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Old 02 August 2016, 12:06 AM
RichardM RichardM is offline
 
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Default Fire arms on campus

Today is the 50th anniversary of what is being called the first school mass shooting when a gunman killed several people by firing the the top of the clock tower on the campus of the University of Texas in Austin. Today is also the day that concealed carry became legal on college campuses in Texas.

However, in reading about the campus shooting in yesterday's (Sunday August 31), much of the return fire aimed at the gunman on the tower came from civilians, not police. Of the 4 people who climbed the stairway to confront the gunman, 3 were police officers. The 4th was a civilian who worked in a book store. He borrowed a rifle from a state trooper. Police at the time credited the return fire from civilians for limiting the number of casualties.

I post this not to advocate for any position but to note the differences 50 years makes.
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Old 02 August 2016, 01:08 AM
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Did you mean to include a link in that? I don't see one.

And that description doesn't really seem to match what I've read so far.
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Old 02 August 2016, 01:41 AM
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The UT shooting is really in a class by itself, though. It wasn't someone walking through crowded school hallways/classrooms/cafeterias shooting people point blank with armed citizens rushing to respond, it was a sniper firing from an elevated position. In fact he was able to hit people who weren't even on campus. I would still question what good armed citizen response did in that event, but it's really not comparable to having to clear a school room by room, where the shooter could be around any corner and you have to make a snap decision to either shoot or don't shoot. That's where being able to recognize the shooter as the only non-uniformed guy or gal with a gun can be real helpful and throwing in a bunch of armed civilians can be counter-productive and dangerous, especially if they either a) don't comply immediately with commands or b) police are having such a bad day (what with this whole mass shooting and whatnot) that they react in a confused situation and shoot someone who was trying to be "helpful."

In effect, the need to deal with innocent bystanders (even without armed bystanders) puts the police at a tactical disadvantage: they don't get to just shoot anything that moves, but the shooter does. Reaction time is a factor and absent significant training (hey, I guess SWAT and a "militarized" police force are good for something after all) the shooter has a clear advantage.

It's not even that close to the Dallas shooting (as a sniper attack, obviously not a school shorting), where the shooter wasn't even kind enough to pick an obvious spot to hang out in and stay put . Maybe mass murderers have just gotten ruder lately?

Last edited by ASL; 02 August 2016 at 01:47 AM.
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Old 02 August 2016, 03:40 AM
RichardM RichardM is offline
 
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TL, my cite is in the recycle bin here in the living room. The Dallas Morning News may have posted the story on line.

ASL, the newspaper claimed that the police were armed only with .38 caliber revolvers. Any long guns they had were their deer rifles that they went home to get. Civilians shooting back had their deer rifles in the trunk of their car or back window of their pickup. As to the effectiveness of the return fire, I can only cite the newspaper article.
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Old 02 August 2016, 03:49 AM
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I would say, then, the biggest change over the last 50 years that this highlights isn't a diminishing comfort with guns on campus (many of those guns came from off campus and I'm sure there are still plenty of people in Austin with gun racks in their trucks and deer rifles back home) but the lack of preparedness of police departments even in major cities to deal with active shooters. This event was no doubt one of those along the path towards the "militarized" police force that some people seem to lament. (G)You wonder why we have police snipers, police with body armor, and SWAT? This is exhibit A (or M, or AB, or whatever depending on how far back you want to go: I mean, at some point in the past police didn't even carry hand guns on a regular basis).

I guess it would help if you would highlight some of the differences you saw in reading the article. It's hard to discuss otherwise.
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Old 02 August 2016, 04:42 AM
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One similarity is that, like in the recent Dallas shootings, both had been in the military and had been accused of misconduct. (Although in Whitman's case, he was court-martialed and sentenced.)
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Old 02 August 2016, 08:25 AM
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Although, and this goes back to another discussion about why conscription is bad, in those days someone like Whitman was considered a "good Marine" even after the court-martial and was honorably discharged at the end of service. Sometimes I think for all the talk of how much better and "hardcore" the military was 20/30/40/50/take your pick years ago, it was really just gilded crap. Nowadays, with discharge itself being a punishment of its own, it's cheaper and easier to administratively discharge someone (lower burden of proof, too) than to court-martial them. But good luck trying to punish a bunch of draftees with a discharge...
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Old 02 August 2016, 01:20 PM
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ASL, I think you helped me figure out what the biggest difference between then and now is. And that is the "militarizing" of the police. That is also coupled with the impression that fewer civilians today would be likely to return fire.
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Old 02 August 2016, 02:04 PM
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Here is another article about the legacy of the UT incident.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/sf/loc...ower-shooting/
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  #10  
Old 02 August 2016, 02:07 PM
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Without the particular story to comment on, it's hard to do so. I haven't time to hunt it up now.

