Connecticut School Shooting Musings

Or, Sh!t Concerned Citizens Say (that don’t make no sense, yo).

On December 14th, 2012, an armed gunman entered an elementary school and shot twenty kids and six adults to death before turning the gun on himself. I think enough of my friends/acquaintances/people-who-will-probably-no-longer-be-friends-after-reading-this have posted their outpourings of grief and support.

I myself prefer to analyze the problem and attempt solutions. As well as attacking argumentfail because that’s fun too.

1. Arm the teachers! Arm all the teachers!

Arming the teachers – defined as giving them all guns is hella stupid. While guns dominated the battlefield despite their individual inferiority compared to other weapons due to requiring much less training time, training time is still necessary to operate them properly. Even in a state like Texas you would have a decent amount of teachers who have not handled guns. Basis common sense tells you that the risk of accident in this case far outweighs the risk of another shooting, given that shootings occur relatively rarely.

However, this just means you need to control for firearms proficiency when deciding who to arm. It is known that CHL holders generally can be just as if not more proficient than actual police/military personnel, depending on how much range time the CHL holder has and what the cop/soldier actually did (obviously an Army mechanic isn’t going to have too much combat experience). There is no reason why teachers who already have CHLs should not be allowed to carry. At my high school we had a cop who was armed. If we trust him to not have misfires that would scare the kiddies or to go on a shooting rampage of his own due to a bad day, why do we not trust teachers to do the same, especially when we trust said teachers to practically mold our kids minds anyway?

According to this seemingly neutral website, there were 613 fatal firearms accidents and 15,698 nonfatals. There are 300 million guns in the US total, owned by roughly 70-80 million adults, or a quarter of the US population (roughly 300 mllion). This is an accident rate of less than .007% (using 20K/300 mill) per gun, or .027% (20K/75 mill) per adult owning a gun. There are 7.2 million teachers in the US and roughly 300 million people in the US. Thus, an extremely basic analysis makes for 1.8 million teachers who own guns, having 480 misfires/year. This number, however, needs be further modified to account for school days, which the Dept of Education says is on average 180, bringing us to 236 teacher misfires per year. Divide this again by the number of teachers and multiply by 13 (number of grades, K-12), and this gives you a .04261% chance of your child being in the classroom when a misfire happens. This is not accounting for the fact that it must be lower, since not everyone who has a CHL will carry, and the liberal slant in higher education means that the percentage of CHL holders among teachers will be lower than the national average. In contrast, you have a 1.19% of being hit by a car, a .84% chance of committing suicide, .518% chance of accidental poisoning, and .089% chance of drowning.

1a. Hello Kitty guns for the kiddies!

The reductio ad absurdum argument of “well maybe we should give the kids guns too” also does not work because no one said that, so it is a strawman. As well as being absurd. The difference is that I am saying people who are already trained in firearm use and safety and are already trusted by society to be in a position of authority over children should be allowed to carry if they so choose. This is, again, not nearly the same thing as arming all the teachers or arming any of the students.

2. Control the guns! Control all the guns!

I was initially very against the idea of gun control. Since then, I have come to realize it does work to a limited extent because the situation actually not as simple as “if you outlaw guns only outlaws will have guns”. There are actually three sets of guns here – guns owned by reasonable people which are not used to commit crimes, guns owned by bad people which are used to commit crimes, and guns owned by reasonable people or were initially obtained legally that a bad person eventually gets their hands on and uses to commit crimes (such as the case in the Connecticut shooting). If it is “more difficult” – and by that I mean the standards as to who is legally allowed to own a gun is more stringent, possibly in terms of sales to family with mentally ill people or something – to obtain guns, then the third subset will decrease. This can be coupled with a gun buyback program.

However, it is highly important to recognize that these measures do nothing to the second subset of guns. Bad guys do not surrender their guns, thus it is still necessary for good guys to have them. And no, only allowing police to have them does not cut it.

