I will be writing at more length about why, when there are mass shootings, we keep thinking that something about gun laws or mental health screening is going to make this better despite the complete lack of evidence for those ideas. It does fascinate me why generally rational people keep resorting to those irrational ideas, especially as I once held some of those ideas myself and now cannot quite recapture why. I am searching for an earlier AVI, perhaps. But the essay is more than a little scattered at this point.
Yet it deserves to be said that there are in one sense A Great Many people like this out there - you walk past a few every day, most likely - but also that there are Very Few, because no one has shot up your neighborhood this week, have they? Let me hit you with the uncomfortable truth that whatever criteria you develop for identifying 1) We should not be letting this person have access to a gun, or 2) We should be making sure that this person is under stricter mental health observation, or even the more general 3) This person spooks the shit out of me and what can we do about it, if you want to then apply it to everyone who crosses that threshold, you will be intervening in the lives of 100x more people at a serious level, and requiring little evidence to do that. How big a police force do you want? How many hospitals? Prisons? I don't want to ruin the lives of too many people by singling them out, but frankly, if everyone who met the criteria for needing an ankle bracelet had one, other people would be shutting themselves indoors...
Yeah, hey, there's the fantasy to play out. If in February 2020 we made everyone who met criteria for dangerousness just wear an ankle bracelet, we wouldn't have needed to close any businesses or enforce any social distancing or mandate any covid precautions at all. The number of people who would stay home, not go to restaurants, church, shopping, concerts, indoor sporting events or whatever VOLUNTARILY would make that unnecessary. A huge number of businesses would go belly-up already. You think there are many bars that would survive that? Yes, people would be quarantining themselves for nonviral reasons so it wouldn't be an exact match, but the numbers would have been so large that even highly authoritarian governors would say "I have nothing to add to this." You worry about guns? Look who has driver's licenses. They kill lots more people with their illnesses and substance abuse, just in smaller batches.
This was my career. Judges and defense attorneys and prison guards and ER personnel see the same thing. Even in very nice places, we live on a precipice. That's why we can't fix it.
You make a point of arming everyone. Then feed them perhaps the most toxic culture on the planet, that idolizes guns and their use.
What could go wrong?
I do not remember the book I was reading, but I do remember it was in the mid-80s. The author made the statement that 10% of people are likely to become addicts. It was the 10% that stuck with me. Since then, I've decided that a decent way to live is to expect that at least 90% of the people I meet are Good People.
What shocks me isn't that there are mass shootings, but rather that there aren't dozens every day. Look at how many people commit suicide; look at our murder rate; look at the sheer number of disaffected people out there, many of whom have access to weapons (not just guns); doesn't only a few 'news-worthy' shootings per year seem like inexplicably few in a country of 330 million inhabitants?
In a way, incidents like this bring to mind the safety culture we try to emplace within industry. You'll never have a perfectly safe workplace, especially when humans are interacting with heavy machinery that's constantly moving. But you can improve upon it, and in fact that's the philosophy that we strive to put into practice, an environment of continuous improvement. In my career, it enabled teams to work through complex offshore drilling projects with thousands of heavy crane lifts and abnormal subsurface formation problems, in some cases without a single recordable incident. But to do this, you have to be ruthless about measuring results and reporting, about maintaining an open conversation without shaming and bullying, and by addressing & correcting identified problems and hazards immediately.
Was the school fortified along the guidelines developed post-Sandy Hook? Was the officer stationed at the school, trained? Had his training been refreshed or upgraded recently? Was there an Incident Plan in place? Are the teachers and counselors at the High School trained in dealing with troubled teens, and same questions about training refreshing/upgrading? What is the High School's reporting structure on subject teens? How is it communicated?
As many are saying, long-standing and seemingly obvious behavioral problems that result in violence will not be ended by trying to move guns, or swords, or crossbows further out of reach at the climax. But these situations can be vastly improved upon - and I'll bet a careful look at the way these facilities are equipped and managed, and the way these troubled teens are ignored, will present a ton of opportunities. You'll never eradicate the problem, but it can be made a lot better. Let's see politicians and administrators put our money where their mouth is.
Great things to ponder in relation to what i hope to post. I have a long one in draft that I may just abandon, perhaps mining it for its few intelligent bits. I now have a thoroughly irritated post forming in my head. It's my own fault, perhaps. I listened to people and clicked links that I knew had a high-percentage chance of saying something stupid - and they did.
Yes. When there is a society-wide problem, the first thing that is required to improve matters is honesty and good faith in communication, usually the last things to become apparent - and even then, in deficit. The biggest task in creating a proactive safety culture is gaining acceptance that this is the priority at the outset. Once people buy in, the culture of continuous improvement takes wing. Ironically, to work safely one has to first feel safe in being able to communicate their observations and ideas without fear of criticism. Shame is a very powerful emotion.
"Was the school fortified along the guidelines developed post-Sandy Hook? Was the officer stationed at the school, trained? Had his training been refreshed or upgraded recently? Was there an Incident Plan in place? Are the teachers and counselors at the High School trained in dealing with troubled teens, and same questions about training refreshing/upgrading? What is the High School's reporting structure on subject teens? How is it communicated?"
A better question is why the fuck we should need to worry about any of those things at an elementary school.
An even better question is why school shootings, which kill a few dozen people a year on average, get more media attention than obesity, which kills thousands weekly. I guess nobody wants to be the bearer of fat news by telling Americans to quit shoveling disgusting shit into their cheeseburger holes.
Aggie said: "In a way, incidents like this bring to mind the safety culture we try to emplace within industry. You'll never have a perfectly safe workplace, especially when humans are interacting with heavy machinery that's constantly moving. But you can improve upon it, and in fact that's the philosophy that we strive to put into practice, an environment of continuous improvement."
Boy, your company was a lot more sensible than mine. We would constantly get lectures and training, telling us that they expected us to reduce incidents and injuries to zero, even though that is impossible in a practical sense. So, we would bump along with our usual zero or one or two reportables per month, but then when, by random chance, it hit three in a given month, we would have lockdowns, more lectures, etc. Of course, the next month it would be down to the normal one or two, and they would declare victory.
Chances are this man was in his right mind when he did this; bad mental health doesn't need to be a factor in someone's decision to do evil. If he couldn't get a gun, he would have found some other way to kill people--maybe a homemade bomb or something like that.
Uncle Bill - I am reminded of the Dilbert cartoon where the pointy-headed boss is proud they met the safety goal of only 26 workplace injuries last year. "We had to injure five people in the last week to make the goal."
Aggie - keeping one quote of yours above whole for my next post.
There are perhaps 15% of the population that is broken. Damaged and just crazy, and its these people who cause most of the violence. They are the most desperate members of society, and in your country are pushed to the wall.
In most civilized countries this is understood, and measures to reduce the levels of desperation are rolled out, to help these poor unfortunate people. This works, you should try it sometime.
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