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Teachers Getting US Army Virtual Reality Training to Fend off Shooters

December 28, 2017

AP writer Curt Anderson’s matter-of-fact report on a new virtual reality training device is as chilling to read as any account of a school shooting. In the article he describes the opportunity for teachers to learn a seven step process to defend themselves against a shooter using a virtual reality program that offers them the chance to change the circumstances of the invasion so they will be prepared for anything. Here’s the opening of the article:

The shooter rapidly fires through the front doors of an elementary school with an assault rifle and blasts his way down the hallway. Screaming children are running for their lives or frozen in fear. Teachers quickly try to decide: barricade the doors, or make a run for it with their students?

Police officers arrive with guns drawn, working their way through the school. Finally they confront the shooter and end the threat.

Using cutting-edge video game technology and animation, the U.S. Army and Homeland Security Department have developed a computer-based simulator that can train everyone from teachers to first responders on how to react to an active shooter scenario. The training center is housed at the University of Central Florida in Orlando and offers numerous role-playing opportunities that can be used to train anyone in the world with a computer.

“With teachers, they did not self-select into a role where they expect to have bullets flying near them. Unfortunately, it’s becoming a reality,” said Tamara Griffith, a chief engineer for the project. “We want to teach teachers how to respond as first responders.”

But the number of shootings and the number of mass shootings has not increased. As a recent Politico article by Grant Duwe reports, the overall murder rate has decreased since 1969 while the number of mass shootings has not changed since the early 1980s. Those mass shootings, however, often have a higher death rate. Moreover, the reporting on murders and mass shootings has increased along with the deadliness of the mass shooting. Grant Duwe’s research reinforces this assertion:

Research shows that the number of victims killed and wounded are the strongest predictors of the extent to which a mass killing gets reported by the news media. Recent growth in the number of catastrophic mass public shootings—combined with the extensive, wall-to-wall news coverage that accompanies these tragedies—likely accounts for the commonly held misconception that mass shootings are now more frequent.

After lamenting the lack of rigorous research mass shootings, contrasting research on tornados, which are far less deadly than mass shootings, Mr. Duwe concludes with this:

The few studies we do have tell us that mass public shootings, while horrific, are, fortunately, quite rare. This apparent paradox—rare yet “routine”—likely reflects the outsized impact that catastrophic mass murders have on our perceptions of public safety. But until we make the investment to find solutions, we won’t really know why these tragedies happen or how to prevent them.

Mr. Anderson’s matter-of-fact report that teachers should “…expect to have bullets flying near them” followed by an unsubstantiated claim that such as circumstance is “…becoming a reality” reinforces the notion that something rare— mass shootings— is in fact “routine”. That is NOT the case and by making it so we are needlessly scaring our children and teachers. But fear promotes viewership and listeners on the radio and so the media persists in reinforcing the notion that catastrophic mass murders are as common as, say, car accidents when, in fact, they are less common than lightening strikes. So instead of spending time training teachers on how to deal with children who face stress on a daily basis we are training them to be prepared for mass murderers… and instead of investing in much needed counseling and health services we are needlessly spending on “good guys with guns”.

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