In the wake of terrible events like the recent mass killing in Las Vegas, the people with an axe to grind are out in huge numbers, from Concerned Citizens to Internet Experts to elected and appointed officials.
Grant them this -- they want to Do Something. For the majority of them, it's an emotionally-driven urge, which, sadly, rarely carries much logic along in the headlong rush to render aid. Heart-rending, but rarely helpful.*
So let's review: in the attack at Las Vegas or anything similar, the only effective response the victim pool can make is to get elsewhere, as quickly as possible; in a crowd, this carries additional risk. Getting under effective cover -- something that might actually stop or at least seriously slow incoming fire -- is good, but many people in Las Vegas accepted concealment instead. If carefully chosen, it's some help because it removes you from the shooter's view. But when the shooter is simply sending fire into a large area, it's not much protection. The fellow out in the open who stood up, took a sip of his beer and flipped a middle finger at the source of fire probably (and inadvertently) made a correct assessment that it wasn't going to materially increase his risk, It was not a situation in which shooting back was an option. The only carried item that would have been of any use would have been a first-aid kit.
Once the event is over and the killer stopped, the social engineers start to opine. I have yet to hear an original suggestion; it's always more of the same things either side offers up. Let's try facts instead -- here's a correlation study between civilian gun ownership and murder rates, per state. The quick read is, they're not. It's not "more guns, more murder" and it's not "more guns, less murder."
There may well be things we can do -- but effective programs would be focused on people, not hardware. That's the conclusion of Leah Libresco, formerly a writer at FiveThirtyEight and who still says, "I don't want a gun in my home." She wants fewer murders, and in the course of researching how that might be accomplished, came to interesting conclusions.
The journalistic and social-media response to a madman or criminal with a gun mirrors the response of the prospective victim: it focuses on the gun. Been there, done that, the muzzle looks big enough to walk down when it's pointed at you: you see that thing rather than the person holding it. --But it's not made nicer if the aggressor has a club or a knife or brute force; it's only better if the aggressor is never there.† Less lunatics, less crime; less desperation and hopelessness, less crime. More education, less crime.
Start there. Start with that, not reheated ideas from political hacks. Armed drones, attacks on Constitutional rights, DHS screeners at every high-rise hotel...? Fantasy. It's what people do instead of hard work. It's what people do instead of calling up their weird uncle and seeing if he sounds okay. It's what people do instead of helping a ne'er-do-well young relative to seek work or training.
What will you do?
* I've already been taken to task for not assuming each and every one of 'em is a Nancy Pelosi or worse, out to take all our guns and generally be evil. While there is no shortage of politicians who would sleep far more soundly if they could disarm the citizenry and who look on us as something between insects and cattle, don't confuse them with the lady down the street who weaves daisy garlands and wants everyone to Get Along. Most people's intentions are good, even when they are short on facts and logic.
† And in second place, if you were not there, either. "Don't go to stupid places with stupid people, especially at stupid hours" is a rule that would have spared me no end of trouble, had I followed it.
5 months ago