April 19, 2007 By: erik Category: Musings, Politics, USA 904 views

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I’d like to continue the discussion from my Gun Laws post. I just read this interesting post by Paul Phillips (including the comments), and I think my opinion on “What should be done to prevent these incidents?” is: Nothing.

He brings up a good point about Bayesian inference, something I re-learned a few months ago for an AI project. Read this next bit carefully: Just because the percentage of school shooters that write disturbing material is high does not mean that the probability that someone who writes disturbing material will become a school shooter is high. This is a common fallacy in how humans perform probabilistic reasoning. It’s not immediately obvious and can seem counterintuitive. Accusingly investigating every instance of disturbing writing by a teenager is definitely not the right course of action. The result would be further restriction of liberty for the illusion of more safety, something the government seems to favor.

The other good point he makes is that these school shootings are extremely rare. Fearing them is as illogical as fearing a terrorist attack or a plane crash. It’s just not going to happen to you. Worrying about car crashes or heart disease or cancer is a much better use of your fretting.

I agree with Uncle Steve that everyone that carries a concealed firearm should go through a training course and get a permit. The problem is that, because our society is so relatively peaceful, so few people feel the need to go through that process to get firearm permission. I, luckily, have never felt so threatened that I needed to have a gun for my own protection. And I think I’m in the majority on this. So, until our society gets more violent, school shooting prevention by way of armed bystanders isn’t really going to happen.

So to answer the question of, “What should we do about this?” My answer is, “Mourn the dead and remind yourself how rare these events are.” And that’s it.

  • Paul

    The answer to the question “What should we do about this?” was given to us by the Amish after their terrible school shooting. All victims (I include the families in this, and to some extent, all of us who care) should attempt to emulate the incredible dignity shown by the Amish. The grandfather of one girl shot said, on the day of the shooting, “We must not think evil of this man”. The Amish set up a charity for the family of the shooter. The fathers of the girls killed visited the family of the shooter and asked what they could do to help them.

    This is how terrorism is defeated – not by declaring war.

  • I’d forgotten about the Amish thing. Thanks for that reminder. Yep. You gotta fight violence with love. Lennon and Gandhi knew it. I can’t remember who, but some guy a long time ago said,

    You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also.

    There are some moral gems in that book, in amongst all the silliness.