Thursday, December 20, 2012

Belated Thoughts On Newton CT

I've put this off as long as I could, but I guess it's time to toss out my $.02 worth on the tragic shootings in Newton CT. There's been so much already written and said that I have little to contribute, so I'll just try to organize a few thoughts about the entire sad and sordid situation. First, a little context.

The first reported attack on a primary (K-12) school in the U.S. occurred in 1764, when four American Indians tomahawked and scalped 11 or 12 (the reports vary) school children. It's uncertain (but probable) that liberals of that time immediately called for tomahawk-control laws to be passed.

Seriously, check out the link. It's a depressing list of 250 years worth of senseless attacks on schoolkids, indicating that, despite what many liberals would have us believe, school shootings are not a recent phenomenon.

More context:
...mass shootings have not increased in number or in overall body count, at least not over the past several decades.

Based on data extracted from official police reports to the FBI, the figure below shows annual incident, offender and victim tallies for gun homicides in which at least four people were murdered. Over the thirty-year time frame, an average of about 20 mass murders have occurred annually in the United States with an average death toll of about 100 per year.
Without minimizing the pain and suffering of the hundreds of who have been victimized in senseless attacks, the facts say clearly that the has been no increase in mass killings, and certainly no epidemic. Occasionally, we have witnessed short-term spikes with several shootings clustering close together in time.
In fact, the deadliest massacre of schoolchildren occurred in 1927. No firearms were involved. Rather, the weapon was dynamite.
The recent shootings in Newtown, Conn., have led many people to characterize school violence as a modern affliction, a byproduct of our national obsession with guns and media violence. But the deadliest school-related massacre in American history happened in 1927, at an elementary school in Bath, Mich. A school board member named Andrew Kehoe, upset over a burdensome property tax, wired the building with dynamite and set it off in the morning of May 18. Kehoe’s actions killed 45 people, 38 of whom were children.
And recent attacks at schools in China show that any weapon -- or even a common tool such as a hammer -- can be used to kill or injure.
A series of uncoordinated mass stabbings, hammer attacks, and cleaver attacks in the People's Republic of China began in March 2010. The spate of attacks left at least 21 dead and some 90 injured. Analysts have blamed mental health problems caused by rapid social change for the rise in these kind of mass murder and murder-suicide incidents.
Ignoring all of the above, the left reacted to the Newton shootings with knee-jerk predictability, immediately exploiting the deaths of innocents to press for increased gun control. I realize that I'm for the most part preaching to the choir here, but there is little to no correlation between firearms and homicide rates.
...there is no relationship between rates of gun ownership and homicide. Countries like Russia and South Africa have murder rates that dwarf ours, with a tiny fraction of the gun ownership. Countries that have relatively high levels of gun ownership, like Switzerland, Italy, Canada and Norway, also have very low homicide rates. There just isn’t any correlation, as the linked article demonstrates with statistical precision.
There are, however, factors other than gun ownership at play.
In most of Africa, homicide rates are sky-high, as much as five to ten times America’s rate. The homicide rate in Brazil is around five times that of the U.S. And here in the United States, according to the Department of Justice, the murder rate among African-Americans is almost eight times the murder rate among whites.
If not firearms ownership, then what might explain the different homicide rates in different locales? One possible answer lies in a recent study (Segal, 2011), which determined that socio-economic, demographic and other social factors have the strongest association with state homicide rates.

That same study found three factors related to different states' mental health system -- involuntary treatment standards, psychiatric hospital bed availability, and quality of mental health services --  were also statistically significant in variations of murder rates among states.

Which brings up another point - the availability and effectiveness of our public mental health system. In a statement headlined "TREATMENT FOR MENTAL ILLNESS SHOULD BE AS EASY TO GET AS GUNS" a mental health organization had this to say.
“Our mental health system has completely failed individuals with severe mental illness and their communities,” said Doris A. Fuller, executive director. “We have emptied the nation's hospitals, gutted state and local mental health programs, and turned involuntary treatment into a debate point instead of using it as a viable option to prevent tragedy involving those too ill to help themselves.”
That same organization provided the following statistic: out of 100 rampage murders committed in the U.S. over the 50-year period between 1949 and 1999, "The study found that 48 killers had some kind of formal [psychiatric] diagnosis..."

