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How Do We Prevent It?

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The title of this post is the question of the day.  How do we prevent the next school massacre?

This, I think, is close to the bitter truth, from an article in NRO:

To shout "do something" or "ban guns" is the facile suggestion, and nonchalantly to content oneself that laws passed in a faraway city will fix society's problems is the comforting conviction. My judgment, by contrast, is the terrifying one: To realize that there is very little that one could have done to stop [the Newtown] abomination is to understand that we are sometimes powerless in the face of evil, however much we shout about it.

In anything that even resembles a free country, and certainly a free country with a Second Amendment as part of its Bill of Rights, there won't be, and shouldn't be, the amount of government control that would be needed to stop an Adam Lanza.  So far as is known to date, Lanza had no criminal or mental health record.  He was a loner and socially maladept, and that's about it.  He got the guns from his mother, who had obtained them legally in a state with already strict gun control laws.  A country that makes being an awkward loner a basis for government control is not a country any sane person would want to live in.

So is there anything at all we can do?  John Hinderaker of Powerline makes a suggestion.

John writes:

As a cause of death, school shootings are statistically almost non-existent. Lightning strikes kill more people, by two orders of magnitude. But if we think that school shootings demand effective action, as President Obama said in a televised address tonight, then the obvious course is to post an armed guard at every school. The problem with this approach is its expense; the same amount of money spent in many other ways could no doubt save more lives. But if we decide the expense is worthwhile, there are creative ways to raise the money. We could impose a tax on Hollywood-so many million dollars for every movie in which more than one person dies violently. Same for video games.

There is something to this.  Simply banning guns and/or demanding expanded background checks won't do the job.  The former is unconstitutional and couldn't work anyway in a country that already has at least 200,000,000 privately owned firearms. The latter would not have stopped Lanza; as noted, he had no criminal or mental health background. For all we know, the next one (and the next one and the next) won't either.

If, as seems to me to be the case, we can't stop the next Lanza from getting to a school armed to the teeth and ready to kill, the answer will have to be at the school itself.  The reason Lanza and other school shooters were able to kill as many as they did is that the police couldn't get there in time to stop them.  So an armed policeman will have to be stationed at the school itself.

Believe me, I am loathe to suggest such a remedy.  The idea of armed policemen routinely patrolling schools is utterly alien to me, and incongruous to say the least with what a school ought to be about.  But we simply cannot allow this to continue without at least trying something that has a chance of working.

Of course, that's not the end of the story.

As noted at the outset, nothing we do can entirely prevent these episodes.  The next question, then, is how we punish those we don't prevent.  And the answer, while not easy or cheerful, is obvious.  We impose the death penalty.  The notion that any prison term is adequate punishment for deliberately killing 20 six and seven year-old children is beyond preposterous.

Just to be clear, I of course do not suggest imposing it on lunatics, and severe mental illness is often behind these episodes, as Kent has observed  If Lanza was crazy enough to think the objects he was shooting were, say, pumpkins, not children, then he would not be a candidate for the death penalty.  But if a shooter meets the traditional criteria for criminal responsibility --  that is, if he is an adult of sound mind, can differentiate between right and wrong, and has the ability to conform his behavior to the requirements of law  --  the death penalty is the only punishment that even vaguely fits a crime like this.  To oppose the death penalty in these circumstances is to transform abolitionism from an ideology into a joke.

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