The Daily Parker

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The price of too many guns

We're still grappling with the horror of last week's mass murder in Uvalde, Texas. Nick Meyer, a retired lawyer who grew up there, shares our horror but not our surprise:

First, you would be challenged to find a more heavily armed place in the United States than Uvalde. It’s a town where the love of guns overwhelms any notion of common-sense regulations, and the minority White ruling class places its right-wing Republican ideology above the safety of its most vulnerable citizens — its impoverished and its children, most of whom are Hispanic.

I wasn’t surprised to see the Republican panel of politicians at a news conference the day after the shooting, almost all White and in top positions of power in the community and the state, taking the lead. In Uvalde, the custodians of order — the chief of police, the sheriff, the head of the school district police — are Hispanic, but here they were largely silent. Unsurprisingly, they now bear the primary blame for the disastrous response at the school.

Bloomberg asks how that total police failure happened when fully 40% of the town's budget goes to police:

But determining what may have gone wrong during the police’s response to the attack will take more than scrutinizing city budgets. In fact, Uvalde’s police spending is not such an aberration. 

Policing is one of the few services smaller cities are set up to provide. For Uvalde, which has roughly 16,000 residents, the $4 million police budget is the biggest expense in the city budget this year, funded at a proportion that’s higher than some peers but far from abnormal. An analysis of a sampling of 15 other cities with populations between 15,000 and 20,000 in 10 states, some dominated by Republicans and others by Democrats, show that on average, policing accounted for 32% of their general-fund budgets in 2022. The average level in big cities is also around 30%, with cities like Milwaukee, Oakland and Phoenix spending closer to 40%.

In a way, these high percentages can be deceiving, because some small towns and cities aren’t set up to provide many other services, such as health care, social services or the expensive items that dominate most big-city budgets. Those expenditures are instead left to school districts, counties, states and larger entities with more resources to run those programs efficiently, according to Richard Auxier, a senior policy associate in the Urban-Brookings Tax Policy Center. That’s why policing makes up such a huge share of spending.

Retired FBI Special Agent Katharine Scweit, who created and ran the FBI's active-shooter training program, worries about training:

In the first few years after the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in December 2012, the F.B.I. spent more than $30 million to send agents to police departments around the country. The goal was to train local officers how to handle active shooters so they would know how to go after a shooter with confidence and neutralize the threat.

Current protocol and best practices say officers must persistently pursue efforts to neutralize a shooter when a shooting is underway. This is true even if only one officer is present. This is without question the right approach.

We need to understand why that protocol was not followed in Uvalde. I am still confident the F.B.I.’s focus on training to this standard was right, but I’m less confident in its execution. The officers who responded may have been unprepared for conflict, which can lead to fatal results. Law enforcement officers need to be mentally prepared before they arrive on the scene, so they can respond immediately.

After Sandy Hook the federal government adopted the run, hide, fight model, which instructs students and teachers to run first if they can, then hide if they must and, finally, fight to survive.

I remember telling my children that if someone approached them in a car while they were walking, they should run as fast and as far as possible. Yet in many school settings we have mistakenly discouraged students from trying their best to simply stay alive.

Journalist Susie Linfield grapples with the "Emmett Till" moment:

The question of how much violence we should see, and to what end, is almost as old as photography itself. But the question gains urgency in our age of unfiltered immediacy — of the 24-hour news cycle, of Instagram and Twitter, of jihadi beheading videos, of fake news and conspiracy theorists and of repellent sites like BestGore, which revel in sadistic carnage. What responsibilities does the act of seeing entail? Is the viewing of violence an indefensible form of collaboration with it? Is the refusal to view violence an indefensible form of denial?

In the case of Uvalde, a serious case can be made — indeed, I agree with it — that the nation should see exactly how an assault rifle pulverizes the body of a 10-year-old, just as we needed to see (but rarely did) the injuries to our troops in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. A violent society ought, at the very least, to regard its handiwork, however ugly, whether it be the toll on the men and women who fight in our name, on ordinary crime victims killed or wounded by guns or on children whose right to grow up has been sacrificed to the right to bear arms.

Despite the very real dangers of exploitation and misuse that disclosure of the Uvalde photographs would pose, I myself would like politicians to view them: to look — really look — at the shattered face of what was previously a child and to then contemplate the bewildered terror of her last moments on earth. But that would not mean that the jig is up. People, not photographs, create political change, which is slow, difficult and unpredictable. Don’t ask images to think, or to act, for you.

Uvalde may be the worst mass shooting in May, but it wasn't the only one. The US had 14 more over the weekend. I'm so glad we have Wayne LaPierre's thoughts and prayers to help us. And don't even get me started on the new "mental health" misdirection coming from the Republican Party.

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