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How to Prepare for School Shooters

Schools and universities should require that every student take a course in karate, jui-jitsu, or some other means of self-defense.
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I have been reading a number of news items about schools and universities that are taking steps to change students' attitudes towards guns and violence in the wake of the Virginia Tech massacre. Of course, every school and university apparently already has a no-guns policy on its campus. So, now our campuses are banning representations of guns in campus plays and encouraging heightened awareness about the dangers of guns, knives, and even remarks that seem threatening. (One news story said that a little boy was sent home when he picked up a chicken leg as if it were a gun and said "bang.")

But it seems to me that these kinds of sensitivity-training activities miss the point. I doubt that they will have any effect on a young man (and all the shooters have been young men) who is mentally ill. The shooter at Virginia Tech seems to have had some sort of deep pathological disorder, which many of his teachers and fellow students recognized and feared. What he needed most was to be confined -- for the safety of others as well as himself -- and treated by psychiatric professionals.

What most students need now is to know how to defend themselves and their classmates. Schools and universities should require that every student take a course in karate, jui-jitsu, or some other means of self-defense. No one can blame the Virginia Tech students for their inability to defend themselves; no can imagine the horror and shock of encountering a killer who is bent on executing one's fellow students in a college classroom.

But we should learn from these tragic events. We should teach our young people how to react when confronted with random terror. Given the unpredictability of the world we live in, and the unknown numbers of psychotic people who might suddenly explode into violence, we must prepare for all eventualities.

We now make fun of the atomic-bomb drills in the '50s, when students covered their heads and ducked under their desks. Such drills were laughable because they provided no protection against an atomic bomb. But we do know that preparedness in the face of a lone killer will save lives. We have the example of the Romanian-Israeli professor who blocked Cho's entrance to his classroom, giving all but one of his students time to escape.

It is time to face reality, not to hide from it. Our children and young adults should learn how to defend their lives.

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