Thursday, June 16, 2022

Civil Rights, Gun Laws & Why Shooters Kill Kids




Life and civil rights aren’t simple but we have to simplify in order to first understand and then study and rehearse. We memorize safe and effective movements. Then we are more likely to live efficiently and well. 
Since this blog speaks very directly on the topic of gun control, you may wonder whether I actually know anything about guns. My dad instructed me about guns and safety. I had mandatory training when I acquired my concealed carry license. And while I’m not an NRA member, I had excellent training several years ago in the NRA handgun course. The thoroughness of NRA course and the impressive quality of the instructor motivated me to further my concealed carry knowledge by watching lots of online videos. 
I always felt comfortable around guns until an accidental discharge while hunting. My rifle was pointed toward the ground as I quietly stalked deer. My finger was on the trigger, ready in case I saw a target. Then Boom! I did not shoot myself in the foot but I sheepishly realized I had failed to be safe.
Only years later in NRA training was I required to memorize how to absolutely keep my finger off trigger and my index finger aligned straight along the side of the barrel. Each trainee had to individually recite the following ”ALWAYS” pledge. 
  • I will always keep the gun pointed in a safe direction.
  • I will always keep my finger off the trigger until ready to shoot.
  • I will always keep the gun unloaded until ready to use.
Notice that when this memorized procedure is ALWAYS followed—then there are three things preventing accidental discharge. Before I took the NRA training, when I’d see men with their index finger stretched straight on the barrel of a handgun, I thought, “That’s awkward. Why are they doing that finger thing.” Now I understand!


The 2ND Amendment, of the Bill of Rights in the Constitution is one sentence long:
“A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.”
For more background on the 2nd Amendment, read the article from the Brennan Center for Justice at Politico:
The statement of the 2nd Amendment has never been changed from the original of 1791. However, society and guns have changed. 
But in 2008 there was a single, significant Supreme Court re-interpretation Finding that: there is an individual right to possess firearms and to use firearms for traditionally lawful purposes, including self-defense in the home.

As we can see from the 2nd Amendment wording, it mentions militia and did not specifically say individuals could possess firearms. So now, the new interpretation of the 2nd Amendment is official. Americans as individuals can possess guns. 
This Supreme Court finding was not unanimous. It was a 5 – 4 decision. Justice Antoni Scalia wrote the Court’s majority Finding. At the same time he wrote that:
“Like most rights, the right secured by the Second Amendment is not unlimited. From Blackstone through the 19th-century cases, commentators and courts routinely explained that the right was not a right to keep and carry any weapon whatsoever in any manner whatsoever and for whatever purpose…Nothing in our opinion should be taken to cast doubt on longstanding prohibitions on the possession of firearms by felons and the mentally ill, or laws forbidding the carrying of firearms in sensitive places such as schools and government buildings, or laws imposing conditions and qualifications on the commercial scale of arms” as found in Gallagher (2020).


