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Madness, Mass Shootings and an Open Society


Everyone in America has seen the latest results of another dangerously mentally ill loner with family members who were in denial about the severity of his condition or disconnected from him. The killer, Adam Lanza, shot shot his own mother in the face before slaughtering twenty elementary school children and the heroic teachers and their principal who had sought to protect them, belonged in an institutional setting. The same can be said for homicidal schizophrenic Jared Loughner who shot Congresswoman Gabby Giffords, James Holmes, the Colorado shooter, has a gag order on his murder trial but his defense lawyers have already disclosed that their client is mentally ill in blocking access to his diaries under physician-client privilege. Seung-Hui Cho, who committed the Virginia Tech massacre, had previously stalked women, made suicidal threats and been ruled “an imminent danger to himself and others” was set free and unwell to be treated on “an outpatient basis” that never happened.

Predictably, a debate about gun control has erupted in the aftermath of senseless deaths. However, other countries are as heavily armed as the United States (in a few cases, more so). These countries also have severely mentally ill people, yet they don’t have the mass shootings that have become a dark cultural phenomenon we see here in America.  Or when on the rare occasions they do, the shooter is likely not to be insane, but a professional terrorist.

There have also been calls for improved school security ( the Obama administration and Congress cut school security grant funds in 2010 and 2011), stationing policemen in schools and even arming teachers, citing the example of Israeli schools and the Pearl High School shooter who was stopped by an assistant principal with a .45.  While more security is a reasonable precaution and a good idea, short of turning our schools into windowless, prison-like, fortresses and giving the staff AK-47’s,  anybody utterly willing to die in order to kill someone else stands a pretty good chance of success. If all guns vanished tomorrow, the crazies will use car bombs and IEDs instead; mass shootings are a “motivated crazy person” (or terrorist) problem – criminals with economic motives do not carry out these kinds of attacks.

There is no perfect answer here, but here are a few suggestions:

  • We need to revise our attitude toward mental illness with greater public education and access to mental health treatment, especially emergency treatment. Most mentally ill people are NOT dangerous but the warning signs of psychotic breakdown should become as widely recognized as the dangers of cigarette smoking.
  • For the very few people who are mentally ill and violent, we need to have public heath authorities accept that some degree of active supervision is required to ensure they receive treatment and take their medication if they are to live independently, and if they refuse, to institutionalize them temporarily until they do so. The key variable here is *violence* not just mental illness and strong due process safeguards must be in place to protect the individual and ensure they receive appropriate treatment with dignity.
  • Schools need much better training and planning for “active shooter” situations. At present, most schools have safety plans that emphasize locking students in enclosed rooms from which there seldom are any escape routes and the staff passively waiting for instructions from higher school authorities or police. While these plans may be good for unarmed intruders of unknown intent, they are dangerously counterproductive for heavily armed active shooters. Schools generally lack  enough secure rooms with doors that can delay such intruders for more than a few seconds and the standard emergency plan emphasis on “sitting tight” discourages the staff from engaging in reasonable risks to quickly evacuate students when the intruder is elsewhere in the building, or if possible, tactics to evade or if need be, resist, the shooter.

34 Responses to “Madness, Mass Shootings and an Open Society”

  1. joey Says:

    I can think of no western socities where access to guns by the mentally ill is as easy.
    With 400 million people, there are always going to be more of those kind of events, than say in finland.
    If I had my way you would need to hold a hunting licence to own a rifle, and be a member of a shooting club, to own a pistol,  and the backround checks would be stringent.

  2. morgan Says:

    Welcome to the Soviet Republic of America, Joey if you had your way.

  3. John Says:

    If Lanza’s mother had both a hunting license and was a member of the shooting club how would that have prevented her from being in denial over her son’s condition or giving him access to her firearms? Her guns were reportedly legally purchased, registered, and she complied with the state’s strict gun laws which also include background checks. This wasn’t a case of a mentally ill person walking into a gun store and walking out with an arsenal. He reportedly tried to buy a rifle the week of the shooting and was either denied due to the background check or refused to submit to the background check which prevented him from buying it.

