Here are a few more subjects that require commentary, beyond Meaningful Action and Sigh.
First I want to mention Thinking The Unthinkable, the widely circulated article that you may know better from its alternate, more SEO-friendly title, I Am Adam Lanza’s Mother. It’s a beautifully-written essay that vividly portrays the problems of raising children with mental health issues.
I didn’t share it or comment on it because I am skeptical about it. Nobody, I mean nobody, asked the simple question, “Is this story actually true?” It was widely reported in fairly mainstream publications, and nobody made the slightest attempt to contact that author to do even a cursory verification or get more information. I read some of the other blog posts on her site, and noticed rather quickly that her latest post was quite different from the others. I would have thought that this author would have mentioned her troubled son at least in passing before. So I am waiting on a Snopes investigation on that one.
That aside, I think the article makes an extremely valid point, but I don’t know what the answer is.
This just in: Apparently she was on Today today in a carefully-controlled interview. So I guess it really was a real person and a real post. Now she’s in a Mommy Blog War with other moms. God help her.
The rest of this post is about how to solve this issue once and for all so it never happens again. (Spoiler alert: We can’t.)
I get that everyone is outraged and frustrated. I get that everyone thinks they have the perfect solution, but chances are, you’re not thinking straight and not thinking long-term. I know this from 20 years of software development experience. If you have an idea and just jump in and do it without thinking it through, you’ll probably run into a brick wall somewhere down the line and end up having to start over.
And yes, software development and dealing with the problems of modern society are exactly equivalent. Exactly I say!
On armed civilians: “This tragedy wouldn’t have happened if there had been armed civilians in the school.” This argument comes up after virtually every shooting, even though it’s quite rare to find accounts where armed civilians actually made a difference in mass shootings. (I can think of none offhand, but I vaguely recall an incident where someone got a gun out of their car and did something useful.) Now I don’t know anything about the layout of this school or the exact circumstances of the shooting (as far as I know, there has not been any comprehensive non-speculative report on what exactly happened) so this is pure conjecture. But suppose for a moment that one of those teachers had a concealed carry permit and had a loaded revolver at the ready. (I’m pretty sure that’s not legal in CT, but I might be wrong.)
I’ll grant that it’s possible this hypothetical teacher could have stopped the shooter at some point. This hypothetical teacher wouldn’t have known to do anything until the first shots were already fired, so of course s/he couldn’t have prevented all casualties. He or she would have had to have had the presence of mind to run toward the shooting, line up a shot–at relatively close range, under fire, from a semi-automatic rifle–and pull the trigger one or more times. And keep in mind the shooter was reportedly wearing a bullet-proof vest, which, if true, indicates he had considered the possibility that he might encounter resistance. True, a shot to a bullet-proof vest is probably going to hurt and maybe knock the guy down, but our hypothetical teacher would have then had to have had the sense to run up and shoot him in the head, because this guy is probably just going to get right back up and keep shooting. Again, it’s possible this hypothetical teacher could have stopped the shooter. But it’s far from the certainty that people would like to think. Unless our hypothetical teacher happened to be a combat veteran, I would guess that he or she would not have had the training and experience necessary to act coolly in a terrifying fog of war. The whole event took place in about fifteen minutes, if reports can be believed. And don’t forget it’s also possible our hypothetical teacher could have shot another teacher or a child by accident in the confusion.
Again, it’s possible an armed civilian could have stopped the shooter – but is it likely? I’m unconvinced.
And to be clear, I still think I should be able to buy a gun.
On armed guards: “This tragedy wouldn’t have happened if there had been armed police or security guards prominently on display in the school.” Okay, yes, this is much more likely to be true than the other argument, but the shooter probably would have simply moved on to another target. Which is great for the school, but not so great for whoever didn’t happen to be surrounded by armed guards for protection. And consider this: If the shooter meant to attack that particular school for whatever reason, remember he was prepared for resistance. Reports indicate that he was an intelligent person, so he might well have scoped out the exact positions of the guards, their patterns, their weaknesses, etc. He could still have caused quite a bit of damage. Any person determined to do harm is probably going to find a way to do some harm.
Okay so we agree that armed guards probably would have stopped it. Now let’s discuss the practicality of having armed guards at every school. Where are all these people going to come from? Sure, maybe it would provide much-needed jobs to a bunch of unemployed people (something I actually overheard), but do we really want to hand a bunch of loaded weapons to people who can’t otherwise get a job? And who’s going to pay their salaries? Hint: You and me. How much will we need to raise taxes to pay for that? Where are these weapons coming from? Who’s going to train them? We’ve already seen how the federal government handles a nationwide security project in the TSA–do we want to see them try to do that in schools? Besides, this is probably more in the jurisdiction of the local school boards anyway. Those people can’t even agree on a curriculum–you think they can agree on the logistics of armed guards?
And on a more philosophical note, I’d like to comment on what it would be like to live in a police state where armed guards need to patrol every elementary school in order for everyone to feel safe. Well, no, actually I don’t want to comment on that.
By now you probably think I’m for more gun control. But do I really think more gun control laws would have prevented this tragedy? Nope. No law can prevent people from being flawed human beings, and no law can eradicate every source of guns, like the black market or private traders or criminals.
Speaking of flaws, I do wonder if the shooter’s mother (who allegedly owned all of the guns) had these weapons properly secured. Most of the gun owners I know keep their arsenal in some kind of safe. But still, you need at least one gun out and loaded for home defense emergencies otherwise it’s kind of pointless to have them at all. In any case, we don’t know any details yet. It probably wouldn’t have mattered anyway. This wasn’t a random act of opportunity.
By the way, I overheard that gun stores are swamped again by people buying up stock before some possible new gun laws come into effect. I live in a virtual Wild West when it comes to guns, though, so it’s probably not like that everywhere. No, actually, it probably is. Remember the Twinkies?