I was an Orientation Adviser for the University of Texas, which has its own police department. The official statistic that we inform incoming students is that average response time for UTPD is roughly two minutes. Two minutes is a VERY – and I cannot emphasize this enough – a VERY long time for an active shooter to do a lot of damage. And keep in mind, UT is a mere 40 acres in size. If you are somewhere with an active shooter, it will almost certainly take longer for the police to arrive.

Gun control is only relevant in controlling the numbers of guns obtained legally by normal people who just happen to, say, live in the same house with mentally unstable people. It does not affect guns already in the hands of criminals or mentally unstable people, because criminals do not follow laws and guns are non-perishable products.

3. Ermahgerd, semi-automatics!? WTF Y U NEED THOSE

The reporting around this and my Facebook friends’ statuses reveal to me that despite having not shot a gun in my life, apparently I know much more about guns than most of the media. Yay for Texas I guess?

Semi-automatic is a word that sounds scary because it has many syllables. It really only refers to a gun that gets you one shot per trigger pull. It is not quite a “weapon of war”, as military-use weapons are selective fire – that is, in addition to semi-auto, you can also select full auto (hold the trigger to spray), or burst. A cowboy’s six-shooter is technically not a semi-auto, but in terms of rapidity of shots is the exact same thing, differing only in shots required before reloading. The bolt-action rifles that were used in WWII would be the next step down, but those are still only marginally slower than semi-auto. To make any perceptible difference, you would pretty much reduce law-abiding folks to toting around muskets and flintlock. If you think “good” at that, you obviously have never been home invaded. Or considered that again, such laws do not affect criminals.

There is a blogger who I follow who posted an account in which there was a doctor who lived in the same neighborhood as he did who got home invaded. Doctor grabbed his revolver and shot one of the invaders, but he ran out and had to reload and that’s when the other invader shot him dead.

So to answer “why do you even need semi-automatics”, it’s because the bad guys already have them. Banning them only puts all the good guys at a disadvantage.

3a. Assault Weapons Ban

Dianne Feinstein wants to reintroduce the Federal Assault Weapons Ban to “get weapons of war off the streets”. This merely proves that Dianne Feinstein doesn’t know shit about guns or war. First off, the term “assault weapon” does not exist. There is such a thing as an “assault rifle”, but that just means a rifle that is magazine fed and can be set to semi-auto, full-auto, or burst, but those are already illegal for civilians to own anyway. The Federal Assault Weapons ban to which Feinstein refer is but a laundry list of features guns aren’t allowed to have selected mostly on the basis on how scary they look. From wiki, the banned features are:

For semi-automatics, the ability to have a detachable magazine and two or more of the following

  • Folding or telescoping stock – of marginal use when shooting. Only makes them take up somewhat less room when transporting. If you remember the scene from Jurassic Park, the warden had one of these that he was using to hunt the escaped velociraptors before they went “clever girl” on him. Man, that assault weapon feature worked out real well for him, huh?
  • Pistol grip – slightly improved ergonomics, nothing more.
  • Bayonet mount – I think everyone who supports the Federal Assault Weapons Ban also cheered when Obama did that “we also have less horses and bayonets” retort to Romney during the debate.
  • Flash suppressor, or threaded barrel designed to accommodate one – all this does is reduce the muzzle flash so that the enemy cannot pinpoint your location using that. Yes, it helps the crazed gunman doing hit and run like the DC sniper a while back. It also helps homeowners defending their homes against invasion because they are not blinded when firing their gun defensively.
  • Grenade launcher – this one I actually kind of agree with, but then I thought about how useful they might be in case you had a home invasion or an active shooter and you shot some smoke grenades off. Since you know the terrain much better than the shooter, I am thinking this should really only benefit you, and as such I’m inclined to say don’t ban the launcher, ban the actual explosive grenade.

