The school year has barely started – students haven’t yet returned to many districts – but we have already seen our first attempted shooting of the 2013/14 year.
The outcome in Atlanta was great, as the receptionist talked the alleged prospective shooter into surrendering without fatalities.
Don’t expect that to happen again. Killers come to kill.
They’re typically following plans based on dreams of murder, so here are three dreams of safety for the new school year.
It would be nice if even one of these came true.
1. Shut up
Shooters often try to surpass each other in the grandiosity of their plans and the carnage that they inflict and the infamy that they gain.
In the hours and days after every shooting, we hear all of the gory details – the shooter’s name and sad, misunderstood history, and how he planned, and how he acted.
We’re suddenly fascinated by the odd, angry guy down the block.
We hear the names of the dead and wounded, count the numbers slain.
Instead, what if we shut up?
From a behavioral perspective, what if we denied the prospective shooter the hope of the posthumous reinforcement, in the form of attention and recognition, that he wants?
What if, instead, we treated each shooting incident like a matter of national security – because it is – and we just had a boring, standard piece of boilerplate for the news?
Sure, there’s no way to conceal a massive emergency response or the funerals that follow, but a little deliberate misinformation, the kind that government does well, would fuzz the kind of details that a prospective shooter craves.
Treat the incident like a matter of national security because it is.
When you give out details, you stir the mind of the next shooter. You give him a plan, a goal, and a hope.
The families of the victims will have private memorials, which many want anyway. They will understand that an official media and government “minimal comment” response will spare other families the same pain.
It’s the right thing to do.
2. Find stuff that works
The latest trend is security cameras. What a total waste of money.
These are great for deterring vandals and catching laptop thieves. However, 80% of school shooters kill themselves when police arrive.
That makes sense. During the 8 minutes that an average shooting lasts, the shooter is living his fantasy of power over life and death.
If he gets captured then he’s locked in a box, controlled by others, for life.
He doesn’t expect to come out alive. He looks at those cameras and imagines their footage on Youtube.
Some will tell you that the only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.
80% of the time, what stops a bad guy with a gun is the same bad guy with the same gun.
Guns aren’t new and neither is mental illness. Besides, the shooter is probably not crazy.
Really? Afterward, the whole nation seems to think that he was, don’t we?
If he is crazy then it’s in the same way that a cat is crazy while killing a mouse.
The shooter at Virginia Tech remembered the lockdown drills that he did as a student, anticipated that response from his classmates, and planned to counter it. He shot at paper plates on the ground at a nearby range, simulating students huddled on the floor and rehearsing the site picture that he would need to kill them.
Clear recall, planning, organization, accurate anticipation, flexibility and improvisation? Those aren’t characteristics of someone who is insane.
The shooter knows where he is, what he wants to do and how, about how long he has to do it, and what he will do when thwarted.
He deviates from every good expectation of society, yes, and his actions are evil, but he isn’t crazy.
There’s no doubt that we need more and better mental health care in this country, but a few more counselors or pills won’t stop the shooting, any more than a few cameras or more guns.
3. Protect children like they are valuable
The staff of banks, jewelers, and convenience stores deserve protection, but we protect them better than we do schools.
Everyone in this country is either a child or a former child, so why don’t we protect schools and make them unappealing targets for guys bent on killing defenseless persons and getting famous by shocking the world?
What if the kids are just caught in the crossfire?
We don’t value teachers, and sexism is intertwined with the disrespect that coats the profession.
Teaching would be seen more as a profession, would have more respect, if it drew more men, which would only happen if the profession had more respect.
So why don’t we protect schools as well as banks and treat children like they are as valuable as diamonds?
Could it be because schools are full of women?
Getting into a school is easy, whether you belong there or not. The receptionist may correct you if you don’t go where you should, but she – definitely a she – is going to let you in first.
Since she was a little girl, she was taught to be nice, to be polite, to greet and welcome. If you make a scene, she’ll call the principal, who might be a man, and if s/he can’t appease you within a few minutes then the police will come a few minutes later.
Imagine the clerk at a convenience store offering hot coffee to a prospective robber.
We’re doing the same thing.
What if we treated children, and teachers, as though they were valuable?
Those are three nice dreams for a safer school year.