December 15th, 2012

The Newtown massacre, gun control, mental illness

As could be very reliably predicted, the forces of gun control have now fastened on the Newtown school shooting and bent it to their purpose, despite the fact that the details as we know them so far argue against it. But why would that stop them? An agenda is an agenda.

The guns the shooter used were legally purchased by his mother. Perhaps she failed to store them properly (there are laws about that, too, but it’s hard to oversee activity in a private home). Perhaps the guns were stored well and the perpetrator was very clever at gaining access to them. At any rate, I fail to see how anything other than the total banning of guns in the US would logically follow from this particular crime—and of course that would be an absurdity, since guns are always obtainable, especially by criminals, and only law-abiding citizens would be deprived of them.

If anything, this massacre should be the impetus for thinking how better to protect schools—which tend to be “gun-free” zones where murderers know they can come and fire away mostly unmolested. The Sandy Hook Elementary School (the actual name of the Newtown school that was attacked yesterday) had a recently installed security system that required visitors to be identified and buzzed in. Sounds good, no? Well, “investigators have determined Lanza forced his way into the school and was not let inside by anyone.”

So much for that.

People have also called for the preventive detention of the mentally ill. Well, there are an awful lot of mentally ill people in this country, and the vast majority are not the least bit dangerous; are we prepared to detain them all? Or do you trust the mental health professionals to predict which people will be violent and which not? I don’t. Every now and then we can tell, but that’s rare, and mostly hindsight.

To me the only answer that makes sense (and it won’t prevent all these incidents by any means) is to have armed guards at schools, or to allow properly trained and screened teachers to be armed. This has its own difficulties, too; for example, if an armed teacher is surprised and shot by an intruder with a gun, the perpetrator will steal the weapon and be even better-armed. And that’s only one of many bad possibilities; it’s not clear whether the net result of arming teachers would be good or not. I’ve known a lot of unbalanced teachers in my day.

The reality is that this sort of incident is very difficult to predict and very difficult to prevent, and that no solution is a perfect one. The very best one may be armed guards rather than armed teachers, but I’m not sure; who screens the guards? (I’d take a look at how Israel does it, but I’m having trouble finding reliable confirmation of my belief that they regularly have armed guards at schools, although I strongly suspect they have a good system.)

One interesting fact to ponder is that worst mass murders in US history have all involved explosives of one sort of other: the 9/11 terrorists used the incendiary power of jet fuel, set off by the planes colliding with the building; Oklahoma City involved a powerful bomb; and the worst school mass murder in US history was perpetrated in 1927 by a killer who used the fairly ordinary explosives of his era, purchased over time and in small amounts so as to not arouse suspicion.

These are very determined people.

One more question: why children as targets here? I know nothing about Adam Lanza’s psyche (initial reports being notoriously unreliable, I’ll wait to hear more), but in general children are chosen for the very reason that they are innocent and arouse our deepest protective feelings. What could be more cruel and more offensive than to kill a bunch of them? What could arouse more sorrow and rage and feelings of impotence? If a perpetrator wants to inflict maximum damage and grief, they are obvious targets—in addition to being relatively safe ones, because they are not armed (nor are their teachers) and cannot fight back.

The motive is ordinarily anger—but not usually at the children themselves, except that they are objects of love and affection and perhaps the perpetrator sees himself as not being equally loved. The anger is often at someone else: parents, spouse, siblings, the world—or, in the case of the Pied Piper, town leaders who had promised him a certain payment for ridding the city of rats, and then reneged on the deal. What did he do? Took away their children.

[ADDENDUM: The m.o. of the murderer as described here reminds me a bit of the killing method of Breivik, who targeted older children but children nonetheless, and gunned them down systematically and remorselessly.

The article also contains somewhat conflicting information about Lanza's prior mental health:

The gunman's aunt Marsha Lanza, of Crystal Lake, Ill., said her nephew was raised by kind, nurturing parents who would not have hesitated to seek mental help for him if he needed it.

"Nancy wasn't one to deny reality," Marsha Lanza said, adding her husband had seen Adam as recently as June and recalled nothing out of the ordinary.

Catherine Urso, of Newtown, said her college-age son knew the killer. "He just said he was very thin, very remote and was one of the goths," she said.

Lanza attended Newtown High School, and several news clippings from recent years mention his name among the honor roll students.

Joshua Milas, who graduated from Newtown High in 2009 and belonged to the school technology club with him, said that Lanza was generally a happy person but that he hadn't seen him in a few years.

"We would hang out, and he was a good kid. He was smart," Joshua Milas said. "He was probably one of the smartest kids I know. He was probably a genius."]

66 Responses to “The Newtown massacre, gun control, mental illness”

  1. rickl Says:

    It’s impossible to prevent things like this in a free society. There will always be criminals and insane people.

    The best we can do is to try to minimize such incidents. But there’s no way to completely prevent them, short of turning the whole nation into a maximum security prison.

    Rest assured, some people would love to do precisely that.

  2. rickl Says:

    Heh.