  4. Curtis Gale Weeks Says:

    morgan: There are may Western societies with far more restrictive gun laws than the U.S.’s—and they haven’t become Soviet nations, dictatorships, and tyrannies.  People in those societies are able to have families, obtain higher educations, observe their preferred religion, and all the same things we now may experience in the U.S.  They also have far fewer gun-related deaths.
    John: Are you saying that law-abiding citizens could still acquire guns and ammo with stricter regulations in place, given the fact that Lanza’s mother “complied with the state’s strict gun laws which also include background checks?”  See my comment to morgan above.
    I think that any argument re: gun control must show some cognizance of the 2nd Amendment which will not be repealed; and, an awareness of the fact that the number of weapons currently in our society prohibits any solution founded upon the idea of absolute abolition of gun ownership.  That said, most of the arguments against more restrictive controls on gun ownership are absolutely bonkers.

  5. Curtis Gale Weeks Says:

    All of your suggestions are good, but they don’t go far enough.  I don’t have the statistics, but from anecdotal evidence (of reading through various stories over the years), it would seem that younger shooters who live at home often have too much easy access to the firearms legally purchased by their parents or siblings.  While improving access to mental health care plus better education re: spotting “the signs” and understanding what to do when signs are present definitely are needed, without other incentives bad and/or ignorant parents are still going to enable their unstable wards to become “super-empowered for a day.”  The threat of legal culpability for gun owners might be needed, in addition to safety requirements for storage and so forth for those who decide to purchase guns legally. 

  6. John Says:

    Curtis I’m not arguing that background checks lead to totalitarian states. I think the NICS system is actually quite reasonable and most states require licensing for concealed weapons permits that include FBI background checks. I’m saying that the background check system worked in this case by preventing Lanza from purchasing a rifle so he did what many criminals and people intent on killing do. He went around the law. I don’t know what reasonable legislation could prevent his mother from being criminally irresponsible by giving her son access to her guns.
    In this case none of the proposed restrictions would have prevented Lanza from doing what he did. As you say, abolition of gun ownership isn’t going to happen and roughly 300 million firearms aren’t going to just go away even if a complete ban were in place. An argument could be made about the types of weapons she had but would her owning shotguns, lever action hunting rifles, or handguns with only 10 round magazines have prevented him from quickly killing large amounts of innocent people in an environment where he had free reign?

  7. Curtis Gale Weeks Says:

    John, I meant to address the culture of gun ownership when I suggested legal culpability for gun ownership, particularly as it applies to guardians of children or those living with others in the home.  Background checks are pointless if the people passing those background checks allow access to others who have not passed such checks.  A culture which widely recognized such culpability would be a culture in which more gun owners took better care of storing their firearms.  How this is achieved, specifically, would need to be addressed.  Assault weapons, for instance, which are not typically thought of as being primarily for self-defense or hunting, might need to be secured off-site in a location where children do not have access:  shooting ranges or clubs.  (If not outright banned.)  Requirements for other types of storage might help for different firearms, those used for hunting for instance and handguns used for protection, and be more stringent if children are also present in the home.  If felons live in a home, they are not supposed to have access to firearms owned by others living in the home; but as far as I’m aware, the felons are culpable (may lose probation or be arrested) but the gun owner is not, and maybe this should change—at least, for cases in which those guns are taken and used in a crime.  And so forth.  Culpability would have the effect of increasing self-regulation on a granular level.
    Now, too many people arguing over the issue of gun control work from a “100%” perspective.  It is argued that, well, so-and-so could still have killed many; or, that any one law would not prevent 100% of all events; and therefore, it would be pointless to pass such a law or any law that does not prevent 100% of events.  I don’t subscribe to such a perspective, because I think that a net gain of 5% fewer homicides is a good thing.  The question to ask is whether any prescription would lead to more harm than good.

  8. Dave Schuler Says:

    There are 311 million people in the United States.  Mass murder remains rare.  No measures I have heard proposed would have done a thing about the Sandy Hook horror because pseudocommando mass murderers who plan out their attacks in advance and plan to die in them are practically impossible to stop.
    There is another problem that is actually more serious and that we might be able to do something about:  the rate of violent crime.  But thinking that mass murderers and the constant drip, drip of violent crime are the same is an error.

