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Shooting Rampage at Virgina Tech

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http://www.cnn.com/2007/US/04/16/vtech.shooting/index.html

• Police chief says at least 22 people are dead; AP reports 31

• Four hospitals report 29 wounded

• Attacks mark deadliest school shooting in U.S. history

• Student describes situation as "mayhem"; says 2 students jumped from window

There isn't enough information to know the motivations of the shooter yet, but I won't be surprised if it was along the same lines as the personal subjectivist philosophy that Eric Harris held: "My belief is that if I say something, it goes. I am the law, and if you don't like it, you die. If I don't like you or I don't like what you want me to do, you die."

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http://www.cnn.com/2007/US/04/16/vtech.shooting/index.html

• Police chief says at least 22 people are dead; AP reports 31

• Four hospitals report 29 wounded

• Attacks mark deadliest school shooting in U.S. history

• Student describes situation as "mayhem"; says 2 students jumped from window

I offer this disclaimer that I'm not addressing much of the philosophical issue in this post.

I've followed this somewhat for a couple of reasons chief of which is that my son will be attending VA Tech in the fall. Overall it doesn't cause me that much concern because even though there is a high body count, it's one incident. That area typically has a lower crime rate than where I live and where I live has a very low crime rate.

I also have a professional interest in how the incident is handled though you can't get much of that off the TV. An incident of this magnitude (seemingly small as it is) requires an immense effort of coordination from the very beginning. I could see on the news that numerous agencies are involved on different levels. From the initial response and perhaps for up to the first hour or more, someone at my level of supervision was probably "calling the shots" until a higher ranking official got on scene (and perhaps was willing) to take command. I can tell you from personal experience that sometimes managing the scene of one homicide with no active shooter threat can be busy and disorganized. Throw in a few dozen of victims, a massive crime scene, thousands of potentially panicky students, and an active shooter and it could be mind-boggling to get it under control and organized.

The "active shooter" concept is something that evolved out of the Columbine incident. Prior to that, the initial responders role on arrival of such an incident was typically to "hold the fort" until the special weapons teams got there. As we quickly discovered, we cannot simply sit outside and wait while someone is inside shooting people. I know this is a "no brainer", but you have to understand the nature of how officers had been trained for many, many years up to that point. We finally started getting tactical training on the first responder level on how to "stack up" in small teams, make tactical entries and to do tactical searches.

On a larger more strategic level, fire departments across the country have been utilizing the Incident Command System for many years now but Police Departments, well at least ours, had been slow to get on board. ICS was developed in the '70's as a result of the multi-agency handling of rampant forrest fires in the western part of the country. ICS establishes a common organized command structure that can be used by a single agency or by a multitude of agencies involved in managing incidents. Since we started training on how to implement ICS during our handling of incidents, I've found it to be a definite plus in more quickly organizing the massive chaos that typically highlights the initial stages of serious emergency responses.

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As we quickly discovered, we cannot simply sit outside and wait while someone is inside shooting people. I know this is a "no brainer", but you have to understand the nature of how officers had been trained for many, many years up to that point. We finally started getting tactical training on the first responder level on how to "stack up" in small teams, make tactical entries and to do tactical searches.

The military mindset here would be to decentralize leadership: push the power down. No two incidents will be the same so it has to be up to the highest ranking troop on the ground to make the decision about what to do.

A "standard operating procedure" to charge in guns blazing or a "standard operating procedure" to always 'hold the fort' and wait for backup regardless of the situation would limit the ability of officers to choose the appropriate action. The best solution is something along the lines of the "3:1 guideline" which is essentially "if you are engaged by an enemy, and you outnumber him three to one (e.g. there are three cops and one shooter), then assault him. If you see an enemy and you do not outnumber him 3:1 than suppress him and call for support."

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The best solution is something along the lines of the "3:1 guideline" which is essentially "if you are engaged by an enemy, and you outnumber him three to one (e.g. there are three cops and one shooter), then assault him. If you see an enemy and you do not outnumber him 3:1 than suppress him and call for support."