  3. Mac Says:

    “The reality is that this sort of incident is very difficult to predict and very difficult to prevent, and that no solution is a perfect one. ”

    My morning perusal of Facebook and news stories around the web would indicate that this is something liberals absolutely do not want to hear.

  4. neo-neocon Says:

    Mac: there are an awful lot of things that are true that many liberals absolutely do not want to hear (or want people in general to hear).

  5. rickl Says:

    In this Market Ticker thread, many commenters have pointed out the number of recent mass murderers who were on some form of psychiatric medication.

    I’m not a psychiatrist or a pharmacologist. I’m sure that these kinds of medications have helped a lot of people.

    But there seems to be an [i]extremely[/i] high correlation of mass murderers who were on some form of psychiatric medication when they committed their crimes.

  6. neo-neocon Says:

    rickl: that statistic has no meaning unless medication makes it more likely that a mentally disturbed individual will commit a crime. If many mentally disturbed people are on medication, and many commit crimes, how would we know whether the meds make it more likely or less likely (as compared to the same people, unmedicated) for them to commit crimes? I’ve not seen those statistics (don’t have time to search now, but my guess is we don’t have good stats on that).

  7. rickl Says:

    Here is anecdotal evidence from a commenter at Ace of Spades:

    577 A few years back there was supposed to be some anti-depressant that helped people quit smoking. That shit sent me into an absolutely murderous rage. I’m still surprised I didn’t kill anyone. At some point there was a little voice telling me that the toaster breaking was not a good reason to burn down the entire block. Close though. Scared the bejeezus out of me when it had worn off. I didn’t forget anything. All that crazy seemed so reasonable at the time. Hell, thinking bout it scares me all over again. A bit more of a nudge and I’d be spending the rest of my days in a cage.
    Posted by: Invictus at December 15, 2012 12:16 PM (OQpzc)

    I think I know of the medication he was talking about. A few years ago my doctor suggested a medication that could help me quit smoking. I went home and looked it up online. The list of potential side effects scared the living hell out of me. I decided not to take it.

    If I try to quit smoking, I won’t need any help with “murderous rage” or “suicidal thoughts”. I’ll be able to do that all by myself, thankyouverymuch.

  8. OdTexan Says:

    I am at a loss for words yet, I want to say something. There seem to be a lot of factors that bring together a perfect mess like this shooting. I think we would all like to make sense of this killing of little children and then find ‘the solution’ and implement it.

    I can understand how anti-gun people think the remedy is not allowing anyone to have a gun and of course that is not a real life possibility even if all of the good people agreed, which we do not. Then those of us who agree with the second amendment look for answers and that is hard too.

    In most cases of mass murder it appears to me that there is some level of mental illness, isolation from normal society, lack of faith, a feeling of depression and that the future will bring no improvement for the sorry son of a bitch that decides he will go out with a terrible act of violence and achieve some of recognition and even fame to let people know who he is or was and if he is still on medication or just came off his medication.

    Perhaps we could start to deal with these terrible acts by treating the killers the same way we do victims of sex crimes by not releasing their names and then by not working so hard to find the reason why they want to kill other people’s children and loved ones.

    Let’s chalk it up to a mad dog mind set and if they kill themselves during the act be glad that they are gone. If they are still alive give them a low publicity trial and then either lock them away forever or execute them depending upon the verdict.

    Anyway best case is stop the circus and take the microphones away from all of the media who are visibly ecstatic as they relate each little bit of crap that really does not help any one.

    For a loss for words I have written to many and my heart and prayers go out to the people who lost their kindergarten babies yesterday.

  9. rickl Says:

    It sounds terrible to say this, but my first reaction upon hearing the news yesterday was not sorrow for the children and their families, but fear and anger about how the totalitarian statists will exploit this act of savagery to push their agenda. Because we all know what’s coming. They are rubbing their hands and cackling with glee right now.

    I hate those evil bastards for making me think that way.

  10. goy Says:

    rickl, of far more concern to me is the fact that such meds are now routinely prescribed (at least in CT) by APRNs with some minimal number of hours in psychopharm. The State determines these requirements. These people do not typically treat the patients themselves but, rather, will often prescribe meds as a referral, since a clinical psychologist (again, at least in CT) can not do the actual prescribing.

    So there are some big gaping holes in the way psych meds are prescribed – not only with respect to the qualifications of the individuals doing the prescribing, but also with respect to the manner in which patients are subsequently followed in terms the effects of the drugs.

    My spouse is a clinical psych in CT who has titrated a number of clients off of drugs (again, with the help of professionals licensed to prescribe) that they had no business ever being prescribed in the first place. In every single case Rx’es were written up by APRNs (as opposed to, you know… doctors) and who in many cases simply tried a string of different meds until one seemed to have the desired effect.

    The obvious problem with this approach – as Neo points out with respect to knowing whether or not an Rx is actually causing violent behavior – is that it’s pure “post hoc” treatment. That is, there’s just as little proof that the last drug tried was actually responsible for the desired change in behavior (assuming there ever was one).

