Hardening Targets?

Like so many of us, I was captivated and devastated by the news of the high school shooting in Florida. Calls for hardening schools, arming teachers, deeper background checks and greater gun restrictions continue to fill the news and headlines. These are “easy” actions that will appease many but, unfortunately, they will not likely change the trajectory of gun crime. That trajectory suggests that we will see more mass shootings in the future.

I recently read an article about hardening targets: We can’t stop gun massacres by “hardening” every target. (http://fortune.com/2018/03/01/gun-massacres-target-hardening/). I resonate with the premise that even if we could “harden” every school, we simply push the problem to the next soft target.

Further, there’s a call for allowing teachers to be armed. But, consider the following: It’s not just having a firearm and knowing how to use it that’s important. We have military veterans who come home with PTSD from the training and real life situations they have faced. Not every soldier gets PTSD, but to acquire the skills to be completely aware and competent in the midst of gunfire and not accidentally shoot one of our own comes from very intense training and practice. Where will teachers get that kind of rigorous training? A teacher in a crowded, chaotic hallway with a shooter and students trying to escape could easily result in losses from friendly fire.

Additionally, we hear about doing deeper background checks, and updating the NICS system more effectively. There are lots of apparent holes in the NICS system that may be allowing people to slip through. But, hearing about holes in our government systems is almost cliché. And, even if they work, it seems there is always someone in the government ranks willing to overuse or underuse the systems to achieve their own desired outcomes. We have laws that are being selectively followed, and systems, as well.

Finally, greater gun restrictions are suggested as a means to help stop gun violence. Really? Chicago is a city with the country’s strongest gun restrictions, and it has the most violent crimes involving guns. If you could take away all of the guns in Chicago, the violence would likely not stop. In these crimes, somebody feels they are owed something, and they are going to get it, or else.

Here is an interesting fact. There are more guns in the United States than there are citizens. It is estimated that there are almost 360 million guns in the U.S. and about 320 million citizens. In 2017, there were less than 12,000 gun-related murders. None of those are acceptable, and I do not mean to minimize any of them to a number. If a different gun were used in each murder, then 3.3 thousandths of a percent (0.0033%) of America’s guns were used in a criminal murder. So, how many guns need to be restricted in order to eliminate these murders? How many responsible gun owners need to be punished for the few? It’s probably not the guns, it’s the person holding them. And, if they don’t have a gun, it will be a knife, or an explosive device, or a truck or car or whatever.

The people committing these crimes have an agenda, and they are seeking their own justice. Maybe some of their issues are born of mental illness, or broken or dysfunctional families, or something else, but they often see themselves as a victim. Here’s an article written by someone who never carried out his intention to become a school shooter – an interesting read from the inside: http://www.foxnews.com/us/2018/02/20/man-writes-open-letter-after-parkland-massacre-was-almost-school-shooter.html There are clearly mental issues that need to be addressed, and our medical community should continue to refine appropriate therapies, and help prevent people in need from slipping through the cracks.

On the other hand, by my own observations, human nature does not cope well with being a victim for long. It is healthy to learn how to win and lose gracefully. Perhaps, we should not be exposing children to activities where everyone is a winner. There may be wisdom in learning how to win and lose gracefully. Yet, outside of kids play, how many areas of the country have we institutionalized being a victim? Not just once, but for years or even generations. I submit that if you keep telling someone they are a victim, they just might believe it. And, some victims, having lost faith in the system and the American Dream, will seek justice in their own way.

I am sure the conversations we are having in this country will move us to some sort of immediate action. But, I hope we keep our eye on the real root causes of these shootings and pursue solutions for those real causes. It is the only way to stem this kind of violence in the future.