3 to 1 may be optimal IF you can have that many officers available and IF you have that much information. The problem with this is that frequently there may not be that much information (sadly like the hypotheticals on here I so rue :) ). The dispatcher information you receive states shots were just fired inside XXXX High School and there are several students down bleeding. You arrive on the scene with two or three other officers (hopefully). You hear gunshots being fired inside the building right now along with screaming and yelling. You have no information as to how many suspects are inside. Wait or go in? That's the judgement call the officers have to face. Politically speaking, their will be lots of pressure on the officers to go inside to start searching for the threat. The safer option would obviously be to try to obtain more information before going in, but while you sit outside more students could likely be getting shot.

Also, you don't use "suppression fire" in a school full of students. In fact, most law enforcement agencies probably aren't even taught the tactic of suppression fire and are probably directed specifically NOT to use that tactic. Most of the military mindset (from a tactical target engagement point of view) has to go out the window because the rules of engagement for police officers are vastly different as is when they can fire their weapons. Certain other military tactics are fine; "stacking", room-clearing, "slicing the pie", etc. But the mission of the police on domestic soil is not the same as the mission of the military on foreign soil.

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http://www.nytimes.com/2007/04/16/us/16cnd...amp;oref=slogin

In this article that was just posted, it says that "some students were lined up against a wall and shot." The shooter was apparently not a student. This is truly an unfortunate incident...and very, very sickening. I'm going to college in the fall, and I'm not worried about stuff like this happening because I know it is very rare and that there are other dangers that are more common (date rape, too much alcohol, etc.), but this is still very disturbing.

Edited by Mimpy

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That's crazy. Kind of make me wish guns weren't so prevalent in the United States.

And if you want things like this to be less likely in the future, decreasing the prevalence of guns is about the worst way to do it.

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That's crazy. Kind of make me wish guns weren't so prevalent in the United States.

I'd be willing to bet that each of the victims murdered there today did not have a gun.

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And if you want things like this to be less likely in the future, decreasing the prevalence of guns is about the worst way to do it.

Why not? School shootings in America happen frequently in the United States, and I don't recall any of them actually getting their guns off the black market. In fact, most of them are teens that took the gun from their parent's collection.

Most often I hear that if we banned guns in the United States, then only criminals would have guns. If we go with that argument, then if criminals have access to heavy automatic assault rifles, submachine guns, and rocket launchers, then the regular law abiding citizens ought to be allowed those things also to defend themselves. Yet we aren't. And in any case, a lot of the guns on the black market were initially bought legally. Furthermore, most of these schools shootings aren't done by career criminals -- just irrational people with mental problems.

Most developed countries don't allow guns, and they rarely if ever have school shootings like these. Coincidence?

It's not as if the murderer would think: "Well, I really want to kill a lot of people today, but I dare not disobey a gun law."

Yeah, but if guns were banned, it would be much harder for a random crazy guy to gain access to a gun. Most people don't have the connections to get black market guns.

I'd be willing to bet that each of the victims murdered there today did not have a gun.

But then again, I don't think it would be a good idea to start issuing guns to incoming freshmen, or allow them to start carrying guns to classes and around dorms.

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But then again, I don't think it would be a good idea to start issuing guns to incoming freshmen, or allow them to start carrying guns to classes and around dorms.

If every student had a gun, this incident would have lasted about two minutes... assuming the guy would still have even had the balls to try it.

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Also, you don't use "suppression fire" in a school full of students.

Clearly. My point was:

1) A hard and fast Standard Operating Procedure like "if there is a shooting in a school, immediately charge in" or "if there is a shooting in a school, wait and call for backup" is limiting because every situation is different.

2) Officers should be given the flexibility to decide how to react, and be trained to assess the threat and their own capabilities (the Army's 3:1 rule is just an example of a simple assessment tool). They should also have the authority to react without having to gain permission from higher.

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Most developed countries don't allow guns, and they rarely if ever have school shootings like these. Coincidence?

