Saturday, December 15, 2012

Pull Up a Chair and Grab a Drink. We're Gonna Be Here for a While...

I am a police officer, a father of an elementary school student and a high school student, and a concerned citizen of the United States of America.  I watch the news like everybody else, and I see the senseless events of Clackamas Town Center and Sandy Hook Elementary plastered all over the evening news.  I, however, have a different view than most media outlets.

We have, in recent years, been under an almost constant attack by folks who claim to be our own people. American citizens have been attacking other American citizens on American soil.

Brown's Chicken, Palatine, Illinois, January 1993

Alfred R. Murrah Federal Building, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, April 1995

Centennial Olympic Park, Atlanta, Georgia, July 1996

Heath High School, West Paducah, Kentucky, December 1997

Westside Middle School, Jonesboro, Arkansas, March 1998

Columbine High School, Littleton, Colorado, April 1999

Red Lake Indian Reservation High School, Red Lake, Minnesota, March 2005

Tacoma Mall, Tacoma Washington, November 2005

Capitol Hill Rave, Seattle, Washington, March 2006

Amish School-house, Nickel Mines, Pennsylvania, October 2006

Trolley Square Mall, Salt Lake City, Utah, February 2007

Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, Blacksburg, Virginia, April 2007

Ward Parkway Shopping Center. Kansas City, Missouri, April 2007

Westroads Mall, Omaha, Nebraska, December 2007

Northern Illinois University, DeKalb, Illinois, February 2008

Fort Hood, Texas, November 2009

Internal Revenue Service Office, Austin Texas, February 2010

Hartford Distributors, Manchester, Connecticut, August 2010 

Casa Adobes Safeway, Tucson, Arizona, January 2011

Chardon High School, Chardon, Ohio, February 2012

Oikos University, Oakland, California, April 2012

Century 16 Movie Theater, Aurora, Colorado, July 2012

Sikh Temple, Oak Creek, Wisconsin, August 2012

Clackamas Town Center Mall, Portland Oregon, December 2012

And most recently, Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, December 2012

This is by no means a complete or comprehensive list.  This is just what I could recall or find with a few minutes research.  These incidents are tragic no matter how you look at them, but what seems to happen after these incidents is those people with political agendas come crawling out of the woodwork and start preaching.  Calls for more gun control, cries for less gun control, suggestions to arm all teachers, those who think ALL people should be armed.  People scream for more mental health care.  Others accuse the police of not doing enough.  Law suits are filed against the venue, as if they caused the evil.

Mass-murders, rampage killings, whatever you choose to call them, are not new.  We have had mass murders and school rampages for most of our history as a country.  Think of the University of Texas at Austin, in August of 1966.  The infamous clock tower.  Recall the Bath School killings in Bath Township, Michigan in May 1927.  As far back as 1853, there are recorded instances of disgruntled students bringing weapons to school to exact revenge on their teachers, principals or other students for whatever reason, real or imagined.

This is certainly not unique to the United States.  There are recent and historical records of school massacres, workplace killings and other mass-murders in many countries around the world throughout recorded history.  Just yesterday 22 adults and children were stabbed by a crazed "knifeman" outside a school in China.  Knife attacks at Chinese schools have been a common occurrence in the past few years, with at least ten attacks resulting in over twenty dead and many more seriously injured just since 2010.

It is obvious that there are people in this world who wish to do harm to others.  So, what is the answer to this obvious problem?

Are guns the answer?  Whether taken away from everyone or given to everyone?

At one extreme, there are folks who want to make all guns illegal and take them all away.  Well, guess what.  If guns are made illegal, there is not going to be a magical POOF and all guns suddenly disappear.  They will never be completely gone.  The military will always have them.  Law Enforcement will always have them.  Other countries will always have them.  If someone wants to get their hands on a firearm to commit a mass-murder, they will most certainly find a means to do so.  Ample evidence exists if you look at the regular occurrence of gang violence in major metropolitan areas.  The weapons of choice?  AK-47's, MAK-10's, Tec-9's and UZI's.  These weapons have been illegal for decades, but they still pop up regularly.  Why?  Because the criminals who would use such weapons against you and me don't give two shits about the law.  If we banned all guns outright, these knuckleheads would still have them to use against the unarmed rest of us.