  11. Occam's Beard Says:

    People have also called for the preventive detention of the mentally ill. Well, there are an awful lot of mentally ill people in this country, and the vast majority are not the least bit dangerous; are we prepared to detain them all? Or do you trust the mental health professionals to predict which people will be violent and which not? I don’t.

    Disagree, on so many counts.

    First, while I don’t trust mental health professionals to predict propensity for violence with 100% accuracy, that’s an unreasonable standard. Getting most of them off the streets would be a vast improvement.

    Second, I don’t believe that people just go from mildly eccentric to violently deranged suddenly, without any warning signs.

    We recently had a school here shot up by some lunatic (who mercifully was overpowered before inflicting any serious injuries). It turns out he was a frequent flier with the cops, who had been called to his house dozens of times by neighbors concerned about his bizarre behavior (examples of which I’ve forgotten, but were laughably clear indications that he was totally deranged). The cops were legally prevented from doing anything about him because they couldn’t prove he posed an imminent threat to himself or others, the ridiculous standard imposed on us by Supreme Court morons in the mid-70s.

    Third, even though most of the mentally ill may not be dangerous, a lot of people should be institutionalized for their own good. Studies indicate that over 70% of the homeless are mentally ill. I well remember when that idiotic Supreme Court decision came down, because Berkeley was flooded with lunatics released from state mental hospitals (who, according to a former psychiatric nurse I knew, advised released inmates to move to Berkeley because they wouldn’t stand out that much). People raving incoherently but profanely and aggressively to non-existent interlocutors, filthy people infested with lice and scabies, aggressive and irrational panhandlers, lunatics ringing the door bell to tell us about the worm they just ate (but they “saved the worm’s mate, so experts could tell if it was poisonous”), a guy walking around carrying a dead bird for some reason, another spending all day walking through Sproul Plaza in a straight line until he hit an object, when he then turned at right angles and began walking again, in a human version of Pong, a third standing on a street corner holding an unstrung tennis racket bearing a sign that read “The DA’s office is controlled by crooked psychiatrists,” a fourth walking around standing inside a six foot long papier mache battleship, as though he’d fallen through a canoe – these and other bizarre behaviors became our daily experience. The joke was “I live in Berkeley, the open ward.”

    All these people should have been – and until recently, had been – institutionalized. For their own good, and for ours.

  12. George Says:

    “The reality is that this sort of incident is very difficult to predict . . .”

    They may be hard to predict, but in at least one case it didn’t come as a complete surprise.

    From Wiki:

    “Giovanni taught the Virginia Tech shooter Seung-Hui Cho in a poetry class. She described him as “mean” and “menacing”, when she approached the department chair to have Cho taken out of her class, and said she was willing to resign rather than continue teaching him. She stated that, upon hearing of the shooting, she immediately suspected that Cho might be the shooter.”

    There were reports after the shooting that some women had dropped out of the poetry class because they were afraid of Cho. I can’t remember if he had been on any medication during or at any point prior to the shooting.

    We may never know if Lanza’s psychosis was becoming as obvious as Cho’s. His mother is dead and his brother reportedly hadn’t talked to him in a couple of years.

  13. neo-neocon Says:

    Occam’s Beard: disagree strongly. People do go from seeming only mildly deranged or disturbed (or even in some cases relatively normal) pretty quickly in some cases—whether the “quickly” involves harm to self (such as suicide, more commonly) or harm to others. You cannot lock them all up. Yes, a small percentage, but the determination is difficult, and locking all people up who’ve made threats or seem to be a bit dangerous—just because some of them might be dangerous—is a huge violation of their rights. I’m surprised that conservatives might advocate it, and would give mental health professionals that sort of power.

    What’s more, how long do you lock them up for? Life? Or until they fool a panel of “experts” into saying they’re not dangerous?

    I actually am in favor of it being slightly more easy to commit someone involuntarily, at least for a while (six months? Till a panel thinks they’re not dangerous any more? It’s all somewhat arbitrary), but only in extreme cases where it’s almost certain the person is dangerous to self or others. But I don’t pretend this isn’t fraught with peril, and a very difficult judgment to make.

    By the way, I grew up in New York, and in New York even that many years ago (before de-institutionalization) you could still commonly see people such as you describe. They were most definitely not all institutionalized.

  14. neo-neocon Says:

    George: that’s why I said “often” rather than “always.”

    Sometimes it is indeed very easy to predict.

    At least, ex post facto. One of the difficulties is how many people more or less like that person whose violence seemed inevitable never in fact go on to commit violence. I don’t know the answer, by the way, but I think it’s a good question.

  15. neo-neocon Says:

    rickl: I believe it may have been Wellbutrin. A great med for some people, but I personally know others who were nearly unhinged by it. They recognized what was happening and went off it before anything very bad happened, fortunately.

    Anecdotal evidence, by the way, does not tell us whether on the whole these meds prevent more violence then they cause, or vice versa.

  16. Occam's Beard Says:

    People do go from seeming only mildly deranged or disturbed (or even in some cases relatively normal) pretty quickly in some cases

    I can accept that some might do this, but consider the converse proposition: someone who is obviously severely disturbed then commits a heinous crime. What does he have to do, write out his intentions before we take him seriously?

