How Can We Prevent a Mass Shooting or Killing?
In recent times, there have been several shootings were a large number of people were either hurt or killed from another person armed with some kind of weapon. Some of these events are very much fresh in our minds and hearts, such as the recent (as to the time of this article) Newtown, Connecticut Elementary School shooting.
Do we just sit and wait as political sides point fingers at each other? Or do we take action? Good question, right? More importantly, is there anything that we, as individuals, can do to make our immediate environments safer? The answer is Yes and it’s called Collective Target Hardening*.
I am writing solely for a personal defense (self-defense) purpose. This article is going to be politically neutral with no other agenda other than to protect ourselves, period.
First, we must examine the problem BEFORE we come to a solution.
The Problem: Unanticipated and uninterrupted attacks by armed assailants resulting in mass casualties.
So far, almost every attack was a surprise and uninterrupted and completed prior to police arrival. The only time we knew about the attack was when it already happened and we are left grieving the aftermath. So far, we have been defenseless and open for attack each and every time. Unless something happened to interrupt the incident, the attacker was able to finish their attack.
Can our local governments really save us or are we totally defenseless? There are many different, but important, factors that increase the chances of an attack. Here are some of them:
Limited Government Protection.
Every town or city has some sort of Law Enforcement. However, the population vastly outnumber the actively patrolling Law Enforcement Officers (LEO’s). For example, there are approximately 1800 (less who are actually patrolling) LEO’s for the City of San Diego servicing a city population of approximately 1.37 million people (as of 2011). Now consider the large amount of radio calls in a large city. What do you think the chances of an Officer proactively detecting and stopping an attack before it happens? Probably not too good, right? Think about how many times have you said, “Where’s a cop when you need one?”
Does that mean we are pretty much left to fend for ourselves? In an way, yes. Even if we do call the police, we have to wait anxiously for every minute that passes as the seconds of brutality unfold and come to completion before our very eyes.
The Bystander Effect.
You might have noticed a good majority of people take the bystander approach to events. They expect “others” to take action instead of them. Have you ever wondered why is that? Here is a theory. There is a psychological term for that. That theory is called, “The Bystander Effect.”
In summary, the Bystander Effect is the psychological phenomenon were people as a group tend to diffuse individual responsibility for action (such as not calling the police while witnessing a crime) and places that responsibility onto “someone else”. A perfect example of the Bystander Effect occurred during the Kitty Genovese’s case in New York City in 1964. An entire apartment complex witnessed the two consecutive attacks on Kitty by the SAME attacker in public on the street. No one called the police to report the attacks because “someone else was going to do it.”
Unrealistic Expectations of Others.
How many times have we heard, “That person’s health care provider should have notified the police if they knew”?
Let’s think about this. What if you we were that person’s therapist? Would you risk losing your career or risk getting sued for violating medical confidentiality laws, such as HIPAA, because of disclosing patient confidential information just on a potential threat? What if we’re wrong? Honestly if we are not willing to take the risk, then we shouldn’t expect someone else to do it either. Is that fair to say? Also, wouldn’t that just be another manifestation of the Bystander Effect? Leaving it for someone else? Honestly.
What about the people who witnessed the shooting of the Portland, Oregon Mall shooting and ran out without reporting it? It would be safe to assume that self-preservation was the first and foremost concern. No doubt. But, if we are not willing to help maybe we shouldn’t expect others too either, right? However, there were individuals that did heroic acts, which aided in the successful saving of lives during this incident (discussed soon below).
Now that we have discussed the Problem and the possible reasons why people don’t take action, let’s talk about the Solution. Let’s discuss Collective Target Hardening*.
The Solution: Collective Target Hardening
*Definition: Collective Target Hardening is the making of any area a difficult target for hostile actions or attacks by continual surveillance and instantaneous reporting of suspicious behavior by its occupants to prevent, deter and interrupt criminal activity.
Basically, we all take part and ownership of making our immediate surroundings a safe environment for us all. A great example of this is neighborhood crime watches and other citizen safety patrols, such as the famous Guardian Angels. Of course, you don’t need to be a para-militaristic or organized group. All you have to be is an aware citizen with a plan of action!
This system will save countless lives if used! Why is this system so effective? Here is why:
- It is fast and works in real time as events unfold.
- The system is available to everyone and everyone has access to it.
- The current emergency reporting systems (911) are already in place.
- Everyone has the ability to report what they believe is suspicious activity to the authorities.
- You can be actively involved without immediately placing yourself in harms way.
Examples of Collective Target Hardening:
Why did the police arrive within a minute of the first 911 calls at the Portland, Oregon Mall shooting? It was probably the several calls from witnesses at the scene that aided in such a quick response time. Collective Target Hardening*.
There are articles about an individual carrying a permitted concealed weapon who may have interrupted the Portland, Oregon Mall Shooter. Again, this not being a political article, just highlighting the claim of an individual taking action. Collective Target Hardening*.
Another citizen in the Portland, Oregon Mall Shooting was credited for helping others escape during the choas. Collective Target Hardening*.
(NOTE: I am not in any way saying or insinuating you confront any one, but what about being a good witness or reporter? There are things of action that can be done before, during and after such an event. Wouldn’t you agree?)
End State/ Summary
Collective Target Hardening allows us, the everyday citizen, to be in control of the safety of our environments. We become the eyes, ears and shields of our communities! How great is that?
Why must we wait and rely for “someone else” to help us or do something about it? If we saw something suspicious (such as a person in full body armor walking into a mall carrying two handguns) or a crime being committed, all I have to do is pick up a phone, right? Defying the Bystander Effect and taking individual action!
Remember, it is better for the police to receive 100 calls about a suspicious person than none, like in Kitty Genovese’s case, right?
We have system that works, which arms us with resources at our fingertips. It is time to take ownership of our own safety and turn the tables on the predators and those who intend to hurt us and our loved ones!
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