Thursday, April 19, 2007

When Bullets Fly

Why didn't the students at Virginia Tech rush Cho when he started firing? Why were so many of them so passive?

I've been reading that question on several of the conservative blogs I follow. And many are blaming our culture and "government schools" for making those who fight back in self-defense as guilty as the instigator.

My family is painfully familiar with phenomenon, which is not limited to public schools. In fact, I've told my children as they've grown up that "he who throws the second punch gets caught."

101 California Street is not too far from where I work. In July of 1993, 55-y.o. businessman burst into a law firm on the 34th floor of that building and killed eight people and himself. Six others were injured. Along with earthquake safety and fire drills, we now have instruction on what to do when someone comes in and threatens your office.

The accepted wisdom is to lie low and lie still so you are out of sight of the shooter. Shooters seem to have tunnel vision, shooting what is directly in front of them or what "catches their eye" in their peripheral vision. Taking cover takes you out of the scene.

Or so the theory goes.

Are school shooters, who tend to be teens or young adults, have a different mode than adult shooters? We know that adolescent/young adult brains are not completely myelinated--could that cause differences in how shooters choose their targets? Office furniture is more solid appearing than school desks and would hide a person more completely. Or does hiding only work if the shooter doesn't realize you're there in the first place?

Maybe we do need to teach our children when fighting is an appropriate response. Perhaps bullying is on the increase because our children have been encouraged to "tell an adult" and let the adult handle it rather than take care of the situation themselves. Beating up (either physically or verbally or strategically) a bully empowers a child. They realize they can handle the situation. Telling an adult keeps them children. And makes the adult authority figure the referee, responsible for righting all wrongs in the world. (You can't do it--I've tried.)

What would I do? Probably duck and cover. If children were involved, I think--I hope!--I would attempt to protect them. No matter how old the children are.

Meanwhile, I think I need to have a discussion with my children about what to do when crazy people attack.