Saturday, February 24, 2018

Yet Another School Shooting

A slightly-shortened version of this article appeared in the Waco Tribune-Herald newspaper as a guest column on Wednesday 21 February 2018.  I received one phone call from a reader I did not know,  indicating total agreement with what I wrote.  His only comment was calling a gun's ammunition magazine a "clip" is technically incorrect,  although most of the public does so.

Here is the full-length,  as-submitted form of the article:


The latest school shooting incident in Parkland,  Florida,  exemplifies exactly the two “big-ticket” things demonstrated by the gun violence data,  if one actually goes and looks:  (1) we have a leak in the background check process that allows crazy people to get guns legally,  and (2) we are utterly failing to adequately defend our gun-free zones.  If you wish the lost kids' lives to have any lasting meaning,  then do something about those two problems!

Those same gun violence data (available in mass quantity from also show no significant protections are to be had from “the usual proposals”:  clip size limits,  “assault” rifle bans,  and such like. 

If you want to see exactly how to analyze such data,  visit,  click on year “2016”,  then click on month “June”,  then read the article titled “What the Gun Violence Data Really Say”,  dated June 21,  2016. 

I put quotes around “assault” rifle,  because things like the AR-15 are exactly like any semi-automatic hunting rifle in terms of firing rate.  The cosmetics have nothing to do with lethality. 

That being said,  it would be wise to ban bump stocks and trigger cranks,  those being devices that increase the firing rate of a semi-automatic weapon into the range of a fully-automatic weapon (machine gun).  The ban on civilian machine guns dates to the 1930’s,  with organized crime gangs using them in the streets.  That ban actually has been proven quite effective. 

Down to brass tacks:  Crazies Getting Guns

The current form of the ban on crazy people possessing guns is based on a court decision of insanity.  It’s a go/no-go “gate”:  if there is no court verdict of insanity,  there are no grounds to deny sale of the weapon. 

And that is exactly what was wrong with the Columbine incident,  the Gabby Giffords incident,  the Las Vegas incident,  many others,  and now the Parkland,  Florida incident.  Sandy Hook was different:  that shooter murdered his mother to steal her guns. 

In each case,  there were family,  friends,  and others aware of the mental problems of the shooters,  before their respective incidents.  In this last case (Parkland,  Florida),  many classmates and teachers knew this person was dangerous with a gun,  it appears the local law enforcement might have known “something” was wrong with him,  and the FBI was tipped off but failed to follow up. 

We need a multi-step decision process,  where anyone can voice a concern,  which leads to a real background investigation questioning real people who know or have interacted with the person in question,  not just an on-line records search.  That extra effort costs,  but the benefit is incidents prevented and lives saved. 

It all gets down to whether money trumps lives,  or vice versa.  Simple as that.  I recommend you judge your elected officials accordingly.

But,  the triggering of a deeper investigation must not presume “guilt”,  until and unless actual facts determine there really are mental problems.  We have to be very careful and very fair how we do this.  But it will help,  and very much more significantly than any of the usual gun control proposals. 

Down to Brass Tacks:  Adequately Defend the Gun-Free Zones

This is something we are currently not doing at all.  Accordingly,  the people in these gun-free zones are perceived to be sitting duck targets by both the crazies-with-guns and the terrorists.  And they are sitting-duck targets. 

Don’t get me wrong:  there are perfectly good reasons to have gun-free zones.  Schools,  shopping centers,  and churches are but a few of many such venues.  Everybody understands why this is so.

But,  we learned in the 19th century frontier towns that you have to defend your gun-free zone adequately.  That means a properly qualified guard or guards,  and a response time under 1 minute. 

Properly-qualified means peace officer training,  not just concealed-carry training.  This is because any armed guard will be called upon to respond as a peace officer if there really is trouble to quell.

The 1-minute response is based on the fact that those same 19th century frontier towns were small.  A deputy from the sheriff’s office could be anywhere in town in under a minute at a dog-trot,  at the first sign of trouble.  When towns got bigger (more than a minute to respond),  death tolls went up.  Simple as that. 

So,  defend the gun-free zones,  and the crazies and terrorists will no longer attack those venues,  by and large.  This will reduce deaths quite significantly,  unlike the “usual proposals”.

Again,  does the money trump the lives,  or vice versa?  That’s how you have to judge those charged with making these decisions.


Follow-up comments for this posting:

In the days following the shooting in Parkland,  it has been revealed that a deputy did not go inside and take on the shooter immediately.  Why has not yet been revealed.

But,  one possible reason is being outgunned by the shooter.  Most deputies have a revolver as a sidearm,  something little different from an Old West six-shooter.  Compared to a semi-automatic rifle,  that kind of weapon has less stopping power,  less rate of fire,  a less effective range,  and a much smaller quantity of shots,  before a much slower reload process is required.  A deputy with nothing but a revolver is way-outgunned.  

Such a deputy is properly qualified as a peace officer,  but is not properly equipped to do his job taking on a heavily-armed shooter.  So,  in addition to what I said above about who is qualified to defend a gun-free zone,  such a guard must also be properly equipped.

In this article,  I also didn't take on mental health care in this country.  There is something about modern American life that seems to be both causing mental issues,  and provoking sufferers to act out.  That issue needs to be fixed.  Again,  hold your politicians accountable.

Arming teachers to be the guards is a bad idea because:  (1) it destroys the atmosphere of trust in the classroom,  (2) the teachers have way more than enough to do already without being called upon to act as guards,  (3) no teacher armed with a handgun is adequate against a shooter armed with long guns,  and (4) nobody will pay them to take on the added risk and workload (they are already not paid enough even just to be teachers).  That idea is just insane.  Whether it comes from Wayne LaPierre or Donald Trump,  it is still insane.

One other point:  there is no difference between an AR-15 and a semi-automatic hunting rifle in terms of lethality.  Neither weapon is a proper "assault weapon" in today's military environment,  because neither is a machine gun.  Period.  End of issue.

Those calling AR-15's "assault weapons" display their ignorance for all to see.  Semi-automatic weapons were actually obsolete before Vietnam,  and proved in combat to be a real loser of an idea for battle in Vietnam.  (That does not address the comparison of the fully-automatic machine gun form M-16 versus the machine gun AK-47,  or the decades it took to correct the reliability problems experienced with the M-16 that the AK-47 did not suffer.)

But,  there is the issue of law enforcement being able to visually determine what they are up againstNo one adds a bump stock or a trigger crank to a hunting rifle.  Protecting our law enforcement people from semi-automatic weapons modified to be effective machine guns (as in Las Vegas) might actually be a good reason not to sell AR-15's and similar to the public.  That idea does deserve some thought and discussion,  even though we already know in general that most prohibitions don't work. 

In conclusion:  "something" needs to be done,  that's for sure.  My take on it is:  why not try those things that might actually confer significant benefit,  instead of the same,  lame old "knee-jerk" things that we already know won't help?

Find a way to stop selling guns legally to crazy people.

Defend the gun-free zones properly.

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