There is a nationwide program to teach battlefield first aid techniques, because that is something that we have deemed to be necessary knowledge for teachers and public servants.
As a former public-safety reporter (the “cops and courts” beat) I’ve attended various police-led seminars on what to do in the event of an “active shooter” situation. In one case I ruined my belt using it to try to secure a bathroom door against our mock intruder. Most of the others were less active, but all of them were profoundly dispiriting.
During the class, there are no questions about whether this will become irrelevant information as we watch a video showing what to do if someone enters your building and starts gunning down everyone in sight. In one case, I interviewed the deputy who organized the program and he did not reflect enthusiasm to share his expertise—that’s often the case when people get to talk about their work—but he seemed just as disappointed as anyone that this was something that needed to be and for which he happened to be qualified.
In the most interactive of these seminars, we ran through drills and followed lessons outlined by the Stop the Bleed program, which encourages lessons on quick intervention in traumatic blood-loss injuries. If you go to the program’s website, there is no mention of the exact justification of why this exists. There is no mention that these are techniques for stopping gaping holes and slowing blood flow to a gunshot wound. There is no mention that a reason for the urgency in response is that in the best case scenario, if there is an incident with a gun, it takes time for police to clear a building and allow EMTs to enter.
These seminars reflect a desire to protect life amid chaos, but they also reflect utter resignation. This is who we are now. We can still remember when no one referred to schools and churches as “soft targets,” but that isn’t where we are now and soon enough the difference will be forgotten.
This isn’t to say that police shouldn’t hold these seminars or teach citizens relevant survival techniques. That is all directly in their professional jurisdiction of public safety. However, addressing societal trends is generally not a part of law enforcement. They may come up in the same conversations, but that is not the job of the police. It is our job, as citizens, to ask the question “why?” And then to act on it.
At the same time, I was also reporting on the height of the opioid epidemic and although both epidemics have seemed to be absolutely insurmountable, those involved in preventing drug deaths were keenly focused on doing every little thing to prevent one more person from dying of an overdose — every gram of heroin, every loose tablet of narcotic taken off the street was accepted as one more step in the right direction, one more potentially saved life.
When groups were organizing Drug Take Back Day or giving out free medication lockers, I don’t recall anyone saying, “But this isn’t going to possibly make a real difference: People will get drugs anyway.”
Meanwhile, there is apparently nothing that can be done about gun violence and it is silly to try. Proposals for gun-control measures, background checks, and waiting requirements get turned down with arguments that they are not the solution, not wholly effective. When bulletproof elementary school backpacks are being sold, I am happy to see partially effective proposals or even minimally effective suggestions.
If congress re-instated the assault weapons ban, the existing legally owned AR-15s would not magically disappear, but it would surely make a difference if we have no new military-grade weapons being brought into the marketplace. New laws may not prevent all those determined to commit crimes, but they prevent some and make it more inconvenient for others.
Maybe our country is permanently broken and disproportionate amounts of gun violence is something that will always be with us, but our nation was designed to grow and change with the needs of its citizens and its success has always been defined by those willing to try.