Psychology of Killing

Highlights of Lt. Col. Dave Grossman's TREXPO Lecture

Col. Grossman was one of the main reasons I decided to go to TREXPO this year.  I saw him speak to a group of police and school administrators a couple of years ago, and was really looking forward to hearing him again.  I was not disappointed!  Every principal, superintendent and school board member in the country needs to hear what he has to say.  His message is also important for parents, police, employers and everyone else, too.  If you ever have the opportunity to hear him, you really ought to take him in.  I'd also encourage folks to read his books, On Combat, On Killing, and Stop Teaching Our Kids To Kill.

I took some bullet point notes yesterday, so I'll try to share them here as a sort of stream of consciousness interpretation of Col. Grossman's words. 

Mass Violence

We need to get rid of the phrase "Active Shooter."  It takes an honorable word, "shooter," and turns it into something evil.  Active shooters are at the range, the sporting clays field, and the hunting woods.  "Active Killers" are the evil ones rampaging through a school, office, or shopping center, and the ones that need to be taken out.

There have been no mass killings at workplaces that allow concealed carry on the premises.

The US murder rate is at about the same level as it was in the 60s... a great reduction that politicians and police chiefs promote.  But it is not indicative of a reduction in violent attacks.  It is indicative of advances in medical technology.  Estimates are that if we had today's violent attack rate with 1970's medical technology, the current murder rate would be 4 to 5 times what it is now.  The rate of aggravated assaults is lower than it was in 1990, but still 4 times higher than it was in 1950.

As more armed police are in schools, it deters mass violence there (those committing mass violence are not deterred by thoughts of arrest or being killed, they are deterred by the risk of failing to kill a lot of people).  Those that are deterred in middle and high school are going to college, where armed police and security are also on the increase.  Those deterred there are becoming adults and carrying their mass killings to the workplace or their own families.  Look at how many mass murder/suicides there have been in recent years.

Armed citizens are a huge deterrence to violent crime.  When concealed carry has come to states, it has been under a shadow of the whining and hand wringing of those saying that the streets will run red with blood and it will become like the wild West.  Not only do those predictions not come true... violent crime goes down significantly, but the reputation of the wild West is primarily an invention of Hollywood.  He asked what the most famous gunfight was, and of course everyone answered OK Corral.  He then explained that it was nothing more than cops killing three bad guys... and if they had modern medical technology, it would have been cops wounding three bad guys, and would not have been more than local news.  Kind of brings it into perspective, doesn't it.

Gun control = unarmed victims.

School Killings

There have been no mass killings at US schools where an armed police officer was on site.

After the 1970 school bus massacre, Israeli school buses have had armed security on them, and many are actually armored.  The armed security might be police, military, parents, or even the bus driver.  Since the 1974 Ma'alot masacre, Israeli schools have been protected by armed security, which often includes staff.

For the last ten years, Utah has used the Israeli method.  In each county, if the sheriff and school superintendent agree, school staff may be armed.  These teachers and other staff members go through the same qualification courses as the police.  Since this program has started, there have been no school killings in Utah.

Many of you may have heard about the small town in Texas that started training and arming teachers a few years ago.  The nearest police response when the principal was brutally attacked was 40 minutes away.  There was quite the ruckus in the media about this when it started, but it is spreading throughout Texas.  So far, the largest city to adopt this program has been Abilene.

Terrorism Threats

He spent some time talking about the Beslan school massacre.  If you don't know about this Wikipedia gives a good, basic overview of it, but Terror at Beslan is the definitive work.  I've heard the author, John Giduck, speak on this and it is truly horrific.  But back to Col. Grossman.  He stresses that the "Islamist fanatics" (the phrase Turkish military asked him to use when he trained them) did not begin to attack Russia until after they left Afghanistan.  He believes that they will not return to organized attacks on us until after we leave Iraq and Afghanistan... but that doesn't rule out the home-grown, lone wolves for the time being.

Osama bin Ladin said that Beslan was a preview to what we would get here, and Anwar al Awaki has said that they were justified in killing 2 million American Children.

Shortly after 9/11, a Special Forces soldier was getting ready to deploy, and after Col. Grossman addressed the troops, the soldier said to the Col., "We are going to attack our enemies over there.  While we are gone, don't let them attack our kids."


The police can and should trust the armed populace.

The firearms training industry is getting ready to explode, with advanced training for police and the public.

Cops need to have hobbies - but they should be hobbies that contribute to survival skills (the group was mostly police, but I think he would apply this to the rest of us as well).  He mentioned competitive shooting (specifically mentioning my favorite, Cowboy Action Shooting), hunting and martial arts.  He said that golf courses are rifle ranges just waiting to be taken back over.  He suggested that if you see a police officer with a set of golf clubs to great them with a "baaaaaa" and send them to graze on the course with the other sheep.

The Angel of the Night

He closed with a tale of walking around the park with his little grandson one evening.  The grandson said that it was dark and scary things were in the dark.  Col. Grossman thought about his pistol, knife, martial arts skills, German Shepherd, and the fact that he would do anything to protect his grandson, and he told his grandson, "Yes, there are scary things in the dark... us!"  The little boy took that to heart and as he has gotten older, continues to tell people that.

He then shared his poem, The Angel of the Night.  This is the poem that he allowed us to use during our fundraiser for the memorial to Sgt. Major Tom Parker a couple years ago.  Here it is:

Fear not the night.
Fear that which walks the night.
And *I* am that which walks the night.

But only evil need fear me …
and gentle souls sleep safe in their beds…
because I walk the night

No matter your background or occupation, if you ever get the opportunity to hear Lt. Col. Grossman speak, please do.  He will open your eyes and mind, and really help you understand a preparedness mindset and how the mind works with violence.

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