But what if, by some miraculous occurrence, all guns did magically disappear?  What if we could somehow collect all firearms in the world and guarantee there were no more.  Would people stop killing each other?  Would there be no more mass-murder?

No.  The mass-murderers would simply go down to their local home improvement store and buy pipe and supplies to make bombs.  Okay, let's ban pipe, diesel fuel and fertilizer.  After the next knife attack we'll ban knives and we will have to cut our steaks with our teeth. Someone dies after being hit with a baseball bat?  Ban bats too (except for sporting use).  Then someone will have their head bashed in with a rock and we'll have to ban rocks.

Can you see how ridiculous this can get?  You can ban every possible implement that can be used as a deadly weapon, but if someone is hell bent on committing murder, they will do so with their bare hands and feet if they have to.  The only way to stop the evil, is to STOP the evil PERSON.  By whatever means you deem necessary.  I personally prefer the tools of my trade.  You may not agree.

At the other extreme, there are those who say we should arm everyone.  Teachers, mall security guards, airline pilots.  Think about that for a second.  You want to put a gun in the hands of a teacher, who is not likely to train with it on a regular basis, and who will have a thousand and thirty other things on their mind when the shit hits the proverbial fan?  You want that teacher to have one more thing to keep track of during their every day dealings?  One that can cause death if it is not handled properly?  I don't believe we need MORE guns in schools.  I think we should focus on making our schools more secure and resistant to attack. I don't know about you, but I would rather my son's teacher focused on locking down the classroom with the kids safely inside, than to have her shooting down the halls and having to worry about her backdrop.  Maybe that's why I bother to be involved in the safety committee at my son's elementary school.

What about arming airline pilots?  I personally would prefer my pilot be flying the airplane rather than shooting it out with hijackers.  This is especially true if I happen to be anywhere aft of the cockpit door, since the rounds would surely be coming my way.  We have come a long way with reinforced cockpit doors and security procedures onboard.  Perhaps we just need more PASSENGERS willing to take action against a few hijackers.

When it comes to the weapons involved, guns seem to be the prevalent method of mass-murder, but they are not the only method.  Mass-murders in our country have been committed with bombs, cars, airplanes, knives, sticks and many other weapons.  Realize that the guns are not the problem, they are simply tools that can be used for good or evil just as a knife or club can be used for good or evil.  The real problem is the people who commit the crime, not the tool they choose to use.

Mass-murders happen in many different venues.  We have all heard about school massacres, workplace violence, mall killings, etc.  The possibilities are endless.  I believe the main reason malls and schools are so often targeted is that we make them such easy targets.  If you want to find a whole lot of people who are off their guard, where would you think to look?

Think about it.  You would never allow anyone to hurt your kids when they are in your presence, right?  So why do we drop our kids off everyday at a non-secure facility and expect them to be safe?  Why do we allow our schools to be such inviting targets?  I can walk right into my son's school and walk right into his classroom without anybody even noticing.  There is no exterior door on the school, just an open hallway.

Our schools need to be made secure.  No, I don't mean we need to put bars over the windows.  I mean we should spend some of the tax money we all pay into our schools, and put up some sort of an effective barrier around the perimeter of the school-grounds.  Control access and don't let those who would do harm to our kids walk right in unopposed.  Barriers may not be perfect, but they buy time and time is what is needed for the teachers to keep the kids safe by locking down the classrooms.  As a teacher you should be able to protect our kids by shielding them behind a locked impenetrable classroom door, not by shielding them with your own body.

