Entries Tagged "guns"

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Movie-Plot Threats at the U.S. Capitol

This would make a great movie:

Rep. Dan Burton, R-Ind., renewed his call for the installation of an impenetrable, see-through security shield around the viewing gallery overlooking the House floor. Burton points out that, while guns and some bombs would be picked up by metal detectors, a saboteur could get into the Capitol concealing plastic explosives.

The House floor, he pointed out, is the only room where all three branches of government gather to hear the president speak, as President Obama will do when he delivers his State of the Union address on Jan. 25.

Burton introduced the legislation in the past, but it’s gone nowhere. He’s hoping the tragic events of Saturday could help it win more serious consideration by the Republican leadership.

“I think the risk is there,” Burton told The Washington Examiner. “The threat is more now than it has ever been.”

Posted on January 18, 2011 at 6:29 AMView Comments

James Fallows on Political Shootings


So the train of logic is:

  1. anything that can be called an “assassination” is inherently political;
  2. very often the “politics” are obscure, personal, or reflecting mental disorders rather than “normal” political disagreements. But now a further step,
  3. the political tone of an era can have some bearing on violent events. The Jonestown/Ryan and Fromme/Ford shootings had no detectable source in deeper political disagreements of that era. But the anti-JFK hate-rhetoric in Dallas before his visit was so intense that for decades people debated whether the city was somehow “responsible” for the killing. (Even given that Lee Harvey Oswald was an outlier in all ways.)

Posted on January 10, 2011 at 7:04 AMView Comments

Terrorizing Ourselves

Who needs actual terrorists?

How’s this for an ill-conceived emergency preparedness drill? An off-duty cop pretending to be a terrorist stormed into a hospital intensive care unit brandishing a handgun, which he pointed at nurses while herding them down a corridor and into a room.

There, after harrowing moments, he explained that the whole caper was a training exercise.


The staff at St. Rose Dominican Hospitals-Siena Campus, where the incident took place Monday morning, found the exercise more traumatizing than instructive.

Perhaps a better way to phrase it is that they learned to be terrorized.

Posted on June 1, 2010 at 5:54 AMView Comments

Arming the Boston Police with Assault Rifles

Whose idea is this?

The Boston Police Department is preparing a plan to arm as many as 200 patrol officers with semiautomatic assault rifles, a significant boost in firepower that department leaders believe is necessary to counter terrorist threats, according to law enforcement officials briefed on the plan.

The initiative calls for equipping specialized units, such as the bomb squad and harbor patrol, with the high-powered long-range M16 rifles first, the officials said. The department would then distribute the weapons to patrol officers in neighborhood precincts over the next several months, according to the two law enforcement officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they did not have permission to speak publicly.

Remember, the “terrorist threats” that plague Boston include blinking signs, blinking name badges, and Linux. Would you trust the police there with automatic weapons?

And anyway, how exactly does an police force armed with automatic weapons protect against terrorism? Does it make it harder for the terrorists to plant bombs? To hijack aircraft? Sure, you can invent a movie-plot scenario involving a Mumbai-like attack and have a Bruce Willis-like armed policeman save the day, but—realistically—is this really the best way for us to be spending our counterterrorism dollar?

Luckily, people seem to be coming to their senses.

EDITED TO ADD: These are semi-automatic rifles, not fully automatic. I think the point is more about the militarization of the police than the exact specifications of the weapons in this case.

Posted on June 3, 2009 at 5:57 AMView Comments

Lessons from the Columbine School Shooting

Lots of high-tech gear, but that’s not what makes schools safe:

Some of the noticeable security measures remain, but experts say the country is exploring a new way to protect kids from in-school violence: administrators now want to foster school communities that essentially can protect themselves with or without the high-tech gear.

“The first and best line of defense is always a well-trained, highly alert staff and student body,” said Kenneth Trump, president of National School Safety and Security Services, an Ohio-based firm specializing in school security.

“The No. 1 way we find out about weapons in schools is not from a piece of equipment [such as a metal detector] but from a kid who comes forward and reports it to an adult that he or she trusts.”