There is an impressive book of research with a credible theory of the causes for mass shootings. Louis Klarevas, PhD is the author of Rampage Nation: Securing America From Mass Shootings (Klarevas, 2016). He thoroughly evaluates relevant scientific research and debunks theories and political statements which are false and misleading. My opinion is that his findings are the most promising guide so far towards supporting the needed changes to reduce mass shootings. 
This book is very readable, it gives the stories of many mass shootings to illustrate his theory of causes and it adds important knowledge by which to seek solutions. For in depth understanding of his theory, read the whole book—Amazon has it for $25 and the book is probably available at your local library. 
Additionally, he tells the story of John Lott, once one of the most sought after “experts” on mass shootings who advised newsmen, politicians, and the public. Sadly, Lott was found to have made up data to support his conclusions, he was not using professional research methods, and went so far as to use a false name to defend his own work. His most published “solutions” were not based on acceptable research methods (Klarevas, 2016). Public media spread his misinformation and baseless statistics. Even well regarded media outlets passed on misinformation! 
Here are the three parts Dr. Klarevas’ Theory of What Causes a Mass Shootings:
Klarevas asserts that three factors motivate mass shootings. These are causes—not just correlations. Importantly, he also asserts that when one of the three causes is absent, the mass shooting is unlikely to occur. I view his work as important and credible. But, predicting people is a difficult scientific task. As more research gets done, as new and multifaceted law and interventions occur, I think Klarevas’ theory will continue to progress. 
Factor 1. Some men have a PREDISPOSITION:
-- They have some pre-offense indicators of mental instability. They might not have been diagnosed with a condition, but others who knew them well had observed problems. Mental illness per se should not be considered a cause because on it’s own it doesn’t bring about the shooting.
They tend to have a higher than average self-esteem. But their self-esteem is fragile and makes them overly sensitive to criticism or ridicule. Research shows that when self-esteem falls, some people are more prone to violence. Those who fail to lower their false sense of self-esteem (or remedy it through positive methods) tend to become more aggressive.
Perpetrators tend to hold onto their resentment and anger for a long period of time. The research shows that mass shooters don’t just “snap.” They plan their attack; they make preparations; they contemplate when they will execute their attack.
Factor 2. They suffer a PROVOCATION and blame, not themselves, but other persons and/or groups:
Seung Hui Cho was in college, wanting to be a famous writer, but suffered a rejection from an editor, and was not finding success impressing his college instructors. He did not seek professional help and rejected advise from others, and he nursed his resentments. He continued to hold himself in high esteem along with feeling others were responsible for his lack of writing success.
They project onto others the responsibility for their low self-esteem and mental pain. They tend to feel broadly taken advantage of, not just by specific individuals, but by groups of people. [While writing this, I’m reminded of how Nazi dictator Hitler and Communist theoretician Lenin ordered other subordinates to kill groups of citizens without any cause other than to get public attention, create fear, and intimidate the opposition.]
They believe they can get some revenge by killing others. Mass killings are a statement rather than the typical criminal motive of a subduing a victim to steal and/or to eliminate a witness.
Factor 3. PRIMING, wherein the perpetrator’s weapon of choice accelerates fantasies, and aggressive action:
Klarevas describes this best in his own words. He wrote, “First, mass shootings are communicative acts. Their purpose isn’t just to hurt. They send a message. Violence in such a context is a form of symbolic dominance. It ‘affirms’ one’s esteem to the extent of being superior to the victim[s].” 
Second, Klarevas points out that mass killers use their assets to reach their goal. Whatever they have access to for the job: guns, more powerful guns, airplanes, available victim types (soldier victims, children, Jews, Blacks, Caucasians, or a mixture of people in a theater excited about a new movie).
Klarevas discusses research consistent with the very handling of weapons increasing testosterone and aggression. He discusses the case histories of mass shooters who have revealed there pre-offense thinking and fantasies. Statistical data shows that states with more private firearm ownership have greater incidence of violent crimes. He experienced researchers sometimes comment that “the gun helps pull the trigger” (Klarevas, 2016).


Immediately after the Columbine book came out, the psychology of mass shootings became one of my strong areas of interest. As the number of mass shootings increased, I broadened my reading to include all types of serous violence and against innocent victims. Since COVID-19 quality statistics and just reading the online news makes unmistakable the increase of violence in American CULTURE. 
CULTURE is often spoken about as if it were a single variable, a single thing which could be influenced or corrected by some experts implementing recommended solutions. But nothing could be further from the truth. Culture can be broadly described but not rigorously broken into pieces to be changed. 
To impact mass shootings, no worthwhile legislation to inhibit gun violence will succeed. UNLESS….. masses of voters, our two polarized political parties, liberals and conservatives, see and talk about reality rather than self-serving political fantasies. Politics is where groups of people are pledged to honorably work on tough compromises to make progress. 
Voters need to get the facts on gun violence from reliable sources and track each politician’s votes on gun violence related legislation.


Here are three recent books I’ve read on mass school shootings. Each tells the same overall story and presents the information.

Louis Klarevas, PhD is the author of Rampage Nation: Securing America From Mass Shootings (Klarevas, 2016). A professional book but not a hard read. It’s the thickest book but the main book is 278 pages. The notes and bibliography are 118 pages; his notes and extra commentary could be useful to a professional.

McCann, Michelle Roehm. Enough Is Enough: How Students Can Join the Fight for Gun Safety. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2019. The main part of this book is 246 pages but lots of it is worthwhile graphics. Additionally, there are additional resources and bibliography. THIS IS A GREAT BOOK TO BEGIN GETTING REAL FACTUAL STUFF THAT’S EASY TO GRASP AND WELL ILLUSTRATED.
  • Packed with easily understood, important information. Content is extensive.
  • It's written by a very experienced children's book author and professional art director.
  • It is highly illustrated with graphics to make it interesting for a wide age range of students.

