Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Surviving A Shooting Spree

The link to the nuts and bolts stuff is at the bottom of the page. But before you go there, there as some things you might want to consider about this subject.

I was watching a documentary on movie director Oliver Stone. They were discussing Stone's movie "Natural Born Killers" and someone mentioned that the movie was misunderstood. If you remember, there was an outcry about the movie glorifying crime and violence. This guy said the movie was not a glorification of violence. In fact, he claimed it had been a condemnation of the media for doing just that. Specifically, it was about how the media makes stars out of violent people, thereby encouraging them to commit more and more acts.

I have some first hand experience with this idea. The first time I was shot at (when I was 14) was from a car. The last time I was shot at was from a car. In the twenty years in between, at least half of the bullets directed at me came from cars. In short, drive by shootings were just a fact of life from where I'm from. While they weren't an everyday thing, they weren't uncommon either.

However, in the '90s there was a drug war going on in South Central Los Angeles. The Crips and the Bloods were the equivalent of modern day cartels and they were busy shooting each other up. What didn't get a lot of media coverage was the drug trafficking angle. What did get a lot of coverage was the carnage. That was when the media adapted a "If it bleeds it leads" editorial policy.

And drive by shootings went through the roof.

Oh yeah, realize that 'drug wars' is a misnomer.They aren't like actual wars with pitched battles between armies. What they are closer to is two sets of insurgents battling each other. Mostly it's hit and run trying to pick away at the other side -- with innocent civilians being the ones who bleed the most. A lot of the people hurt in those drive by shootings weren't even involved, they were -- to use a term from gang parlance of the time -- mushrooms. Like mushrooms that pop up on the lawn, they were just there to get mowed down. It was the innocent bystander dying -- these mushrooms -- that made drive bys 'news worthy.'

And quite frankly, I'm not just talking about callousness of the shooters. It wasn't a gang member, but the news director of a television station who -- upon hearing of a multiple person homicide just blocks away -- exclaimed loudly to the news room "SWEET!" If it bleeds it leads, folks.

I'm not entirely blaming the media for the increase of drive by shootings. After all there WAS a drug war and you are talking about violent dysfunction criminal assholes pulling the trigger. But I will draw your attention to the 'star effect' of the If-it-bleeds-it-leads policy.

After machine gunning a house or business (and killing others than just the target) gang members would rush home to see how many news programs THEIR murdering people appeared on. The more stations that covered it, the more bragging rights you got. And quite frankly, the more 'mushrooms' you got the greater the coverage.

Does this sound sick and twisted? Good.

But you need to realize something, there are sick and twisted people out there who hunger for their '15 minutes of fame.' And these days, many of them don't care if it costs them their lives. See quite frankly, 'what's inside of their heads' is such a dark and twisted snake pit that preserving it isn't all that appealing.

On the other hand, going out in a blaze of glory shows that they are not weak, twisted and useless. This has great appeal. And it has the added benefit of hurting the world they blame for their own screwed up existence.

But I really want you to pay attention to the fame angle. Because going out slaughtering people beats plain suicide hands down. For one blazing moment in time, THEY are going to be all over the media. In their minds, everyone will know who they are and recognize their power. The media coverage the rampage shooter's carnage creates this fame. That is a moment of power and glory that is far more important than their survival.

Incidentally, while this doesn't totally apply to suicide bombers, many of these elements are present -- including the well orchestrated local 'fame' of the bomber. It is done BY the organization sending the suicide bombers. When you see professionally manufactured posters, placards and signs extolling the virtues of the bombers, learn about the financial support of the bomber's family, walls of martyrs and children playing bomber and mourners in the streets, you realize these are not spontaneous acts of rage. They ARE part of a well orchestrated campaign to exploit this kind of personality.

As I've said, to this kind of dark and twisted personality, continued existence isn't that important. Striking out at the world and the ensuing fame is. (In fact I once heard an interesting statement "A serial kills the same person over and over again, a suicide murders the whole world at once. I don't know how accurate that is, but it is worth considering.) It's almost as if the attitude is if you can't do any good for the world, then hurt it. So instead of just shooting oneself one can share one's pain by hurting others and commit 'suicide by cop.'

And you know what? When one person does this and gets media coverage ... odds are another will do it too. That's why these spree shootings, rampage shootings, school shooters and what police call 'active shooters' tend to happen in clusters. One guy does it and another says "Hey, good idea!"

Now the simple truth is that these things are extremely rare. Every day BILLIONS of people go to school, work and shopping without some lunatic opening fire on them. Think about that, it's important.

What makes it seem like such a pressing danger is a blend of the media and our little emotional brains overwhelming our logical brain. In our little monkey brain ( ) we see something as both real and immediate even though it isn't close to us.

Here's a question that most people will -- thankfully -- answer 'none' to. In the last year, how many rampage shootings have occurred 20 miles from where you are sitting right now? 50 miles? 100 miles? Try tweaking the question to 'In the last 20 years...."

See what I mean by saying they really aren't that common? You logically know this. As I write this there have been five shooting sprees and officer deaths
in the last month. NONE of them closer than a 1000 miles from where I
am sitting. And I'm sitting 40 miles away from Columbine High School.
(BTW, notice you can still remember that? That's fame) While our
logical minds know we are safe, I figure a lot of people's monkey
brains are pretty active.

And why not, when you turn on your TV, they seem purdy durned close don't they? Our emotional minds are uncomfortable with the threat of being caught in such a situation.

So maybe we might want to learn something to do about it?

The problem is, I've heard a number of 'policies' about what to do when a shooter shows up. Quite frankly, I'm not impressed. These answers tend to be be more oriented towards the school/organization interests than keeping you from getting shot.

Having BEEN shot at on numerous occasions, I thought I'd offer up some advice based on first hand experience. Stuff that has actually worked to keep my hide from getting bullet holes in it.

You can find the nuts and bolts information about how to survive a shooting spree here

1 comment:

Nickname unavailable said...

Mr. Macyoung,

Thank you for the information about surviving a shooting. My husband and I are in the process of moving out of an area where the incidence of gun homicides in public areas has recently gotten worse. The housing market is slow, and the move seems to be taking forever.

In the meantime, I still worry about getting caught in the crossfire with our two kids, age 11 and 13. We've worked a lot of self defence scenarios, but being on the scene of one of these shootings has been a scenario I haven't felt qualified to run. Now maybe I've got the beginning of a clue.