Thursday, December 20, 2012

On the Tragedy in Connecticut

Update 12-23-12:  This article appeared in the Sunday 12-23-12 Waco "Trib" as a guest column,  pretty much as written here.  I did publish this article here,  and submit it to the paper , before the suggestions offered by the NRA were made public.

Lest you think wrongly,  I haven't been a member in about 45 years,  but,  I do think the NRA is basically correct in their position about this.  I do think the way I analyzed and presented this issue,  is a better job than they did,  regardless of one's feelings on the topic.


There's been so much idiocy proposed as "solutions" to this tragedy that I feel compelled to write a comprehensive article, and offer real, workable solutions, instead of just referring the reader to prior related articles. Here it is:


Another young male goes off the deep end and kills a bunch of kids and some adults in a shooting rampage. The media outlets obsess over this, and start the drumbeat for Congress to “do something about it”.

A few senators and representatives have begun to respond, but all I hear from them are either things we tried before without success, or things so far outside the norm they are unworkable. For example, the earlier 10-year ban on assault weapons had no significant effect on gun violence rates, so what’s the point of repeating it? None!

As for magazine size, run the numbers yourself. These are semiautomatic weapons, not full automatic machine guns (those are already banned). You must pull the trigger for every single bullet that leaves the gun, and you must take time to aim. Calling these “assault weapons” is a convenient political lie for those with an agenda; only the military versions that are full automatic (machine guns) are “assault weapons”.

A optimistic firing rate with aim is 1 shot per second, plus 2 seconds to change clips, most of which is reaching into your pocket. The minimum time for police arrival is about 5 minutes. For a 10-round magazine, you cycle through your 10 shots in 12 seconds: that’s 250 rounds in 5 minutes. For a 30-round magazine, that’s 32 seconds to cycle through your 30 shots. That’s about 281 rounds fired when the police arrive, which is not very much different at all.

Size of magazine is not the problem, when swapping clips is so fast and easy. The real problem is that 5 minutes it takes armed police to arrive on scene, sometimes 10 minutes, which might as well be an eternity. An armed guard on site actually solves this problem. Gun control rules do not.

Banning weapons entirely would eventually end in dictatorship, as it has throughout history. The real purpose of the Second Amendment is to make the threat of armed revolution credible, so that our government will behave better. Go read the other writings of those wise Founders who would not sign our Constitution without it, and see for yourself.

Meanwhile, the obsessive news coverage, which currently fills about 2/3 to ¾ of every newscast, is already sparking copycat incidents. Fortunately none yet have been as deadly. The typical airliner crash kills a lot more people, including children, but doesn’t seem to rate obsessive coverage. This is way out of balance.

I wish people would stand back, take a deep breath, and actually focus on the real problems. That way, whatever does get done, might have a chance of actually doing some good.

The real problems does not lie in “this versus that type of weapon”, magazine size, or even whether or not some kinds of guns should be licensed or banned. The real problems are a very leaky, ineffectual background check process with way too many loopholes, and that 5+ minute police response time.

The shooters at Virginia Tech, Columbine, Tucson, and the Aurora movie theater, all had serious mental problems that other folks knew about, yet none of their background checks uncovered it. They still got guns legally, and that should not have happened. That cries out for changes in those rules!

The shooters at the school in Connecticut, and Fort Hood, are exceptions. The Fort Hood shooter is an Army officer, with access to all kinds of weapons, who was seduced by religious extremism into becoming a terrorist, plain and simple. That’s a military fitness report problem, not an ATF background-check problem: his superiors screwed up.

The shooter in Connecticut obtained his guns illegally by a criminal act: killing his mother, who actually owned them. There’s a new angle for the background check process: is there anyone else in the household who has mental problems? It ought to be considered and dealt with.

Of my six examples, four are leaks in the background check process allowing crazies to obtain guns. That’s not a proper sample size for reliable statistics, but it’s pretty telling, anyway.

We already have perfectly-good laws on the books banning possession of any kind of firearms by convicted felons, crazy folks, and illegal immigrants. We don’t need another law, we need changes to the bureaucratic rules to stop the leaks in the background check process. And we need those armed guards at schools.

Because we don’t need another law, this is not a problem that Congress can solve. Besides, would you trust them to do this right, when they have demonstrably failed to pass a constitutionally-mandated budget for about half a decade now? All they do anymore is play politics, instead of doing the people’s business. (Remember that, next election, by-the-way.)

The background check leak is a problem with the bureaucratic rules intended to implement the laws we already have. That’s in ATF’s bailiwick, and they work for the President. All he has to do is order them to revamp those rules. Our public discussions should be about how the new rules must work, and then ATF must make the necessary changes upon a Presidential order. Armed guards at schools is a local hiring task.

These two changes might actually have a chance to do more good than harm.

Update 1-12-2013:   On Wednesday 1-9-13,  the Waco “Trib” ran an editor’s piece on an important facet of the gun control debate currently raging.  Here is their own summary of that piece,  as printed in the Saturday 1-12-13 “Trib”:

“Wednesday we agreed bolstering school security is worthy of debate but cited pitfalls to the idea of arming teachers and principals.  A determined student,  a careless teacher or both could lead to deadly consequences.  Plus,  do teachers need another responsibility?”

I quite agree with that piece:  arming teachers and principals is not the way.  Here is my own extension of their opinion into realistic details for actually providing effective security. 

Having an armed "good guy" on site with an essentially-zero response time is the only practical way to defend the safety of those people inside "gun-free zones",  like schools.  More restrictive gun laws will never accomplish that goal,  they cannot.  They never have before (no difference the last time we tried an “assault weapon” ban).  And they never will. 

The problem isn't the gun,  or the ammo clip (see my original piece above for numerical estimates),  or the characteristics of any other weapon or explosive,  as long as it isn’t a fully-automatic machine gun,  and those have been outlawed since 1934.  The real problem is the response time during which the "gun free zone" is vulnerable,  before trained armed help arrives.  We must face that fact,  and solve that real problem. 

To do otherwise only gives posturing politicians something to crow about,  without actually doing anything useful.  And I see no point to that.  We have too much of that,  already. 

There is a very good solution,  however,  one far better than requiring (or hoping) that teachers and principals will carry the guns.  The problem that you make worse,  by arming the faculty,  is that they have only self-defense training for their concealed-carry permit,  not the more intensive peace officer training that is really needed.  And,  they may be outgunned by the shooters.  They simply cannot really be "up to the task".  Plus,  for safety’s sake,  the guns shouldn’t really be right there in the classrooms with all those kids,  just like the “Trib” pointed out.    

A much better solution is to hire someone with a real peace officer certificate,  to be your armed guard,  right there on campus,  and only seconds away if there is an incident.  One such properly-trained and well-armed guard is an adequate response for any single shooter, or pair of shooters,  like we have seen.  A very well-armed guard would even be a match for a trio (or more) of shooters.  Only a big swarm of bad guys (as in a real terrorist attack) would overwhelm him. 

This works for any “gun free zone”,  not just schools.  In this day and age,  with too many crazies getting weapons in spite of the prohibitions on that,  we have to face the reality of providing effective defense of people inside any “gun free zone”.  My same answer applies:  if it’s going to be a “gun free zone”,  it must always have a properly-qualified and adequately-armed guard on hand at all times.  Simple as that. (Update 1-19-13)  And that is exactly the model from the American Old West which actually worked quite well. 

One such guard is a pretty good bet,  until such time as terror attacks on schools (or other “gun free zones”) become a credible threat.  Then you'll need a team of such guards,  not just one.  You'll know that need,  if it ever arises.   


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