If we cannot predict or prevent Sandy Hook events, what can we do? I suggest three evidence-based actions we can take right now that could save lives. Surviving an Active Shooter Event. After calling , the first thing to do is to run —escape from the building as quickly as possible, taking as many people with you as you can. If people hesitate, encourage them to join you but leave them behind if they do not move at once. You have seconds to act and cannot afford to delay.
If there is no clear escape route, hide underneath a desk, behind a wall or door, or inside any container in which you can fit. If you are in a room, lock the door and barricade it with furniture. Remain as quiet as possible and silence your cell phone. Do not hesitate and attack like your life depends on it because it does.
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At that moment you will likely either be killed or stop the killer long enough for others to join in. A joint effort between such governmental agencies as the National Institutes of Mental Health, the American Psychological Association, the Association for Psychological Science, the American Psychiatric Association, and the FBI could result in a national mental health hotline for potentially violent psychopaths, schizophrenics, and severely depressed and delusional people who also exhibit behaviors indicative of violence and purchase large quantities of firearms and ammo.
A national database of people reported as: 1 exhibiting a set of symptoms of mental disturbance such as acute depression, schizophrenia, extreme psychopathy, paranoid delusions, and 2 a clear sign of potential violence such as comments or letters or journal entries about killing people, and especially 3 the purchase of multiple weapons, ammunition, body armor, and other equipment, might be cause for authorities to at least pay a visit to the residence of the person in question. A case in point is James Holmes, the Aurora, Colorado killer, who showed clear signs of a mental breakdown during the May to July timeframe in which he amassed an arsenal of 6, rounds of ammunition, two handguns, a shotgun, an assault rifle, ballistic gear, laser sights and holsters, and tear gas canisters, all delivered to his doorstep.
This would be something like a citizens watch program in which all of us should be paying attention to the people around us, most notably our immediate family, friends, and colleagues. We avoided a very bad situation. A mass murder was averted thanks entirely to the bottom-up actions of an alert citizen, not the topdown measures of authorities. Of course, the civil liberties of such individuals would need to be protected, and law enforcement agencies would have to be leery of false charges made out of revenge against rivals, but surely someone reported by close friends, family, or colleagues as having severe mental health issues, who has made violent threats involving mass murder, and who has purchased an arsenal of firearms and ammunition, might at least alert local authorities to be extra vigilant.
First, the most common weapon of all homicides and mass murders is a handgun, and the United States Supreme Court ruled in in District of Columbia v. Heller 33 and again in McDonald v. And once the Supreme Court has ruled on a case—twice in this instance—the chances of overturning such rulings are next to nil. In any case, with over million guns already in the homes and on the streets of America, short of turning the United States into the Stasi States wherein police sweep through every home, business, garage, shack, storage unit, cabin, car, and container in every nook and cranny of every state in the union potentially resulting in Ruby Ridge and Waco-type confrontations with those who resist , gun bans will most likely be honored by the people who least need them and ignored by those who need them most.
Even talk of stricter gun control laws following the Sandy Hook massacre has driven gun sales through the roof. A gun show in Ontario, California the first weekend of , for example, was overflowing with customers lined up outside the door to get in, and those who made it inside were snapping up firearms and ammunition at record rates.
The NRA should give him an award. Here is a typical suggestion for a reasonable gun control measure, from the aforementioned psychiatrist Paul Applebaum:. Even in the face of our difficulties of predicting and preventing violent behavior in general, there is an approach we can take today that will markedly reduce the likelihood of horrific crimes like what occurred at Newtown, CT, where we remove from easy access weapons that are designed solely for the purpose of killing large numbers of people—semiautomatic weapons, high-volume clips, bullets intended to seriously maim and kill their victims.
