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Multi-phase weaponisation of toys
Consistency of proposal with Second Amendment
Defence of vulnerable citizens against harassment in schools
Developing rules of engagement for armed response by children
Resource implications of weaponisation of replicas
Strategic value of notional possibilities
As a consequence of the Newtown School / Sandy Hook massacre, there has been extensive commentary on school shootings in general, on the right to bear arms, on the availability of firearms to citizens of the USA, on gun control, on the consequences in terms of the level of homicides there, on the complicity of the gun owner lobby and arms manufacturers, and on the nature of the government response with respect to remedial legislation -- within the constraints of the Second Amendment to the US Constitution (cf. Alan Fisher (After Newtown: Rethinking US gun laws, Al Jazeera, 19 December 2012; Edward Helmore (Gunmakers' town in crisis after shooting, The Observer, 22 December 2012). A valuable perspective on the unchanging -- and unfruitful -- pattern of response to such events is provided by Gary Younge (Newtown shootings: if not now, when is the time to talk about gun control? The Guardian, 14 December 2012) arguing:
It is simply not plausible to understand events in Connecticut this Friday without having a conversation about guns in a country where more than 84 people a day are killed with guns, and more than twice that number are injured with them.... Americans are no more prone to mental illness or violence than any other people in the world. What they do have is more guns: roughly, 90 for every 100 people. And regions and states with higher rates of gun ownership have significantly higher rates of homicide than states with lower rates of gun ownership.
Further issues relate to a seemingly crafted presentation of the event by authorities in collusion with the media, as described by James F. Tracy (The Sandy Hook School Massacre: unanswered questions and missing information, Global Research, 25 December 2012). Others have commented on the disparity in news coverage of the event in comparison with the case of similar fatalities elsewhere (Glenn Greenwald, Newtown Kids vs Yemenis and Pakistanis: what explains the disparate reactions? The Guardian, 19 December 2012). How indeed are fruitful possibilities to emerge, as variously discussed (Richard Falk, Responding to the Unspeakable Killings at Newtown, Connecticut, Transcend Media Service, 24 December 2012; Marianne Perez de Fransius, After Newtown: shifting the structure and culture of violence towards peace, Transcend Media Service, 24 December 2012)?
The Sandy Hook massacre was rated the top story of 2012 in an Associated Press Editors Poll, ahead of the US Presidential election and Hurricane Sandy.
In its response, the National Rifle Association (NRA) has elaborated a radical proposal -- the National School Shield -- to place armed guards in schools to reduce the possibility of school shootings (NRA Calls for Arms in School, The Wall Street Journal, 22 December 2012; Gun lobby defends call for armed guards at schools, Reuters, 23 December 2012). This has itself elicited widespread commentary, noting the ambivalence of popular support for gun control (NRA proposal to post armed guards in schools is debunked by critics, The Guardian, 21 December 2012; Poll: Inconclusive support for gun control, CBS News, 27 December 2012).
What follows is a proposal by the Notional Rifle Association -- necessarily more radical than that of our colleagues in the National Rifle Association. It could be considered potentially both more politically feasible and more cost-effective (given the drain on much-stretched public resources required to guard against the well-documented and greater threats of terrorism).
The proposal here advocates the possibility of progressive weaponisation of the replica toy weapons already made available by parents to children for their amusement -- and received with enthusiasm by them as a complement to their experience with video games. The process is seen as engendering an internal pattern of control within schools, consistent with the arguments of the National Rifle Association and with the principles enshrined in the Second Amendment to the US Constitution.
The radical nature of this proposal follows from arguments developed previously (Liberating Provocations: use of negative and paradoxical strategies, 2005). A previous massacre of children in Norway in 2011 was explored in terms of its wider implications (Gruesome but Necessary: global governance in the 21st Century? Extreme normality as indicator of systemic negligence, 2011).
The Notional Rifle Association is sensitive to the manner in which replica toy weapons -- of varying degrees of representational authenticity -- constitute a significant proportion of the market for childrens toys. In their simplest form, their function as a weapon is indeed "notional" -- a technological extension of the use of gestures of fingers and arms to imply violence ensuring fatality (as with forming a pistol with the hand, or a throat-cutting gesture). Perhaps accompanied by: "Bang! You're dead".