    And to clarify, I take “quickly” to mean in a matter of days. Is that what you meant by “quickly” too?

    Or until they fool a panel of “experts” into saying they’re not dangerous?

    If they’re lucid enough to do this, there’s really no defense. It’s like protecting someone from assassination; if an assassin is committed enough (sorry), only God can stop him.

  17. CV Says:

    Isn’t it true that some of the most serious and dangerous metal illnesses manifest themselves in the late teen years or young adulthood? In the case of the Sandy Hook shooter, he had already been diagnosed with a personality disorder of some kind. He was 20 years old..perhaps the symptoms of schizophrenia and dangerous delusions were a fairly recent development? Who knows. But sadly I think this kind of incident, thankfully rare, has always occurred in human history. It will continue to occur in one form or another. People want to make laws and put systems in place to have
    some sense of control, because that reality is too terrible to contemplate.

  18. Papa Dan Says:

    Agree with Neo per Occam’s post at 4:21 pm

    My second youngest daughter suffers from Schizophrenia. She was a slow learner in school, but the sweetest spirit in the world. She socialized well in the family, and with the neighborhood kids, but then around 20 years old she started to get very withdrawn. To keep this painfully short, she has been under various treatments for the last six years, and for us it has always comes down to she is far better at home than in an institution. Bottom line is schizophrenics hide their condition as carefully as possible. I can understand why Adams mother may not have seen something like this coming. And many a time I have cried at the setbacks that have happened along the way.

    The wandering crazies do need to be institutionalized. But we need to be dead certain that is the last option. The times they are-a-changin. Do we really want committees of the likes of Kathleen Sebelius and Janet Napolitano deciding who is crazy and should be taken off the street for our own good?

  19. NeoConScum Says:

    If The Boy King gets 2-more SCOTUS picks he just might be able to pull off a “new” interpretation of the 2nd Amendment. Thank the gods that one of the foreseen Justices to retire is Ruth G. and therefore not a net gain for the Left.

  20. neo-neocon Says:

    Occam’s Beard: in some cases I mean even more suddenly-seeming than that. In other cases, maybe a few days or a week or two. In others, a month or two—but especially if the person lives alone, it can be hard for others to notice in time to try to get help for the person.

    And a significant number of mentally ill people—and most definitely psychopaths—can seem just that lucid, and can be quite smart, too. They know the system and can work it quite well.

    And it depends what you mean by “obviously seriously disturbed.” Most people walking around who are obviously seriously disturbed (some street people, schizophrenics, etc.) will never commit crimes.

    It’s nice to think it’s easier to predict than it actually is, and the problem (as I’ve said before) is knowing which ones are going to be dangerous and which will never be.

  21. Occam's Beard Says:

    locking all people up who’ve made threats or seem to be a bit dangerous—just because some of them might be dangerous—is a huge violation of their rights.

    What about the rights of other people? Who speaks for them?

    I’m surprised that conservatives might advocate it, and would give mental health professionals that sort of power

    How does this differ from giving police the power to arrest people, judges and juries the power to incarcerate and/or execute people, parole boards the power to release them, and governors/Presidents the power to pardon them?

    Ultimately, at some point someone somewhere has to make a decision. Inevitably that decision will sometimes be wrong. Refusing to make a decision is itself a decision, and one that is all too frequently wrong. So any involvement with a decision – paradoxically, even the refusal to get involved – means that one has to accept that sometimes one will be making a mistake. No one said adulthood was easy.

  22. neo-neocon Says:

    Occam’s Beard: but those people are not arrested for being a certain type of person, or “mere words.” They are arrested for acts—crimes—because there is probable cause to believe they have already committed a crime. If there’s not enough evidence that they have already acted criminally, they cannot be detained indefinitely to protect someone else (even someone they may have in the past threatened).

    They can be refrained from harassing or being around that person if the person has gotten a restraining order against them, but otherwise they go free until there’s enough to try them and then they must go free if there’s not enough to convict them.

    Our justice system is act-oriented rather than person-oriented. That, by the way, is the reason prior similar crimes can usually not be evidence, until the sentencing phase. That’s because the sentencing phase (after the person has been found guilty of that act) is allowed to be more person-oriented (that is also true of parole hearings, which only occur once the person is already in the criminal justice system).

    The criminally insane are dealt with somewhat differently (too long and complicated to go into right now), but they only enter that system when a criminal act has already occurred.

    Do you really want to begin locking people up because of who they are rather than what they’ve done? I think that’s a terribly terribly slippery slope.

  23. Jim Nicholas Says:

    I comment from the perspective of a now-retired psychiatrist with some experience in forensic psychiatry.

    With a few exceptions, studies show that psychiatrists have no special ability or success in predicting violent behavior. They are a bit better at understanding some of the causes of the behavior after the fact.

    The best predictor of future behavior, including violence, is past behavior. In at least one study, judges were better at predicting violence than were psychiatrists–probably because judges focused on just past behavior and psychiatrists tried to add an understanding of the past to predict the future.

    Unfortunately, the fact that many of these mass killings are carried out by persons without a past history of such a degree of violence indicates that predicting such behavior is not possible with our present knowledge.