Gallagher, Jim. Gun Control: Contemporary Issues. Broomall, PA: Mason Crest, 2020. This is a half inch thick book with good gun violence information to get you started.


         For references, see the relevant page on the website.
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Thursday, June 2, 2022

Mass Shootings At Public Schools--A Continuing Problem


Immediately after the mass shooting, David and Lauren were picked up by their parents and taken home.
But quickly David announced he was going back to the school, saying, “I have to go. I need to tell the reporters what happened.” Against his parent’s wishes he returned to Parkland High School to help get out the tragic news. During the very attack itself he’d felt his feelings moving from fear into a determination for doing what he could to prevent such a tragedy from happening again. 
David and Lauren co-wrote a readable, emotionally touching, and inspiring book: #NEVERAGAIN: A NEW GENERATION DRAWS THE LINE in (2018). It is a beautiful little book, a useful book, and it includes two appendices:
  • A well thought out “Parkland Manifesto” of recommendations for what to be done to preventing future mass shootings.
  • A listing of the 50 school mass shootings from Columbine in 2003 forward, naming those who died, accompanied by quotations about each of victim to personalize their unique life. So, they would not be just a number.
In #NEVERAGAIN: A New Generation Draws The Line, David and Lauren describe getting politically engaged; calling out any politicians receiving money from the NRA; organizing and participating in demonstrations; meeting with Congressmen; and they sharing their actions to stimulate effective gun control. They wrote:
“After you spend a few hours hiding in a classroom while your friends and teachers are slaughtered, you can’t stop thinking about how insane this is and how to change it. Volunteer in political campaigns? Try to fix the mental health system? Fight the gun lobbyists? Push for comprehensive background check?
“We think you should. We hope you do. There is a whole world to change” (Hogg and Hogg, 2018).