Semi-automatic pistols with detachable magazines and two or more of the following:

  • Magazine that attaches outside the pistol grip – this seems like it was meant to limit magazine capacity. But, according to same blogger I paraphrased above, hi-cap mags are prone to jamming because too many bullets aren’t good for the springs. In the hands of the Lawful Good guns group, it only helps. In the hands of the Chaotic Evil group, banning these don’t help because the Chaotic Evils will just hang on to them. Whether or not the Adam Lanzas of the world have access to these would not impact the damage they can do, because there is very little difference between killing twenty unarmed children with a normal gun that you maybe swap out a magazine for and killing twenty unarmed children without swapping.
  • Threaded barrel to attach barrel extender, flash suppressor, handgrip, or suppressor – another one of those things that benefit defenders as well as attackers. Suppressors make it hard for someone to hear you shoot (but they do not, contrary to what movies suggest, silence a gunshot). They also reduce recoil and prevent hearing damage.
  • Barrel shroud that can be used as a hand-hold – most ridiculous item on this whole list. Barrel shrouds are a safety feature. They make it so you don’t burn yourself if you ever need to grab the barrel because shooting guns tend to make the barrel very hot.
  • Unloaded weight of 50 oz (1.4 kg) or more – neutral.
  • A semi-automatic version of a fully automatic firearm – I guess this is just to ban the possibility of you converting it to be full auto?

Semi-automatic shotguns with two or more of the following:

  • Folding or telescoping stock – covered above
  • Pistol grip – covered above
  • Fixed capacity of more than 5 rounds – helps only criminals.
  • Detachable magazine – helps only criminals.

Most of these things are features that help someone defending their homes from invasion just as much as they help the criminals. And in a situation where the criminals have access to these things already, preventing normal people from getting access to them only helps the criminals.

3b. Well, other countries have good gun laws and few shootings!

Many also cite the absence of gun crimes in other parts of the world, to which I say: confounding variable. One must realize that violent crime is achieved by the criminal being able to bring about more force than any prospective victim is able to respond with. In other countries, where most civilians are likely to be armed with nothing but their bare hands and harsh language, it only takes a knife to get them to part with their wallet. Here in the US, where a good amount of civilians are armed anyway, it requires heavier firepower along with the advantage of initiative for a criminal to make good with their loot. Now, if you are okay with this, fine. Just realize that this is in effect paying off criminals so they don’t do worse things to you.

The problem with any kind of firearms or firearms feature ban in the US is that there are already a lot of guns at large that will not be turned in because they belong to criminals. This is vastly different from other parts of the world where there was never widespread public ownership of firearms, thus one can’t simply say “look at Australia, they banned all their guns” or “look at Britain, they banned all their guns” and expect it to work for the US. It also does nothing to make schools safer  the real problem is that a school is a public land that isn’t fenced off and has many possible attack points for someone wanting to enter violently. Being that we don’t want to turn schools into fortresses, the only thing to do is to realize that there’s next to no way to prevent an active shooter from entering. Any countermeasures must necessarily be from the perspective of what to do when the next one happens (since even if mental illnesses did not exist, criminals still do).

Oh I guess there’s that thing where rights aren’t supposed to get taken away just because a small number of lawbreakers have their goals achieved somewhat easier because that right exists.

4. Silly gun nut, the Second Amendment is for militias!

There are two ways this argument goes. One is that the Second Amendment is for militias, not random-ass people getting access to guns. It should, however, be noted that you cannot have a militia without civilians owning and training with guns. We do have an army, but regular military and militias are not the same thing, and the Founding Fathers most certainly did intend for the United States to have both, given their mistrust of centralization of governmental power and their experiences in fighting off a regular army due to a well-maintained militia. They wanted a militia to overthrow the government in case the government ever became tyrannical and to provide one last line of defense in case the United States does become attacked and the regular military alone isn’t enough to handle it. Private ownership of guns goes hand in hand with having a militia.

Faced with this, the common counterargument is that given the mismatch in power between the regular US military and any grass-roots armed resistance efforts, such measures would be useless anyway. Or that the US government simply isn’t tyrannical enough to warrant the continued presence of an armed militia. The former belies a fundamental misunderstanding of the art of war, namely, that it is not necessary to actually be stronger to deter. During the Cold War, the US and NATO were, objectively, stronger than the Soviet Union. There was not an attempt to attack and defeat the Soviet Union because the Soviet Union would have been able to destroy the world in its last moments. On a more personal level, back in middle school there was this bunch of kids who would pick on me all the time because i was a fat unathletic Chinese kid with delusions of kung fu mastery. And I would fight back, all the time, but objectively speaking, if we were counting damage dealt against damage taken, I lost all the fights. However, they stopped picking on me when this continued and they decided it was not worth it when the assistant principal took notice and gave us both detentions due to Zero Tolerance. All that really needs to happen is the ability to cause enough damage to deter, to escalate the situation to one the enemy finds intolerable. And if a bunch of third-world insurgents in Iraq and Afghanistan can give pause to the mighty American war machine, the chances can only improve for American insurgents who would have had superior training and insight into the American psyche, as well as being far more difficult to other-ize and dehumanize as the enemy.