    I am not hopeless. Better treatment for and advances in the treatment of mentally ill persons should reduce their level of violence.

    But this is not to say that the only source of violence is the mentally ill. There are also evil persons in this world.

  24. Occam's Beard Says:

    but those people are not arrested for being a certain type of person, or “mere words.”

    Not arrested for “mere words?” Threaten the President, or advocate violence, and find out different.

    You raise a good point, but then again, I think I do too. One can be arrested for “mere words,” if the person threatened is important enough. The rest of us take our chances.

    Do you really want to begin locking people up because of who they are rather than what they’ve done?

    It’s not who they are, but what they’ve done, which is evince behavior – speech is a behavior too – against which society considers it needs to protect itself. People can get locked up for incitement to riot; can they just claim that that’s who they are?

  25. MH Says:

    Let’s change the game; investigate the politics of the shooters in such cases. If they tend by and large to be “right” (meaning: not left) the narrative won’t change. If it turns out that most shooters are of the left, these cases will become unremarkable, unreported on non-issues.

  26. CV Says:

    When I was a young journalist I recall interviewing a Russian immigrant who had spent years in Soviet mental institutions (Gulags?) because the Soviets said he was criminally insane. His only crime, apparently, was publicly taking a stand against the communist government. Many such dissidents were likewise institutionalized, he told me.

    So yes, I can see how locking someone up to “protect the public” could become a slippery slope indeed.

  27. goy Says:

    Anecdotal evidence, by the way, does not tell us whether on the whole these meds prevent more violence then they cause, or vice versa.

    Exactly. But unfortunately, that’s about all the evidence that’s publicly available to go on. More rigorous, clinical evidence either doesn’t exist, or is conveniently held very close to the vest(s) of those who manufacture and/or make their living prescribing these medications – in many cases, to individuals whose brains have yet to physically mature.

  28. Occam's Beard Says:

    Afterthought: IANAL, but I understand that one can invoke self-defense if one is in reasonable fear of one’s life from the actions of another, even if one has not yet actually been attacked.

    If that is true, then involuntary institutionalization would represent a parallel phenomenon extended from the individual level to the collective, i.e., to the case where the threatened individual is a “John Doe,” not yet identified specifically, but considered to exist.

  29. neo-neocon Says:

    Occam’s Beard: of course there are “mere words” that can be causes of action, but you understand the point I’m making.

    And no, the rest of us are not important enough. Liberty is more important than the ability to protect everyone from crimes uncommitted as yet. Our justice system rests on that principle; it’s why it is so hard to convict someone, as well.

    The law against threatening a president was only enacted in 1917, by the way.

  30. parker Says:

    “I am at a loss for words yet, I want to say something.”

    I read your comments twice and found them to be a real reflection of what many people are feeling and thinking right now. Thanks.

  31. Occam's Beard Says:

    you understand the point I’m making.

    Yeah, I do, and I largely subscribe to it, but not entirely.

  32. Mac Says:

    Neo, 3:08pm: yes indeed. And one of the things they really hate is reasonable will-this-actually-work questioning of a conclusion they’ve reached on a wave of emotion. Questioning the efficacy of laws to prevent something like this produces the reaction that you’re cold and callous and don’t care if children die.

  33. Steve Says:

    “To me the only answer that makes sense (and it won’t prevent all these incidents by any means) is to have armed guards at schools, or to allow properly trained and screened teachers to be armed.”

    Yes indeed. And this should be up to the parents not the teachers or the school system. They work for us after all. If they don’t like it, they can work at a school where parents have decided to protect their children by declaring the school a gun free zone.

  34. Steve Says:

    I read that the man who killed his father at a Wyoming community college (using a compound bow and a knife) was ‘borderline genius’ and upset that he had inherited Asperger’s Syndrome from his father. Yet another ‘random’ killing explained by mental illness. I think this unstable person had made threatening statements prior to the murder-suicide.

  35. J.J. formerly Jimmy J. Says:

    I’m glad to see a discussion of the pros and cons of institutionalizing people with serious mental illness. It’s not a simple nor straightforward solution, but it needs to be re-examined, IMO.

    A few years back we had a seriously disturbed young man kill seven people here in my small town. He didn’t kill more because he had chosen to go around a neighborhood killing people and then drove down the freeway shooting at people. His mother had been trying to get him help for five years. The signs were pretty obvious – a couple of assaults, threats, and increasingly obnoxious behaviour. But the powers that be said he had to do something “bad” before they could act. Well he did something “bad.” This small community is still trying to recover from that rampage.

    Obviously no system would catch all the potentially dangerous mental cases, but if these rampages were reduced by 50%, I would consider it a success. Additionally, as Occam’s points out, 70% or so of the homeless are people who are mentally ill. Most are not a danger to others, but are themselves prey for some anti-social types. Is it more humane to house them, feed them, and try to treat their problems than to allow them the freedom to suffer in the streets? I’m not Solomon and don’t have the answers. I know if I was afflicted with a mental disturbance that resulted in homelessness, I would prefer having a roof over my head and some hot food. But that’s me.

