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How to Mitigate Mass Shootings

Andrew Pollack, father of Meadow Pollack — one of the victims of the school shooting in Parkland, Florida — recently spoke at the White House concerning the issue with mass shootings in America. He was the voice of reason America needs to hear:

 

“We need to focus on what’s important, and that’s protecting our children in the schools. That’s the only thing that matters right now, everyone has to come together and not think about different laws. We need to come together as a country, not different parties, and figure out how we protect the schools. It’s simple.”

He’s right. It is simple. Yet here we are turning it into right vs. left, pro-gun vs anti-gun, bullshit.

Tunnel Vision = Failure

An easy way to tell we’re on the wrong path is to ask people to define the problem after the Parkland school shooting. Many, in our current environment, will answer with “The problem is unregulated guns.” That’s incredibly wrong.

The problem is that a kid shot up his school. Thus, a problem statement for our discussion should include three questions: “Why did the kid shoot up his school?”, “What could have prevented this and what can prevent future occurrences?”, and “Who can implement these measures/controls in order to make our plan successful?”

If we’re going to focus on the right vs. left battle over guns, we will fail. The only way to get rid of the “mass shooting” problem via the gun focus is to ban all firearms, and remove all current ones in circulation (don’t worry, there’s only an estimated 350 million+ out there).

Part of a comprehensive solution will contain certain gun-control measures, but focusing on banning guns leads us to failure, and here’s why:

Unless you’re engaging targets at over 30m, you don’t really need a rifle. A pistol will do more than enough, and if you’re trained, you could bump that out to 50m. So banning semi-automatic rifles may help with situations like Las Vegas, but they won’t fix the school shooting issue. Please show me a school where the engagement range would be larger than 30m. I don’t know many classrooms or hallways that large or long.

So why do AR-15s seem to be the weapon of choice then? 

Is it the ability to fire fast? No, a trained person can pull the trigger of either an AR-15 or a semi-automatic handgun at a speed fast enough to get the body count into double digits.

What about the capacity? Well, a rifle magazine can hold about 30 rounds, and a double-stacked pistol can hold about 15. However, it’s simple to reload both, and, technically, you could dual wield two semi-automatic pistols giving you the same active capacity.

So how about we ban these style magazines? Well, now you’re getting into the home-defense and self-defense side of the argument, and you’re not going to win that. It’s not a legal battle worth fighting. In a defense situation with a handgun, 15 rounds will go quickly.

So, now we’ve chased a ban on guns down the rabbit hole and we’re stuck. Even if we get the heavily sought after “assault rifle” ban, it may help with shootings like Vegas (doubtful due to current number in circulation) but it won’t help with school shootings.

A Realistic, Nonpartisan Way Forward

The mass shooting epidemic is a complex issue with a ton of variables, therefore we need a comprehensive solution attacking many fronts at once. The problem isn’t going to be easy to resolve — it’s going to take a lot of research, experimentation, and patience. If we let ourselves get obsessed with the gun control fight kids are going to continue to die. The blood will be on all our hands.  

Below is a list of possible courses of action in a three-pronged approach. Note, they’re possible courses of action. We’re not saying they’ll all work or be accepted. But we do believe these should all be being researched and experimented with.

When you read these you’re going to like some and hate some. But if you’re truly concerned about our nation and our children’s safety, you’ll at least give them all a read and a chance.

Society

First and foremost we need to research what’s going on in our society. This should be funded through both public and private means. Our first question when a kid shoots up a school should not be, “How’d he get an AR-15?” it should be “Why did they want to kill?” We have to figure out why people are more desensitized to killing than ever before. Once we find the “why” we need to try to fix it.

We must accept violence in our society as a reality. We need to implement active-shooter training in all schools and give children their greatest fighting chance. The government already has an “active shooter” response published on ready.gov, it’s too easy to turn this into training. It’s especially important to do so when the best chance of survival is counter-intuitive or counter to what fear calls for, such as not laying down or staying near walls (since ricocheting bullets and their fragments “travel along” walls and floors) and not huddling in groups.

We need to continue the anti-bullying efforts in our schools, and beef up these resources.

And finally, we should look at the way the media handles these situations. When a streaker runs nude across a football field the NFL and partnering media do everything in their power to deny them camera time. By not giving recognition the act becomes worthless. Why then do we devote hours of airtime to school shootings detailing any “records broken” and profiling the perpetrator giving them their own messed-up version of fame?