Couple an ineffective mental health system (especially the weakening of involuntary commitment policies and procedures) with the trend towards 'mainstreaming' individuals with mental disorders and the end result is an increasing number of individuals among us who have mental health issues. While not all of them are violent, as their numbers increase a certain number of violent incidents becomes inevitable.

A related factor is the influence of popular culture on people with a tendency towards aggressive behavior and violence. Rap lyrics glorify drugs, abusing women, and violence. Movies and television churn out films and shows full of fighting, stabbing, shooting, explosions, and other gory ways to die - or kill people.. Compare the language and gore of TV shows, including network shows that used to be much more restricted in terms of language and violence, to shows of 20 or even 10 years ago. The same goes for movies. Violence is celebrated and glorified today to a degree that would have been unthinkable when we were kids.

But in particular, look at the popularity of 'first-person-shooter' video games. While there is some disagreement in the psychological community, there are strong indicators that violent video games influence violent and aggressive behavior.
Recent video games reward players for killing innocent bystanders, police, and prostitutes, using a wide range of weapons including guns, knives, flame throwers, swords, baseball bats, cars, hands, and feet. Some include cut scenes (i.e., brief movie clips supposedly designed to move the story forward) of strippers. In some, the player assumes the role of hero, whereas in others the player is a criminal.

Some studies have yielded nonsignificant video game effects, just as some smoking studies failed to find a significant link to lung cancer. But when one combines all relevant empirical studies using meta-analytic techniques, five separate effects emerge with considerable consistency. Violent video games are significantly associated with: increased aggressive behavior, thoughts, and affect; increased physiological arousal; and decreased prosocial (helping) behavior.
So if we are serious about preventing future shootings, it would make sense to consider mental health issues related to those shootings. Here's one proposed starting point.

Other suggestions include improved school security, as pointed out by OldNFO.
Many school systems rely on 'passive' systems like locking exterior accesses, 'limited' access after specific times, or camera systems.  The 'rationale' is they don't want to 'scare' the children by having armed 'police' on campus. 

A few school systems use School Resource Officers (SROs) who are either retired LEOs or are LEOs specifically hired to work in schools both for security. those SROs are armed, have full police powers and are directly connected to the local police departments via radio if they need assistance/backup.

Many were funded under programs from the Federal Government after Columbine...

However, those programs were de-funded by the current administration. Full article HERE...
One thing that should be patently obvious is that rampage murders almost always take place in gun-free zones. The perpetrators may be crazy, but they're not stupid. If you want to kill as many people as possible, go someplace where no one can shoot back. There's a reason why none of these wackos attack police stations, or NRA meetings, or biker bars. The folks in those places would make short work of anyone trying to do them harm.

In fact, that approach has been proven to work in our schools.
It took place at a university in Virginia. A student with a grudge, an immigrant, pulled a gun and went on a shooting spree. It wasn’t Virginia Tech at all. It was the Appalachian School of Law in Grundy, not far away. You can easily drive from the one school to the other, just take a trip down Route 460 through Tazewell.

It was January 16, 2002 when Peter Odighizuwa came to campus. He had been suspended due to failing grades. Odighizuwa was angry and waving a gun calling on students to “come get me”. The students, seeing the gun, ran. A shooting spree started almost immediately. In seconds Odighizuwa had killed the school dean, a professor and one student. Three other students were shot as well, one in the chest, one in the stomach and one in the throat.

Many students heard the shots. Two who did were Mikael Gross and Tracy Bridges. Mikael was outside the school having just returned to campus from lunch when he heard the shots. Tracy was inside attending class. Both immediately ran to their cars. Each had a handgun locked in the vehicle.

Bridges pulled a .357 Magnum pistol and he later said he was prepared to shoot to kill if necessary. He and Gross both approached Odighizuwa at the same time from different directions. Both were pointing their weapons at him. Bridges yelled for Odighizuwa to drop his weapon. When the shooter realized they had the drop on him he threw his weapon down.
Do yourself a favor and go to the link. In fact, do us all a favor and spread it around. You'll find more information there about how armed response stops violent incidents. But what's equally telling -- and more disturbing -- is the documentation of how the media has totally ignored that aspect of the incidents.
The media, though it widely reported the attack, left out the fact that Bridges and Gross were armed. Most simply reported that the gunman was jumped and subdued by other students. That two of those students were now armed didn’t get a mention.

