Profiling The Shooters

William Kiphart makes some interesting points. I wouldn’t call his research proof of anything conclusive, but it’s interesting and I think more work should be done.

Two things jump out at me from his numbers. First, of the 124 school shootings he was able to find, going back to 1927, 114 of them have occurred since 1982. Guns are much, much, more strictly controlled now than they were in the 1920s (when anyone could readily buy a Tommy gun or Colt Monitor–AKA, the Browning Automatic Rifle), so what’s changed? Why ten school shootings over 55 years, then 110 in 30? That’s huge. I think that’s the most important question we can ask about these shootings, because it’s key to understanding and preventing future ones, but no one seems to be interested in asking it, much less answering.

Second, there’s this:

I have not located ANY active shooter/murderers with the school house shooter profile that occurred with armed security or police assigned to that location. And there are plenty of schools with such security or resident officers in place.

Now, 124 incidents is not a very large sample size, so it’s hard to draw any hard conclusions. I would not say that, “If we allowed staff to carry guns in schools, we’ll never have any more school shootings.” The data is not nearly that conclusive. It is interesting, though, and points the way to further investigation. It also fits one things that we know about school shooters; they’re specifically targeting the softest of all soft targets, the place where there are the fewest people will be able to fight back and the most helpless victims. In nearly all cases the shooter surrenders or suicides as soon as the police show up, rather than face someone capable of fighting back.

(This points up a flaw in early police tactics when responding to a school shooting. The idea was–and this has only recently begun to change–for the first officer responding to not immediately engage the shooter, but to wait until the SWAT team showed up. At Columbine police waiting till the shooting was over before going in. Now the idea–a much better one, I think–is to engage as soon as possible, with any force available. Often just the sound of sirens is enough to end the killing.)

Securing our schools is a security issue. Stopping mass shootings is a security and mental health issue. We need to start looking at the causes, instead of just trying (or pretending) to treat the symptoms.

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