There are some odd connections in the news sometimes.
Today the news has another “School Shooting” in Taft California.
So the “narrative” being spun is that this is just another example of why we need even MORE “gun laws” restricting guns. Completely missing from the news? That California already has the most draconian gun laws in the nation. A ban on what are called assault weapons, but really is any military ‘look alike’. Non-functional things like pistol grips and flash suppressors. (I doubt many folks will care if they are shot with a slightly smaller flash at the muzzle or not). Real Military Assault Rifles have some combination of full automatic or selective fire and full automatic. Those have been forbidden for a very long time. (Somewhere back around 1935 or so, IIRC, unless you have special licensing and pay a few hundred dollars).
So we need more gun laws, somewhat less restrictive than in California, to prevent shootings like we had in California?
OK, several times I’ve said “The shooters will just shift weapons”. In this case, we have proof of that. The kid had a 12 Gauge shotgun. He, too, understood the value of the pocket full of shells. About 20 per the news. I’m sure some fruitcakes will try to spin this that it was ‘better’ since there was only one person seriously hurt and none killed.
In reality it is just evidence that if you want to shoot someone, you need to know how to aim. The shooter completely missed one person. With a shotgun. A rifle or handgun are even harder to ‘shoot straight’. So this kid couldn’t hit someone with a shotgun? Having a handgun would have been less likely to hit someone. He was armed with one of the most effective means of close quarters combat. In W.W.I the “trench broom” shotgun was so feared that folks using one were often executed by “the other side” in retribution.
What stopped this event? One very brave teacher “talking him down” after the second shot. Nothing about the weapon limited the attack. Only a lousy shooter missing his targets and a brave teacher doing an intervention.
The Back Stories
There are two. The Context and The Snow.
First off, the interviews with the kids at the school say the shooter was “picked on” for being “different”. The real crime here, IMHO, is that we force children into a daily hell of hazing and abuse, give them no alternative, and then are surprised that they respond to it with a violent ‘break’ when they can take it no more.
How do I know this? Because I was one of those “different” kids. I was physically assaulted and mentally abused at school by bullies for years. The only difference between me, and the ‘shooters’ in the last two events, in any real way, is that I decided to use a martial arts path. I got a couple of books (there being no dojo in my farm town) and studied. My “break” was a person to person ‘show down’. Me vs. the dozen “usuals”. They were waiting for me, and I’d reached my limit. (They had just tripped another ‘nice but meek’ kid and then run off. I found out that he had broken his wrist in the fall… I used that as my “trigger”.) The crowd realized that this time I was not going to be a ‘meek nice guy’ and decided to go on back to ‘the showers’ (this being PE class). I was never bothered again.
So why didn’t I shoot someone?
Well, we had guns. LOTS of guns in my home town. I had a nice rifle with 15 round capacity. It was in my closet from about age 8? or so on up. I thought about it. Decided it was not the best approach to end the trauma. I thought about other things as well. I was reasonably well versed in poisons. I knew I could “take out a few”. I decided that poison was best held in reserve as a last ditch step. Why? Simple. I was raised Christian. It was not a Christian thing to do. Furthermore, there was risk of collateral damage. “That would be wrong” would echo… So I rationally thought through how to “fix it”.
Yes, a rational assessment of what method would be best, carefully considering options and choosing the least damage solution for all concerned.
I started with asking adults to fix it. Asking adults how to fix it. Eventually gave up on adults. (After a decade of trying their suggestions and being beaten up, and trying their suggestions and having things not get any better, and trying their suggestions and being forced to continue the ‘abuse immersion’ of school, I eventually realized “they were wrong”. 3 guys 2 years older than you are NOT ‘really scared’ inside. They just like pulling wings off flies and beating up younger kids.)
Once you decide you are on your own, each individual will reach their own solution.
Realize that means there will be a range of “solutions”. From drugs, to running away from home, to becoming a bully themselves, to joining a gang, to withdrawal and hiding in their room, to buying a martial arts book and study, to explosive violence.
Consider that last one for just a moment. I was 17 when I “confronted” the gang. At about 12 I was making explosives. (Hey, Dad was U.S. Army Combat Engineers and I was good at chemistry. At the time, lots of farmers had explosives and it was not illegal. I was just curious how to do it.) But literally, I could have made 20 lbs of explosives and arranged it for someones car to “have an accident”. Does anyone really think I’m the only “bright kid” who has had to make that decision?