Don't allow guns? Any guns? I don't find this to be the case. Let's take a look at German school shootings, a developed country with some of the toughest gun laws.

March 1999: Branneburg, Germany 1 teacher dead

Feb 2002: Freising, Germany 3 dead, 1 wounded

April 2002: Erfurt, Germany 17 dead, 1 wounded

Nov 2006 Emsdetten, Germany 4 wounded

Nov 1999: Meissen, Germany 1 teacher stabbed to death (hey, if you can't find a piece...)

Here are a couple others from the developed countries.

Dublane, Scotland: March 1996 16 children, 1 teacher dead

Carmen de Patagones, Arg 3 dead, 6 wounded

Montreal, Canada Sept 2006 1 dead, 18 wounded

I'm sure I could dig up a lot more. I even came across something that Brits use a lot more air-guns now because they are still easy to get!

I also ran across several studies that indicate that medieval murder rates were many times higher than ours (without guns of course) and that the rates plummeted in the 17th century, and didn't start to rise again until the 20th. Hmm...wasn't the age of reason in there somewhere in those centuries?

Guns make it easier to kill, sure. But, if you want to kill, you are going to kill - club, axe, mace, bare-hands, knife, airplane. The rest is only talk about numbers of victims. Talk of banning guns misses the cause altogether.

Edited by Thoyd Loki

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The issue has little to nothing to do with gun control. Notice that school shootings are relatively recent issue. Guns aren't a relatively new invention. My grandfather hunted on the way to school and threw his gun in the coat closet, where most of his friends kept their guns. While if I brought a tiny pocket knife to school today, I'd be expelled.

Bob is right. If you want to kill somebody, you will find a way to do it, regardless of what medium you use. You may try to argue that guns can kill more people than an axe, mace, club, knife, etc. But honestly, it isn't that hard to look up instructions on how to make a bomb from household materials. Again, these people will find ways to kill if they want to. Gun control is irrelevant.

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Guns make it easier to kill, sure. But, if you want to kill, you are going to kill - club, axe, mace, bare-hands, knife, airplane. The rest is only talk about numbers of victims. Talk of banning guns misses the cause altogether.

The number of victims is the whole point. How many could the gunman killed today if he had a club? Two? Three?

I mean, why don't we allow atomic bombs (or even conventional bombs) in the hands of our citizens? We don't because even just one mentally unbalanced person can cause a ton of damage. Is it definitively rational that we need guns to protect ourselves? Why not invest in more non-lethal personal protection, like say, high voltage projectile tazers? I'm sure if every student had one of those, the gunman would have also done far less damage.

You may try to argue that guns can kill more people than an axe, mace, club, knife, etc. But honestly, it isn't that hard to look up instructions on how to make a bomb from household materials. Again, these people will find ways to kill if they want to. Gun control is irrelevant.

It's not that hard to look up bomb instructions, but it isn't easy to actually build one either -- especially post 9-11.

It's far easier to just walk into a store (or your daddy's closet), get a gun, and start blasting away.

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But then again, I don't think it would be a good idea to start issuing guns to incoming freshmen, or allow them to start carrying guns to classes and around dorms.

I'm not sure where you got the idea that I advocate "issuing" guns to anyone as it's certainly nothing I said. Likewise, I have no particular issue with the owners of private property (such as campuses) regulating who comes on their property armed. My main concern is when the government starts passing laws restricting otherwise law-abiding, rights-respecting citizens from owning, possessing or carrying guns.

My point remains that unarmed civilians have very little chance against armed criminals. If they choose to be unarmed then they assume the risk but if they are forced by law to be unarmed, that's a different matter.

The number of victims is the whole point.

What is an acceptable number of murders? I'd like to see an objective argument based on principles and rights determined by some acceptable "number of victims". If a rampant clubman should kill two or three people, should be ban clubs then or are those deaths acceptable in numbers? If a wife kills her husband with a kitchen knife, is that an acceptable number of murders or should we ban kitchen knives? Plenty of people are killed with vehicles each year... think of the lives we could save by banning automobiles.