Of course, there never was an epidemic of school shootings—it just seemed that way in the media. And kids are much safer in schools than outside of them.

Posted on April 29, 2009 at 5:57 AMView Comments

Security Theater Scare Mongering

We need more security in hotels and churches:

First Baptist Church in Maryville, Illinois, had a security plan in place when a gunman walked into services Sunday morning and killed Pastor Fred Winters, said Tim Lawson, another pastor at the church.

Lawson told CNN he was not prepared to disclose details of his church’s security plan on Monday.

But Maryville police Chief Rich Schardam said Winters was keenly aware of the security issues, had sought out police advice and had identified police and medical personnel in the congregation who could help in an emergency.

“They did have plans on what to do,” Schardam said Monday.

Schardam said neither of the men who subdued the gunman had a law enforcement background.

“Those parishioners were just real-life heroes,” Pastor Lawson said.

Sounds like those plans didn’t make much of a difference.

And does anyone really believe that security checkpoints at hotel entrances will make any difference at all?

Posted on March 10, 2009 at 7:52 AMView Comments

Arming New York City Police with Machine Guns

I have mixed feelings about this:

The NYPD wants all 1,000 Police Academy recruits trained to use M4 automatic machine guns – which are now carried only by the 400 cops in its elite Emergency Service Unit – in time for the holiday celebration in Times Square.

On the one hand, deploying these weapons seems like a bad idea. On the other hand, training is almost never a bad thing.

Oh, and in case you were worried:

There is no intelligence Times Square will be a target on New Year’s Eve. The area will be on high alert, but has been so for every year since the millennium.

Posted on December 16, 2008 at 3:43 PMView Comments


Really interesting article on snipers:

It might be because there’s another side to snipers and sniping after all. In particular, even though a sniper will often be personally responsible for huge numbers of deaths—body counts in the hundreds for an individual shooter are far from unheard of—as a class snipers kill relatively few people compared to the effects they achieve. Furthermore, when a sniper kills someone, it is almost always a person they meant to kill, not just someone standing around in the wrong place and time. These are not things that most branches of the military can say.

But, for a well-trained military sniper at least, “collateral damage”—the accidental killing and injuring of bystanders and unintended targets—is almost nonexistent. Mistakes do occur, but compared to a platoon of regular soldiers armed with automatic weapons, rockets, grenades etc a sniper is delicacy itself. Compared to crew-served and vehicle weapons, artillery, tanks, air support or missile strikes, a sniper is not just surgically precise but almost magically so. Yet he (or sometimes she) is reviled as the next thing to a murderer, while the mainstream mass slaughter people are seen as relatively normal.

Consider the team who put a strike jet into the air: a couple of aircrew, technicians, armourers, planners, their supporting cooks and medics and security and supply people. Perhaps fifty or sixty people, then, who together send up a plane which can deliver a huge load of bombs at least twice a day. Almost every week in Afghanistan and Iraq right now, such bombs are dropped. The nature of heavy ordnance being what it is, these bombs kill and maim not just their targets (assuming there is a correctly-located target) but everyone else around. Civilian deaths in air strikes are becoming a massive issue for NATO and coalition troops in Afghanistan.

Those sixty people, in a busy week, could easily put hundreds of tons of munitions into a battlefield—an amount of destructive power approaching that of a small nuclear weapon. This kind of firepower can and will kill many times more people than sixty snipers could in the same time span – and many of the dead will typically be innocent bystanders, often including children and the elderly. Such things are happening, on longer timescales, as this article is written. Furthermore, all these bomber people—even the aircrew—run significantly less personal risk than snipers do.

But nobody thinks of a bomb armourer, or a “fighter” pilot”, or a base cook as a cowardly assassin. Their efforts are at least as deadly per capita, they run less personal risks, but they’re just doing their jobs. And let’s not forget everyone else: artillerymen, tank crews, machine gunners. Nobody particularly loathes them, or considers them cowardly assassins.

Posted on December 16, 2008 at 6:25 AMView Comments

Sidebar photo of Bruce Schneier by Joe MacInnis.