  9. Lexington Green Says:

    There are theoretically five responses to attacks on schools — or any site.1. Defense. Kill or disable the attacker at the point of attack. Inthe school setting this would mean adults with guns. In Israel thereare always armed adults nearby where there are school children. Thismay not be palatable to most Americans, but schools should be allowedto do it if they want to, such as the school in Texas.2. Deterrence. Cause a potential attacker not to attack, or to attackelsewhere. This means raising a credible expectation of defense.Announcing that a school is a “gun free zone” is the opposite ofdeterrence. It invites attack by announcing helplessness. Suchannouncements should be forbidden.3. Preemption. Identify and incapacitate a potential attacker. Theattackers in all of these mass shootings are mentally ill.  There arepolicy proposals to address this problem.  Expedite them.4. Gun prohibition. Remove guns so completely from the surroundingsociety that potential attackers cannot get guns and so cannot attack.This is impossible practically and legally. The Second Amendment isnot going away. It is also immoral. Law abiding citizens have a rightto defend themselves, and the government has no duty to do so. Thisapproach is simply political opportunism.5. Push back agains the media which is abusing its first amendmentrights far more than anyone is abusing second amendment rights.  Limitthe coverage. Make it unlawful to publish the name or likeness of theattackers.  Outlaw first person shooter video games except formilitary and police training. Outlaw violent images in entertainmentproducts, or strictly limit them.  Hollywood corrupts the minds andsouls of America purely out of greed, than blames law abiding citizensfor the murders they inspire. Go after them. 

  10. Kanani Says:

    It seems to me that every report dwells on his “high IQ” (so what?), but that he was kept in the school despite worries. The standard plan of operation was to protect him by putting him in with the nerds, and then call his mother when things got out of control.   So I wonder: was he ever moved to a more restrictive learning environment? Was it ever suggested he get an outside psychological evaluation?  Were psychological social services ever suggested?  Did he have a county-appointed psychiatrist or psychologist? Was there an IEP?   Not that any of these guarantee a successful outcome, but the one thing they do is not allow a parent to isolate themselves into a zone of denial. Guns, mental health issues, and denial: an incredibly bad combination.
    I think that the Cho and Lanza families probably have a lot in common.  

  11. John Says:

    Curtis the problem with strict storage laws is that some have already been struck down as unconstitutional via DC vs. Heller and Massachusetts’ gun storage law was also declared unconstitutional as a result. The supreme court would have to either overturn or clarify the decision first. Many states such as California mandate gun/trigger locks be sold with each gun and it is a felony if a gun owner negligently allows a child to access a gun and use it. Many other states including my own have similar laws. I do not disagree with them. They’ve been linked to reduced child firearm deaths. 
    Felons and those with domestic violence misdemeanors are on the list of prohibited person who in most cases cannot legally possess a firearm. Laws of allowing felons access to firearms vary by jurisdiction but many prosecutors would view giving a felon a firearm as a straw purchase which is also a felony.

    I think it’s the responsibility of any gun owner to restrict access to their firearms and there should be strict penalties to those that don’t. In many states there already are. You seem to be arguing for things that are already in place to one degree or another. I’m asking what reasonable legislation can be passed in a free society to regulate firearms when supply based bans and restrictions simply would not work in the US? I would largely agree with this paper examining various gun control methods in the aftermath of DC vs. Heller.

    I’m not saying don’t explore ways to prevent more incidents like this but I’d argue that much more could be done on the mental health side which would be more effective. Violent crime is decreasing while these incidents are increasing and the overall thread linking them are – as the article pointed out – profoundly mentally ill individuals bent on killing. Perhaps we can work out a system that lowers the threshold for a mental health issue that would disqualify someone from firearm ownership. I would imagine disqualifying households with a mentally ill person from having guns would face a stiff legal battle.

    I’m not arguing from a 100% perspective but it would seem that some in favor of further restrictions want a 100% solution based solely around limiting the supply of firearms. I’m arguing that in the context of this particular case there are many arguing for restrictions that are not only already in place but are fairly reasonable and in this case they worked. I’m not sure if this is from ignorance of various gun laws and restrictions or that it’s just a highly emotionally charged issue. You can have harsher penalties for being irresponsible with gun storage but in this case you can’t indict a dead woman and if a parent is indifferent or in denial about their child’s condition would they have any fear of a criminal offense? Would the kinds of random checks necessary to strictly enforce storage laws hold up under the 4th amendment? 