    If institutionalizing was reinstated, I would want there to be some pretty strong safeguards where people could not be locked away at the whim of some relative and kept there with no hope of return to society.

    As to putting armed guards or teachers in the schools. It’s not foolproof and may not even be possible to implement. However, if it stopped only 35% of such mass killlings, I would consider it to be a success. Nothing is going to insure total safety anywhere, but if we can improve the margin of safety sensibly, I am for it.

  36. Occam's Beard Says:

    As to putting armed guards or teachers in the schools. It’s not foolproof and may not even be possible to implement.

    Yep. To my earlier point, selecting people to be the armed guards or the teachers still requires the exercise of judgment about the individuals involved, and some of those judgments will be erroneous. But that’s no reason not to make any judgments.

  37. parker Says:

    I work at an elementary school. I keep a loaded .357 in my locked car in the parking lot. And against the rules I keep a combat folder in my right hand front pocket at all times: http://tinyurl.com/2f2hxmt

    I’m almost 64 but within 6 feet I can take down a pistol wielding nut job with a knife.

  38. Occam's Beard Says:

    One after-afterthought. The operational criterion I would apply would be a simple one: would you be willing to sleep under the same roof with this person? Whether we’re considering whether to institutionalize a mental case or to parole a convict, I would accept the judgment of a person who applied that criterion – and then proved it.

    Kind of puts a whole different complexion on things, doesn’t it? Turning a nutjob or a criminal loose on others, who have no knowledge of or say in the matter, is fundamentally immoral, because it exposes those people to a risk that the decision-maker is not willing to accept for himself.

    So judges, parole board members, and mental health professionals, it’s time for you to step up to the plate…

  39. Capn Rusty Says:

    Yes, I can see that putting armed guards at the schoolhouse door is a “solution” to the danger of a lunatic gunning down the kids. But, just like our attempts to defend ourselves from terrorists, we must stop every attempt in every place to be successful, while the perpetrator only needs to succeed in one place one time for us to have failed. So, we’d need armed guards at every school door, everyplace, all the time.

    Then every child, from the first day of kindergarten, would learn every day that the government has to protect them from their fellow citizens, because someone “out there” was trying to get them. What would be the long-term effect on their psyches?

  40. Alifa Says:

    When I came to live in Israel in 1980 on a moshav, the parents were all required to serve as guards at the kindergarten about once or twice a month. After qualifying at the Border Police range, I was armed with an M-1. Guard duty was generally boring. As my children entered grade school, I also had to do guard duty at their schools in Lod, this time unarmed; mostly checking IDs at the school gate. Within a few years, parents were replaced with a guard service, paying an extra fee to the school each year for this. In Israel, of course, most teachers are army veterans, and many of them are armed in the classroom. (Our kindergarten teachers had concealed weapons permits, I recall, and had pistols.) It occurs to me that if teachers were required to have firearms or defense training, it would be a plus, even if they chose not to apply for a carry permit. It might also weed out a few teachers who might be unwilling to go through the training. I don’t think the usual “pour more money on the problem” is likely to help; I absolutely disagree with the gun ban suggestion: just look at Obama’s “home town” Chicago — every Sunday there are reports of shootings, including children and teens. No solution there.

  41. kcom Says:

    Happy Land Social Club

    One match. 87 dead.

  42. westbankmama Says:

    In Israel there is a law that every school with more than 100 students must have a fence around it and an armed guard at the entrance. If there is a problem with getting a guard then the parents organization will call for all parents to protest and keep their kids home from school until it is corrected.
    The guard will in most cases use a wand to check the for a weapon. Since he works there every day he gets to know who should be going in and out and is extra wary of a stranger.

  43. Capn Rusty Says:

    WestBankMama and Alifa: I appreciate your posts. The Israelis vowed “Never Again,” and they back it up. I should spend time in Israel to get to know people who grew up with armed guards at their schoolhouse doors. Perhaps I would find that the effect on their National psyche of knowing that evil lurks is positive.

  44. Occam's Beard Says:

    It occurs to me that if teachers were required to have firearms or defense training, it would be a plus, even if they chose not to apply for a carry permit.

    That’s Israel, which has been in the crucible of adversity and thereby had the silliness burnt out of its citizens.

    I can only imagine how teachers – and especially their Red-infested unions – would react to any such proposal here.

  45. Occam's Beard Says:

    This is exactly what I was talking about yesterday.

  46. Charles Says:

    Here’s where I post a witty and insightful comment on exactly how we can prevent this violence from happening . . .

    thinking . . . . thinking . . . . . thinking . . . .

    Sorry, I got nothing. I wish that I could be so self-assured in my opinion as so many – “just outlaw guns” “just give all teachers guns” “lock up all the mentally ill” “stop all the hollywood movies and TV shows glorifing violence” “homeschool your kids” “oulaw abortion” “live under a rock” etc.

    But, the truth be told, I’m not sure that we can ever really prevent such stuff from happening without doing even more damage to our society. Damage to our society that most of us would not be willing to live with.