Mental Health

Mental health has to be a part of the discussion.

We need to expand and protect legislation requiring mental health care be covered by health insurance just like physical health care.

We should look at enacting legislation requiring people to get limited mental health screening prior to purchasing a firearm, similar to the screening process on our troops prior to deploying.

We should look at placing restrictions on firearm ownership for those diagnosed by a physician with mental illnesses that threaten others.

We should also look at making qualified mental health practitioners a part of public school faculty as either a direct hire or outsourced asset. Teachers and other members of faculty must be able to communicate with these practitioners if they fear a student has mental issues, just as a teacher tells the authorities if they fear a student’s being domestically abused.

We should look at implementing education and assistance programs for parents who don’t know how to raise, or are incapable of raising, kids with mental health issues.

And finally, we must combat the stigma surrounding getting mental health treatment. We must be willing to ask others if they’re doing okay and, if they’re not, talk to them about getting the care they need.

Guns and Gun Ownership

Finally, we must admit guns are part of the problem. But we also must admit gun-ownership is protected by the 2nd amendment and is a part of American life.

We should look at enacting legislation to get a better system of national-level background checks put in place for purchasing firearms. We should look into standardizing the purchase process across the states, especially since firearms purchased in one state have deadly effects in another.

We should look at enacting legislation to make the age limit for purchasing firearms somewhere in the range when most individuals are fully matured, not 18. (And if you want to argue that at 18 you can join the military thus you should be able to buy a firearm…then fine, 18-year-olds can buy firearms if they’re supervised while using said firearm by a trained Non-commissioned Officer who’s 5-10 years older and the access to their firearm is regulated by a commissioned officer.)

We should look at a cap on magazine capacity and a ban on high-capacity magazines. We could cap capacity at 15 for pistols and 10 for rifles without affecting self-defense capabilities. Or, in lieu of a cap, we should look at enacting licensing and registration requirements to own these capacity magazines.

We should look at a ban on semi-automatic rifles intended for tactical, not practical, use. We should look at a ban on all attachments and modification items such as bump stocks that aid in skirting current rules and regulations. Or, in lieu of a ban, we should look at enacting licensing and registration requirements to own these types of weapons and attachments.

We should look at a nation-wide voluntary turn-in or buyback program. This will allow those who have regrets about a purchase, or the inability to take care of their firearms the way they should, an easy route to be relieved of the responsibility of gun ownership.

We should invest in technology concerning gun safety. Items like biological locks on firearms and long-range firearm identification are not as far away as we’d think. We must help usher in these technologies and start implementing them.

We should ensure schools have armed guards until we have a grip on the problem. The guards may not always be willing or able to step up to the plate in a time of need, but they’re an obvious deterrent, and more times than not they’ll do what’s right.

We need the National Rifle Association (NRA) and gun manufacturers to give up on some of the bloody profits and start helping to find a solution. They can either choose to be a responsible advocate for safe gun ownership and operation or a risk to the safety of our nation.

Decision Time

So, what is it America? Are we going to let our partisanship and our personal beliefs get in the way of an actual solution? Are we going to continue to turn this into a right vs. left fight about guns and get nowhere, leaving future generations of children to die? 

If we aren’t willing to discuss all the above, and if we choose to simplify this problem to one about guns, we all need to be ready to see more kids pictures and names scroll across our screens.

 

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7 thoughts on “How to Mitigate Mass Shootings”

  1. I would like to comment on the neglected topic of safety. Yes, you mentioned using technology to improve gun safety, but that’s a secondary level approach. The first level is a properly trained gun handler. This is another topic that is absent from the conversation. We need more focus on teaching gun safety, and the laws governing safe and legal use and handling of a firearm.

    I would like to suggest additional penalties for firearm accidents and crimes involving perpetrators who have not successfully completed an approved safety course.

    About a month ago, my two youngest children completed hunter education. My daughter did not want to take the course. She complained about hating guns. I informed her that even if she never planned to own a gun herself, she might date or marry someone who owned a gun, or she might have friends or family who own guns. She will very likely have to deal with a gun a some point in her life, and when that day comes, it will be very important to know how to safely handle it. She ended up enjoying the class, and now she respects rather than fears guns, and she knows how to safely handle and use them. I even took them both turkey hunting, at her request. We didn’t get our turkey, but the hunt was successful, because we were safe, and we had a great time.