Now one big thing in my favor was that ‘in those days’ they didn’t drug you up if you were bored in school. Had I been 1/2 addled by SSRI drugs for being “inattentive” and “over active” I might well have made a less challenging decision about how to deal with The Daily Hell. Not spent the better part of 3 years in study and practice and mental preparation ( including self hypnosis and how to set a ‘trigger’ to go ‘berserker’, as I knew that was the only way I could voluntarily hurt someone, being fundamentally an extreme pacifist. One of my exercises was to put a red and blue lightbulb in a pole lamp, then visually move the transition color back and forth on the wall. I got to where, at will, I could make the wall “all red” or “all blue”. After that it was fairly easy to set the “script” that would be run, to set the emotional state, to accept that we’d all end up in the hospital together and that was fine with me, and I’d likely only kill one or two of them… – throat grab, crush, ripout… by surprise from the guy who never strikes back… by then I was 210 lbs and with ‘a grip’… )
In fact, I was about 10 seconds from the non-retrievable trigger word when the ‘crowd’ gave a nervous laugh, and astonished me by running off the field. I stood there dumbfounded with an adrenaline ramp already started on command (you can learn how to do that…) and the mental trigger set, but not yet pulled.
So what can we learn from this? Some VERY important things.
1) It isn’t about banning the guns. Nor the gun laws. Not at all. I had a gun. I had boxes of ammo in my room. Actually, by then, I had two guns as we’d added a 7 round deer rifle. I could pick a walnut off a tree at 20 yards with a BB gun and had hit tossed soda cans in the air with a .22 rifle. Had I chosen to ‘be a shooter’ nothing could have stopped me. As we have had more restrictive gun laws, fewer kids have grown up knowing what guns do. Fewer have the fundamental gut wrenching regret of looking at a poor sparrow THEY have shot and realizing that they were a murderer and not liking it. I chose not to shoot people because I was experienced with guns. Because I had them.
2) It isn’t about “bad kids”. I was a model “good kid”. Church every Sunday. Good grades. Follows adult guidance well (that set me back a decade…). Yes, to some extent the stereotypical “nice quiet kid” as I tried “hide in the room” for a while. Then “escape into books”. Largely not interested in team sports as THEY were the folks beating me up. So a bit of a ‘loner’ as I avoided the Team Gang that was abusive. A ‘background check’ would find a model person.
3) It IS all about abuse of “good kids” by the average crummy kids. You want to stop school violence? It’s simple. Stop letting the petty little tyrant gangs beat up the good kids.
4) No amount of control of the “material goods” will fix a social problem. Sorry. Not going to work. I can make explosives from common fertilizer, common automotive chemicals, and cotton (or any other alcohol type molecule). So you can try banning food, cars, and clothes, but it isn’t going to work. Then there are poisons. LOTS of choices there. There’s several at the local garden shop… These are things I considered. I’m sure I’m not the only kid to ever think along those lines. Even had picked out some interesting ‘contact poisons’ and figured out a ‘blocker’ to put under them (hit me here with a bare hand, please…) but decided it “would be wrong” (not to mention a bit risky ;-) so I’d started thinking sprays… this was before the “Super Soaker” or things might have been different… I won’t go into the particulars, but just realize that “poisons” were the preferred method of “doing someone in” before guns were invented. Particularly preferred by women due to them being abused more. It is not possible to stop knowledge.
Oh, and I can make an interesting explosive using welding gas and a metal, and I can make a poison from salt and electricity. And soo much more. “Chemistry is your friend” is a lesson I learned early. Yes, it’s a Very Bad Idea to annoy the geek. You are betting your life on their self control and morals.
5) To fix a social problem, apply a social solution. Yes, that simple. The teacher talked down the kid with a shotgun. It would be FAR better to have a method that was used prior to that point. Say, for example, having a zero tolerance for bullies and providing an EFFECTIVE place where “kids like me” could go get real help from adults to stop bullies. The notion of “you need to learn to be a man and deal with it yourself” is still prevalent. Having a few million kids doing “trial and error” on how to dispatch bullies is not a very good way to do things.
