Monday, April 16, 2007

Sympathy for Virginia Tech

Incredible that someone could have such unfocused hatred. Incredible that after shooting over 40 people, the rage is unsatisfied and the shooter still feels the need to shoot. Phenomenal level of depersonalization, those people screaming, they're not really people. How can you line up and shoot people you don't have a specific reason to despise? I can understand being willing to kill if you're threatened, but to line people up and shoot them one after another? Boggles.

There's a natural desire to want to place the shooter outside the human experience, maybe he had a mental illness, he's a fanatic, he played too many video games, etc. I'm not going to draw any inferences about the shooter's motivations or background, at this point that's rather a secondary issue. There are no motivations or explanations that justify this. This will all come out in the next few weeks. Some people have noted that "Asian" is a code-word in the media for "Muslim", at least in Europe. That's the description given by students, so I don't think they're covering up for anything, sometimes "Asian" just refers to one of about 2.5 billion people who share slightly darker skin than Caucasians and an epicanthic fold. The religion issue is also secondary, premature and largely irrelevant at this point, IMO. The blame lies squarely on the person with the murderous intent, no other factor is anywhere near as significant as the decision to kill in a random fashion.

There are some truths that can already be derived. The media is passing around terms like "massacre", I wonder what else they expect when unsuspecting and unarmed people are stuck in a building with someone armed and in a mental state to kill randomly. It's worth noting that in 2006 a bill in the Virgina Legislature that would have allowed college students and others who had a Virginia Concealed Carry Permit to carry on campus was defeated. Accompanying that bill is a now-unfortunate statement by a VT spokesman:

Virginia Tech spokesman Larry Hincker was happy to hear the bill was defeated. "I'm sure the university community is appreciative of the General Assembly's actions because this will help parents, students, faculty and visitors feel safe on our campus."

Right. May have been true at the time, but it didn't seem to help this morning. And the irony is that there was an increased police presence on campus to investigate the first shooting that occurred around 7am while the second and much larger shooting was taking place across campus two hours later. It's hard to conceive of a more ideal situation in terms of law enforcement response time, but nevertheless we're up to 31 innocents and one scum-sucking dirtbag dead even with the police present.

The ugly truth of public mass murders is that the only thing that will reliably stop someone armed with a gun is someone else armed with a gun. This is one of the reasons that people seek out concealed carry permits in the first place. Rather than making areas safer for people, declaring some places "Gun-Free Zones" is hanging out a "Free Buffet!" sign for wanna-be mass murderers. Pretty much by definition, a gun-free zone is the perfect place to commit a mass shooting, because all of your law-abiding victims will be unarmed. If you follow the law you won't be armed when you're there. If you don't follow the law the "NO FIREARMS" sign is good for a laugh as you walk by, and buys you several more minutes of resistance-free mayhem.

Even under ideal circumstances, with one armed person in each classroom, you're still going to lose some people when a mass-murderer goes off. The first attack is basically free, because there just isn't enough time to respond. You have to realize that, yes, you've been shot at or even shot, and then try to figure out what to do about that. The shooter knows what they're doing, you need to go from Remsburg's Condition White to Condition Orange, and then to Condition Red as appropriate. If you're a concealed carry permit holder and armed, your job is to see to the safety of those around you, and prepare to stop the threat with what you have at hand. The Bad Guy will get the first shot, always.

After reading about the Tueller Drill, after 9/11 and Columbine, it's amazing to me that anyone lets themselves be herded around by a gun-wielding person who's within 10 feet. It's horrible to read of students lined up and shot execution-style, that should never happen. And it's not the students' fault, they've never been trained to respond to force with force. And I don't mean they're not Marines, or black-belt holders, I mean nobody has ever looked them in the eyes and told them that when they're being lined up by a gun-wielding person in a school, they're already dead. They can die fighting or they can just die. The folks on Flight 93 understood this, "Let's Roll" should be the title for a school defense course. The Burleson ISD in Burleson, Texas has an active school defense plan, how much better would this work with a classroom full of 18-25 year old students?

The shooting today at VT is one step below the Beslan hostage crisis, and it's an example that as good and as dedicated as our police officers are, they just aren't prepared for a situation like this. US police in hostage situations are trained to contain and negotiate, there are only a few teams in the nation that are trained to go into a school and find and kill a shooter that is determined to kill or be killed. The FBI's Hostage Rescue Team could do it, but they're three hours by air from where I live. The Army's Delta teams could handle it, they're usually overseas. Maybe, maybe, SWAT from Los Angeles or NYC or Dallas could do it, but they're just too far away. The shootings in Norris Hall took only 20-30 minutes to complete, meaning that there is functionally no time to assemble an intervention of highly-trained people when the flag goes up. If you start hearing what sounds like firecrackers, you have: 1) you, and 2) what you have with you. My advice if you're unarmed is to comply only enough to get yourself within range, and then attack with everything you have until you're dead or he's dead.

It's not too hard to imagine that a group the size of the 9/11 hijackers (19-20 people) could simultaneously take over 5-10 schools in a single day, and cause a Beslan-style slaughter in each place. The only thing that has a chance of stopping them is someone else with a gun who will try to kill them before they can kill any more people. CCW permits should be universal and unhindered, CCW permit holders are pretty much by definition the most law-abiding people you'll find next to the people who own Federally-registered automatic weapons. If you really want to stop school violence, that's the best bet the public has. Not only is it free, but we pay for the privilege.