The story I saw referred to one specific civilian, armed with a handgun, who was in the tower with the police, and was specifically working with the police. Does the story in the recycle bin say that there were multiple civilians shooting from outside the tower with rifles? If so, how does it say the police confirmed that there weren't multiple ill-intentioned shooters?

ETA: I just looked again at that story and saw it did indeed refer to multiple civilians shooting from the ground. They apparently nearly shot the police in the tower (the ones who actually got the shooter.)
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Old 02 August 2016, 02:08 PM
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From what I understood, the police were kind of glad that armed civilians kept him down so he could only shoot from protected places but less happy that they couldn't get anyone near him without risking getting shot from the fools outside with deer rifles and beer taking potshots at the sniper. Everyone was very lucky no one got shot from friendly fire. There were other people in the tower besides the shooter (some wounded and some moving in to get the shooter). Sinnce many had gone home and gotten their guns and come back to the campus armed, at any point the shooter might have simply walked out into the crowd. If ever asked, he could have produced an ID just like everyone else and no one would have been the wiser. So, yes, that they had arms to give to the police was good. That civilians were shooting up the tower and wandering around with guns, much less so.

These are exactly the same issues that we have today except that the civilian arms are much more powerful, the police are much less likely to be without heavy arms and armour and training, friendly fire is much more deadly with just ordinary luck, and conceal carry of rather inaccurate weapons being much more common, this could be a very dangerous situation in this day and age. The police then were very reluctant to tell everyone to stop shooting that day but I think these days that would be a given. They would definitely have to order everyone to stop shooting while police who are much better prepared would go in to take out a shooter whereas in Austin police not trained for this situation and without any body armour went in under a constant hail of bullets from armed civilians. Very unsafe to say the least.
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Old 02 August 2016, 04:49 PM
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Nowadays, they'd also likely have had an armored vehicle to approach the tower in, then deploy SWAT at the base of the tower, and used what I would call MOUT (Military Operations in Urban Terrain) tactics to methodically clear the tower, perhaps sending one team straight to the top while holding/clearing the lower levels of the tower with other teams. Meanwhile the sniper would have been suppressed or maybe even killed by trained police snipers operating from the rooftops of buildings using police-issued high-power rifles. And rather than risk friendly fire or being shot by the sniper to close in on Whitman in close quarters at the top, perhaps they'd have used a bomb robot to locate and maybe even engage him (kind of like in Dallas just a few weeks ago, which apparently people are shocked about). At the very least, it could have flushed him out and into waiting and ready police officers.

Maybe some day there will even be an aerial drone available for such a situation!

