I don’t know of a single person that isn’t concerned about the safety of our children in school. It is an emotional topic, and every incident fans the emotional flames.
The questions usually come down to variations of these three:
- Are we seeing an increase in these incidents?
- What causes the monsters out there to target our children?
- What can and what should we do?
These same questions apply to all shootings, but let’s focus on school incidents, for now. This blog entry will be long enough as it is.
To outline my views, as I am sure they will be questioned by many, here is what I see as being of utmost importance in all discussions around potential solutions:
- Freedom – I do not believe in restricting the freedoms of law abiding citizens because of the actions of the very smallest of minorities. For example, I would never support a curfew restricting everyone because our Government wants to prevent looting after a natural disaster.
- Acceptance – I do not believe that every concern must be addressed by Government. I am willing to accept that Government and regulations are not the answer in most cases.
- Diminishing Returns – When there is an issue that must be addressed, I do not believe that we should spend exorbitant amounts of money and effort to try to reduce it to zero impact. There is a point where investment is worthwhile, but there is also a point where we are tilting at windmills and can’t hope to knock them down.
- Common Sense – First off, it isn’t common. Common sense is rare. For somebody to say that something is common sense, often means it isn’t.
- Thinking it Through – This is where most proposed solutions fail. Those that think Idea X is great, fail to see the big picture and see what all of the impacts are as caused by Idea X, directly, and indirectly.
Are we seeing an increase in these incidents?
This depends on who you ask and what definition they use. As this is my blog, I will use my definition. I will start at 1980 as many incidents before that are not well documented.
Definition: The attacker(s) target multiple people (meaning more than one target) and intend to kill multiple students or staff on school grounds, during or shortly after class hours or school sponsored events, not including College or University environments.
Defending my Definition: I explicitly removed Colleges and Universities as many States are now implementing Concealed Campus Carry, or similar laws, and those that meet concealed carry standards are allowed to defend themselves and those around them. I am more concerned about K-12 environments as students will probably never have the means to defend themselves and will depend on others. I also believe that the focus should be on incidents where somebody is targeting the school, not an individual. I also do not believe that gang vs. gang activity should be included as they are not necessarily related to what we are seeing with schools shootings, in general.
Others would say that anytime a bullet traverses the air of a school or the school grounds, that it counts as a school shooting, and they do that to drive up the count to try to make the problem appear larger than it is. However, my focus is not on one individual attacking another individual, my focus is on a general desire to kill as many as possible for whatever reason they may have. For example, the following are not included in my definition:
- incidents where only one person is targeted
- incidents that happen well after school hours and after the conclusion of schools sponsored events
- Gang vs gang activity
Ok, so back to the question. Using my definition, I see the following data points:
What we see is that the number of incidents over the years, since 1980, has been fairly consistent. The victims, which includes deaths and injuries, spikes based on one or two incidents, since in most cases the number is small. There have been just over 300 school shooting incidents since 1980 up until the day of this posting. The average number of victims (deaths and injured) is about than 3.4 per incident. That number includes 394 deaths (which includes gang vs. gang violence, direct personal attacks, accidents, and suicides) over the last 38 years. That comes to a little over 10 deaths per year. Using my definition to remove what I feel to be irrelevant incidents, the number of deaths since 1980 is just 5 per year. Of course, that seems like way too many, but how much will it cost to prevent those 5 deaths per year? The problem with trying to use statistics in these cases is that there just isn’t enough data, which is a good thing. Small numbers are good when it comes to deaths.
What causes the monsters out there to target our children?
I am using “monsters” to cover those that are mentally ill and those that just have evil intents. In most cases, we hear that the attacker(s) had a mental illness. In many cases, there were signs of their issues. We hear of their hate and how others have reported them to law enforcement. It is sad to hear that the signs were there, but no actions were taken to try to get them help.
One of the obviously suggested causes is that our children as in a gun free zone. They are soft targets. Another reason that they target schools is that they are familiar with the layout (in cases of current and former students and staff) and know the entrance and exit points as well as where their targets will be and at what times.
We often hear that it isn’t like this in other countries, but everyone fails to realize that the United States is very different and we have different challenges. For example, the United States has:
- A greater appreciation for freedom
- A much larger single parent population
- A larger population where both parents work outside of the home
- Biological fathers that do not pay for child support and are not involved in child raising
- Disperse extended families where extended family members rarely spend time with each other because of distance
Children, today, grow up with less family, immediate and extended, influence than in the past, and certainly, as compared to other countries. Children grow up without the advice and support of strong father figures, in many cases, whether a biological father, a grandfather, or other strong male figures. What we end up with are children that do not get the mentoring and guidance that they should get on how to resolve conflicts and how to express their anger and frustrations in other ways.
The United States is very different, culturally, when compared to other countries. We need to understand that. This is where we can, hopefully, make some changes for the better.
What can and what should we do?
What I am tired of hearing is that we need to do something. I hear all sorts of people, especially politicians, say we need to “try” what they feel are common sense controls to see if it works. They push legislation that infringes on the rights of law abiding citizens, and they push us onto the slippery slope. They don’t get the results that they want, and then they add more legislation that infringes even further on our rights. They never give them back. I hate to use the “slippery slope” point, but it is a concern.
We also hear that there is some reasonable gun control that everyone should agree with, because, it is reasonable. Of course it isn’t, and when push comes to shove, they can’t show how any of the new laws would prevent any of these tragedies. Now, this may sound crazy, but there are lots of very intelligent people in our country, and around the world. Don’t you think that if there was an easy answer, it would have been discovered? If there really were some reasonable gun controls that would prevent these incidents, I am absolutely certain that it would have been discovered and implemented already.
So, what should we do? Well, trying to protect our children with some gun free zone laws just doesn’t work. We have the proof. It is like people just can’t get it through their heads that the monsters out there don’t follow and honor the law. So, let’s take some action. Real action. Let’s protect the children by not allowing them to be soft targets anymore. Let’s put trained and armed people into the schools, use some physical screening i.e. metal detectors), and leverage the teachers and counselors that can see when students and staff are at risk. Most importantly, let’s stop pretending that laws will stop attacks. How horrible would it be to physically protect our children? Why would we not want to do that?
Yes, it would add costs to protect our children from the very small number of incidents. Of course, it might mean hiring people. It might mean providing firearm training for our teachers and staff that want to participate in keeping our children safe. Cost is a hurdle. I heard a suggestion to control costs by having trained gun owners help be part of the solution. The suggest is that those trained, and background checked, gun owners would volunteer at our schools and protecting our children. Great idea. Of course, as soon as we say we will be glad to volunteer, that we will work with some national or local organization to help train and coordinate the volunteers, and that we will be there every single day to help protect our children, we hear the screams about exposing our children to firearms as part of their every day lives.
It is time to stop thinking that laws will help and that more laws are a good thing. Let me say it this way, the number of incidents where we have had attackers in schools where no laws were violated is ZERO.