That could have an impact today while we wait for the science to improve, while we wait to have a better capacity to identify people who are likely to behave in violent ways. Banning semi-automatic weapons is not likely to have a significant effect on Sandy Hook Events since most are committed by handguns, and the evidence for the effectiveness of bans on semi-automatic weapons on overall crime rates is mixed. On the pro-gun side of the debate, John Lott, whom I spent a weekend with in Santa Fe, New Mexico at a conference and whose book More Guns, Less Crime has been a steady flashpoint for controversy, argues that gun bans have the opposite effect than intended.
Before the ban on handguns was implemented in August of , D. After the gun ban, D.
As a control experiment of sorts, after the Supreme Court decision in the Heller case overturned the D. According to Lott, whose data is based primarily on crime statistics provided by the FBI, once the gun ban was lifted, homicide rates plummeted Why do more guns mean less crime?
Lott says it is because it is hard to keep criminals from getting and keeping guns because gun bans are primarily obeyed by non-criminals. Criminals that already have guns do not turn them in, and potential criminals that want to get guns have no problem procuring them illegally on the street and in any case most mass murderers obtained their guns legally.
Lott cited several studies by criminologists who interviewed criminals in jail and collected data on the amount of time they spend casing a home before burglarizing it. In the U. Their U. They said that they were worried they would be shot. Lott has his critics , some of whom resort to ad hominem attacks such as Piers Morgan and Alan Dershowitz 39 , while others more thoughtfully challenge his data.
That cause is hotly disputed, with everything from the Freakonomics theory that Roe v. Wade led to fewer unwanted children being born in the s and thus fewer kids growing up in poverty and becoming criminals in the s , 41 to more police on the beat and assorted other factors well summarized by Steven Pinker in The Better Angels of Our Nature. The most cited study in support of gun control comes out of Australia following a firearm massacre in Tasmania in which 35 people were murdered.
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State governments agreed to ban semiautomatic and pump-action shotguns and rifles. Statistically significant declines were also found for total firearm deaths, firearm suicides, and firearm homicides but not for unintentional firearm deaths. Total homicide rates followed the same pattern. Removing large numbers of rapid-firing firearms from civilians may be an effective way of reducing mass shootings, firearm homicides and firearm suicides. Is Australia comparable to America? I have my doubts. Another common element found among mass murderers is large capacity magazines, most notably at Fort Hood, Texas, on the Virginia Tech campus, and in Tucson at the Gabrielle Giffords shooting where the killer used a round magazine.
The prohibition of high-volume ammo magazines seems like a rational response based on the fact that a number of mass murders were ended by bystanders and police when the killers stopped to reload. Figure 2 : Homicide rates per , people per annum in five Western European regions, — Figure 3 : Homicide rates per , people per annum in Nonstate societies v. Western Europe, — Figure 4 : Homicide rates per , per year in the United States.
Note the dramatic decline in homicides during the assault weapons ban starting in , but also note the leveling off of homicides in the last half of the year ban and the dramatic drop after the ban was lifted. As a lifelong libertarian I have opposed gun control measures, primarily based on the larger principle of increasing individual freedom and decreasing government intervention. I was raised with guns—my step-father was a hunter and we shot dove, duck and quail with gauge and gauge shotguns that we owned and kept in the house.
Growing up I had a BB gun, then a pellet gun, then a gauge shotgun, then a gauge shotgun the lower number is the higher caliber gun. As an adult, for a quarter century I owned a Ruger.
After I started having marital problems I took it out of the house and eventually got rid of it, having studied the psychology of human violence and knowing the statistic cited above about a gun being 22 times more likely to be used on yourself or a family member than a home invader. I own no guns now, but I am not opposed in the least to those who believe having a gun in the home is the best way to protect themselves and their family. Even though it is not clear that the two suggested laws banning assault rifles and large capacity magazines over 10 bullets would have a significant effect on mass murders, there could be a net gain, and it seems to me to be no great threat to liberty if we lump them with the already-existing bans on private citizens owning and operating bazookas, tanks, drone aircraft, fighter jets, and nuclear weapons.
Bans on semi-automatic assault rifles and high-volume ammo clips will not stop Sandy Hook Events , but there is some evidence that they could curtail the level of carnage, and that strikes me as a rational response that even freedom-loving libertarians can live with. I saw the victims of a senseless crime.