Such toy "weapons" are first received with enthusiasm in the form of swords -- enabling imitation of the gladiatorial and later combats so frequently portrayed in popular movies. Bows and arrows are also sought with enthusiasm, followed by the pistols characteristic of so many cowboy movies -- and their implications for identification with American culture and its values. The development of media representation, and video games, has reinforced recent demand by children for replicas of the most modern semi-automatic and automatic weapons.
In the "use" of such weapons in play, a "notion" of combat fatalities is necessarily cultivated to augment the reality and significance of that combat. This is evident in the progressive "activation" of such weaponry, as with the ability to shoot (ping pong) balls and to spray water (in emulation of flame throwers). The activation is taken further through the possibility of paintball combat.
This proposal of the Notional Rifle Association is that replica toy weapons should be progressively "activated" -- or "weaponised" -- for children in schools at the earliest age -- whether to enable projection of :
In any given case, it may well be possible to vary the dissuasive force enabled by implementing such weaponisation.
Given the manner in which heavier weaponry is replicated and made available in toy form, a further case might be made for use of drones, depleted uranium bullets, and biochemical agents -- or to clarify why this is not appropriate. The case relating to drones has been remarkably clarified by Naomi Wolf (The Coming Drone Attack on America, The Guardian, 21 December 2012). It is easy to see how drones may be rendered into toy form (as with model airplanes) and, according to this proposal, subsequently weaponised for use by children under appropriate circumstances.
It is necessarily vital to recognize how this proposal is consistent with the principles enshrined in the Second Amendment to the US Constitution. These have long protected the widespread access to weaponry by US citizens and ownership thereof. These principles most notably provide for an armed citizenry held to be necessary to the defence of democracy -- irrespective of the arguments for disarming citizens of other countries to enable their progress towards a sustainable democracy, as separately discussed (Arming Civil Society Worldwide: getting democracy to work in the emergent American Empire? 2003).
Given the recognized importance of educating children for democracy, use of more authentic weaponry by children could be expected to engender and instill a more authentic and responsible understanding of democratic processes and their necessary checks and balances.
Our colleagues at the National Rifle Association have long argued eloquently in support of the principles enshrined in the Second Amendment in that defence. Specifically the relevant clause reads:
A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.
Given its seemingly radical nature, this proposal by the Notional Rifle Association must necessarily clarify the inappropriateness of any seemingly restrictive and unconstitutional interpretations of "arms", "militia" and "people":
It would appear that there is no Constitutional constraint on the right of children to bear arms in schools -- anymore than there is such a constraint on teachers, or on the armed guards as proposed by our colleagues of the National Rifle Association. The above interpretations give reality to principles enshrined in the Constitution and to its systemic implications in sustaining and spreading democracy as understood by the Founding Fathers of the United States.
Of special relevance to this proposal is the interpretation of "well regulated" in the text above. This is discussed further below in relation to the most recent cybernetic insights into regulation as it is now best understood -- and as to how it may come to be understood in the future.
Regrettably the focus of current commentary on school shootings is on the fatalities occasioned by then, with only passing reference to those who are physically wounded or traumatised -- possibly for life.
This proposal extends its preoccupation to include those vulnerable to a wider spectrum of violence in schools -- irrespective of whether this results in fatalities. It therefore includes the physical and psychological wounding associated with individual or collective bullying, especially including that resulting from targetted gang violence. This may also include hazing rituals where these are deliberately abused, as has been frequently documented. It necessarily includes school-associated rape, whether of females or males. It could be extended to other forms of harassment to be appropriately defined.
The challenges of bullying in schools have long been a theme of concern, notably highlighted internationally. Whilst valuable guidelines have been formulated for teachers to enable its detection and curtailment, there is little doubt that the measures fail to address the reality experienced by many who remain both voiceless and powerless. Enabling children to bear arms in schools would provide the weakest with a means of self-defence which they otherwise lack in the moment when they most desperately need it. This is consistent with the arguments of the National Rifle Association concerning the limitations of any reliance on the (distant) forces of law and order.