I think that all too often advocates of gun bans or gun control (which it may be a stretch to say you are either, I don't know) think only of the side of the crimes committed by use of firearms. Rarely do the consider the other side, the defensive use of firearms by individuals who choose to arm themselves and protect themselves in situations where the government's response cannot be timely enough to alleviate an emergency. Their deaths would be no more acceptable than are the students from VA Tech. I don't see how one can make a principled argument that these law-abiding rights-respecting people no longer be allowed to potentially defend themselves against armed assailants because a small minority of the population will use the weapons for an evil purpose. Just tonight I went on a call where an armed tenant forced a stranger out of his apartment who came in without permission for who knows what purpose. And the tenant didn't have to shoot him.

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I believe Larry Elder and John Lott make the point that in many cases, merely brandishing a gun prevents a serious crime, and that such crimes prevented by private citizens wielding guns are greatly underreported.

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That's crazy. Kind of make me wish guns weren't so prevalent in the United States.

Please demonstrate how fewer guns in the United States would have stopped this particular crime. Then please demonstrate how fewer guns in the United States would reduce crime in general.

School shootings in America happen frequently in the United States . . .

Yes, school shootings in America do happen frequently in the United States. However, some of the shootings in America happen in the Yucutan Peninsula, and still others in the Ural Mountains. It has puzzled geographers for decades.

[Edit: The remark immediately above is just a bit of lighthearted humor about a typing mistake that ended up saying something funny. I did not mean it as a serious critique about the poster's English skills.]

Edited by Groovenstein

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Why not? School shootings in America happen frequently in the United States, and I don't recall any of them actually getting their guns off the black market. In fact, most of them are teens that took the gun from their parent's collection.

Leaving aside that more (yet to be confirmed) details are coming in and will continue to come in for days, someone else already indicated in this thread that one of the shooters wasn't a student. Also, how are you going to attempt to substantiate the idea that "most of them are teens that took the gun from their parent's collection." ? This isn't exactly a premise that's automatically and widely accepted.

Most often I hear that if we banned guns in the United States, then only criminals would have guns. If we go with that argument, then if criminals have access to heavy automatic assault rifles, submachine guns, and rocket launchers, then the regular law abiding citizens ought to be allowed those things also to defend themselves. Yet we aren't. And in any case, a lot of the guns on the black market were initially bought legally. Furthermore, most of these schools shootings aren't done by career criminals -- just irrational people with mental problems.

This is a non sequitur fallacy. It's better to deal with the original premise in question before jumping ahead.... You are disputing that criminals would have better access to guns than other people would if there was a ban. Since when did criminals observe gun bans or other gun laws under any circumstances? Also, gun owners tend to be VERY aware of the related laws as well as weapons handling and care. Yet, it's the legitimate gun owners who have suffered the consequences from _both_ criminal behaviour and government regulations!

Most developed countries don't allow guns, and they rarely if ever have school shootings like these. Coincidence?

Yeah, but if guns were banned, it would be much harder for a random crazy guy to gain access to a gun. Most people don't have the connections to get black market guns.

But then again, I don't think it would be a good idea to start issuing guns to incoming freshmen, or allow them to start carrying guns to classes and around dorms.

Apparently, most developed countries are predominately Socialist/mixed economic where guns and other weapons are prohibited by law. Coincidence?

"Most people don't have the connections to get black market guns." This is both naive and beside the point. If one person can get something on the black market, then I'm sure many others could if they wanted to. Likewise, that's regardless of their philosophy or police record. Still (once again), it's the law-abiding citizens who wish to defend against the initiation of force rather than cause it. Coincidence?

The reference to handing out weapons to incoming freshman is part of a false alternative fallacy. Also, why _shouldn't_ students be allowed to protect themselves. Keep in mind that we are talking about a university not a grade school. Many of these students may be young, but they certainly are old enough to enlist in the military.