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I saw lives change. When or where we will breathe our last breath. All of the above is prelude, a rational response to irrational acts. The real decline of violence has wholly different causes that have led homicide rates to plummet from almost per , people per year in nonstate societies, to around per , people per annum in Western societies from the beginnings of civilization all the way up to the Middle Ages, to about 10 per , each year by the time of the Enlightenment, to less than 1 per , today in Europe and 5 per , in America.
Pertinent to current events, Figure 4 shows homicide rates per , per year from to in the United States. Gun control advocates will note the dramatic decline in homicides during the assault weapons ban starting in , but pro-gun advocates can point to the leveling off of homicides in the last half of the year ban and the dramatic drop after the ban was lifted. The difference is striking. Figure 5 : Percentage of deaths in warfare for prehistoric peoples v.
It would behoove us to consider the fact that this long-term precipitous fall in violence occurred even while the quantity and efficiency of deadly weapons evolved into the killing tools they are today. Why has violence declined? The English philosopher Thomas Hobbes famously argued in his book, Leviathan , that violence would be commonplace without a strong state to enforce the rule of law. As he conjectured, in one of the most famous passages in political philosophy:.
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In such condition, there is no place for industry; because the fruit thereof is uncertain: and consequently no culture of the earth; no navigation, nor use of the commodities that may be imported by sea…no arts; no letters; no society; and which is worst of all, continual fear, and danger of violent death; and the life of man, solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short. Hobbes was only partially right in advocating top-down state controls to keep the worse demons of our nature in check.
Trade and commerce was also a major factor, given the moral and practical benefits of trading for what you need instead of killing to get it. I call it a principle instead of a law because there are exceptions both historically and today. Trade does not prevent war and interstate violence, but it attenuates its likelihood. These ideals originated in explicit instructions that cultural arbiters gave to aristocrats and noblemen, allowing them to differentiate themselves from the villains and boors.
But they were then absorbed into the socialization of younger and younger children until they became second nature. Poetic prose aside, if we really want to reduce violence, social science research shows that what we should be focusing our attention and resources on maintaining and improving in Western societies and establishing in developing countries:. The effects of these factors over the centuries go mostly unnoticed by our minds, geared as they are to perceiving Sandy Hook Events , but science shows that these are the most reliable means of bending the arc of the moral universe toward truth, justice, freedom and peace.
Nearly all modern handguns are semi-automatic with the exception of some revolvers the kind you see being manually cocked in Western movies. Therefore the assault weapons ban mostly applies to semi-automatic weapons not covered by existing laws on automatics. But it is more likely that violence goes down in a modern states because living under a rule of law provides an alternative and more effective means for the resolution of disputes and establishes defined protocols and systems for dealing with the types of issues property transfer, commerce, etc..
I think both sides of the debate have their delusions and you addressed those issues here. On the other side, gun advocates over simplify the idea that widespread gun ownership will deter violent crime.
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Yes, there is evidence that it will, but that any deterrence will be out weighed by the many more additional murders domestic violence, escalated bar fights, jealous drunken fraternity brothers fighting over a girlfriend, etc. I am not necessarily saying this is wrong. We do the same thing with our cars. We could save tens of thousands of lives by reducing the speed limit in half, but we all collectively decide that our free time in getting to where we are going sooner is worth those thousands of lives and I am guilty here as I have always enjoyed fast cars.
The same can be said of our desire for alcohol or participation in dangerous sports which cause serious injury to a lesser extent for sports because innocents are not involved. We just need to be honest about it and then do whatever we can as you have illustrated to try to effectively and rationally reduce these horrific crimes.
Piers has used ad-hominem attacks at various points during his gun control debate but he has also used hard facts and figures to support his claims as well. Calling out Piers here lends little validity to your pro-gun side of the argument. But enough about that blowhard. With our gun culture, this is the type of thing that would take significantly longer.