At a time when there is widespread articulation of the need to develop leadership -- with a degree of emphasis on the role of schools in this process -- there is clearly a case for examining the systemic functions of school prefects, "trustees" in prisons, and leaders of gangs. The question raised by this proposal is whether these in some way suggest a model in which leaders in schools should be able to bear arms which have been weaponised to a higher degree.
Traditionally prefects of some schools have been authorised to use the threat of caning as a weapon of dissuasion and punishment -- extending the right of teachers in such establishments. This pattern could be reinstated to reinforce the authority of such leaders -- perhaps as elected by children from amongst their number. An example of authorised use of weapons by prison inmates includes "trusty shooters" -- prisoners armed with rifles. Possession of weapons by leaders of modern youth gangs has of course been frequently documented, notably with respect to the most democratic countries.
If the existing notional weapons of school children are to be progressively weaponised, the implications for the rules of engagement between children, and with adults, call for careful review. Such "rules of engagement" are already implicit in the interaction between children when equipped with notional weapons, most evidently in the case of multiplayer video games with which children are familiar. The term "Rules of Engagement" features in the World of Warcraft game which was so influential in the training of Anders Behring Breivik (Norway Terrorist Used World Of Warcraft As A Training Simulator, 27 July 2011).
Arguably "rules" of an analogous nature are effectively implicit in playground interaction and in the development of behavioral skills in response to any degree of harassment -- as it may extend into bullying or worse.
The concern is to clarify the possibilities for armed response by children when under perceived threat from "predators". A helpful set of 24 guidelines for adults is presented on the Federal Way Firearms Law Site by Walt Rausch (Armed Civilian's Rules of Engagement, 2008). These include:
1. All predators are always killers. When they attack, your options for self-defense are very limited.
2. The predator is smarter than you. Act and react accordingly.
5. If you are about to become a victim, you have already made serious mistakes.
6. Believe what you see; don't go into denial. Your attacker won't.
8. Predators rarely act alone, although the ones that do are the most dangerous. If there's one, look for two; if there are two, look for three, etc.
9. Fear is the predator's friend and your enemy.
10. Talk and negotiation rarely work.
11. Predators do not have a conscience. Don't waste time and effort appealing to any sense of mercy or kindness.
12. Some people cannot be frightened or intimidated. Displaying a weapon may not solve and, in some cases, may well exacerbate the problem. Be prepared for this.
14. Firearms don't work all the time and may well not work when you need them most.
21. The honest citizen pitted against a predator is an unequal contest. The predator is a professional. Most honest citizens are amateurs.
24. Getting hands-on experience can be fatal, but survivors learn their lessons well!
Children are typically familiar with dramatic representation of standoff situations in the media -- most notably the iconic confrontations in cowboy movies so fundamental to the values of American culture (cf. Greatest Western Shootouts). These are rehearsed in play. The concern here is the added dimension provided by the use of "live" ammunition and the "death" it may well cause in reality -- in contrast with virtual reality. How might levels of threat be mitigated if the person experiencing threat is recognized as having the opportunity of delaying any armed response to a subsequent time which is tactically advantageous? The case of hazing rituals merits special attention.
The legal situation also merits particular attention if the child can claim to have acted in self-defence. This is especially interesting given the sense of selfhood which the child may perceive to have been threatened.
Another source of inspiration by which to refine consideration of "rules of engagement" are attempts at their articulation for the protection of women from sexual harassment, including situations in the military. One example of such guidelines -- Safety Tips for Women (and men) -- includes a section on Rules of Engagement, as follows:
There is extensive commentary on the complicity of various interested parties in arms manufacture and their sale. Any proposal to curtail the sale of firearms of any class is clearly a direct threat to the profitability of such enterprises and especially to the communities in which they are primarily based. Understandably it is also perceived as an infringement of a long-established constitutional right of gun owners.