Which brings me to the other counterargument, that our government is wonderful and fuzzy and what do you mean “overthrow tyranny” or “defend against invasion”, that can’t happen here in the US! The problem with this is that it’s purely an emotional and sentimental argument unsupported by fact. The world has seen plenty of warm and fuzzy governments that eventually went despotic. Rome’s transition from Republic to Empire comes to mind. As does Sparta’s transition to the relatively normal city-state of myth (Helen of Troy’s first husband was a king of Sparta, mind) to what in modern terms would be a slave-owning military autocracy. And let’s not forget that Hitler was voted into power, or that North Korea started out ruled by Kim Il-Sung, hero of WWII who was a major leader of the anti-Japanese resistance, in contrast to South Korea, ruled by an authoritarian strongman who spent most of his years in the US apart from the people he was supposedly leading. Similarly, history is filled with nation-states that were once strong but then declined and got conquered by others – again, Rome, Sparta, every single interation of the Chinese dynastic cycle, etc. So the US being the same, starting off nice and free but turning despotic, or currently being strong but eventually declining in power or having more powerful neighbors and gradually getting Red Dawned is not impossible, merely improbable. And, to borrow a quote from the aforementioned blogger – low probability is not a risk management strategy. It is not impossible but merely improbable that your house will flood, so you get flood insurance because if it ever happens the results would be catastrophic. Is there any reason to not apply the same reasoning to governments?

5. God, Jesus, and the Holy Ghost! Repent, for tomorrow you die!

There seems to be a somewhat vocal minority saying that apparently all these shootings and crimes is because we took God and prayer out of schools. To this I say, betch please. The lack of God did not cause this to happen any more than his existence prevented it. Takes some goddamn (har, c wut i did thar) responsibility for childrearing instead of using religion as a crutch. Seriously, the corollary to this idea is that the all-knowing, omnipotent, benevolent God let this happen because we stopped paying homage to him. Or he’s just “testing” us…for what, really? Our resolve? Our sympathy? And he could not find some way to do this that did not involve having a crazed gunman kill twenty kids? Why the hell would you follow a God like that? Zeus may be a prick who can’t keep his prick to himself, but at least with him you know where you stand. Plus you are also ignoring the millions (AND MILLIONS!) of atheists who don’t go out and decide to kill children.

On a side note, Deism is all kinds of awesome and it’s what the Founding Fathers believed. If you have religion, and it inspires you to be a better person, awesome. Don’t push it on others, and don’t push it as panacea.

Besides, there is no god but Tzeentch, Khorne, Nurgle, and Slaanesh- *BLAM! Heresy!*

6. The solution to guns isn’t more guns!

I am a martial artist. Let’s say someone is trying to physically assault me. Would you say that the solution to fist isn’t more fist? Or would you say that the correct measure is to use my kung fu to defend myself? If the solution to guns isn’t more guns, police would not carry guns.

As has been covered many times, the situation now is that many do have guns, and there is no way to prevent them from instigating a shooting. Yes, we can have all the mental health counseling programs we want. Yes, we can have less violent tv shows or at least more tv shows that deal with nuances in terms of how to use violence responsibly. Yes, we have have a host of things. All of that is useless if a criminal decides he wants to shoot up a mall unless they give him money.

As a martial artist, I believe strongly in the idea that self-defense is a human right. Because while we have laws, there exists that gap in time between when a breach in the law occurs and when law enforcement can show up, and I find the idea that we are obligated to remain docile in that meantime reprehensible. You cannot have self-defense if the defenders are not allowed to match the attackers in combat capability. That leads to the aforementioned situation in which the doctor was shot dead because the home invaders had more ammo capacity than he did.