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On CNN this morning, they released information on the identities of some of the victims. One of them was a young black male, good-looking, senior, Resident Adviser, multiple majors, with a 4.0 average. He may have tried to bar the front door to the dorm when he saw the shooter approach. Another was a professor with 20 years of service to VT; he was also a holocaust survivor, originally from Romania. He led students in trying to barricade his classroom door as the shooter forced his way in.

This is a terrible tragedy. If only there were a special hell for people like the shooter to go to.

--Dan Edge

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This shooting is definitely a tragedy, but I want to address another issue while on this topic. I couldn't help but notice that as soon as something like this happens, most everyone jumps to the issue of gun control. My government teacher went on a rant about how no citizen should be allowed to own a gun, and I answered her bluntly: "How can you justify taking away everyone's rights because of an irrational person who used a weapon against UNARMED people?" She said that she would not keep a gun, even to protect her family, and that violence should never be answered with violence...

What is the world coming to when people use this kind of (ill) logic? I don't understand how she expects to negotiate with someone who chooses irrational force as a means to an end. It can't be done. The only way to answer force is with force, and as long as that force is justified, I have no problem with it. Anyone else care to comment?

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I'm not sure where you got the idea that I advocate "issuing" guns to anyone as it's certainly nothing I said. Likewise, I have no particular issue with the owners of private property (such as campuses) regulating who comes on their property armed. My main concern is when the government starts passing laws restricting otherwise law-abiding, rights-respecting citizens from owning, possessing or carrying guns.

But then we regulate who gets to make bombs, or own tanks and helicopters. Even as far as guns go, we restrict what type of guns they can have. For instance we're not allowed to own automatic assault rifles. Now, I fully understand and appreciate the need for people to defend themselves, but there is rarely any situation where a gun is strictly better than a non-lethal alternative like say, a stun gun or tazer.

My point remains that unarmed civilians have very little chance against armed criminals. If they choose to be unarmed then they assume the risk but if they are forced by law to be unarmed, that's a different matter.

Yeah that's true too. But then someone with a 9mm won't really have a chance against someone with a m16, and someone with a shotgun won't really have a chance against someone with a bazuka. What about terrorists with say, biological agents or a suitcase nuke? The point is in almost all personal defense type situations, a mace spray or a tazer is just as good as a gun. Granted that when a disgruntled postal worker is blazing a machine gun you won't really have a chance, the probability that you'll have a gun on you at work (unless you're a cop, which I know you are) or at school is extremely small.

I mean, we don't really allow most people to walk around carrying concealed weapons. Given that you're a cop, would you really be comfortable with the fact that every time you stop a car or answer a domestic violence call, the other guy definitely is packing? (well I guess you'd have to treat every situation as the worst case scenario as it is anyway...)

What is an acceptable number of murders? I'd like to see an objective argument based on principles and rights determined by some acceptable "number of victims". If a rampant clubman should kill two or three people, should be ban clubs then or are those deaths acceptable in numbers? If a wife kills her husband with a kitchen knife, is that an acceptable number of murders or should we ban kitchen knives? Plenty of people are killed with vehicles each year... think of the lives we could save by banning automobiles.

It's not really that there is a set number of victims. I'm aware that you can kill people with any variety of objects. But a kitchen knife or a baseball bat (or your bare hands) has a purpose other than to kill or maim, whereas a gun is only used for violence. The same reason that we allow kitchen knives but don't allow people to carry katanas on the street.

When I said that the whole point was the number, I wasn't saying that there's an arbitrary number that's acceptable. I'm simply saying that a gun is far more destructive than a club. The same way that I'm not allowed to rig up C4s and put it all over my own private property, or build a tactical nuke even if it's just in case that someone broke in while I'm not home.

To be fair, I don't have any problems what so ever with weapons being in the hands of a rational, reasonable man. But the fact is there really isn't a reliable a definitive way to test for rationality or mental stability when someone applies for a gun license, or to tell when a formerly reasoning person suddenly go into a rage (like say when a husband walks home and finds her wife in bed with a stranger).