This proposal is radically different in that it necessarily ensures an increase in the commercial involvement of such interests -- thereby opening the possibility for their support rather than their resistance.
The proposal of the National Rifle Association to place armed guards in schools would of course create a demand for the weapons they require -- presumably creating a call for public resources to be valued by the arms industry. In contrast, this proposal envisages a process of weaponisation which would extend the call on resources associated with replica weapons. This process could potentially be disassociated from demands on public finances whilst engaging those associated with arms manufacture and maintenance -- including the gun-shop / gun-show fraternity, much as is evident in the relation between autombile manufacturers and local garages. It therefore constitutes a proactive engagement with the gun culture -- otherwise exposed to a degree of criticism held to be unjustified.
Violence in the media is a much-discussed issue held, controversially, to be exacerbating the tendency to school shootings. As a feature of this, the range of interactive video games enabling notional violence, with the use of notional weapons, has been received with the greatest enthusiasm by children. The games are offered as gifts of choice by complicit parents (cf. C. Anderson and K. Dill, Video games and aggressive thoughts, feelings and behavior in the laboratory and in life, Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 78, 2000, pp. 772-790). Leadership of guilds (or clans) in interactive multiplayer online games may well be specifically associated with acquisition of notional weapons of ever increasing destructive power.
Such environments, as simulations, offer valuable insights into the potential consequences of implementation of this proposal. In particular they offer insights into emergent cybernetic processes of self-organization and their implications for governance, as might be considered desirable within schools and their classes -- especially where the teaching profession, and the resources available, are unable to intervene more effectively and with greater imagination. Is the use of "well regulated" in the Second Amendment necessarily to be interpreted as implying an external agency or authority, or do the possibilities of self-regulation imply even better interpretations?
The realism attributed to online war games is fundamentally faulty in contrast with the social learning to be acquired from the reality of this proposal. The existential penalities consequent on combat fatalities in those games are limited since in principle the "dead" participant can immediately re-enter the game as though reincarnated -- and may have several avatars through which to do so. This proposal increases the authenticity by the possibility of real fatality or wounding. The equivalent in the case of video games would be to prohibit further participation, whether permanently or for a period -- as is done in the case of sports personalities convicted of some offence. The threat of this "constraint" would then introduce a more realisitic dimension into video game simulation of this proposal.
It is appropriate to note that considerable attention has been devoted by the military to strategic use of information, extending more recently to that relating to virtual reality and cyberwarfare (cf. United States Army Field Manual, especially extensive coverage of Psychological Operations Techniques and Procedures, FM 33-1-1 and Military Deception JP 3-13.4, 13 July 2006). The term "notional", used above with respect to notional weapons, features significantly in an appendix on Deception Operations of one such Manual (FM 32-1-1). This covers:
... deception concepts, operations, and measures, as well as PSYOP considerations in support of deception activities. Deception can support military operations across the operational continuum. Historical examples illustrate how deception has influenced various participants during peace, conflict, and war.
With respect to its section on Notional Activities in Deception, the appendix suggests a development of thinking that is suggestive of insights of relevance to this proposal by the Notional Rifle Association. According to that appendix:
The adjective "notional" is combined with other military terms -- for example, notional plans, notional weapons, and notional order of battle (OB) -- to indicate false objects or plans the friendly force wishes the opponent to accept as real.
Notional describes a false activity conducted to project the deception story to the opponent analyst. Thus, tasking a company to perform as a "notional battalion" directs it to organize, or geographically deploy, and using deception measures, display the characteristic signature of a battalion to opponent surveillance. The purpose is to place a friendly battalion in the opponent's estimate of the friendly forces' OB at the time and place called for in the deception story. The notional unit or activity is an economy of force measure to support the deception, causing the opponent to obtain a false appreciation of friendly strength, composition, and intentions.