1. The 19 year old shooter, Nikolas Cruz, was arrested at the scene and has pled guilty. What he has revealed already, and might reveal in the future, can add to the collection of case studies of school shooters. The larger the collection of case studies, the more solid are the scientific conclusions about what causes such tragic crimes. A large proportion of mass shooters cannot be fully debriefed because they commit suicide at the end of their rampage or are killed by law enforcement. It has long been known that almost all mass shootings at schools are by males. But school shootings are actually rare; and, statistically, being male is not considered a cause of school shootings.
It is commonly thought that a root cause of school shootings is due to mental health issues. This always comes up in mass shooter public media, articles, and books. However, the amount of a person’s mental health or ill health is a notoriously vague concept and is a fundamentally useless variable for predicting actual behavior and preventing tragedy.
I recommend setting aside the topics of mental issues or mental illness as causes of school shootings. Research shows they are not major. Here are several important myths and facts from Gun Violence and Mental Illness (Gold and Simon, Eds., 2016):
  • MYTH: “School gun violence is caused by people with severe mental illness “snapping.”
  • EVIDENCE-BASED FACT: “There is no known profile that allows the early identification of a mass killer.”
  • EVIDENCE-BASED FACT: “Only a small proportion of school shooters have a psychotic, mental illness. Mass shootings at school are not impulsive acts, but rather the product of careful planning.”
Setting aside the general issue of mental illness in mass shooters gets rid of a distraction to the main fact of terroristic, criminal behavior. All of our attention needs to be focused in many other important and difficult areas. Some of these are mentioned in the Parkland Manifesto.
2. Nikolas Cruz manifested a variety of emotional and behavioral problems. There is substantial documentation about his problems. Nikolas Cruz has been described as having a history of dangerous tendencies, which well could be true. But there were no agencies capable of ensuring his dangerous tendencies were treated and resolved. Most persons with “dangerous tendencies,” and especially those who are males, want to be free to be who they are; they are not likely to stay in mental health treatment on their own initiative. 
There exist authorized agencies such as the FBI, for example, that investigate persons thought to be dangerous for the purpose of preventing terroristic acts. Only the Federal Government can justify and implement the necessary intrusions for preventing terroristic murder—whether of politicians, racial groups, school children, or other targets. Is this intrusive into privacy rights? Of course. Can it interrupt a trajectory toward violence? Yes. There are consequences there are consequences which can be delivered only by courts. 
We citizens who do vote, are capable of motivating the three branches of government (President-Executive Branch, Congress-Legislative Branch, and Supreme Court-Judicial Branch). We need all three branches to be involved! It is they who must enact the law, policies, and procedures to begin reducing terroristic murder in the schools. 
Commercial airline flights are safer than driving. Responsible politicians and Federal judges took action. Imagine that! No one even argues about that any more. No one is polarized! Think about this: In 1988 Pan Am Flight 103 blew up over Lockerbie, Scotland with the loss of 259 lives. Our Federal government responded to this wakeup call; the challenge got answered. Effective safety procedures got enacted. 
Australia once had a gun problem as serious as the U.S. But after a 1996 mass shooting in which a man killed 35 people and injured 23 more, the Australian politicians took action and passed a bipartisan gun plan called the National Firearms Agreement. After the stricter guns law went into effect there were no mass shootings for 18 years. A 2011 review of the results showed that homicides and suicides (1996 to 2003) dropped by 42% and 57%, respectively. Read about this in (McCann, 2019, pages 187-192). 
The three branches of our Federal Government can step up their game and prevent more murdered children. Both American State and Federal government and we citizens all working together could make change happen, but decade after decade one or more of the political parties, the branches of government, and groups of citizens negligently avoid doing the obvious!
3. Don’t skip this paragraph! 
David and Lauren Hogg’s book #NEVERAGAIN is remarkable because it’s not just depressing news about more kids and teachers murdered somewhere else.
Instead, with this well-written story we’re not merely readers but feel with them throughout their small book, identify with them as they feel danger, use their critical event skills, run and hide, hear the distant pop of gunshots, cram themselves into classroom storage rooms, use their cell phones, read a text that one of their friends was shot, share videos, and finally experience law enforcement taking them to safety. 
The children, David and Lauren, in writing their book provide all that should be necessary for American parents to rise up and expose and vote out of office the politicians who have UTTERLY FAILED to make American schools safe from mass shooters. 
Most Americans are OK with more gun control but there are some politicians who BRAG about their support for zero gun controls. They BRAG about getting “Constitutional carry.” They post on social media pictures of themselves and children grinning proudly with their AR-15 assault rifles. The Supreme Court would find this well within free speech rights.
4. Before the tragedy, Parkland High School had taken some preventative measures against a mass shootings. Reading this book we are reminded once again that when a criminal wants badly to penetrate our defense and succeeds, the cost of learning our weaknesses can be tragic.
And now in Uvalde County, Texas, on May 24, 2022, 19 children and two adults were killed at an elementary school. 
Before mass school shootings occur, few people are seriously worried about the security plan they worked to successfully implement. But during the tragedy of an attack, everything moves too fast and safety measures may work poorly if at all. Furthermore, mass shooters are known to plan their attack. In self-protection, the bad guy almost always “has the drop” on the good guy. The bad guy stalks his way in, knows he’ll need to overcome some barriers, and he wants to take his prey by surprise. 
According to the New York Times, since 1970 at least 200 K-12 children have been killed in mass shootings.

The most important fight for safe schools won’t be won by local school districts raising taxes to make schools physically hardened against mass shooters. 
No. Schools will become acceptably safe ONLY when all State governors, Congressmen, and Congresswomen begin to seriously care about the children who will be murdered at schools in coming months, in the coming years
How long will it take American politicians to become responsible leaders enough to legislate a broad array of effective interventions? 
As voters we should diligently search the economic and political influences stalemating gun control. There appear to be no effective leaders for gun control in Congress. One would think that school mass shootings would, as they say in politics, get some “traction.”
Anyone following news in Houston over the past several years can recognize, without needing any statistics, the obvious gun problems: weekly road rage shootings, young children finding loaded guns at home and unintentionally shooting siblings, intentional drive-by shootings, and seemingly random shootings. In one case police were able to find the man who simply shot up in the air and the bullet killed a person as it sped back to earth. Houston homicides have risen significantly in the past several years.

Finally, I want to highly recommend the book Enough Is Enough by Michelle McCann. She is both a professional illustrator and an author of children’s books. Her book is full of interesting illustrations and useful information. Teens as well as adults would likely enjoy the style.
Please forward this to others whom you feel would be receptive or at least willing to read it. Thanks!
        For references, see page BIBLIOGRAPHY / WORKS CITED
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