School Security – A Response to My Critics

Some problems do not have political solutions.

Some solutions are self-evident.

Ryan at Living With Liberty Podcast makes the point quite forcefully that what happened in Texas is not something that can be solved by passing new laws.  The evidence supporting this is quite clear; the shooter broke virtually every law on the books in carrying out what he did.  The availability of a semi-automatic rifle is not a causal factor.  As evidence for this, millions and millions of citizens have (or have access to) semi-automatic rifles and do not commit acts such as this.  At the risk of being redundant, I say again, the weapon is not relevant as a causal factor.

When I was young, we frequently brought rifles to school.  We didn’t shoot other kids with them.  We left them in the car so that we could head out hunting right after school.  The availability of firearms has not changed, our society has (again – as Ryan points out).  The multiple factors driving some people into crisis are not going to be addressed at all by pointing fingers at firearms or the NRA.  That should be self-evident.

ABC News has an article claiming we should not blame mental illness for these events.  That may be true strictly speaking.  The vast majority of those suffering from some form of mental illness do not commit these violent events.  But the article goes on to contradict that assertion to some degree.  It discusses people “in crisis” driven by “stressors.”  This strikes me as a matter of semantics.  Perhaps it is not strictly accurate to describe someone in crisis as mentally ill in every case.  So be it, I’ll agree to use the term “people in crisis” if that is more accurate.  The “experts” interviewed for the article predictably point to availability of firearms.  Mysteriously, they make no mention of how availability of firearms creates “stressors” that drive people into crisis or of how availability of firearms drive people to crisis now but did not in 1979.  What is true about the AR-15 today is precisely what was true about the AR-15 in 1963.

I do not discount these arguments regarding negative changes in our society.  I argue instead that they should be taken seriously, and they should be looked into.  I also contend that there are no quick fixes here.  Simply banning semi-automatic rifles won’t fix those problems.  Prevention is not within our immediate reach and simplistic “fixes” are simply evidence of a lack of seriousness.

As the details continue to come out regarding Texas, it is clear the perpetrator’s choice of weapon was entirely irrelevant in this case.  He went into the school through a door that was left open and locked himself in a classroom full of 9-year-old children.  At that point, he could have inflicted the same amount of damage with virtually anything that could be used as a weapon.  This is not to say that the choice of weapon is irrelevant in every case, but the data suggests it is in most cases.

It will no doubt be argued that the shooter’s choice of weapon was relevant in that the responding police officers were apparently intimidated and delayed entry into the room where the shooter was.  There is still much we don’t know about that delay, but the emerging picture does not look good for the responding officers.  The rate of fire of an AR-15 is one of those topics that people in favor of banning them frequently talk about.  The fact that they talk so much about it is precisely why people familiar with firearms ignore them.  If 19 police officers burst into a room with a single gunman with an AR-15 in his hands, the guy with the AR-15 is going to be killed.  Could he kill some officers?  Yes, he probably could – it’s almost certain in fact that one or more officers would be killed (almost).  But that rate of fire is not going to allow him to engage 19 targets at close range and come out on top – it simply isn’t going to happen.  Aimed shots take time, with 19 on one, you don’t have any time.  As it turns out, when the police finally did enter the room, the shooter was killed and by all accounts to date, no police officers were killed.  Had the shooter selected a lever action repeating rifle, the outcome would have been precisely the same.

A high rate of fire can be a factor in some circumstances.  The military uses high rates of fire to suppress the enemy and force them to take cover.  They do this to enable their side to maneuver and take up better positions.  A high rate of fire can also be a factor at greater ranges.  But in most mass shooting incidents I’m aware of, it wasn’t a factor – the shooter(s) could have done the same damage with a repeating rifle or shotgun, or most any handgun.

I’ve recently picked up some loyal followers on social media, specifically a couple of loyal trolls.  One of them offered this “study” as a rebuttal to my argument in favor of armed guards at schools.  Anyone familiar with statistical analysis will quickly see several problems with what is presented in the study.  The number of data points, according to the study, is 133 – which from a statistical standpoint is insignificant.  The number of such incidents where an armed guard was at the school is 29.  This low data point count renders this sort of analysis nearly worthless.

The study also rather narrowly focuses on one factor – the presence of armed security.  I see little if any consideration of other security considerations such as single-entry point and hardened doors and windows.  It is not hard to conclude that a single armed guard on a campus covering several acres with open doors may not be very effective.  The study also suggests that because school shooters are frequently suicidal, armed security may be an incentive (the authors admit this is speculation).  That seems a bit counterintuitive.  Mass shooters tend to go after soft targets.  We don’t hear of them attacking court houses, armories, rifle ranges, or police stations where there is a high likelihood of an armed response.

People conducting (and citing) studies such as this frequently ignore the difference between correlation and causation.  Such an analysis, in the best case, may offer some ideas about where to look further.  Rarely, if ever, is a causal link established.  The study cited above is no different.  A statistical signal is presented but no causal link is established.  Would they contend that of all the semi-automatic rifles in the hands of millions of citizens, when compared with their frequency of use in mass (or any) shootings, which would result in odds on the order of several million to one (probably tens of millions to one), represents a statistically significant signal that the rifle was a causal factor?

What are you going to do if you are attacked in your home?  Call the police?  That won’t stop the attack.  You have only one option.  Statistical analysis is not necessary to arrive at this conclusion, no “body of evidence” is necessary to support it.

My critics demand that I provide evidence to support an argument that is self-evident.  There is only one effective response to an armed attack, force.  Consideration of the law is moot at this point, as is negotiation and psychoanalysis.  Defend (harden) the target and establish the resources necessary to eliminate the threat.  Work with what you CAN do and stop wasting time and lives arguing in favor of what you CAN’T do.  The root cause(s) of mass shootings are many, and none have effective short-term solutions.  That fact leaves mitigation as the only realistic short-term solution.  Mitigation is doable, right now.

Why is enforcing existing laws a political matter?  Why is securing our schools a political matter?


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One comment

  1. Arguing with the L is counterproductive . If you want their attention, bang their heads together. All jokes aside, Perhaps red states should harden these places of education. Just move on from an inability to get past their(lefts) hatred of weapons, while maintaining that their socialist utopia is just around the next corner. Old joe is he perfect canvas to paint their masterpiece on. All I know , that by doing nothing we will lose. So really what have we got to lose?

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