Just the Facts, Ma’am

With all of the debate going on regarding guns, school safety, and doing “something” I thought it might be helpful to have some facts to work with. So, without offering any opinion, I offer these twenty as a starter for you to work with. In no particular order:

  1. The gun homicide rate in the U.S. has been steadily declining from 7.0 per 100,000 people in 1993 to 3.4 in 2014. A decrease of over 50%. (Pew Research)
  2. Also since 1993, gun ownership has steadily risen from .94 guns per person to 1.45. An increase of over 50% (Pew Research)
  3. The 25 countries with the lowest private gun ownership rates have a composite intentional homicide rate more than twice that of those 25 nations with the highest per capita gun ownership rates. (Pew Research)
  4. 56% of all Americans think gun homicide rates have gone up. (Pew Research)
  5. As opposed to the national murder rate of 3.4 per 100K population the top ten major cities have murder rates ranging from 45 (Detroit) to 21 (Kansas City). (FBI 2014)
  6. All semi-automatic weapons have basically the same rate of fire; as fast as you can pull the trigger. This includes semi-automatic handguns, semi-automatic hunting rifles, and the AR-15.
  7. All fully automatic weapons (and conversions) are already banned in the U.S. with penalties of up to 10 years in prison, $250K fine, or both per weapon.
  8. Should the AR-15 be banned, there are dozens of semi-automatic hunting rifles with the exact same capabilities. The first online store I checked had two pages of them with 68 different models.
  9. In 2012 Chicago (last available year) 80% of the gun homicides were gang-related (Chicago police chief McCarthy).
  10. In Baltimore in 2017, “The average homicide suspect, meanwhile, had 9 previous arrests on his record. About 70 percent had drug arrests, and nearly half had been arrested for a violent crime. Nearly 36 percent were on parole or probation, and 6 percent were on parole or probation for a gun crime.” (Baltimore Sun)
  11. Since 1950, 98% of all mass shootings took place in gun-free zones. Mass shootings defined as more than 4 victims, not part of another crime, and not gang-related. (Center for Crime Research, raw data available).
  12. Beginning with Columbine, school shootings have spanned 18 years and four separate Presidents.
  13. A check on our current background check system showed that, for 630 of 631 randomly sampled state point of contact records, the state had not updated the system records to allow the FBI to determine whether a purchase should be approved or denied. (September 2016 DOJ audit).
  14. The difference between one 30-round magazine and three 10-round magazines being fired by a non-professional is approximately 10 seconds of down time to reload (2, averaging 5 seconds).
  15. The average school shooting lasts 12.5 minutes. (Homeland Security)
  16. The average police response time to a school shooting is 18 minutes. (Homeland Security)
  17. Thus far in 2018 in Chicago, on average a person has been shot and killed every 17 hours, 8 minutes. (running totals at HeyJackAss.com)
  18. Thus far in 2018, almost four times as many people have been shot and killed in Chicago (66) than were killed at the Parkland school shooting.
  19. In Israel you must be a citizen for three years before you can own a gun.
  20. According to one source, the country with the strictest gun laws is Jamaica (basically bans gun ownership) and it has one of the highest gun homicide rates in the world. Japan (probably the runner-up for most strict) has one of the lowest gun homicide rates. In both of these countries, the homicide rates predated the gun laws and passage of the gun laws did not affect homicides one way or the other.

I did my best to get back to an original and believable source for these. If any are in error please let me know.

You Keep Bickering in Washington – We’ll Take Care of This

After seeing yesterday’s White House “listening session” and watching the constantly escalating debate on guns, violence, and school shootings go totally viral the thought occurred to me that maybe we can solve a huge portion of this problem without government. A second later, it hit me. We can.

For those of you who have seen my take on this in other places you know I am in favor of hardening schools as targets to include multiple (and anonymous) armed staff within each school and controlled access points among other things. My belief is that, besides providing a last line of defense for our kids, it becomes a huge deterrent for a bad guy to know that there are armed people within the building who will oppose and kill him. I often remember a security expert who was on TV after 9/11 saying that the strongest security is sometimes just the appearance of security. A “gun free zone” and armed security are totally different incentive sets.There was, however, an article in this morning’s American Thinker which said that the cost of providing armed security would be prohibitive. Considering the total number of schools in the U.S., to provide the all with armed security guards it said. “If you pay them around $36,000 per year in salary, that yields a new annual cost of $9 billion.” My response is “OK, let’s do it.”

Link to the full article:   https://www.americanthinker.com/blog/2018/02/the_statistical_cost_of_providing_new_armed_security_for_public_schools.html#ixzz57qIz4Ujc

It probably would be a “prohibitive cost” if we asked the federal government to provide it. It would again become a political football with the “my team – your team” battles paralyzing everything over the $9 billion cost and political positioning. It’s about time we realized that our government is not able to do much of anything except try to get reelected. I suggest cutting the government out of the picture and taking care of it ourselves. How could the private sector possibly provide $9 billion per year, you ask? That’s crazy. Is it, really?

Let’s work backwards to get to that number. Allow me to point out that several universities have endowment funds with billions in assets. The most famous is the Harvard University endowment which has assets of $37 billion. Last year Harvard earned 8% on their money from that fund. M.I.T. earned 13% on theirs. These are funds that actually have grown over the years while earning millions in interest. Sounds like a good idea to me.

I propose the creation of a permanent non-revocable trust/endowment for the purpose of funding armed security guards for local school districts as well as arming and training school staff who volunteer to serve. Simply because it comes at this time in history let’s call it the “Parkland Fund.” How much would the fund need to “throw off” $9 billion per year? The fund could earn as much as 13% as M.I.T.’s did but let’s just say we could get a 10% return. That would require $90 billion in the fund. Can that even be done?! Well…….

