million students were killed last week. There were more before that, and more are sure to come, and all of these events are very tragic. But the odds of any one student being involved is extremely small.

On the other hand, the odds of other deadly forms of firearm incidents occurring rises dramatically in the mere presence of firearms. That’s the reason for keeping guns away from areas with lots of children. It’s to lessen the chance of an accident, or a stolen weapon, or a mentally unstable teacher or student suddenly going berserk on campus and finding a convenient method of destruction nearby, or a simple human misjudgment of a situation, etc. Humans make mistakes and a human with a gun can make deadly mistakes more easily. There is some chance that any gun will wind up killing a loved one and these odds are actually much higher than the chance that the gun will ever be used in defense. Crazy shooters are rare. Accidents are common.

For the record I enjoy shooting guns. It’s fun. I’m no expert but I do know a little bit about hunting, target shooting, and ballistics.

Leaving your guns at home when you visit a school means if the cops do show up, they have less trouble deciding which shooter to shoot. By the way, cops have more than just guns. They have communication systems, team maneuvering tactics, easy to recognize uniforms, crazy guy confrontation training, shock grenades, protective vests, and occasionally even some rather interesting robots.

If directly confronting a shooter requires doing so with another shooter then as I said, it will preferably be a professional, not a pistol packing teacher or a parent. I’ve heard some folks suggest that parents could volunteer to patrol the halls. No thanks. This last shooter got his kick ass super assault rifle from his mother. We couldn’t even count on her to keep it secured from her emotionally unstable son. She was a gun enthusiast so if we had patrols at that school she surely would have been the first to volunteer. Um, no. Sorry but hell no. Parents like her are the problem. Reportedly she taught her mentally ill son to use a powerful weapon and then left it loaded and handy in case he ever needed to be part of a well-regulated militia.

Some schools have significant security protocols already because of gang violence. But even in these schools, the possibility of a crazed killer coming in to shoot at random is dealt with by having lockdown drills. There will probably always be horrible incidents, but in the long run there will be fewer deaths overall with the combination of lockdown and gun free zone policies. That’s the idea anyway and historically, internationally, I think it’s been working more often than not. But there is another problem at play.

The odds of an incident occurring involving a shooter with a high rate of fire rises dramatically with the increased availability of high fire rate weaponry. Does that sound complicated? It shouldn’t.

It’s the easy availability of excessive fire power that should be drawn to the front burner. Even where there are armed guards in a facility ready to respond, response can take a minute or two. There were two guards at Columbine for example. By their very nature shooting incidents generate chaos and confusion. In that time an assailant with a modern weapon can fire hundreds of rounds. That translates to dozens of deaths. We’re not talking about black powder muskets here.

At Columbine there were two shooters with plenty of firepower, working in tandem, with a preconceived plan, and they were suicidal crazy. Now take a look at your local faculty, not exactly navy seals. An aging biology teacher with a snub nosed 38, surprised, fighting from behind an overturned lab table, poop in the pants, has little chance. If you imagine yourself in his place somehow prevailing in that situation, perhaps it’s because you’ve watched too much TV. In real life assault rifles, buck shot, and other heavy rounds will shoot right through tables and doors. Two guys will outflank one. Crazy suicidal guys may possibly fold up and cry upon meeting resistance, but more often they can take a couple of 38 rounds to the torso and keep coming, especially if certain pharmaceuticals are involved. So hey, give teacher something bigger? A sweet 9mm maybe? Teacher has a much better chance by locking the door and hiding, or else running for it full bore, screaming and waving his hands wildly in the air.

Looking back at Columbine, I’ve read that law enforcement now considers entering the building upon arrival to be a better strategy than what they actually did, which was to wait and reconnoiter. By quickly forcing the shooters to focus on a cop, they may have given more students a chance to flee. This is an argument for having law enforcement arrive and intervene quickly in the rare occurrence of a mass shooting.

Our latest hero teacher Vicky Soto is a true hero but I doubt she was intentionally sacrificing herself for the kids. She quickly hid the kids sure, and then she desperately hoped the shooter would spare her and move on down the hall. He didn’t. Should she have been armed? No. Arming teachers is too dangerous and too weird. I’ve already argued that. We make policy based on the big picture, not a single sad scenario.