I continue to be not at all shocked or appalled by the so-called "militarization" of police forces and in fact wonder why people are so concerned: the alternative (officers powerless or very much hindered to respond to a 2nd amendment-wielding citizen) seems much scarier. Of course sometimes I think that's what the NRA wants: letting whichever citizen or band of citizens with most guns dictate right and wrong in their vicinity. It's kind of like what they've got going on in Afghanistan and ISIS-held Iraq/Syria, actually...
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Old 02 August 2016, 05:03 PM
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Well, I looked for the Dallas Morning News reports about the shooting that ran recently and can't find them. However, it was mainly statements of fact and the memories of people who were there. One professor related the story of how someone who was described as a cowboy came into his classroom carrying an "elephant gun." This person broke out the glass in a window and after telling every one to take cover in the hall, proceeded to start shooting at Whitman. Whitman then returned fire shooting out several other windows.
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Old 02 August 2016, 06:38 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ASL View Post
I continue to be not at all shocked or appalled by the so-called "militarization" of police forces and in fact wonder why people are so concerned: the alternative (officers powerless or very much hindered to respond to a 2nd amendment-wielding citizen) seems much scarier.
One problem with the militarization of the police forces is the mentality of "them-versus-us". Every encounter that even potentially could become violent becomes "take out the enemy" instead of "diffuse the situation". If police show up at a peaceful rally with shields and riot gear, they tend to get what they were expecting: a riot. Protests in Fergusun were peaceful until the Riot Police showed up.
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Old 02 August 2016, 10:21 PM
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Are there controlled studies linking the presence of riot gear with the outcomes of a protest? What if the police showed up, but without riot gear? How do you know the protest wouldn't have turned into a riot without police? Was it even really a riot? etc...
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Old 02 August 2016, 10:29 PM
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The irony of Ferguson is that the police were there because they claim they had credible threats that there organized plans for looting and violence.
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Old 02 August 2016, 11:37 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ASL View Post
I continue to be not at all shocked or appalled by the so-called "militarization" of police forces and in fact wonder why people are so concerned: the alternative (officers powerless or very much hindered to respond to a 2nd amendment-wielding citizen) seems much scarier.
First off, there is grey area between heavily militarized police that people worry about and police without access to the tools of which you speak, so I don't think it is necessary to pose it as such an either or dilemma.

Regarding the question: I can't speak for others, but my issue with the militarization of police is not mainly based on the equipment, but on the commonality of its use and the attitudes. For example, 79% of SWAT team deployments were to execute search warrants. The deployment of a SWAT team to execute a warrant is often done because weapons are believed to be at the location but 54% of forced entries done by SWAT teams found no weapons at all on the premises. (Note that that 46% where weapons were found would include legal weapons that were never used to threaten an officer.)

Another reason for forced entry is to prevent the destruction or disposal of evidence while the officers are waiting outside (usually drugs as they can be easily flushed in small numbers). But only 36% of drug-based deployments were known to have found any illegal items. And the disposal/destruction use of SWAT teams is particularly troubling because these are (by definition) being executed against the homes of innocent people who are simply suspected of having drugs or other illegal items. Using severe tactics is one thing when the purpose is to save lives, but using such tactics to simply obtain evidence is a whole other issue. Especially given how forced entry places the occupants at risk both by the entry itself and by police responses to their often panicked reaction to the sudden entry.

ETA: And that leaves out how SWAT forced-entry deployments seem to be used disproportionately when the residents of the house are minorities.

And for the tl;dr version:
My issue is not that military equipment and tactics are being used when there is an extraordinary, known, armed threat to officers, my issue is that military equipment and tactics are too often used for ordinary police work when there is no known or even credible threat.

The numbers are based on the ACLU's extensive study on SWAT deployments. (pdf)

Last edited by GenYus234; 02 August 2016 at 11:39 PM. Reason: forgot cite
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  #18  
Old 03 August 2016, 12:34 AM
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My main concern about such spending is that it could be better spent on more and better training, higher pay, and reducing the amount expected from traffic violations - three things I think would help solve many ofthe problems facing police around the country. Instead they are spending hundreds of millions on equipment that will almost certainly never be needed. We've come a long way from municipal police borrowing civilian shotguns and deer rifles to take out a sniper.
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Old 03 August 2016, 02:57 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Dr. Winston O'Boogie View Post
One problem with the militarization of the police forces is the mentality of "them-versus-us". Every encounter that even potentially could become violent becomes "take out the enemy" instead of "diffuse the situation". If police show up at a peaceful rally with shields and riot gear, they tend to get what they were expecting: a riot. Protests in Fergusun were peaceful until the Riot Police showed up.
That's basically my view. So much of the problems we've been having, all the debates over militarization and brutality of the police, seem to stem from Maslow's Maxim: When all you have is a hammer, everything starts to look like a nail.

Giving them all this military hardware, combined with fostering a "Us versus them" paranoia about the public, just leads to problem. The police are civil servants; they work for the people and it doesn't work well for both sides to be afraid of each other.
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Old 03 August 2016, 03:34 AM
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I think it's game theory in action.
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