    Maybe my last suggestion – live under a rock – is the only way to avoid the evil in life; but, who wants to miss out on the goodness of life by hiding from it?

  47. rickl Says:

    neo-neocon Says:
    December 15th, 2012 at 4:53 pm

    Anecdotal evidence, by the way, does not tell us whether on the whole these meds prevent more violence then they cause, or vice versa.

    That’s true. I just quoted that comment because it was fresh in my mind, and because his experience could well have happened to me.

    Sorry, neo, I wasn’t ignoring you yesterday. You replied to one comment while I was typing another; then I was away when you replied to that one, etc.

  48. Don Carlos Says:

    This discussion (I vote for O.B.’s position) reminds me of a written explicit but nutty death threat to my wife, signed by the writer, 20 yrs ago. Everyone -authorities, forensic psychiatrist, lawyers- said we had to take this seriously. So we had to hire off-duty deputies to guard home and office around the clock for two months, and a private detective to track him down. The detective went to his mother, who said. “I can’t tell you where he is. He’d kill me.”

    He was found by the private detective 100 miles away, living in his car. two months later.

    The whole thing cost us about $30,000, all because of treating a Medicaid patient.

    Why no taxpayer-funded police action? Because by statute in this state the threat-maker must deliver the threat to the threatened himself, and his letter had been found by a nurse and faxed to us as heads-up. Technically, he had not completed the making of a death threat. Because of this, the authorities could not intervene. We could not even get a copy of his driver’s license to see his photo.

    This is when I became self defense-minded: Gosh, our house has a lot of windows; and bought my first gun. The off-duty cops told me, if an aggressor proceeds toward you at home, stand in your front door, and if he still advances, shoot him–just drag his body over the threshold to legally protect yourself.

    Now I have a handgun in my vehicle, a pump shotgun in my bedroom, and a concealed carry permit.

  49. Papa Dan Says:

    Charles Says:
    December 16th, 2012 at 11:05 am -

    “But, the truth be told, I’m not sure that we can ever really prevent such stuff from happening without doing even more damage to our society. Damage to our society that most of us would not be willing to live with.”

    This is where the left makes promises to “prevent this from ever happening again” – just give us your freedom.

    “Maybe my last suggestion – live under a rock – is the only way to avoid the evil in life; but, who wants to miss out on the goodness of life by hiding from it?”

    Amen.

  50. Occam's Beard Says:

    Charles Says:
    December 16th, 2012 at 11:05 am -

    Preventing it entirely is obviously impossible. We’re talking about steps to reduce its incidence.

  51. thomass Says:

    “Or do you trust the mental health professionals to predict which people will be violent and which not?”

    I think we have the problem that even if they do think someone is a danger there is not much they can do.

    As to the taking guns from teachers and being better armed; most people that do these things already have all the weapons they can carry….

  52. David Says:

    David Spencer • a minute ago −
    Cutting out the mentally ill will only force the mentally ill not to seek a psychiatrist and so avoid the stigma. It would also potentially put a post-partem depressed mother on Prozac at the mercy of her undiagnosed psychotic ex-boyfriend who “doesn’t believe in pills” or that there’s anything wrong with him. Even if you could diagnose them all, (and you can’t), a mentally ill person could always acquire a gun from a non-mentally ill person without permission, which was evidently the case here.

    Why not advocate for something more effective and therefore likely to survive Constitutional challenges, like multi-layered school security (Zone A, B, C) with security that increases the closer you get to the classroom? We could initiate such measures without violating anything at theaters, malls, and schools. It would add a lot of inconvenience, but it would be a superior solution to gun control legislation getting killed by SCOTUS, or declaring 1/5th of the population as unfit to carry guns before asking “Now who’s sick?” Because no one will raise their hand after that.

  53. Steve Says:

    David, your idea for multi-level security raises an issue that is not being widely discussed. Most teachers are women. Are they ready to carry weapons? The ones in this case were defenseless and seemed to think it was up to someone else to defend them and their students. Will these teachers admit their strategy is intrinsically flawed? I doubt it. They’ll just play up the victim role.

  54. neo-neocon Says:

    Steve: the first two people the perpetrator killed were apparently the principal and the school guidance counselor, both women, who rushed the shooter in an attempt to tackle or disarm him in some physical way. They were killed; a shooter has it all over unarmed people, as you point out.

    But no one “seemed to think it was up to someone else to defend them and their students.” These two women happened to have died bravely trying to defend their students. Unfortunately the strategy of schools being gun-free zones backfired horribly in this case (and others). But it’s not because the teachers (in this case female) were playing up the victim role, relying on others, or even choosing that the school be a gun-free zone. We don’t know what their personal preferences would have been regarding that, but I very much doubt each public school sets its own policy about guns.

  55. Steve Says:

    neo, the video you posted had a teacher who hid in the closet and waited for the good guys to come. She did not come out until the police slid their badges under the door. The teacher in the library blocked the door with a filing cabinet and hid students in a closet. That was all these people could do because they were defenseless. Yes, the principal and others tried to face this mentally ill person and died in the process but the whole strategy of the school was to sit behind locked doors and wait for the police to come.