  12. Curtis Gale Weeks Says:

    “Laws of allowing felons access to firearms vary by jurisdiction but many prosecutors would view giving a felon a firearm as a straw purchase which is also a felony.
    I think it’s the responsibility of any gun owner to restrict access to their firearms and there should be strict penalties to those that don’t. In many states there already are. You seem to be arguing for things that are already in place to one degree or another.”
    On felons:  Purposely giving them firearms is one thing; failing to prevent them from simply taking a firearm that is stored in their home (but owned by another) is another thing.
    Your observations are full of “some states” or “many states” and “things that are already in place to one degree or another.”  There is no uniformity, and additionally there is slipshod prosecution for those gun owners who fail to take appropriate precautions in securing the firearms they possess. The California law may have led to some prosecutions of parents negligently allowing a child to access firearms, but cases of such prosecution are by no means publicized widely.
    DC vs. Heller appears to apply only to rendering a weapon inoperable, or violating the self-defense argument in the 2nd Amendment—and would not apply to all firearms, e.g. assault weapons.   Are bullets also covered under the ruling?  Say, for instance, any bullets beyond the amount for a single load could be required to be stored under lock and key.  And, additional magazine clips?

  13. carl Says:

    I would have preferred not to see the faces nor the names of these criminals posted so prominently.  They may all be disturbed but I don’t think they are so disturbed that they don’t notice nor are displeased that everybody knows their name and their face.  I think also that those of their ilk who may contemplate such a cowardly act notice that if they were to do so, everybody would know who they are and what they look like.
    These people are also not so disturbed that they don’t know enough to do their evil in a place where they are almost certain not to be effectively opposed, as has already been noted in some of the comments.  So one of the ways to reduce these incidents is to make them less certain that effective opposition will not be found regardless of where they go.  These people are not likely to engage in an actual gunfight if they see effective opposition coming.  Mostly if they are opposed, they surrender or kill themselves.  They are not highly motivated to fight, just to kill.
    Lexington Green has some good observations on how culture may affect this.  I disagree with the “there oughta be a law” aspect though.  It would be more effective if informal social pressure were brought upon those who too prominently display the faces and names of these criminals and upon the makers of some of the more objectionable games and movies.
    Lastly, in the old pre-1960s days, many disturbed people were institutionalized.  Then it became fashionable to let them out on their own.  A lot of people felt themselves to be very fine people because they helped empty those institutions.  Those people who had been in the places ended up on the street, homeless and hopeless.  I didn’t realize until this incident that some of them have become mass murderers.  
    If it is possible now, I think it would be better if the names and faces of these criminals were removed from this post.

  14. joey Says:

    I fully agree with Lex’s 5th point, popular culture glorifies gun violence,  there needs to be a sea change in how society views guns.
    Are they tools, to be used for hunting or sport?  or defense in absolute extremis,  or are they objects of fetishistic empowerment?  Assault rifles should be outlawed entirely,  there is no argument that can convince me that they are need for self defense, they are military grade weaponry and as such should be strictly controlled within society.  Weapons with high clip counts such as G17’s should also be similarly controlled.  Gun related violence in america runs at a disturbing high level, even with the periodic mass shootings,  control of weaponry solely designed to kill people should be coupled with a concerted attempt to change the publics perception of the weaponry itself.  
    But thats all pissing in the wind really,  the bottom line is guns are fun, and people like shooting them off, whatever they may say, gun lovers are big kids at heart, there are few kids that dont like fireworks.
    I was chatting to an afgan veteran the other week, he confided that one of the joys of his the work was manning the MK43. 