...“A Lexus-Nexis search revealed 88 stories on the topic, of which only two mentioned that either Bridges or Gross was armed.” ... “This was a very public shooting with a lot of media coverage.” But the media left out information showing how two students with firearms ended the killing spree.
A few brave souls, wading against the tide of public hysteria, have offered what I consider to be common-sense solutions: permitting selected school personnel to be armed, similar to how airline pilots were allowed to arm themselves after 9-11.
St. Louis County Police Chief Tim Fitch says it is time to talk about arming civilian school personnel following Friday’s massacre in Newtown, Connecticut, comparing it to arming airline pilots after September 11, 2001.

“I see it no differently,” he said. “Pilots have been armed now for many many years, we’ve not had another hijacking and the issue is, for the bad guy, he doesn’t know which airplane he’s getting on, if the pilot is armed or not.”

Fitch said the killing will not be stopped by legislation or laws. “If there’s somebody that’s really hellbent on doing something like this, they’re not going to care what the law is.”
A Texas state legislator will introduce a bill to do something similar.
Dallas Republican Jason Villalba said Tuesday he will file a bill in the state Legislature that would allow armed marshals at Texas schools.

The bill, which will be filed in the Texas House this week, calls for “trained ” marshals to carry concealed weapons at schools in order to protect children and teachers.
The governor of Virginia is also getting in on the act.
On Tuesday, Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell said discussions about arming school officials need to be had and suggested that the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre may have been prevented if the principal had been trained and armed with a gun.
Some school districts aren't waiting for politicians to get off the pot.
Lawmakers and educators in Texas say the way to guard against school shootings like last Friday's at a Connecticut elementary school is to make sure teachers can shoot back.

...David Thweatt, superintendent of the 103-student Harrold Independent School District in Wilbarger County, said his teachers are armed and ready to protect their young charges.

Thweatt is the architect of “The Guardian Plan,” a blueprint for arming school staff, including teachers ...

“We give our ‘Guardians’ training in addition to the regular Texas conceal-and-carry training,” Thweatt, whose school is about three hours northwest of Dallas, told  “It mainly entails improving accuracy…You know, as educators, we don’t have to be police officers and learn about Miranda Rights and related procedures. We just have to be accurate.”

Thweatt said there have been no incidents since October 2007, when his district adopted the plan giving an unspecified number of teachers and school staff -- dubbed "Guardians" -- authority to carry concealed weapons on school premises. Participating staff are anonymous and known only to Thweatt and the school board, which must approve each application for an employee to become a Guardian. They receive a small stipend annually.

“We’re 18 miles and 30 minutes from the nearest police station," Thweatt said. "So we are our first responders. If something happened here, we would have to protect our children. You know, police officers are true, everyday heroes in my book, but one of them once told me something very revealing. He said, ‘Ninety-five percent of the time, we get to the scene late.’
I love the quote by Superintendent Thweatt about "we don’t have to be police officers and learn about Miranda Rights and related procedures. We just have to be accurate.” That pretty much sums things up nicely. This country would be so much better off if more people had such common sense.

I didn't mean to ramble on this long, but I guess I got carried away. There's quite a bit more that needs to be said, especially the role of the media in reporting publicizing the murderers, but I'll save that for another day. I'll close with a few random observations.

We have a massive system of drug control laws. Yet, the Left is the first to argue that the war on drugs has been a failure. And whether or not one deems it a failure, the war on drugs surely hasn’t prevented tens of millions of Americans, including teenagers, from obtaining drugs illegally. Why, then, does the Left believe that a war on guns would be any more effective than the war on drugs?
Liberals talk about banning guns as if it's the same as banning murder and banning evil.
After a shooting spree, they always want to take the guns away from the people who didn’t do it.


Bag Blog said...

Excellent post. I used to live in Wilbarger County and now live about an hour and half away from Harrold School District. As a little girl we went to basketball games there. I love it that the principal had the huevos to arm and train his teachers.

CenTexTim said...

Thanks, BB. Like I said, we need more folks like him.