I’m seeing where some bloggers are spending two thousand words establishing their credibility as a firearm expert, as though that premise qualifies them to expertly speak on firearm policy. It doesn’t. Then they spend another thousand words showing their vulnerability to confirmation bias; cherry picking a story or two as though it showed statistical significance. It reminds me of how folks “prove” that the full moon causes craziness by quoting a few times the two seem to be correlated, and leaving out the millions of times they weren’t. Yes I remember that some citizen once shot a crazy guy and saved the day. That’s great but “anecdote” is not the singular term for data.

I’ve even seen more than one “expert” point out that twenty two kids were stabbed with a knife in a school last week in China. I find it telling that they somehow forget to mention that none of those kids died. That damages my confidence in people’s capacity to make fair assessments in general. That’s confirmation bias in a nutshell, the tendency to give improper weight to some data while completely ignoring others, in an effort to reaffirm a preconceived theory.


The NRA, i.e. the national gun manufacturer sales rep association, has blamed video games for making Americans too violent, and in the same breath recommended we solve this terrible cultural imbalance by buying more guns. I shit you not. They want armed guards to protect those 80 million school kids I mentioned, which means more sales. It also means more salaries which I assume we will pay for by raising taxes oops, I mean, lowering teacher salaries. Alternately, we could just arm the teachers so as to kill two birds with one stone – oops. How about this. Anyone who joins the NRA should not be allowed to own a gun.

Like with many political debates, there is simply no way in hell, no argument or statistic or logic whatsoever, that will convince the NRA and their stooges in congress that the assault weapon ban should be reinstated, or that armor piercing rounds are not needed by citizens, or that background checks should be extended to include flea market sales. The voters have to be able to override them and force compliance. That’s how society works sometimes.

We are waiting around for the NRA to tell us how the new Hunger Games would work. Meanwhile statistical inference is of small consolation to a concerned mother. Even if we are never physically involved in a shooting, hearing about such extreme suffering affects our collective psyche. We are damaged. We are forced to feel what it must be like when our drones bomb children overseas. It’s not the likelihood of terror that seems to matter at all to mom, but the horrible consequences. We are compelled today to make some sort of change and guess what Rambo, it’s not going to be more guns, or bigger guns, or arming schoolmarms. Other than maybe a few fences, or a metal detector, or a big friendly but scary looking dog, we are talking about gun legislation here; less gun types, more strict registration, pre-purchase evaluations, heavier penalties… serious regulation.

The second amendment allows for the states to maintain a well regulated defense and that means the National Guard. But private gun ownership should always be considered a privilege, not a right. Fuck the NRA.

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5 Comments on “Their Father’s Hell”

  1. trutherator Says:

    My wife, at a bus stop while waiting for one, used her PRIVATE CONCEALED CARRY to stop the kidnapper who was walking away with her son after showing her his own weapon. The police? They never show up soon enough to stop a lot of carnage, like in Colombine where they waited THREE WHOLE HOURS before they went in, letting the bad guys finish off whoever else was inside.

    The FIRST victim in Colombine was the ONE lone armed guard. Threat neutralize, they went on to neutralize a whole lot of people.

    http://www.trutherator.wordpress.com

    Reply

    • skywiseunlimited Says:

      That’s a good anecdote. To be scientific we need to then consider, how many people have waited for a bus without being confronted by a kidnapper? Also, how often are armed kidnappers accosting people in countries where firearms are less readily available? At what level of statistical significance do we consider de-escalation of an arms race as opposed to making fire power more ubiquitous? I’m not arguing against self defense. But I am questioning the wisdom of arming teachers. I work with these people and for most of them, I would say that live fire and maneuver tactics are outside their wheelhouse.

      Reply

    • skywiseunlimited Says:

      I’m not against owning some firearms, and I like to shoot. But plz don’t expect me to pack a piece while I teach. It’s just not worth it. I carried a concealed revolver for yrs and never needed it. Preparing for every possible danger is just paranoia.

      Reply

  2. Greg Zenitsky Says:

    No one belonging to the NRA should own a gun? Okay, as long as no one in the teacher’s union is an educator.

    Reply

  3. skywiseunlimited Says:

    The NRA has evolved into hideous sub-human debris. But I’m being too kind, here’s what President George H. Bush said about them when he quit their ranks: http://www.nytimes.com/1995/05/11/us/letter-of-resignation-sent-by-bush-to-rifle-association.html

    Reply

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