There are only two ways to respond to a mass shooting. You can either be a reactionary/emotionally-driven person or analytical/tactical. The reactionary will do things ranging from hashtag campaigns to calls for yet more laws (which future mass murdering freaks will swiftly break).
The tactically-minded will analyze the event, acknowledging that laws didn’t stop the actor and that there was little to no physical security. He will look into what motivated the shooter, how he acquired his tools and what (if any) push back he saw. Above all, the tactically-minded will propose solutions well beyond hoping the murderer will obey brand new laws.
In short, the emotional will propose new laws, and the tactically-minded will prepare for when those laws inevitably fail.
(Incidentally, before we go anywhere: Not supporting useless laws is not the same as supporting the abolition of all laws. We have laws to punish murder, not tell ourselves law can prevent murder. Law. Can’t. Prevent.)
We have gone over the tactical profile of high-profile shootings in the past in Newtonian, Radicalized, and Broadcast. This week, we are doing things a little differently. We will still profile the shooting, of course, but it is also worthwhile to look at the incredible deflections we’re seeing in the media, as facts about race and religion that had previously resulted in wall-to-wall coverage suddenly don’t seem all that worth discussing in this case. Additionally, the media seems more intent on digging through Sheriff John Hanlin’s past than focusing on what actually happened.
As with previous Tactical Reviews, leave your emotions at the door. Outrage has no place here. This week, we focus on the shooting in Roseburg, Oregon.
1.) Targeting. The basics discussed in Newtownian still apply. A man presented a ton of force, was presented with almost no force (barring a single unarmed officer), and proceed to murder people uninterrupted because nobody was able to defend themselves. The shooter did not appear to have a grudge against the school specifically, in fact most accounts place his motive as a mix of hate and borderline nihilism. He was, by all accounts, an extremely angry and depressed man.
His online postings also suggest that he was interested in the actions of mass shooters and looked to get the same kind of fame they did.
In one post on the blog about Vester Flanagan, the man who killed the reporter and cameraman in Virginia, Mercer apparently wrote, “I have noticed that so many people like [Flanagan] are alone and unknown, yet when they spill a little blood, the whole world knows who they are. A man who was known by no one, is now known by everyone. His face splashed across every screen, his name across the lips of every person on the planet, all in the course of one day. Seems like the more people you kill, the more you’re in the limelight.”
Incidentally, this is why we don’t name mass shooters around here. Let them burn in obscurity, good only for examining how to defeat future mass shooters.
2.) Control. One of the primary motives for a mass shooter to select defenseless targets is that they have complete control of a building almost the instant they enter it. Nobody can stop them, nobody can really stand up to them. They are in control of everything, including when it starts and when it ends. (The carnage usually ends, as it did in this case, when the shooter kills himself. Usually this happens when the police arrive. Also known as when overwhelming opposing force presents itself.)
This shooter’s own writings suggested that he saw himself at the bottom of the totem pole. For a few minutes, he had total control of the building.
3.) Media. Despite all that, barely anyone is looking at the lack of security, or that all of the guns were purchased legally in a state with Universal Background Checks.
No, the focus seems to be on the county sheriff. Specifically his posting of a Sandy Hook conspiracy video and his staunch belief that gun control was useless. (The latter would later see support from two other extremely blunt sheriffs, Polk County, Florida’s Grady Judd and Milwaulkee Wisconsin’s David Clarke. The latter of whom called for the abolition of gun-free schools
But there are two other things that seem to suggest a bias in the majority of the media coverage. RedState has a great piece out entitled “The Shooter Targeted Christians. But How Did He Get His Guns?” (For the record, every last one of the guns authorities linked to him was confirmed to have been bought legally.)
The other part worth noting is a mass killing in China where over 50 are dead and 50 others injured. Although mass stabbings are “not uncommon in such places as China,”
as Politifact learned after the Charleston shooting looking into Obama’s statement that “This type of mass violence does not happen in other advanced countries. It doesn’t happen in other places with this kind of frequency.” Apparently, it most certainly does.
Mass stabbings. Again, anything can be a weapon, and anything can be lethal. We’ve discussed that in the past as well.
4.) Prevention. The only prevention of violence is physical deterrent. A person willing to murder is not impacted by its illegality. A person willing to murder who has also factored in his own suicide is most definitely not concerned with it, since all punishments are ex post facto (unless we punish someone for what they “might” do) and therefore don’t bother a man who is going to kill himself after the attack.
Even if a physical deterrent fails to deter an attack, deterrent can easily switch to defense and begin responding to an actor almost immediately. Proposing laws to stop people intent on first-degree murder is illogical. It feels good because it’s “doing something” regardless of whether that “something” has any real impact.
Virtually every high-profile shooting centers around three things: they all have a motive, they all had a plan, and every firearm involved was legal.
None of them are senseless, none of them are random, and none of them cared too much about the illegality of their actions. If we truly intend to defend against attackers, we need to do a fair bit more than wave heavier stacks of paper in their face, and work to actively deter an attacker.
Deter the attacker, and if that fails make his life hell.
Stay informed. Stay alert. Stay free.