When a tragedy like the one in Connecticut occurs, my phone starts ringing. As an expert in psychology, and a mother of 5 children, people want to ask me two questions: 1) How did this happen? 2) How can we prevent this?
There really are no good answers, and reacting rashly to tragedy is seldom rational or productive. I home school, but when asked after this tragedy if parents should pull their children out of schools, my advice was that this is not the time to make such decisions. They are reactionary. The same is true for the gut reaction to want to ban certain weapons used in the crime. This is not the time to be reactive. We don’t ban cars when children die in car wrecks, no matter how sad we are. We don’t ban buckets when children drown in them, though more die in cars and buckets than by guns, by far.
There are some paths to answers. There have always been psychotic breaks. There always will be. Themes like loneliness, isolation, powerlessness and spiritual depravity are all warning signs. Professionals can see warning signs and professional organizations can do a better job alerting professionals as to the warning signs. The paths are not predictable, but are indicative. Better research, better information, and better treatments are critical goals for the mental health community, and families of those who exhibit those “red flag” warning signs.
As a researcher, I can’t deny the practical political answers that subsist outside the purview of the mental health community. I wonder if America is really ready for some answers?
After 9-11 I began to see that the tragedy that befell America could have been largely prevented, if pilots and other military aboard the doomed aircrafts were allowed to be armed. There would likely never be another hijacking of a commercial plane, killing innocent travelers, if hijackers were stoppable. While the low information populous out there might like the simplicity of “ban guns” for their answer, complicated problems like mass tragedies experienced on 9-11, Columbine, or Connecticut require complicated analysis. The answer might seem shocking at first, but the question can’t be, “What FEELS good?” The question must be “What REALLY works?”
Erich Pratt of Gun Owners of America points out that several potential massacres have been cut short — some by average citizens, others by off-duty officers:
*Armed citizens prevented several potential tragedies from occurring in 2012. Samuel Williams came to the rescue of several patrons utilizing an Internet café in Ocala, Florida. And in Garden Grove, California, a 65-year old woman sent five burglars fleeing from a jewelry store. In both cases, security cameras captured the heroic efforts of armed citizens who sent the bad guys fleeing — even tripping over themselves, as they stormed out the doors.
* Five years ago this month, Matthew Murray entered a large Colorado Springs church, armed with several weapons and a thousand rounds of ammunition. But a woman with a concealed carry permit critically wounded him, thus saving the lives of hundreds of people.
* And at a Salt Lake City mall in 2007, an off-duty police officer brought a shooting rampage to an abrupt halt. “I was in a situation that I was carrying my gun,” the hero, Ken Hammond, told reporters.
In all the above cases, where citizens were able to stop evil, the good guys were carrying guns. There was no time to run to their cars. There was no time to run home.
The lesson is clear: good guys with guns save lives. And while bad guys may be evil, they are not stupid. They don’t typically target gun stores or police stations to perpetrate their crimes. No, they consciously select areas where their victims are disarmed by law.”
Some will argue that pilots should not be allowed to carry a dangerous weapon. But others disagree:
1) Pilots command technologically advanced, multi-million dollar aircrafts that take extensive training and testing to operate. Why are we to believe that pilots cannot handle a revolver?
2) Which is more difficult to operate: a multi-million dollar airplane with hundreds of knobs, buttons, gauges, levers and hundreds of moving parts — or a point and shoot revolver?
3) If we trust pilots not to crash their planes and kill everyone on board, why should we not trust them to prevent terrorists from taking over the plane and killing everyone on board?
In fact, the CATO Institute’s research indicates that well trained citizens can be even safer defenders against crime than can police: “On the whole, citizens are more successful gun users than are the police. When police shoot, they are 5.5 times more likely to hit an innocent person than are civilian shooters.” (-Policy Analysis 109, TRUST THE PEOPLE: THE CASE AGAINST GUN CONTROL, by David Kopel)
The same “uncomfortable facts” might illuminate answers for tragedies like the school shooting in Connecticut this week. No matter how uncomfortable, if you knew something could prevent most (or all) future similar tragedies, would you support it?
Israel endures terror daily. Their brand of the TSA is the most effective in the world. It turns out that those who deal with internal terror on a daily basis might have some answers for such domestic terror. In Israel, teachers and other school administrators are allowed to be armed. They carry semi-automatic firearms whenever they are in the schools. This policy was adopted in the 1970’s, and tragedies like the one in Connecticut do not happen there. Let me repeat that for emphasis as it was quoted in WND.com: “In Israel, teachers and parents who serve as school aids are armed with semi-automatic firearms whenever they are on school grounds. Since the country adopted this policy in the 1970s, attacks by gunmen at Israeli schools have become non-existent.”
We need to ask tough questions to sink this message to the low information public who wants to deny reality and give “feel good” answers that don’t work and result in more death and destruction. WND asks: “When last did you hear of a multiple-victim shooting taking place on a firearm range, in a police station or at a gun show, or wherever many firearms are found anywhere in the world? You haven’t. That’s because criminals prefer unarmed victims, or soft targets. No wonder they love gun control – it makes their work so much easier and their working environment much safer.”
How many children have to die before we implement real solutions that work? How many planes have to be hijacked before we adopt practices that actually save lives? If we continue to ignore well documented, thoroughly tested in favor of “feel good” slogans, at some point we need to ask ourselves who is really at fault for these tragedies?