The TV show Revolution, written by J. J. Abrams, is a godawful show filled with plot holes and protagonist centered morality and characters being artificially dumbed down so the plot can be moved forward and many other sins of writing. But the early episodes did have some good moments, including a monologue by the side character Aaron. See, Aaron is a fat and unathletic nerd who always got picked on by the jocks at his school. But then he graduated, went to college, studied computers, and went to work for Google in a tech job while his former tormentors ended up flipping burgers at McD’s. And then the Blackout happened, all electronics stopped working, militias confiscated all the guns, and right when his life was good, he went right back to living in an entire country ruled by the jerk jocks who tormented him. There is some truth in the saying “God created man, but Sam Colt made him equal.” An unarmed jock easily outclasses an unarmed nerd. A jock with a gun is only marginally more dangerous than a nerd with a gun. Historically, the samurai never enacted a gun ban due to guns allowing lowly peasants to easily kill the flower of Japan’s fighting men. But the fact this myth persists indicates we all accept at a basic level the gun’s ability to equalize defense. Life with no guns does not mean no crime, it merely means criminals just have to have bigger muscles and sharper knives than their victims.

Solutions

Currently, the solutions being bandied about – gun control, improved mental health, permitting concealed carry in more places, etc – are being suggested in opposition to each other. They are presented as being mutually exclusive, and that is a mistake.

As stated before, there are three groups of guns – 1. guns belonging to criminals used used for crime, 2. guns belonging to law-abiding citizens not being used for crime, 3. guns belonging to law-abiding citizens being used for crime. There is also a time constraint – any solution will require time to implement fully, and it is important to maintain public safety in the interim.

Obviously, we don’t have to do anything about Group 2. Gun control does work for Group 3. But this can only be controls that increase the penalties for when something goes wrong. Thus, I would propose some kind of national gun registry, where every gun sold gets a serial number and a “seller” and “current owner” data field that logs who owns it at any point, be it a storefront or a customer. If a guncrime is committed, the popos look at the serial number, find who the gun belongs to, and punishes them. This gives incentive for gun-owners to lock up their guns and prevent others from using them improperly and gun-sellers to actually do background checks. In addition, a national mental health database would be good too. If you live in the same household as a mentally ill person, you are responsible for whether they use their guns for ill.

In the meantime, better mental health services would be pretty awesome as well. As I am not nearly as well versed on mental health as I am in strategery and tactics, I’m not going to spend time talking about something I don’t understand – a virtue that many who do comment on these topics should keep in mind.

In addition, as a friend of mine pointed out, the fact that so many of these shootings end in suicide for the shooter indicate that these are really a combination of a glorification of violence as the solution to problems as well as a failure to instill the idea of personal responsibility in the youth. Suicide here is very much the easy way out when you don’t want to deal with the consequences of murdering a boatload of people. Obviously something within the culture must change. However, what cannot happen is a cultural shift to make violence in and of itself bad. As long as evil exist in the world, pacifism is an ideology that only helps the bad guys. Better would be more series like Game of Thrones, in which while there is conflict, all of the factions have at least a decent reason for why they are fighting, or Macross, in which while violence is useful for self-defense and buying time, ultimately conflict resolution is achieved by finding common ground and convincing the other side you have more in common with each other than differences, or Fearless, in which violence is bad when you are using it for your own ego, but good if you are using it to defend the weak from being preyed upon.

However, improving controls and mental health services and culture are somewhat long processes, and again only takes care of one of the subgroups of guns being used for crime. As previously mentioned, America’s situation is different from other countries in that there are already massive numbers of guns floating in circulation, many of which have features that would be banned if their owners would actually follow gun laws (which I hope is obvious to everyone that they don’t). It must also be recognized that in places where shootings do happen, there is nothing preventing an active shooter from entering and doing their business – most schools have open campuses which mean anyone can walk in, and the cops can’t be everywhere at once.