6) Stop drugging up kids for being different from the average 1/2 brain dead bullies that are driving them around the bend. It has bad consequences. It’s the bullies that are driving the good kids crazy. Don’t expect drugging the victim to fix the cause of the insanity. It is structural to the social system YOU have approved.
7) Allow kids to “opt out” of the mandatory “prison and abuse of the gang” that is what our school system is (for many). Anything from home schooling to vouchers to magnet schools to “whatever” is better. I’d have learned more and been less ‘at risk’ just given a pass to the library and left alone. I’d have gone about twice as far academically and at much faster speed. Give an ‘escape hatch’ for those kids who don’t fit the straight jacket. Please.
The town of Taft is near the mountain range between the LA basin and the Central Valley. It is on the Central Valley side. A small point in the news was that the ‘guard’ who usually was at the school was absent that day due to ‘being snowed in’. I presume he lived ‘up slope’ in the nearby hills. Still, snow “down there” is something to notice.
So one interesting thing to get from this is that if you are going to have guards in school, it’s better not to have just one who can be snowed in. (Think “teachers with concealed carry”.) Also note that even having a regular guard didn’t fix the social problem that drove this kid off the cliff. Putting more guards on the prison, but leaving the gangs running the ‘yard’, doesn’t fix it. It just ends the fight quicker when it does break out.
I also heard on the news that there is unusual snow in the Levant and that much of the Northern Hemisphere is having a rough time of it. Maybe someone will notice…
There is hope. I “came through it” relatively intact. Later, in college, I volunteered for a NASA program. It involved repeated interviews with a psychiatrist along with a load of psych tests. Selecting for folks who were sane, well balanced, and able to put up with a lot of abuse and not ‘lose it’. So we have a ‘certified sane and balanced’ person who made it out the other end of the process.
If you are in such a situation, take heart. There is life after high school and it can be good. Even if you think life is hell now. Look beyond now. I did. (Part of why I chose the martial arts prep rather than the shooting solution. Didn’t want to spend the rest of my life in prison. A rational choice from a certified rational person.)
If you are an adult, take a little time to ask your school what they do to assure your kid is not subject to hazing or bullies. Ask what is done to expel and discipline bullies. Even if not your kid, some kid will benefit from your probing. Put your kid in a karate or similar martial arts class. Nobody messed with the two Japanese kids in my class as they were known to be enrolled. Part of what tipped me that way. (This with a bully population that was not ‘minority friendly’.)
Even if you don’t “believe” in religion, it can be very helpful. The “moral compass” that it gave me was highly valuable and helped me make the better decisions. It also can provide a group of ‘social peers’ who can provide a place for normal social interactions in a safe and comfortable environment. Frankly, though I thought some of the “preaching” was bit daft, the weekly contrast between the church climate and school was a large part of what gave me hope there were other ‘good people’ in the world.
Do not, under any circumstances, expect that school violence will go away or end until the social problems of our bulk processed social dominance based mandatory ‘prison immersion’ experience is changed. And make no mistake about it. For many kids the daily trek to school is indistinguishable from prison. There is a powerful authoritarian cast that is in charge. There is no appeal from their rulings, no matter how loony or power driven. They control your future. There is a ‘yard’ that is dominated by the ‘gangs’ and you better be in one gang or another or you will be attacked. You hope, someday, that your sentence will end, but it takes forever. (Were it not for summer breaks, I likely would not have made it. Year round school will increase these kinds of ‘breaks’…) There are powerful gangs (the older classes) and weak gangs, and then the poor ‘nice guy’ who is totally lost in the system. Frankly, it was the kids one and two years older who were worst. Putting kids of different class ages in different places would help. Just like in prison it’s the ‘lifers’ who have the system figure out most and the most power to abuse.
In short, the way to fix this is just to stop letting kids run the social order and stop running the schools the same way prisons are run. Make them a fun safe place to go explore the world and “people like me” will spend our time exploring the world (not figuring out how to ‘take out’ their abusers and not needing to be ‘drugged up’). IMHO vouchers and school choice would go a very long way along this path. Just having the sporadic Montessori or Religious School gives an escape hatch. (Even if NOT interested at all in religion).
Find a place where the ‘quiet kids’ and the ‘different kids’ can just be quietly different together and left alone. It will be better for everyone. Even if they have a gun in the closet and can make explosives from “things around the house” and poisons from “stuff in the garden”…