    1. Good points here! And good on you for insisting your children take the hunter safety course.

      The topic of, and lessons on, firearm ownership and safety used to be ingrained in American society – in a positive way. Teaching your child how to shoot a gun, and more importantly to respect firearms and handle them safely, was a part of life. The Scouts had (maybe still have?) a Marksmanship badge and earning that badge required learning about firearm safety. Many high-schools used to have shooting or rifle clubs which, again, taught firearm safety.

      That may not have been the experience in big cities, but it certainly was in smaller cities, towns, and rural areas. Part of the issue may be that so many people are moving out of smaller towns and rural areas and into large cities, and in the process the topic of firearm safety has been lost to a great degree.

      Part of the issue that we are facing now is that so many people fear guns. I believe that fear is, largely, due to a lack of understanding and knowledge. People tend to be afraid of things they don’t understand and these days, many many people do not understand the basics of firearms.

      When you truly understand that a gun is an inanimate object, that it won’t just jump up and kill you, and that it isn’t dangerous unless handled unsafely or the handler of the firearm has ill intent, a lot of that fear and anxiety dissipates.

      Yes, a firearm can be used to devastating effect, however the same can be said for an explosive, a vehicle, a knife, a screwdriver, or a baseball bat. No one is afraid of a baseball bat, but they can easily be used to seriously injure or kill.

      No one wants to look at the solutions that will actually work, because they are difficult to implement. Everyone just wants the “quick” fix, and in this case that would be taking away firearms from law-abiding citizens. The thing that people forget, or refuse to acknowledge, is the fact that criminals don’t abide by the law, so banning guns really only limits access to the people who you don’t need to worry about in the first place. My understanding is that it is easier to get a gun on the black market in New York or Chicago than through legal avenues. Chicago has incredibly strict gun laws, as well as incredibly high rates of crime and gun violence. People still get shot in the UK and Australia, again because criminals have ways of getting guns.

      The murder rate in London just surpassed that of New York for the first time due to stabbings and shootings. The UK and Australia both have higher rates of assault, rape, and overall crime, as well as more victims of crime, per capita, than the United States. This is true, and examples of these stats can be found at http://www.nationmaster.com using the country comparison tool to look at crime stats. So, it boggles my mind that people actually think banning firearms will solve the problem of violence.

  2. Curious about how you would define “practical” vs “tactical” in regards to semi-auto rifles.

    I would disagree somewhat with your assertion that there’s no practical need for 30 round magazines. Semi-automatic rifles such as AR-15s and AK-47s actually make very good hunting rifles for hog, boar, javelina, etc – those animals are considered nuisance or pest animals in many areas as they breed rapidly and are very hardy, hence their populations tend to grow out of control. For example, Texas hunting regulations state “Landowners or their agents may take nuisance fur-bearing animals in any number by any means at any time on that person’s land without the need for a hunting or trapping license”.

    These animals often live and travel in groups, move very quickly, and can be very dangerous. A hunter pursuing these animals would actually benefit from a magazine containing 20-30 rounds or more.

    I realize that you are referring to self-defense situations, but you do state “…no practical need…” in your comment. What I’ve outline above is a practical need.

    Of more relevance to self-defense would be home invasion scenarios where there are multiple (anywhere from 5-10) assailants. These situations do happen, and seem to be on the rise in recent years. 10 rounds may be enough when used in a self-defense situation with one or two attackers, but more than than starts getting dicey.

    I’m fully with you on the societal and mental health issues/ avenues as well as standardizing background checks nationally. I’m not very comfortable with the “tactical” vs “practical” dichotomy or implementing round limits based on the assertion that there is “no practical need”.

    I will definitely give you credit for being far more level-headed and logical here than many others, on both sides of the debate, seem capable of being. Thank you for that and very good write-up!

    1. Great question. One main reason for the difference in numbers is that handguns are much harder to aim with, thus in a self-defense situation you’d most likely go through rounds quicker. 10 rounds could be effective, but the double-stacked 15 round magazine is usually the magazine of choice. You could lower it to 10 and probably do just as fine. The specific number to cap at could be up to discussion, but I think all can agree there’s no practical need for 30+ round magazines.

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