We all know the ideal solution to any problem is prevention. However, here prevention is not an option available to us. Just think about all the ways you might keep an invader out of your home – lock the doors? Schools can’t do that because people come in and out all the time. Fence it up? Same thing. Metal detectors? That would slow student inflow to class to an unreasonable crawl. Limit the number of entrances? Same thing. The fact stands that schools (and most public places in general, such as malls or department stores or parks or coffee shops) are open areas meant to facilitate the inflow of large numbers of people. There is nothing you can do to prevent an active shooter from entering these areas. The only meaningful discussion is how we can stop a shooting after it occurs, and I have yet to see any better alternative to allowing people who the law already permits to carry their guns everywhere else to do so at schools too.

From a tactical standpoint, an active shooter entering his chosen location has the advantages of firepower, surprise, and initiative. Normally, the defenders have a terrain and numbers advantage, but because they have no way to fight back, this is nullified. The shooter is obviously better armed, his presence causes an initial panic, the interim before police arrive and get their bearings gives him time to run wild.

If you arm even only one or two of the defenders, however, things change dramatically. The shooter now loses all of his advantages – he loses the firepower advantage because firepower is now roughly equal, he loses his surprise advantage because the defenders can actually react, and he loses his initiative advantage because someone shooting back now forces him to react. In addition, the defenders now get to bring their advantages to bear. Numbers turn at worst even (since it’s usually only one or two active shooters), and usually it’s the better case of turning against the shooter since even one or two defenders with guns can, at the least, keep the shooter pinned for someone else to close to melee. The defenders now also get to use their terrain advantage, since they generally know the layout of the locale better than the shooter, and it should be noted that this is also an advantage they have over actual police.

It should be noted that when CHL holders were present at shootings, the shootings ended very quickly. Leaving the handling of active shooter situations when they happen (and they will happen, because even if the kind of gun control measures I or even the Left propose worked, they will not eliminate all shootings and we still need some kind of countermeasure) to the police is a reactive strategy. Allowing at least some people to be armed is still reactive, but at the very least it greatly reduces the reaction time.

Senator Feinstein speaks of getting weapons of war off our streets. This is funny because it’s clear she does not understand the art of war at all.

Now, are there risks? Yes. Misfires do happen. But very rarely guns just go off on their own out of the blue when they’re holstered and the safety is on. The proper course of action is then to perform data analytics more sophisticated than what I’ve already done to determine what would cause less deaths, an increase in misfires or accidents due to allowing teachers to go armed on campus, or the current situation where everyone is at the mercy of the shooter until police arrive. Whichever one causes less death is the one we ought to opt for.

Closing remarks

The shooting happened on December 14, 2012. Just a day prior was the 75th anniversary of the Rape of Nanjing, an event in the early stages of the Chinese theater of World War II in which, following the surrender of the Chinese garrison in Nanjing after a several-day battle, the invading Japanese army then proceeded to engage in a six-week massacre and mass rape of the Chinese civilian population. 300000 people were killed – that is, one dead every 12 seconds – with more being dragged off into slave labor camps or “comfort women” stations. And it must be restated that these were either disarmed POWs or civilians who, due to China’s relatively low tech level at the time, had no guns.

Contrast this quote from Japanese admiral Isoroku Yamamoto about what would end a war with the United States.

“Should hostilities once break out between Japan and the United States, it is not enough that we take Guam and the Philippines, nor even Hawaii and San Francisco. To make victory certain, we would have to march into Washington and dictate the terms of peace in the White House. I wonder if our politicians, among whom armchair arguments about war are being glibly bandied about in the name of state politics, have confidence as to the final outcome and are prepared to make the necessary sacrifices.”

There is another quote that is often misattributed to him that runs like this:

“You cannot invade the mainland United States. There would be a rifle behind every blade of grass.”

Made up, yes. But what does it say about the reasonableness of the idea behind the quote when so many can pass it around without any doubt of whether he actually said it?

I bet the citizens of Nanjing wished they had guns when the devils showed up on their doorstep.

My right to bear arms may end at your right to feel safe. But your right to feel safe ends at my right to be safe.

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