Saturday, February 16, 2008

NIU Shooting

First off, before I blog, I'll bleg. If you would please go over to and vote in their poll re: what the response should be to the N. Illinois Univ. shooting it'd be much appreciated - as I write this the response is 66% in favor of "make it harder to buy a gun" in one of the most anti-gun states in the union, vs. 33% in favor of "perhaps we should make Ill. a concealed carry state".

Those polls are anything but scientific, but neither are politicians.

Alright. That said...

A number of folks have already written on the NIU tragedy, and on the other recent tragedies in Victim Enhancement Zones - and the ones I tend to read without gagging are mostly of the pro-gun variety, but I acknowledge that there are plenty of the "dancing in the blood" sorts out there writing as well.

For me, it seems that (broadly) there are three general schools of response to the NIU incident - sitting upon ones hands (for good reasons or ill), enhanced restrictions upon the law-abiding, or providing tools to reduce the vulnerability of potential victims.

Sitting on ones hands is a fine solution if you can honestly say that you've put in place about all the precautions that are practical, minimized the vulnerability of potential victims, and pretty much done everything you can under the other two schools of thought.

Sadly, this was not NIU. It was a felony to bring firearms on campus, a felony to shoot at people, and a felony to kill people - all well in advance of the tragedy. At NIU (and at the other recent mass killings, where some or all of these measures were in place) these regulatory measures did not observably deter the killer - but they did significantly increase the vulnerability of potential law-abiding victims.

With NIU essentially a law-abiding herd of vulnerable sheep in an enclosed space (again, similar to other locations of recent tragedy), the shepherds were mere minutes away when seconds counted. On the same theme, much short of a walled campus with checkpoints similar to Airport Security, all that was accomplished by disarming the population was to make them vulnerable to the first nutjob or criminal to meander along.

More regulation of the law-abiding, having already failed, doesn't seem to be a real good bet when the target of our concerns are the folks who aren't law-abiding in the first place. In most societies, killing folks off is one of the very first things regulated, followed shortly by defining under what circumstances getting physical is officially naughty.

Not surprisingly, we now look to the third approach - reducing vulnerability, an approach with several elements. First off, we need to stop - as parents, relatives, schools, and public leaders - teaching that surrender is a viable option - Matt G. over at Better & Better makes this point quite well, that it's better to go out on your feet than on your knees. We MUST stop telling ourselves and our progeny the false tale "it's better to just give them what they want, to surrender, than to resist" and resume the older and far more practical meme - if attacked, FIGHT BACK! Fight back with every resource, means, and wit you've available...for if you prevail, you and others may live..

Finally, after the last mass killing a pundit was on Good Morning America that actually made sense. He pointed out that most mass killers are, at least in their own eyes, such complete and irredeemable failures that they see a mass killing in the media where the perpetrator is effectively glorified by the media blood dance with national exposure of the murders photograph, name, history, speculations about motivation, and such coverage of the procedural details of the atrocity as to comprise a how-to manual (and that prior such creatures are always revived and reviewed in contrast to the latest atrocity) and our self-defined failure begins to see atrocity as his/her only and final way to make a lasting impression on a "cold, cruel, world" - leaving a blood-drenched swan song for the media to sing.

I doubt anyone in the media will listen, but in light of this rather insightful punditry, I would suggest a purely voluntary media standard in such instances:

1) Neither name nor show images of mass killers. Take away the swan song.
2) Acknowledge the victims, showing their images and names in lieu of the killers. They deserve to be committed to memory, not the killer.
3) Celebrate the heroes who either fought back or died trying, and bemoan the absence thereof, as events dictate. Don't damn them with the faint praise of "authorities suggest fighting back just makes things worse". Even if it did, sometimes, the net long term effect of deterring such madness is worth it.
4) Enough with the how-to manuals for mass murder. It is enough say "Today a killer murdered (#) people at (location), and injured (#) others. The killer was/is/has (apprehended/killed/still roams free). Authorities suggest persons in the area (run in circles & scream and shout/remain in their homes,/attend memorial services" accompanied by a list of the injured and deceased. We don't need coverage that easily translates to "THIS IS HOW TO DO BAD THINGS".

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