Our Only Defense

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The Article

I am sick of turning on the computer and seeing the headline of the latest shooting. Last week it was 32 in Virginia. (Not 33. The gunman shouldn’t be counted, if you ask me.) A few months ago it was Amish girls at a schoolhouse. The week before that, girls at a school in Colorado. And let’s not forget our made-in-Canada shooting in Montreal.

When is it going to stop? Personally, I don’t think it will. Guns are easy to get illegally, and hard to carry legally, virtually guaranteeing that the only armed individuals will be criminals. Nowhere, then, apparently, is safe today. Of course, that’s really an overstatement, because as sensational as such cases are, they are still incredibly rare. Indeed, most violent, random crimes are. Stranger kidnapping of children, for instance, hasn’t increased in decades, though we’re far more cognizant of it now, so much so that we don’t let our kids play in the park, and instead they watch violent stuff on TV and grow larger and larger. But that’s a story for another day.

About a week before the Virginia Tech massacre another terrorist shooting at a school was making the rounds on talk shows. This one, at New Jersey’s Burlington township High School, was just a drill. And the perpetrators? Crazy Christians, just like the earlier drill in Michigan where Christian homeschoolers took a school hostage. I asked my kids if they had ever had the urge to go and shoot kids at our local school, and they said no, so I guess our kitchen school is safe.

But what really alarmed me, aside from the politically correct and utterly ridiculous scenario they were depicting, was that the drill revolved around the “duck and cover” strategy. It was to allow law enforcement to figure out what to do, and not really to help the kids figure out any method for self-defense other than hiding.

In Virginia’s case, as in Colorado’s case and even Columbine’s case, law enforcement arrived quickly. But it didn’t help, because it doesn’t take that long to shoot people. No matter how fast police response is, they aren’t called until something has already happened, and by then it’s probably too late, at least for some victims. In Montreal, the police, having learned from Ecole Polytechnique that waiting outside is not the answer, stormed in and shot the killer, leaving Anastasia de Sousa the only victim. But we can’t always rely on the police to save us. We need to think quickly, and unfortunately, our passive society with its emphasis on non-violence and negotiation isn’t that well-equipped to help us. Fighting back, let alone self-sacrifice, seems a thing of the past. It is interesting that in Virginia’s case one of the few stories of self-sacrifice and quick thinking was 76-year-old Holocaust survivor Liviu Lebrescu. He was from a different era. By all accounts, most others froze, which would probably be my natural response, too.

What I would love to see are some basic self-defense courses to help kids, at least those who are old enough to handle it, overcome this natural immobilization and instead think fast on their feet. In Virginia Tech’s Norris Hall, it seems to me that every student in those classes had two, if not three, potential weapons in their possession: their keys, their chairs, and in all likelihood, from my memories of early morning university classes, their cups of coffee.

Here’s my plan: a gunman comes in and opens fire. Chuck the keys at his eyes. Follow up with the coffee cup. Then throw the chair, and then tackle him together. What’s the worst that can happen? He shoots you, but his aim won’t be as good as it would have been before. And if you die anyway, at least you give your fellow students a chance to escape.

I know that’s easy to say when I wasn’t there, but it took me about twenty minutes to even come up with that scenario, which, I suppose, proves my point. We need basic courses on how to defend ourselves, because these things won’t necessarily enter our heads when we need them if we don’t plan ahead. In this case, all you would have is a split second to act. Your keys would have to be on your desk, and you’d have to kick in to crisis mode immediately. That takes some training and forethought.

I wish such precautions weren’t necessary, but they are, and we don’t help ourselves by denying it. Police are wonderful, but they cannot be everywhere. No matter how much money we throw at law enforcement, the first line of defense is always going to be us ourselves. Are we ready for it?

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