Saturday, April 21, 2007

Ever get the feeling they haven't really thought things through?

So the talking heads on FOX appear to believe that tragedies such as what we witnessed at VTech could be averted—or at least more quickly ended—by, basically, arming everybody. "If one of those students had a gun," Geraldo opined to a nodding Bill O'Reilly tonight, "he could've plugged the guy." It's a view that I've heard expressed with some regularity, of late, by law-and-order types who are frustrated and outraged by what happened in Virginia.

OK, fine. I guess I buy the idea that every time a latent psycho goes berserk at a school and embarks on a senseless murder spree in which he kills a dozen-or-so people, which happens at least—well, three times, now, in U.S. history—the calamity could be brought to an end by an armed student, or teacher, or passerby, or street person.

What about the rest of the time?? Are you freakin' kidding me? Do you really derive comfort from envisioning a campus full of armed binge drinkers? How many chest-thumping incidents that are now settled with a push and a shove, or maybe a few inept college-boy punches, would be solved instead, and irrevocably, with a 9-millimeter? Even if more guns do help us tamp down on the Columbines, how many innocents are bound to get caught in the cross-fire of the mini-skirmishes that arise on any given weekend over girls and games and grades and scratched cars? Add to that the accidents that inevitably would result from turning your typical frat house into the Corleone Family's gun closet. Add to that the convenience of having a sidearm around when you're planning a date-rape. And finally, how many felons who couldn't get guns through the usual means would come to regard colleges as candy stores—sneaking into dorms while the kids are in class and looking for anything that fires bullets? (Oh wait, I forget: The students are all carrying their guns to class. And won't that be nice for the profs! But then, of course, the profs will be packin' heat, too. Uh-huh.... Great campus atmosphere.)

No offense intended to our ultra-responsible younger readers, but speaking in generalities, it's bad enough that these kids drive and have sex. Now the guy wants to arm them all?

Having written most of this post in a voice somewhere between snide and insufferable, let me concede here that this is another one of those very difficult issues. Emotions run high. So at this point one hesitates to dismiss any possible solution out of hand. But people, come on. There are no push-button fixes here. And if there are, certainly Geraldo's isn't one of them.


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Cal said...

You hit the nail on the head with this one, Steve. I have seen how the prevalence of guns have made life miserable in black communities across this country. Stanley Crouch said recently that 10,000 black people have been killed in LA since 1980 by guns. Many of the killings have been on impulse. That is why you have these stupid "Stop Snitchin" campaigns and the fear of witnesses testifying in criminal cases. Many parents are fearful of letting their kids out to play, which leads to obesity and other health issues since P.E. has been diminished in many schools. When you get men, especially young men, who do not have complete control of their emotions with weapons the results are always bad. I know your post isn't about race, but I think Fox News needs to seriously re-think this suggestion. If I want to live in an armed place, I'll just move to Beirut. This is a very difficult time, but it seems to me that cooler heads are not prevailing.

Steve Salerno said...

On the other hand, I do have to say that perhaps FOX can sometimes be forgiven its rather hysterical tone, as it must see itself as the lone voice of dissent (or, oddly, moderation?) in an American media that really does treat most issues as if only one intelligent, enlightened point of view exists. This morning, for example, an ABC anchorperson intro'd a follow-up on VTech by observing, "Many wonder whether a more sensible approach to gun control would prevent disasters such as we saw this week." Stated in that manner--in the anchorperson's (and thus the network's) own voice--that is an editorial pretending to be a headline. He was saying that the nation's current policy is "less sensible." (You and I may agree, but it's not ABC's job to deliver that verdict.) And why the word "sensible"? Why not "restrictive"? So I switch the channel, and there's CNN's Betty Nguyen saying, "At some point, America wants to know, is gun control the ultimate solution to such tragedies?"

"America" wants to know? Or CNN wants to know?

And why ask THAT question? Why not ask, as Geraldo did, whether more guns are the solution? Understand, I'm not reversing myself and siding with Geraldo/FOX here. I'm simply saying, it isn't the newsman's job to suggest to us what he or she thinks the answers are. The newsman should just report what happens. And in fairness, remember: The whole point of O'Reilly's show is commentary. But if you're watching the "news" on CNN or ABC, you should expect to get honest coverage, not just a different kind of commentary. To no small degree, it was the liberal-tinged reporting of the three networks and CNN that made FOX News viable in the first place.

Anonymous said...

Steve, I was going to give you kudos for this post until I read the comment you just added about CNN etc. So which side of this are you on? I get what you're saying about fairness but it doesn't seem like you can have it both ways with an issue like this.