Sympathy and prayers for the students and their families.

PS: Maybe this is an example of why the UCLA cops were so quick to incapacitate someone who was loud and disruptive. They go to school every day thinking "This might be the day someone cracks." Today was the day for Virginia Tech.

Jack Bauer Tally: Hours 15, 16 and 17

Even though I've been out of town and busy (cruise, we'll get to that in a future post), Jack's been hard at work.

In Hour 15, Jack tracked down the guy who was trying to hack into the security protocols for a nuclear power plant, and managed to find out that it was actually his autistic brother doing the hacking. To insure the meet went down with Gredenko to transfer the data, Jack used Autistic Brother as bait. After a brief shootout, including a shot through the window of an open car door, Jack captured Gredenko and used Gredenko to get a location on Fayed. Bonus point for a shot through the window.

The CTU guys injected Gredenko's left arm with a radioactive tracer and let him meet Fayed at the Santa Monica Pier. Gredenko dumped his wire and had Fayed's guys cut off his arm with the marker in it so that he couldn't be tracked. Fayed and Gredenko went to leave through a bar, at which point Gredenko ratted out Fayed and the bar patrons charged him, Fayed shot a couple of them but unaccountably his gun was empty after a couple of rounds and Fayed was subdued. Gredenko got away in the melee and died under the pier. On the way into Fayed's meet-up spot, Jack capped a couple of bad guys, including a called headshot (Jack's actual words were "Show me your head"). Bonus for the called headshot.

Jack realized he couldn't torture Fayed to cough up in time (torture really doesn't work for this sort of thing, particularly on True Believers), so he and Mike Doyle set up a false-flag operation to get Fayed to talk. One of the CTU agents pretending to be on Fayed's side made the mistake of giving him a loaded pistol, and well, that ended badly. To secure Fayed's cooperation, the President bullied the Ambassador of Unnamedistan into threatening to kill a General arrested for complicity in the Fayed attacks by threatening to kill his kids. Apparently there was a code word exchanged, so Fayed killed the team that was with him, shot a garbageman and stole a truck, heading off to meet with the rest of his team and get the last two bombs.

Jack secreted himself under the truck and right next to the transmission, which made it hard for him to be heard when he radioed CTU. When the truck arrived at the destination, Jack neck-snapped the flunky detailed to guard the truck, shot the last five guys and ended up going hand-to-hand with Fayed when both of their pistols were empty. After taking yet another beating, Jack managed to sling a chain around Fayed's neck and winch him to his asphyxiatory demise. Bombs secured, world saved.

And then came the call from the one person Jack actually wants to kill: the Chinese guy who kidnapped him in the first place, and who has Audrey Raines in his evil clutches. According to the previews, Jack's going to have to fight CTU and everybody to go after Audrey, something tells me the Chinese are going to offer to trade her for him. The stage is set for the last six hours, and something tells me that by the time Jack is done the list of "Greatest Killers of the Chinese People" will go something like this:

1. Mao Zedong.
2. The Empire of Japan, 1931-1945 (tie)
2. Jack Bauer (tie)
4. Bubonic plague.

Technical Notes

1. Never give someone you don't trust a functional pistol. Removing the striker and/or firing pin is a good way to make a pistol look usable but in actuality be completely useless, other than as a way to club people at close range. Unprimed, unloaded ammo (i.e., a bullet in an empty case) is another option. Given the short period of time available, you can disassemble a Glock and remove the striker within 5 minutes, that's the route I would have gone.

2. The CTU folks would have been better served with a radiotracer like FDG, a tracer used in PET imaging. It's a sugar analogue that is taken up all over the body within half an hour, and the energy it produces is pretty high -- 512 kEV. This means it will be emitted right though walls, etc., it's pretty active and it can't be defeated by cutting off an arm. Half-life is relatively short, but it would be enough for a properly-equipped airborne detector to spot for a couple of hours.

3. Jack and Fayed both shot their pistols empty. Jack should have been carrying a spare magazine, or the "New York Reload" of another pistol. When yours goes empty, just pull out #2 and get after it. Jack should know better. Concealed carry people: YOU ARE UNDERDRESSED IF YOU DON'T HAVE A SPARE MAG.

The Score so far:

Biting A Carotid9.0 -1 for lack of Universal Protocol
Shooting Curtis-8-10 own goal, +2 neck shot over a hostage
Shooting guard while handcuffed7.0+2 for while handcuffed
Handgun6.0+1 for saving hostages (Milo & Graeme's wife)
Handgun7.0+2 for disarm
Handgun6.0+1 for suppressor, because suppressors are cool
Handgun6.0+1 for suppressor
Handgun6.0+1 for through car window
Handgun10.0+5 for called headshot
Neck Snap7.0Always cool.
Handgun5.0Fayed henchman
Handgun5.0Fayed henchman
Handgun5.0Fayed henchman
Handgun5.0Fayed henchman
Handgun5.0Fayed henchman
Length of Chain8.0Strangled Fayed

Jack's getting back on track, Hour 17 is pretty much midseason form for prior seasons.