Tuesday, February 26, 2008

"Shattered Sense of Security"

Shattered Sense of Security - LA Times

Ms. Rosenblatt -

Might I suggest you would serve your readership far better investigating the myth of "safety"?

Lovely as the notion is, on first pass, once one begins to look at the mythical concepts of "safety", "Safe Zones", "gun & drug free zones", and other elements of what are essentially secular theology....the kindest interpretation of them is as misguided myth spiraling downwards towards "our political leaders need to look busy" and yet more cynical evaluations of such thing.

At base, there is no such thing as perfect safety or a safety zone. At absolute best, there are "risk reduction" and areas of lesser risk, achieved only by balancing privacy and civil liberties against an acceptable level of risk, in a rather grim street level playing out of cost-benefit analysis. That a second simultaneous cost-benefit analysis takes place of police and emergency services resources balanced against what constituencies can either scream the loudest or riot the most frantically does not improve matters. And even at that I simplify.

That the events at Aragon were unfortunate is obvious. What is less obvious is that the such solutions as may be available, limited as they are, are unlikely to be found in new regulatory legislation.

While it may be a revolutionary concept for some, criminals don't worry too much about obeying or disobeying the law. This is, perhaps, because they are criminals - folks who break the law.

In light of this stunning revelation, we are faced with little beyond the present day process of writing reports and mopping up the blood after such instances (and in the case of all too many journalists and activists, dancing in it for one reason or another before commencing mopping) in terms of reactive options. Criminals, the insane, and the criminally insane will not be substantially affected by any law we pass.

Looking for preventative solutions, we are left with making ourselves less vulnerable - what some refer to as hardening the targets. To achieve this, we must think outside the paradigm of these last few decades.

* We read of various facilities (schools, workplaces, etc) becoming impromptu drivethru locations courtesy of disgruntled or disabled customers or employees. At a minimum, we need physical barriers (not another essentially silly law) sufficiently sturdy to slow or stop most vehicles.

* We read of cases where bad folks behave badly in the vicinity of schools or other places where persons defenseless by law gather. At a minimum, we need to re-evaluate the architectural efforts of the the last few decades with their utilitarian brick firewalls and lots of glass providing laughable protection from any sort of high velocity projectile - be it a bullet or a bit of shrapnel from an accident on an adjacent road. We need to look at design and materials less in terms of fitting a particular school of architectural thought, and more in terms of protection and energy efficiency.

* We read of various school and workplace attacks with a variety of implements. We must teach ourselves and our youth the importance of, when faced with berserkers of whatever stripe, that the appropriate response is to step up and fight rather than the "cower and flee" response of "do what an attacker tells you". Further, unless we wish to assume a huge economic burden and place ourselves in a police state, we must once again recognize the vital role of the law-abiding and lawfully armed private citizens in preventing (and stopping) criminal incidents ranging from petty muggings on through random rape and murder and thence to mass homicides.

We can't get (and if we really think about it, probably don't want) "safe". If we take responsibility for our fates, we might, perhaps, achieve acceptable risk.

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