  15. zen Says:

    hi Carl
    ” If it is possible now, I think it would be better if the names and faces of these criminals were removed from this post.”
    The major point of the post is the crux of the problem being the lack of coherent policy and political will to handle dangerously mentally ill people – a point that gets repeatedly swept under the rug in the pushing of indirect responses (gun control, security theater) that fail to address the problem. The faces and names are not decoration, but the reality that needs to be faced rather than avoided. So, no I am not going to remove them

  16. carl Says:

    I realize I am not going to change your mind but there are some things I would point out.  It is not unusual for American civilians to posses “military grade” small arms in our history.  Flintlock rifles and muskets, rifled muskets, breechloaders and repeaters, bolt action magazine fed rifles, M-1 equivalents etc were all in the hands of civilians at the same time they were in the hands of the military.  That even goes for machine guns.  You want a machine gun now, you can get one.  It will cost you beaucoup bucks but you can get it.  So to me, the weapon isn’t the problem.
    As far as magazines with more than a few rounds go, when I was an officer we initially had pistols that had 8 round magazines.  We then switched to pistols that had 15 round magazines and I felt much better about things because I had more rounds to use if I needed to before changing magazines.  I don’t see why a citizen shouldn’t be afforded the same increased level of confidence in their weapon that comes with having more rounds to use if needed.
    “Weapons solely designed to kill people” is a phrase often use and it never fails to puzzle me.  It is a weapon after all.  That is what most firearms are, weapons.  That is what firearms were originally designed to do, kill people.  Most every firearm out there will kill people if that is the object, properly or improperly.  I don’t see the point of an effort to change public perception of weaponry.  The public is pretty smart, we know what weapons are, can be used for and misused for.

  17. carl Says:

    I can see your point and disagree, but given what the post is actually about, I can’t strongly disagree.  Other than that, I must compliment you on it.  It is very thoughtfully done and brings up a good point.  It will be hard to undo the damage about 50 years of some people thinking the mentally ill are just pursuing a ‘unique’ lifestyle has done.  Ken Kesey may have something to answer for.

  18. zen Says:

    Hi Carl,
    Disagreement is always welcomed here!
    Thanks! I get your point about generally not glorifying these characters, which too often happens and inspires copycatting. I am fairly sure none of them (except possibly Loughner) would have committed crimes if there had been significant psychiatric intervention and ongoing treatment insisted upon by someone in a court proceeding. Tragic waste.

  19. Curtis Gale Weeks Says:

    I think that the question sure to rise is, “Which is easier to regulate, mental health or guns?”
    I also wonder if some who view gun regulation as tantamount to tyranny have as many worries about the kind of government intervention that would be required to first diagnose and then treat mental illness on a level that would prevent the rise of any crazy intent on doing what Adam Lanza did.
    So one might be tempted to ask whether Nancy Lanza was more ignorant about her son’s mental health or about the wisdom of owning the weapons she owned, or if she misjudged on both accounts.
    As many people as are reluctant to let Mr. Fed inspect his home regularly for weapons, there are those who do not want Mr. Fed telling them what to do with their children.  Probably more of the latter than the former actually.
    For those guardians who sincerely want to do the best that they can in raising a child and who simply don’t know what to do with a mentally ill ward — or don’t have the resources to do anything — improvements as suggested by the original post would be good.
    But what do you suggest for those children being raised outside such caring environments?  What do you want non-family members to do about those individuals, whether children or adults who are not mentally ill enough to be institutionalized but mentally ill enough to commit mass murder?
    We really need a multi-prong approach, and calling the gun control arguments a distraction doesn’t pass muster.

  20. Fred Leland Says:

    Great post Zen. Spot on in my view. If we are going to be serious about preventing tragedies like this we need to be thinking about more than guns. Mental health and recognizing the signs and signals of it when its spiraling out of control is a good place to start. Of-course we also need the strength of character to do something about it other than talk! 

  21. Fred Leland Says:

    A great report on the signs and signals to look for http://www.secretservice.gov/ntac/ssi_final_report.pdf 

  22. John Says:

    Curtis – It does depend on the category of felon and the definition of “failing to prevent them from taking.” Non violent felons who serve less than a 1 year sentence often don’t have their gun rights restricted. Other non violent felons can petition the court to have their records expunged allowing them restoration of rights but these rules vary greatly by state. So lets assume it’s violent felons who can’t possess weapons or federal law doesn’t allow any felon to have a firearm. How do you prove allowing access vs. theft? If you keep a gun in a safe or a secured locked case and it is stolen are you still liable for what someone does with your otherwise properly secured stolen property? What standard must be set to prevent someone from taking your property and if that standard is high and requires a large cost does that count as an infringement on an individual right if someone cannot afford to meet that standard? Is there a definitive law as to what quality of safe or lock must be used?