Malls are a different beast.  Shopping malls consist of long narrow passages with few means of escape.  When you go to the mall what do you see?  If you're like most, you see nothing other than what's in the store windows or on your iPhone.  When I go to the mall, what I see is a sea of inattentive sheep.  I see people who are more concerned with getting to the next store or texting (or perhaps "sexting") their friends with news of the latest big sale than they are with what is going on around them and what could possibly do them harm.  People go to the mall and they feel safe.  I just don't get it.  Don't they watch the news?  Or is it just the "It can't happen here" mentality?

I think mall security guards should be armed, simply because they are the first responders to any situation in a shopping mall.  These guys and gals get there LONG before the police can respond.  Mall guards could be trained regularly and practice their skills often just like police officers.  Why don't they?  Usually it's because the mall owners don't want the liability of having armed guards, and because they don't want to pay for the training and higher wages that would be required to have a competent, adept security force.

So, what about protecting YOURSELF?  What most people say is "If the shooting starts, I will run away or hide until the police get there".  Guess what.  It can take several minutes for us to get there, and several more for us to get inside and neutralize the threat.  In that time, a lot of carnage can ensue.  At the Clackamas Town Center the police didn't find the shooter until 22 minutes after the shooting started.  Had the shooter not been inept at operating his weapon he could have done much more damage than he did.

What we as a people MUST do is take responsibility for our own safety.  Stop relying on others to keep you safe.  Stop being a sheep.  Do this by whatever lawful means you see fit.  I am not advocating firearms for those who have no desire to have them.  But if you do have such a desire, can be bothered to train and maintain proficiency, and have the mental capacity to maintain your composure in an adverse situation, then it is my opinion you should be legally able to possess and carry a firearm anywhere not prohibited by law.  This should also prohibit mall and movie theater owners from declaring "Gun Free Zones".  They're only "gun free" to people who care about the rules.

If you don't think a gun is for you, then at least change your attitude about your surroundings.  Keep your head on a swivel.  NOTICE what is going on around you and AVOID taking yourself and your family into a kill zone.  Don't be one of the bystanders interviewed on the news who says "I looked right at him.  He pointed the gun at me and pulled the trigger but he missed."  If you see the guy with the gun, move to cover.  Get out of the line of fire.  Don't just stand there with your thumb up your ass while he draws a bead on you to take your life.

Even if you choose not to arm yourself with a firearm, a Taser, pepper spray or some other weapon, you can still adopt the color code system that is used by many.  White, Yellow, Orange and Red.  This post is already too long, so I won't go into detail about the color codes.  You can find it on Google if you're interested under Gunsite Color Code.

Understand, the police cannot be with you every second of the day.  People must take responsibility for their own safety in whatever way they are capable.  If you are an adult who walks around in Condition White with your head buried in your iPod, your ears covered with headphones, and you can't be bothered to notice your surroundings, I will come to take the report when you are robbed or murdered, but I will not feel sorry for you.  And if a child under your care is harmed because you failed to prepare and/or act, woe be unto you when the wrath of Officer Smith smites thee smartly about the head and shoulders.

Ultimately, what I believe it comes down to is that we have got to stop the mass media from plastering the name and photo of every mass murderer on the television.  These killers want publicity.  Everyone will know their name because it will be all over the evening news.  How often do you see a news piece that focuses on the victims?  Do you know the name of a single victim from Aurora Colorado?  No.  Because the news won't talk about the victims.  They only talk about the shooter, because that's what constitutes news.  That's what sells newspapers.  That's what draws viewers.  That's what makes money.

Do you really want to do something to curb the violence?  Don't ban guns.  That won't fix a thing.  Ban the news media from ever publishing the name of any mass-murderer.  Ban Google from putting his or her name and picture on the internet.  If the media would report on the victims instead of the suspects, they would deny much of the impetus for the crimes in the first place.  We should never have known names such as Dylan Klebold, Eric Harris, Seung Hui Cho, Charles Whitman, and Timothy McVeigh.  If their names were not indelibly etched into the internet, they would still be nobody.  They would never be role models for those who now wish to emulate them.

The bottom line is this.  The news media and the policy makers who speak up after an event such as the recent mass-murders focus on how evil guns are.  Instead, we should focus on how evil the person behind the gun is.  Because of the evil in their heart, if they don't have a gun they will use a bomb, or a knife, or a truck.  They will find a way to try to kill you.