To begin, we would have to ask some of the ultra-rich to help us out with some large numbers. We hear all the time about how folks like Bill Gates, Jeff Bezos, and Warren Buffett are looking for ways to “give back.” They always tell us they are looking for “worthy causes.” Here’s a list of the 29 richest people in the U.S.: http://www.businessinsider.com/richest-people-in-the-us-2016-1#2-warren-buffett-26 . I’m all about freedom and all of these people are totally free to do with their money as they see fit. It’s their money. But…. wouldn’t it be cool if Jeff Bezos kicked in a billion? In a practical sense he would never miss it. A billion maybe from Bill Gates? Half a billion here, half a billion there from some others? Toss in a few million from those who could part with a little less? There are loads of very wealthy folks in Hollywood and Silicon Valley who tell us every day they want to “give back.” There’s also LeBron James and the sporting world’s ultra-rich. And could there ever be a more worthy cause? Hey, we’re off to a good start.

How about the corporate side? With the recent tax cuts many corporations are absolutely flush with cash and should be making even higher profits for the next few years. What if they made some large donations to the fund? Wouldn’t it be great PR for Disney to invest in the safety of the children who make their movies so successful? What about Wal-Mart? Johnson & Johnson? General Mills? Verizon? We have seen the bandwagon effect with corporations jumping on the “green” movement. Let’s create a bandwagon for them to jump on for the “safe” movement.

Finally, there is us. Using the number of U.S. schools from the American Thinker article and ball-parking the rest of it, if less than half of the parents gave an average of $100 I come up with $700 million. There are also lots of retired folks and grandparents who might be willing to donate significantly more. I know I would. As you can see, we can seed a fund from several different sources that would be there to help provide security for our children permanently.

Well, what if we fall short? If we only make it halfway to our goal in 2018 that means that for 2019 we will only generate $4.5 billion for security in our schools. That is not a bad thing and the principal would stay intact. The fund can continue to grow over the years. And remember, what I have proposed here would pay for the entire $9 billion. Local school boards, cities, and counties, could modestly increase real estate taxes to cover parts of the cost as well. I don’t think there would be much objection to that.

We. Can. Do. This.

Things My Father Taught Me

As I age and see more and more of this world, adding to my “databank,” I think back more often than ever about the things I learned from my father. He wasn’t much of a talker. He taught by his actions, not so much with words. I learned how to respect and treat a woman by watching how he treated my mother. I learned compassion for others by watching him help others in need time and time again. I watched him give respect and demand respect. In the wake of the senseless school shooting in Florida I have repeatedly had one of his “lessons in action” come back to me over and over.

That lesson took place when I was around 8 or 9 years old. I was due back for Sunday dinner at the prescribed hour and I was not there. Not only was I not there, I put myself in danger by riding my bike way outside of my boundaries all the way down to the banks of the river where I knew I was not allowed. To make it even worse, I also put my younger brother in danger by taking him with me. When I got home is when I got the lesson. I got the one butt-whippin’ in my life I can actually remember. Looking back on it now it wasn’t really so awful (as in a “beating”). Oh, I remember the stinging of the belt a little bit but what I really remember are the tears. Not mine, his. My dad was crying because he knew what he had to do and he really, really didn’t want to do it. He had to burn it into my brain so that I would never do anything like that ever again. The lesson that keeps coming back is that he did the thing that had to be done even though it brought him to tears.

As I see and hear friends and family discussing what can be done about school shootings and how we can protect our children there are many opinions. There is a lot of discussion about passing new laws to make it harder to get a gun. Unfortunately, people who are willing to commit murder do not generally obey laws of any kind. There is talk about improving the mental health system and, while this is a worthy goal in any case, it cannot stop all disturbed people from buying guns (as happened in Parkland). The Florida shooter was in mental health treatment and voluntarily stopped going. He was not reported for a myriad of reasons. No matter what we do with our laws and our mental health system, a determined human being bent on killing is going to eventually be able to slip through. There is only one way to be absolutely sure we are providing the best possible safety for our kids. I’ll call it Engineering and Deterrence. It may not fit our visions of the perfect schools but it has now become necessary. The thing that has to be done.

The engineering part is easy. All it takes is the will and money I assume we would all be willing to spend. We can build or alter schools so that access is controlled and doors are locked. Install “panic gates.” Should an incident occur these can be dropped (or raised) instantly to section off areas denying a shooter access to entire sections of the school and more victims. As one expert put it, “Make the big school small.” We can plan for emergency exits for kids. We can install doors that, once locked, can only be opened by the police who are on the way (similar to elevators with keys for firemen). Run drills so that all these things are familiar to teachers and students. This is an almost open ended avenue to explore for ways to keep our kids more safe.

The deterrence part is the part that is going to be unpleasant to a large portion of our population. Unfortunately, if (when) a shooter makes his way into a school filled with our children there is only one thing that is going to make him stop. Armed and trained adults. This is proven to be 100% effective in Israel. I get it that our schools should be places of learning and we would like to have an idyllic setting with ivy covered walls and peaceful fountains where our children can sit and think. We just don’t want to have guns in that environment. Our emotions tell us, “No! It shouldn’t have to be that way.” It shouldn’t…. but it is. Sadly, we must now do something we really really don’t want to do. We may shed a tear as we are forced to arm our schools but it is the thing that has to be done. The lives of our children come first.