Thursday, December 27, 2012

Solving the wrong problem

The Connecticut massacre has people talking about gun control and about the reasons for violence.  This is a good thing, and hopefully something positive comes from it.  Unfortunately some ridiculous and terrible things are also coming out of the panic over the shooting too.  Despite Canada being much safer than the US and despite school shootings being an incredible unlikely source of danger Ontario's premier has decided to spend 10 million outfitting schools with security systems and institute locked door policies.

As usual, there are three things to consider when spending money to increase safety.
1.  How serious is the safety problem.
2.  How much does it cost.
3.  How effectively can we stop the problem with the solution presented.

The premier has failed to notice that this particular safety theatre fails all 3 tests.  School shootings are terrible but they are vanishingly unlikely - lightning strikes are more likely to kill children.  The cost is high and comes at a time when our budget is in desperately bad shape, so much so that the government has essentially declared war on teachers.  Not only it is a lot of money but it also comes at the cost of creating a climate of fear in the minds of the populace that is completely unjustified.  Lastly we must conclude that the 'solution' solves nothing.  People with guns can get into schools even with all of the precautions listed by shooting out windows, going through unlocked doors, shooting off locks (like the Connecticut perpetrator did) or just by hitting the button and sneaking in before pulling a gun.

So to summarize, the militarization of schools will not stop a shooter, costs a lot, addresses a problem that doesn't exist, and creates extra problems of its own.  What a colossal waste.

I must be thankful that I live in Canada at this moment though and not the US where there the NRA is calling for armed guards in every school (and who will pay for it exactly?) and/or arming and training teachers.  What a great idea, putting firearms within arms reach of a bunch of irrational teenagers!  Also, there is a new product on the market that you might want to buy for a New Year's present or something:  Armoured backpacks to protect children from bullets.  Both countries have it wrong.  The US is solving the problem of gun culture and easy access to weapons by having an arms race, ignoring how well that worked out with the Soviet Union, and Canada is solving a problem that doesn't exist.  If we want to spend money to help children live long lives we should be spending it on reducing smoking, preventing diabetes, and reducing the use of cars, not by turning schools into fortresses.


  1. Regarding the NRA, I think we shouldn't underestimate how cynical their solution is. I don't think that the NRA leadership think that a guard in every school would prevent another school shooting, and I don't even think they want it to happen. What they want is to propose an idea that can't possibly be implemented so that if gun control measures are put in place they can say, "See, you should have listened to us," when another school shooting occurs.

    And another school shooting is going to occur. What is going on in America goes a lot deeper than ready access to guns. When another shooting does occur it would be nice if the shooter had a weapon that only allowed him to kill 6-10 kids instead of 20-30 kids, but ultimately there needs to be a real change in American culture that goes beyond access to guns.

  2. Adam Lanza only had access to fairly mundane weapons. He didn't accomplish what he did with a fully automatic assault rifle or anything... his pair of handguns would have done the job easily enough. Assault weapons are bad but they don't actually perform that much differently unless the shooter is facing down a wall of humanity or is in a desperate hurry.

    I totally agree on the problem not being limited to guns though. The culture of honour and gun ownership is more the issue. I find the rush in the US to buy more guns for self defence truly hilarious though because Adam Lanza's mother had several handguns for self defence and her son took them and murdered her and 25 others. Defending yourself with a pistol against a bad guy works just fine in movies and really terribly in real life.

  3. Like you say, the gun isn't magic. A man who spend his childhood going to the gun range is going to be more dangerous with a small handgun than I would be with a military assault rifle. Ultimately, it's the will and desire to kill that made him dangerous, guns just heighten that danger, and more powerful guns heighten in more than less powerful guns.

    But I agree that the culture of honour surrounding guns seems to be a big problem. Honour but not responsibility. I feel like the NRA has a lot of blame on its shoulders, but for its role in the culture rather than any specific success opposing gun control.