Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Turning school kids into sitting ducks.

The shooting at the Amish school in Pennsylvania is truly shocking. It is shocking because it is the very antithesis of how the Amish have lived for some centuries: non-violently. This sect of the Anabaptist movement lives on in various enclaves in the United States where many Amish immigrated to avoid conscription and war in Europe where the sect has died out. Not all Anabaptists were non-violent, in fact the first real communist dictatorship in Europe was a bloody regime controlled by a sect of Anabaptists. But the Amish in America have been a peaceful people who merely want to live in a century that passed long ago.

Charles Roberts took a pistol and walked into the one room schoolhouse and ordered the boys and various adults out. He then tied up the girls and when police arrived commenced executing the bound girls.

Why the Amish? We can never fully know why Roberts would pick on these people. It is mere conjecture that he did so because they were convenient. But there could be more.

If one is going to hold a group of people hostage and it’s just you against the world you want to make sure you have more fire power than they do. I am not endorsing that view just stating the facts. You don’t walk into a police station and start grabbing hostages because you know you are outgunned. But with the Amish being well known pacifists walking into an Amish school is a relatively simple thing. You are absolutely assured that no one there is armed. Nor would the Amish farmers who live in the area be armed. So even if the adults ran for help it would be Amish farmers sworn to a code of non-violence against you and your gun.

The Amish are a people who willingly disarmed themselves as a community. It isn’t that some Amish are armed and some are not. To be Amish is to repudiate any use of violence even in self-defence. Surely Roberts, who lived near these people, knew this.

There is another advantage in attacking an Amish school for the would be lunatic. They shun the use of modern electrical devices. There would be no telephone. Neither would anyone at the school, adult or child, have a cell phone with them. They would have to run to the nearest farmhouse belonging to one of “the English” (as they call the surrounding community of non-believers). I don’t know how far this was as no reports tell us. the media merely report that a woman released from the school ran to a nearby farm to have the police called. Precious minutes were lost thus allowing Roberts to barricade himself in.

We can not enter the mind of this man but he told his wife, who he spoke to on his cell phone, that he was doing this because two decades earlier he said he molested two girls who were relatives. Two decades earlier meant he was child himself. So did this childhood act drive him to this? Killing the girls would imply he blamed girls for the actions he did as a small boy. It’s hard to say and largely irrelevant except to try and make sense out of this senseless act.

We should remember that a lone gunman attacked the campus of Appalachian School of Law in Grundy, Virginia. He shot six people and killed three of them. Two students had guns in their cars and ran to the vehicles and retrieved them. They approached the man from different directions and told him to put down his weapon. When he saw they were armed he placed his weapon on the ground and put his hands in the air. When a third unarmed man tried to restrain him the gunman attacked the man. But he surrendered to the two students with weapons.

One of those students said he was not allowed to carry his weapon otherwise he would have been able to end this much sooner. The first shooting took place across from the classroom where he was sitting. But he had to run to his vehicle and run back, by which time three people had been killed. Media reports on the shooting notoriously removed all mention of the gunman surrendering when he faced armed students.

Schools are “gun free zones” zones in America. So if you wish to make a “splash”, die notoriously, but kill a lot of people at one time then schools are a prime target. There are a large number of people confined to a small area. You know exactly where they are and you can know that they are unarmed. Not even adults licensed to carry weapons are allowed to have them in a school. The suicidal nut case can kill a lot of people long before anyone who is armed arrives. And what brings an end to these attacks? --- the arrival of men with weapons.

I don’t believe that students should be bringing weapons to class. But I do think that it is sane and responsible to have adults, trained in the use of weapons, to have access to them. Over and over we see that people intent on killing can arrive and start killing people instantly. Depending on how many bullets they have they can pick off a large number of people in a relatively short period of time. By the time police arrive, even if it only takes minutes, dozens of people can be dead.

Now if these people are intent on killing, and killing large numbers of people why don’t they just walk into movie theatres or shopping malls and start randomly picking people off? Such things are much rarer than school shootings. Perhaps it is because shopping malls often have armed guards. And those that don’t invariably have armed customers. Once you are outside gun free zones you find lots of people with weapons on them for self protection. Suddenly you are no longer so sure about your ability to carry out your plan. Best then to stick with the schools. You know the government has stripped them of weapons and turned the students and faculty into sitting ducks.

There are laws which prevent good people from being armed. To carry a weapon in these gun free zones can bring heavy fines and possible jail time. This does not discourage the lunatic who is intent on dying. He is ready to face death in his campaign to kill so a fine isn’t going to worry him. By definition the legislation does nothing to stop the kind of people who have been targeting schools. It only disarms those adults at the school with a strong incentive to protect the kids.