The Navy Yard killer credit: stripes.com

The Navy Yard killer
credit: stripes.com

We know, beyond any doubt, three things:

(1) More firearms are in the hands of private Americans than at any time in history, and that number continues to increase.

(2) More Americans are legally carrying concealed handguns than at any time in history, and that number continues to increase.

(3) At the same time as 1 and 2, overall violent crime rates have, for decades, continued to decline.

It’s interesting that multiple victim shootings, such as attacks at schools, seem to be increasing. Is this due to the fact that school attacks, which continue to be rare, garner a great deal of publicity by virtue of their rarity, and because of the “if it bleeds, it leads” doctrine of the news business? Or is it because with news sources beyond the legacy media, more Americans are better informed than ever before? Are we just more likely to hear about such things?

This Fox News article suggests some answers: 

The number of shootings in which a gunman wounds or kills multiple people has increased dramatically in recent years, with the majority of attacks in the last decade occurring at a business or a school, according to an FBI report released Wednesday.

The study focused on 160 ‘active shooter incidents’ between 2000 and 2013. Those are typically defined as cases in which a gunman in an attack shoots or attempts to shoot people in a populated area.

The goal of the report, which excluded shootings that are gang and drug related, was to compile accurate data about the attacks and to help local police prepare for or respond to similar killings in the future, federal law enforcement officials said.

If the FBI is accurately assessing the problem, and drawing the correct conclusions, the potential responses should be as obvious as they are rational. Let’s see:

These incidents, the large majority of them, are over in minutes. So it’s going to have to be a teaching and training of the best tactics, techniques and procedures to our state and local partners,’ said James F. Yacone, an FBI assistant director who oversees crisis response and was involved in the report.

According to the report, an average of six shooting incidents occurred in the first seven years that were studied. That average rose to more than 16 per year in the last seven years of the study. That period included the 2012 shootings at a movie theater in Aurora, Colorado and at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, as well as last year’s massacre at the Washington Navy Yard in which a gunman killed 12 people before dying in a police shootout.

The majority of the shootings occurred either at a business or a school, university or other education facility, according to the study, conducted in conjunction with Texas State University. Other shootings have occurred in open spaces, on military properties, and in houses of worship and health care facilities.

And what do virtually all of these places have in common? They are victim disarmament zones, places where criminals and terrorists have no doubt they will not meet with armed resistance. Does the FBI acknowledge that? If so, the article doesn’t mention it.

A total of more than 1,000 people were either killed or wounded in the shootings. In about one-quarter of the cases, the shooter committed suicide before the police arrived. The gunman acted alone in all but two of the cases. The shooters were female in at least six of the incidents.

Not all of the cases studied involved deaths or even injuries. In one 2006 case in Joplin, Missouri, a 13-year-old boy brought a rifle and handgun into a middle school, but his rifle jammed after he fired one shot. The principal then escorted the boy out of school and turned him over to the police.

Law enforcement officials who specialize in behavioral analysis say the motives of gunmen vary but many have a real, or perceived, personally held grievance that they feel mandates an act of violence. Though it’s hard to say why the number of shootings has increased, officials say they believe many shooters are inspired by past killings and the resulting notoriety.

‘The copycat phenomenon is real,’ said Andre Simons of the FBI’s Behavioral Analysis Unit. ‘As more and more notable and tragic events occur, we think we’re seeing more compromised, marginalized individuals who are seeking inspiration from those past attacks.’

Beyond studying the shootings, the FBI has promoted better training

for local law enforcement, invariably the first responders.

I know, and have known, many FBI agents. They tend to be rational, smart, practical people, people who have no difficulty with Americans exercising their Second Amendment rights. They also tend to have no difficulty with the idea of citizens carrying concealed weapons, even in traditional victim disarmament zones. Their bosses, particularly in DC, are another matter. They are often very much political animals that do not contradict the views of their political masters, which should explain, gentle readers, the tone of the Fox article and what is missing. In virtually every law enforcement agency, the farther officers get away from dealing with real Americans on a daily basis, the more likely they are to adopt statist tendencies.

But the FBI is willing to assert that these incidents are increasing in number, at least to some degree because of copycat attacks, and they mostly occur in well-publicized victim disarmament zones, though the FBI is loath to identify them as such.

The response? Better training for local law enforcement. There is little doubt that local agencies cannot engage in the kind of intensive and unconstitutionally intrusive intelligence gathering that might possibly identify mass shooters. Such efforts wouldn’t have identified the Sandy Hook shooter.  The kind of training being suggested has to do with the modern response model for active shooters.

The old model assumed that time was on the side of the police, and that anyone attacking a school or other place had political grievances, however irrational. Contain, control, and negotiate were the order of the day. Hostage-takers didn’t want to die; they wanted something else.

Columbine killed that response model. The new model recognizes that school shooters–and this applies to virtually all of the kinds of shooters the FBI report mentions–want to kill people, have no interest in negotiation, and often plan to kill themselves or to die at the hands of the police. Therefore, the only rational response is for police officers–and this is almost invariably the patrol officers on duty at the time of the attack–to get there as quickly as possible and immediately seek out and attack the attacker(s). Time is not on the side of the innocent or the police.

“Better training” can only be training and practice at very rapid building clearing without prior intelligence, including the building layout, number and position of attackers, without a description of the attacker, without knowledge of the attacker’s training, abilities and weapons, or any other pertinent information. While there is training and practice that can increase the proficiency of officers forced into such unenviable situations, it matters little, even not at all, if they can’t get there in time to do any good.

That was the case at Sandy Hook Elementary.  In that attack, which is actually representative of what can be expected in police response to school attacks, the first officer was not able to so much as enter the school until 14 minutes and 47 seconds after the killer began his attack. By then, the killer was dead. All of the damage he did, including killing himself, was completed four minutes and 44 seconds before the first officer entered the school.

There continues to be only one, low or no cost solution that will not only deter attacks, but that can stop attacks when and where they occur before anyone is injured or killed: abolish victim disarmament zones and allow willing teachers and staff members of schools to carry concealed handguns. Obviously, concealed carry should be encouraged in hospitals, malls, churches, and on military bases.

It is a truism that only good guys with guns can stop bad guys with guns. Ignoring that fundamental truth has already cost innocent lives. Until it is universally recognized and accepted, more will die. The FBI, local law enforcement, even school districts, know this. Why, then, are they willing to accept further, unnecessary casualties?

This is, perhaps, a question worth asking, as publically as possible, and as often as possible, to local authorities across America.