Knee Jerk Reactions

Bill Neinast

The knees continue to jerk.  Rhetoric still fills the air.  Emotions run raw.

This is the continued reaction to the tragedy of Newtown, CT.  With emotions running so high, some type of gun control will emerge.  The controls may be legislative or executive fiat, or both.

Each of the prospects under consideration signals trouble.  Whatever results will be an emotional reaction to a catastrophe.  There are always unintended consequences to such responses, and none of those responses have been good.

The best example of a catastrophe spawning folly is 9/11. The knee jerk reaction to that terrorism was to create the Department of Homeland Security.  The only effect of that move was the creation of a massive new federal bureaucracy with all its attendant expenses.

Members of that department have not done anything that could not have been done as well or better by existing organizations like local police forces, Customs and Border Protection Service, U.S. Marshals, FBI, CIA, and others.

Compounding this costly mistake is Congressional action requiring that home defense funds be spread around the country.  Those funds cannot be restricted to potential terrorist targets like the New York financial center and the petrochemical complexes along the coast.  They must be evenly dispersed to places like Cross Roads or Tiddlywinks to protect soccer fields.

Before a similar insanity results from the emotional reaction to Newtown, both the gun owners and opponents should sit down, calm down, and read “Your Brain Under Fire” by Amanda Ripley in the January 28 issue of Time magazine.  This article is neither pro-gun nor pro-control, but just down the middle.

In the words of Joe Friday in the old Dragnet TV series, this article is “Just the Facts, Ma’am.”  The opening paragraphs note that a school child is more likely to die from a lightning strike than from a gun shot.  Maybe Congress should pass a law restricting lightning strikes to open spaces unoccupied by humans.

Another statistic is that between 1998 and 2006, New York City policemen hit their targets in confrontations only 30% of the time.  That is when their target was not firing back.  When the target was firing back, the percentage of hits fell to 18%.

These are the statistics for men and women who carry weapons every day and periodically practice using those weapons on shooting ranges.  What would those statistics be for a second grade teacher who just got his or her concealed carry weapon?

Experts in the field of police performance agree that periodic target practice is not sufficient to train policemen to react appropriately in confronting an armed opponent.  As Jim Glennon, a policeman who survived a shoot out and now trains other police officers observes, ”Experts who study human performance in gunfights generally agree that people can train to perform better through highly realistic, dynamic simulation training. But that is expensive, especially compared with traditional target practice, and it doesn’t happen often enough.”

Those eager to have armed personnel on school campuses, whether uniformed and visibly armed personnel or secretly designated teachers and administrators with concealed weapons, argue that realistic training is not necessary.  They believe that the simple fact that armed personnel are present will deter attempts to drown a school campus in havoc.

That has not worked in the past.  Ripley reports the rarely discussed fact that, “In the case of the 1999 Columbine High School shooting in Colorado … the attacking students were aware that their school had an armed sheriff’s deputy in the school parking lot.  (The deputy exchanged fire with one of them but missed.)”

So here’s the perspective.

Newtown, CT, may be the source of two tragedies.  The first, of course, is the loss of 26 innocent lives.

The second may be gun control advocates using that loss of life to enshrine their long sought restrictions on rights guaranteed by the 2nd Amendment.

The short, hurried up, consideration of such restrictions by Vice President Biden’s committee were for show only. There was no real consideration of the facts, need, or consequences of new rules.

The unintended consequences of any new rules in this area cannot be foretold, because they are what they are--unforeseen or unanticipated consequences.

The only certainty in the rules would be that they would make some feel good in the mistaken belief that they may have protected school children from the least likely danger they face.


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