The New Abnormal: School Shootings and Fire Alarms

Here’s what we have come to now. We need to have a cost-benefit analysis with Bayesian statistics to determine whether it is better for children in school to ignore a fire alarm and possibly be trapped in a burning building, or to file outside in an orderly fashion where they may be shot by somebody with a firearm (or several) who pulled the fire alarm. Both fires and mass shootings are relatively rare events, so it isn’t obvious which is the best option.

The point of the above is that, given no other changes in the status quo, what behavior that one might change would reduce injury and death in our schoolchildren and teachers? Because our government has quite clearly indicated that no other changes in the status quo will be tolerated.

Well, that isn’t quite right. There are changes in the status quo that will be tolerated, but none of them promise to help improve the outlook for schoolchildren and teachers to avoid having to encounter a killer or killers with firearms. And given the long-standing prohibition on use of public funds or resources to research firearms as a public health issue, we probably won’t even be able to do the calculation mentioned above, even though we need it.

Prediction: we’ll end up with a system where tripping an alarm at a school is considered simply a warning that either a fire or some armed assault is imminent, and another announcement will be needed to confirm which of the two is actually the case. The schoolchildren and teachers will have already expended all the thoughts and prayers necessary for the event in the time it takes between notice of one or the other calamity and its end. The notion that anyone else could have thoughts and prayers after the fact of anywhere near the sincerity of those that happened on the scene is simply grotesque. What is required after the fact is action, not pointless spewing of platitudes.

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Wesley R. Elsberry

Falconer. Interdisciplinary researcher: biology and computer science. Photographer. Husband. Christian. Activist.

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