    This is why prosecutors and judges make these decisions and enforcement may seem selective. To some prosecutors the presence of any firearm or even ammunition in a home occupied by a felon is considered constructive possession of a firearm and can land them back in jail. So they would stay in that house at their own peril. Denying rights to one person because of who they happen to associate with may get into a murky legal area. While punishing a legal gun owner who knowingly and deliberately allows a felon to access a firearm should be the law it may not be a black and white issue in each case.

    I do not know the individual firearm laws of all 50 states so I can only speak to the ones I do know. Hence the terms “some and many.” I know 7 states require child safety locks be sold with every firearm but because these states include large states like Ohio, California, and New York manufacturers now ship all guns with child safety locks. In some states allowing a child access to a firearm is a felony, in others a misdemeanor. This is something I do agree should be uniform although as you stated, prosecution is rare.

    As for Heller, in the majority opinion Scalia wrote that the 2nd amendment protects the right to bear arms that are in common usage. I’m paraphrasing here but The 1939 case US vs. Miller stated that the 2nd amendment only applies towards weapons suitable for militia use, in common use, and for lawful purposes. One could argue that based on these decisions there is actually more of a constitutional protection of “assault weapons” than there is for handguns. The ruling does not separate class of firearm along the lines of defensive use vs. militia purpose but states that an entire class of popular arms (handguns) cannot be banned which may prove trouble for a future assault weapons ban. I’d imagine the argument would be whether they fall under a category of a commonly available arm suitable for militia purpose or fall under the “dangerous and unusual” weapon category outlined to prohibit sawed off shotguns under US vs. Miller. 

    It also makes no statement regarding ammunition but again how would you enforce a law that says you cannot leave more than one loaded magazine outside of a safe or prove deliberate negligence vs theft? You could theoretically make these laws but would they hold up under the 2nd amendment or be enforceable under the 4th and would they actually help prevent future gun crimes on any level?    

  23. Lexington Green Says:

    An attack on the purported free speech rights of the manufacturers of violent entertainment products is meant to level the playing field.  The human right to possess lethal force for personal defense, as specified and protected by our second amendment, is every bit as important as the free speech right in the first amendment.  The ongoing assault on the right of the American people to decide for themselves which weapons they want or need, for which they owe no one any explanation or apology, can only be stopped by counter-attacks.  Threaten what they value, in this case extremely profitable death porn, and they will back down.  Also, substantively, violent video games and tv shows do increase violence.  Possession of lethal force by law abiding citizens reduces violence. 

  24. Curtis Gale Weeks Says:

    “Possession of lethal force by law abiding citizens reduces violence.”
    All the stats agree:  it sure helped Nancy Lanza! 

  25. Madhu Says:

    The logistics of gun control are prohibitive, at least in the near term given the million of guns in the United States. Millions. One would need a societal wide change in the gun culture, a culture which is very embedded in the United States in many communities. It would take more than a generation like with smoking education and, well, that won’t happen.
    Whatever I may think about it, many people will not give up their guns.
    Whatever I may think about it, the glorification of violence by our entertainment industry and the culture at large will continue. Non-stop sex and violence on television and movies may have nothing to do with mass events like this but they may have other negative effects in our culture. At any rate, aesthetically, and IMO obviously, there is precious little on offer in the larger public culture that isn’t mean-spirited and narcissistic. But, you know what? In many instances, the parents themselves like the filth so why would they teach their children any differently?
    whatever I may think, the media will continue to exploit the issue and make a ton of money off of it and encourage copycatting crimes unless large amounts of people are willing to stop watching the voyeurism and make it a money loser. Anyway, it’s hard to know about copycatting. The only way would be to do the experiment that will never be done, black outs of information and non-stop coverage. Won’t happen in a twitterverse culture.
    Even if one could pass more stringent laws, there are millions and millions of guns in the country. I suppose one could raise lots of money for a buy back program like Australia had in the 90s, but the money would have to be really really good, not the few hundred dollars generally offered. Even that would bring how many off the street? But those that are serious and not all talk could try. Offer a lot. See what happens and how many you bring in. Safety with stuff like this is in the percentages, it can never be perfect.
    While overall crime has decreased considerably, these sorts of mass incidents have increased. Why? 
    Now is the time for innovation, putting on thinking caps and a third way, if it is possible. 
    Thank you zen, and thank you Frank Leland for that interesting link.
    Are there engineering solutions (or mitigating factors) that might be developed? Robotics used in a fire sprinkler-like fashion, nothing violent but for physical containment? Safe rooms?