Steve Salerno said...

If, after what I've written here, you can ask me "which side I'm on," then no, you do NOT understand what I'm saying about fairness. Where I stand on the issue itself is a very different matter from where I stand on the media's handling of that issue.

Mr. Spin said...

Thought the Taliban or at least some pissed of special forces posing as Taliban picked off Geraldo for the little stunt he pulled in Afghanistan.

If we were all pack'n heat -- imagine what would have happened to Gerado during his nose-busting incident?

We wouldn't be having this discussion -- at least one would hope.

Anonymous said...

What makes these talking heads think that we can prevent and/or minimize these very rare (hence newsworthy) act? That's pretty arrogant to think "somebody should have connected the dots and prevented this from happening." There are over 300 million people in the country; and millions of them are teetering on various slopes of instability. That's an awful lot of dots to connect.

The truth is we can't detect and prevent every horrible act

Steve Salerno said...

I think Anon nails it here--demoraliizing as the realization may be. In a free, open and borderless society of 300 million people--and a society that, b/c of its inherent nature and commitment to freedom (the Patriot Act notwithstanding) can only go so far in policing the hearts and minds of its citizenry--there is no way to have a "zero tolerance" approach to violence prevention. If they were to ban guns outright, and somehow make it enforceable, the next crazy would strap a home-made bomb to himself and walk into a school assembly.

The same applies to terrorism. Sooner or later we'll be hit again.

RevRon's Rants said...

It's certainly tempting to posit a knee-jerk "solution" to a tragedy such as the one at V-Tech. IMHO, such reactionary "fixes," such as rigid gun control, arming students & faculty, or imposing a structure inconsistent with our most basic principles would be as bad as doing nothing at all - possibly worse.

Along the "nothing at all" lines, in a recent article, Willam F. Buckley wrote, "We need, then, to return to the paradox: The most modern scientific methods aren't refined enough to discover the most dangerous people in our society. Pretty soon we'll forget, not the horror of what happened, but the presumption that we can discover and attack evil, other than by the cultivation of biblical rules for human behavior."

This "paradox" exists only if one's thinking is limited to stark black and white, vis a vis since no effort is foolproof, it is useless to make any effort at all. Admittedly, no set of evaluation criteria is capable of identifying and screening all potential perpetrators of crimes such as the V-Tech killings, yet any number of even partially-effective mechanisms could have been in place that would have reduced the potential for such an event to occur.

1) A more comprehensive qualification process before an individual can purchase a firearm, the database utilized containing the names of people who have been diagnosed with potentially explosive psychiatric disorders. While some might argue that a diagnosed bout of depression would disqualify an individual whose malady has been cured, such reservations could be allayed by the patient's name being removed from the database after 2 or more qualified diagnosticians certified that the individual no longer suffered from any psychiatric disorder. While I'm certain that the medical community would object to accepting any culpability, should a "cured" patient go on to commit a crime, I feel that the greater need of society should outweigh the preference of the AMA.

2) Anonymous hotlines for reporting individuals whose actions suggest they might pose a threat. The anonymity would restrict hotlines from divulging callers' identities, while maintaining those identities as a safeguard against false or vengeance reports. While I'm aware that this poses the potential for contradicting a person's right to face his or her accuser, exemption from this right would be implicit until such time as the accused enters the criminal justice process. The caller would be handled much in the same way as are the confidential informants or "whistleblowers" routinely involved in LE investigations.

3) Issuance of CC exclusionary exemptions to students and faculty/staff who are also trained LE officers and advanced security personnel, which would remove from these individuals any restriction on concealed carry while on campus. Such training could even be implemented within the academic framework, possibly granting partial tuition subsidies to those who complete these courses & pass the certification process. In essence, you would gain additional security personnel for a minimal investment.

4) Finally, perhaps a more proactive student outreach program could be implemented, wherein individuals who have exhibited overly aggressive tendencies are counseled by professionals, and even required to attend on-campus group sessions, where they would have the opportunity to discuss their problems, while being evaluated for recommendations of follow-up care, if appropriate. This type of program could also be integrated within the academic structure, utilizing qualified faculty and graduate students, thus keeping the costs lower than retaining an in-house psychiatrist. Such a program would not be limited to the "Cho's," but would also be utilized to evaluate, educate, and if necessary, treat those individuals who excessively tease or bully.

Even with all these steps implemented, there would still be occurrences such as the V-Tech murders; some would inevitably be missed and slip through the cracks. But I would challenge anyone to stand before the friends & families of victims and justify why their loved ones died because a set of procedures that could have saved their lives was rejected because it wouldn't have been 100% effective.