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Spree-Killing Do's And Don'ts

In 1951 the United States government responded to nuclear testing in the Soviet Union by scaring schoolchildren half to death with a short educational film called Duck And Cover. The film is roundly mocked today, but it's a model of practical advice compared to Run. Hide. Fight., a short educational film funded with a $200,000 grant from the Department of Homeland Defense and produced by the Houston mayor's office. The film, which was made available sooner than initially planned in response to the Aurora, Colo., attacks, posits a shooter in a contemporary office and offers three pointers about what to do--run, hide, fight--in descending order of preference. ("In a crisis situation, you ... don't want to have to stop and analyze," Houston Mayor Annise Parker explained to CBS News.) The film has become a YouTube hit, and a friend of mine reports that his law firm circulated a Web link this morning, just in case one of the summer associates turns out to be a homicidal maniac. The tips, of course, are comically obvious. Under "run" we are instructed:

If there is an escape path, attempt to evacuate
Evacuate whether others agree to or not
Leave your belongings behind
Help others escape if possible 
Prevent others from entering the area
Call 911 when you are safe

Under "hide," the key pointers are

Lock and/or blockade the door
Silence your cell phone
Hide behind large objects
Remain very quiet

And if you have no alternative to "fight" please remember:

Attempt to incapacitate the shooter
Act with physical aggression
Improvise weapons

and my personal favorite:

      Commit to your actions.

As long as we're slinging homilies, may I offer one of my own? "An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure." The Duck And Cover drills inspired ridicule because the government was telling citizens how to confront a situation that could only result from the government's own failure to prevent something we all counted on it to prevent. Once the atom bombs started falling opportunities for individual agency would be in ludicrously short supply, and your best tutor on how to seize them would be your adrenal glands. That's even more true with Run. Hide. Fight. But in this latter instance there is no equivalent to the Strategic Air Command or the SALT process. The government is unwilling to do much of anything to protect you because our society values the right to bear arms well above human life. I'm ruling out as a potential solution liberalization of concealed-carry laws because the conceit that America would be safer if we all walked around packing heat is ludicrous on its face.

We don't need instructional films on how to cope with spree killings; we need instructional films on how to prevent spree killings. If I were to make such a film, I would show office workers meeting after work to form citizen's groups, field candidates for office, and pass legislation guided by the following principles: 

Ban handguns.
Ban assault weapons.
Tighten laws to get firearms out of the hands of mentally unstable people (a category that includes all white supremacists).
Tighten laws to get firearms out of the hands of mentally unstable people.
Tighten laws to get firearms out of the hands of mentally unstable people.

Forgive the repetition, but this last tip strikes me as kind of important. Oh, and instruct your legislator, when these gun-control members come to the House or Senate floor, to Commit to his actions.