  26. Madhu Says:

    @ carl – you once mentioned at SWJ that the airline industry itself made an effort to make flight safer, it was a concerted effort. How did this happen and how did the airline industry go about it?

  27. amspirnational Says:


    America is saturated with Islamophobic “I Stand With Israel” militarism now and the media will see to it that the
    frenzy continues until the Empire runs short of blood or money.

  28. carl Says:

    Curtis Gale Weeks:
    That kind of quip goes over big with the college sophomores, so points for you in that respect.  I am not sure it is useful beyond that.

  29. Curtis Gale Weeks Says:

    Carl, the kind of quip used by Lex is equivalent.   When in Rome.  Mine was more true however.  At least, it can be judge by the actual fact of the instance it references, unlike Lex’s that can’t be judged by what he offered.

  30. carl Says:

    It was a concerted and cooperative effort by academia, the FAA, the NTSB, the airlines and the pilots through the unions.  The most important entity in all that was I think the NTSB.  It is my opinion (no sources to back this up) that two things were realized.  The first was that people are people and they are going to act as they do, not as an ideal would do.  That sounds obvious but it was actually fundamental.  That realization allowed training and procedures to be structured around how people really act so as too make things easier to do the right way and therefore safer.  The second hugely important thing was a non-punitive attitude toward seeing and analyzing things that were wrong.  That allowed people to see and say things were as they really were because they were confident that they wouldn’t be hung for honest mistakes.  Oh yeah, there was another thing.  It was seen that the cause of an accident often went way beyond what this pilot or that mechanic did or didn’t do.  So now when the NTSB does an accident investigation they go way beyond what the immediate cause was.  They go into things like company culture, the hows and whys of training procedures, fatigue and other many other things.  If you can, read one of their accident reports.  They are easy to understand and you will see what I mean.  A good one to read is a report on a police helicopter accident that occurred in June of 2009.  It illustrates most of these things.
    All of this didn’t happen without bumps and holes and spats and fights of course.  It took a lot of work and a lot of persistence but it is getting done and the airline biz in the US is the safest it has ever been.  The things that are being done in the airlines are becoming industry standard.  Surprisingly, these practices and are migrating to medicine.  I heard a surgeon doing what was essentially a pre-flight brief before starting surgery.  When I asked he said they got that from the airlines.  There is a lot that can be learned from the airline business in regards to all sorts of things.

  31. carl Says:

    Major omission on my part.  I forgot to include the aircraft manufacturers in the list.  They did a lot too.

  32. Lexington Green Says:


    Curtis, here’s one.

    There are lots more.

    But you knew this.

  33. carl Says:

    I think these guys play to an audience more than we might think.  One at an Oregon mall announced “I am the shooter.”  He used a phrase that plays on TV so I think it reasonable to assume that he was acting for the TV crowd, so to speak (he shot himself as soon as the cops showed up, about a minute).
    The CT criminal I’ll bet chose the victims he did, at least partially, because he knew their ages would have that much more impact.  So maybe one way to discourage them is to deprive them of their audience.  I have no clue if or how that can be done but one way to discourage a malevolent thespian is to take away the audience.

  34. carl Says:

    It is interesting that at the recent shooting at a mall in Oregon there was a civilian with a legally possessed pistol who had the murderer in his sights.  He didn’t shoot because he was afraid if he missed he would hit a bystander behind the criminal.  However, the murderer saw the civilian drawing down on him and the civilian said the murderer thereupon shot himself. 
    This is a story that is hard to find on the national media. 

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