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A tazer couldn't even protect someone against a "saturday night special" (cheap handgun), which could easily be obtained by any criminal in any country regardless of government control. On the other end of the spectrum, a gun would still be a better defense against a suicide bomber with C4 strapped to him or a terrorist with a bazooka: so there is no need to allow a basic citizen to have C4 or a tank.

To be fair, I don't have any problems what so ever with weapons being in the hands of a rational, reasonable man. But the fact is there really isn't a reliable a definitive way to test for rationality or mental stability when someone applies for a gun license, or to tell when a formerly reasoning person suddenly go into a rage (like say when a husband walks home and finds her wife in bed with a stranger).

This is really the key, that on principle rational men must be allowed the ability to defend themselves against irrational men. Ideally only good men would have guns (and only the US would have had nukes during the cold war), but failing that it is better to ensure the right of good men to guns even if it makes it easier for a criminal to obtain one.

Surely, in the case of this shooting rampage, you can admit that it would have been better if all of the students had guns? If Virgina Tech is like any other school in the United States than the students were probably not allowed to have guns in their dorm rooms or on their persons. If they had, it would have been impossible for one shooter to inflict this sort of carnage.

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Yeah that's true too. But then someone with a 9mm won't really have a chance against someone with a m16,

It depends. A trained soldier or cop with a pistol has good odds against an untrained or half-trained man with an M-16.

I've no weapons training at all (past some basics on loading a .22 single-round, bolt-action rifle and shooting it ten times). put me with an M-16 against a cop with a 9mm, or even a .22, and I'd fear for my life.

What about terrorists with say, biological agents or a suitcase nuke?

If you spot him and shoot him with a 9mm before he can act, you've successfully defended yourself, plus a lot of other people, just as well as if you had a 50 caliber machinegun.

The point is in almost all personal defense type situations, a mace spray or a tazer is just as good as a gun.

You talked about numbers. Let's talk about range. A gun can shoot much farther than a can of mace. And a taser requires actual physical contact. Odds havily favor the gun, even if you had the amce or taser in your hand and didn't need to reach for it.

Given that you're a cop, would you really be comfortable with the fact that every time you stop a car or answer a domestic violence call, the other guy definitely is packing? (well I guess you'd have to treat every situation as the worst case scenario as it is anyway...)

It's my understanding that a cop approaches every suspect as if he were armed.

Now, most reasonable poeple won't pull a gun on a cop if they were stopped for speeding or running a red light. Criminals would, but then they have mroe to fear than a traffic ticket.

It's not really that there is a set number of victims. I'm aware that you can kill people with any variety of objects.

You can potentially kill anyone with anything. Certain things are better for the purpose than others, but in the right hands a shoelace can leave just as dead as a gun. granted you can't commit mass murder with a shoelace, or a baseball bat, or even with a knife. But I'd much rahter face a bat-wielding madman with a gun in my hand than with nothing.

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This shooting is definitely a tragedy, but I want to address another issue while on this topic. I couldn't help but notice that as soon as something like this happens, most everyone jumps to the issue of gun control. My government teacher went on a rant about how no citizen should be allowed to own a gun, and I answered her bluntly: "How can you justify taking away everyone's rights because of an irrational person who used a weapon against UNARMED people?" She said that she would not keep a gun, even to protect her family, and that violence should never be answered with violence...

What is the world coming to when people use this kind of (ill) logic? I don't understand how she expects to negotiate with someone who chooses irrational force as a means to an end. It can't be done. The only way to answer force is with force, and as long as that force is justified, I have no problem with it. Anyone else care to comment?

It sounds as though your government teacher is a pacifist. Pacifism is an immoral philosophy that guarantees the sacrifice of innocent people to any thug who happens to come along with a weapon and the will to use it. As you know, the use of force in self defense is entirely legitimate. Someone like your teacher who would sacrifice her entire family to defend the illegitimate principal of "violence should never be answered with violence" is about as immoral as they come, in my opinion.

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