  56. neo-neocon Says:

    Steve: agreed. But my point was that some of the people who were killed did try (very unsuccessfully; they were handicapped by the fact that they were not allowed to bring anything but their own bodies to this particular gunfight) to defend themselves and protect the children rather than wait for others to do so.

  57. Steve Says:

    The question remains how will schools respond. They are staffed largely by leftists so my guess is that they may be willing to have an armed guard but the teachers will resist the idea of carrying arms themselves. I guess this strategy will work to some degree, but if the teachers are being honest, they’ll admit they are still relying on others to defend them and their students.

  58. Altemeyer Says:

    Once it’s convention and each school has an armed guard, the guard’s just the first target. You’re setting a guy flushed with apocalyptic destiny against an ambling dude who’s been picking his nose for the 532 days since he was hired. That said, it’s not like schools are the only soft target.

    It’s not the price of freedom, it’s the price of an anachronistic principle defended by paranoid romantics over a very long time. It’s the bed your culture has made. There’s nothing to be done in a country of 350M with 300M guns, short of letting the state produce and dole out the bullets while dropping smart bombs on Mexican bullet factories.

  59. neo-neocon Says:

    Altemeyer et.al.: as I wrote here, about armed teachers:

    This has its own difficulties, too; for example, if an armed teacher is surprised and shot by an intruder with a gun, the perpetrator will steal the weapon and be even better-armed. And that’s only one of many bad possibilities; it’s not clear whether the net result of arming teachers would be good or not.

    The same, of course, is also true of a guard, particularly if the guard has a uniform and obviously has a weapon, and there is only one of them. It is not at all uncommon in terrorist attacks, for example, for a guard to be shot at the outset. But compared to an armed teacher, the guard at least has the advantage of not being distracted by another task, and of also having the gun at the ready so that it can be used quickly. Also, since a guard would be at the entrance, if the guard wounds or kills the would-be perpetrator, that would prevent violence at the entry point rather than later on.

    But either armed guards or armed teachers seem to be the only possible security that would overcome the advantage an armed perp has in an otherwise gun-free zone.

  60. neo-neocon Says:

    Oh, and Altemeyer—the results of gun control in the UK.

  61. rickl Says:

    Altemeyer Says:
    December 16th, 2012 at 8:36 pm

    It’s not the price of freedom, it’s the price of an anachronistic principle defended by paranoid romantics over a very long time. It’s the bed your culture has made. There’s nothing to be done in a country of 350M with 300M guns, short of letting the state produce and dole out the bullets while dropping smart bombs on Mexican bullet factories.

    God, I wish Rachel Lucas was here. She would shove that idiotic comment up your ass sideways.

    Me, I’m not nearly so good with words.

  62. R Daneel Says:

    Maybe the code did not work – go here and read:

    http://www.peekinthewell.net/blog/the-sandy-hook-shooting/

    “But it is that last part of the story excerpted above, that really makes me shake my head and go “what the?” The death toll is high. That must mean the magazine capacity was also high. Because everybody knows, in the history of shooting sprees, they’re all over when the shooter exhausts his first magazine.

    Eh, no, ‘fraid not nanny-staters. High magazine capacity is not what makes a shooting spree go on and on and on like that. It’s that old nobody-shooting-back thing.”

  63. Altemeyer Says:

    Neo-neocon, harm reduction policies like a guard in every school would lower the body count, as gun control legislation has been demonstrated to do: The Effectiveness of Gun Control Laws: Multivariate Statistical Analysis.

    But that’s harm reduction. What the world is witnessing is a failed social experiment, a cultural blunder playing out across centuries. Gun control in the USA needed to start a long time ago. Contemporary efforts are valiant and pitiable. Crazy Americans shooting one another up on the TV news is the new global reality.

    There’s a lot to admire in American culture, 300M guns isn’t one of those things. See http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/12/16/the-freedom-of-an-armed-society/

    rickl, thanks for the link to the sociopath outing herself in point (6).

  64. Six Says:

    There is a way to add reliable and very cost effective armed guards at schools. It would be a program run through and by the local law enforcement entity. Rather than a long comment here I’ll point you to a post IO wrote about such a concept and proposal. I hope you’ll forgive me for the link but it’s way too long to put here.

    http://thewarriorclass.blogspot.com/2012/12/a-concept-and-proposal.html

    I am free to discuss it anytime with anyone.

  65. holmes Says:

    Altemeyer, yes, shove it straight up your ass. If we ended the drug war, 50% of the violence is eliminated, but we’re not that enlightened yet.

    You’ve ignored all of the subsequent articles and data Neo has posted showing no connection between gun ownership levels and violence or even gun-related violence. Multivariate that.

  66. Altemeyer Says:

    Holmes, I posted a link to a statistical analysis published by the American Journal of Economics and Sociology, which neoneocon ignored. Check out the paper’s Study Method and Data, and find fault there.

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Previously a lifelong Democrat, born in New York and living in New England, surrounded by liberals on all sides, I've found myself slowly but surely leaving the fold and becoming that dread thing: a neocon.
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