We need to protect ourselves by being aware of our surroundings and having a way to defend ourselves rather than waiting for someone else to defend us.  If we deny the would be mass-murderers the easy targets and the guaranteed instant publicity, and if we make it dangerous to THEM to come looking for US, it is likely this fad of school and mall murders will decline rapidly.

Don't just sit there, get off your kiester and DO SOMETHING...


Moose said...

You brought up mental health care... and then never addressed it again.

In the US, people who are mentally ill are treated with stigma. There are those who believe that things like depression are "faking it" and that it's "just the blues", instead of something that can actually cause people major problems. We don't talk about mental illnesses in public, and when we do it is in hushed voices, as if it's a horrible secret that must be hidden.

In the US, it's nearly impossible to get good mental health care unless you are either rich or blessed with an excellent health care package. Most insurance plans cover a few dozen mental health appointments, and usually with a co-pay far higher than that charged for any other medical practitioner.

In the US, you might be lucky and get your primary doctor (if you have one) to prescribe some medications for your mental illness, but that's a band-aid. Imagine breaking your leg and it is treated by just putting on a cast and shoving you out the door. Without a scan to make sure where and how it's broken, an exam to see whether there are more complications, and post-break therapy, your leg may or may not ever heal.

Because of the way our culture and our health care systems deal with mental illnesses, tragedies of all sorts will needlessly continue to occur, when simple treatment might prevent them. Of course it won't stop all things from happening. But in the US, we don't even try to address mental health, except to point our fingers and place blame.

Officer "Smith" said...

I'm sorry, Moose, if it seems like I omitted a discussion on mental health, but the post was already too long. I also didn't talk about all the people who think allowing prayer in school is the magic pill to cure our ills.

Thanks for the comment.

Chasing Freedom said...

Hi Officer Smith,

How do you feel about teachers who already have a CCW / firearms training carrying in schools? I agree that arming all teachers is a non-viable option that would do more harm than good. However, wouldn't a willingly trained teacher carrying a gun/ taser/ mace fall in line with your thought on no "gun-free" zones and your point of people doing their best to protect themselves? I'm not saying it's the only solution, heck, it may not even be viable in certain schools (no one qualified) but it would be a shame to completely disregard armed teachers in the effort to curtail these violent acts.

*Goddess* said...

You know, I posted this very thing on one website that had an article about the shooter. I said that I didn't want to hear about HIM. I wanted to hear about the heroes, not the murderer, and everybody was all, "But if we know about him, we can stop this from happening again." Really? This "loners" FAMILY & FRIENDS didn't see this coming but WE'RE supposed to see a person who keeps to themselves.

Brilliant deduction.

Me said...

Officer "Smith": Excellent post, as usual. I've shared and quoted it all over my FB page. You offer wonderful insights.

Moose: I am in the progress of writing a blog post that addresses mental health aspects of such things. Probably won't be nearly as good as "Smith's" post but hopefully will open some eyes. May I quote, and credit, your comment?

Officer "Smith" said...

@ Chasing Freedom,

I suppose I've never really given that any thought. As such, I can't give you an informed answer until I've given it some consideration. Let me mull it and see if an opinion develops.

Anonymous said...

Great points Thank-You for sharing

Anonymous said...

this type of measured approach to the shooting is sadly missing in a lot of the main stream press , people being more aware of what is going on around them.. it is sadly more likly that the sheep will continue to remain sheep and resent the sheep dog until presented with a wolf at which stage being sheep they are likly to turn on the sheep dog!) great blog as always

Dawn Taylor said...

Hello Officer "Smith",

Thank you very much for this post; I am one of the sheep but try not to act like a sheep. I try first and foremost to be aware of my surroundings and to not walk myself and/or my loved ones into a dangerous situation. Your statement that everyone needs to take responsibility for their own safety really spoke to me. Thank you for sharing your beliefs.