To avoid confusion, a notional OB is constructed when a deception is planned. It explains how the opponent should conceive the friendly forces' task organization if he is to accept the deception story and react IAW the deception objective. A notional OB provides guidance on which units, according to the story, arc attached for the main effort. Some units must project attachments to the opponent, while others must conceal attachments of units. To be credible, notional units must: Occupy the right amount of terrain; Conduct the appropriate activities; Have the right indicators: visual, sonic, olfactory, and electronic; Follow accepted operational patterns
Many commentaries have addressed the subtle interface between the "virtual reality" through which the young increasingly live (most typically in interactive multiplayer games) and the "reality" which conventional thinking upholds as evidently more fundamental. The nature of this interface has become ever more questionable with the rapid development and deployment of drones -- readily experienced by their operators as little different from their experience within video games.
There is confusion between use of notional weapons (where the "deception" is appreciated as a shared fantasy) and use of real weapons to give authenticity to that fantasy. This confusion is at the core of the cognitive challenge of the interface between children playing war games and those who emerge as "predators" -- using real weapons deceptively or to act out a fantasy.
It is to be expected that the quality of military thinking regarding deception and notional weapons -- used in this case by children -- would be of relevance to this proposal by the Notional Rifle Association.
The proposal needs to be seen within the context of the education relevant to modern and future democratic systems. It is therefore appropriate to recall the much-cited Jesuit maxim, typically of the form documented and explored by Michael Apted (7 Up: "Give Me the Child Until He is Seven, and I Will Show You the Man", 1999). The proposal argues that activating the notional weapons that children so enthusiastically use "before the age of seven" will provide them with vital formative insights into the constraints determining their appropriate use in a future which is liable to be exposed to ever more challenging security concerns. It is relevant to note the extent to which armed child soldiers continue to be widely used in conflicts around the world and the extent to which children in the supposedly more democratically mature societies may act as so-called "soldiers" in service to gangs -- whether or not they are armed for the purpose.
The significant recognition of "notional" in strategic deception by the military, as noted, highlights a concern that the National School Shield proposal of the National Rifle Association might itself be characterized by what might be termed "notional security". Consistent with the old adage of the Roman Empire Quis custodiet ipsos custodies?, it might be asked whether the children protected by the armed guards of that proposal would then be particularly vulnerable to abuse by those guardians.
This question follows from the widely reported incidence of sexual harassment of women in the military -- in which guards of higher professionalism are trained (Sexual assault at the US military academies, Al Jazeera, 21 December 2012). The "rules of engagement" for the protection of women, as presented above, are in fact the outcome of analogous abuse within the Australian military forces (Review into the Treatment of Women in the Australian Defence Force Academy and the Australian Defence Force, 22 August 2012), with investigations recognizing the extent of abuse of young boys (Australia armed forces 'abuses' shock PM Julia Gillard, BBC News, 15 June 2012). Of further concern is whether the guards would be in any way involved in class discipline, notably between pupils and/or with the teacher. There are many indications of the complex legal consequences in parent/teacher relations which the intervention of guards would render more complex.
The confluence of the various threads of the argument in support of this proposal suggests far greater attention could be given to cognitive processes cultivated at the earliest age as they are articulated and elaborated at a later age -- when reinforced by more powerful technologies. Specifically to be considered are those deriving in part from geometrical metaphors:
These considerations are relevant in any effort to understand the motivations of those responsible for school shootings in a global knowledge-based society -- in what the perpetrators may consider to be the crowning achievement of their lives (Metaphorical Geometry in Quest of Globality, 2009; Engaging with Globality -- through cognitive lines, circlets, crowns or holes, 2009). To what extent are they, most fundamentally, "making a point" or "drawing a line" in an effort to defend their space by eliminating those who threaten it -- acting out the notional reality which they have been encouraged in every way to embody?
As a consequence of the latest shootings, the desirable options for gun control have been reviewed by Paul Rosenberg (The Gun-owners' Gun Safety Act of 2013: a blueprint for sanity? Al Jazeera, 24 December 2012). However the improbability of implementation of effective gun control legislation in the USA -- rather than some token variant -- is also usefully reviewed by Douglas Anthony Cooper (A Proven Way to End the Gun Slaughter: Will We Fight For it? The Huffington Post, 26 December 2012) who concludes:
The words "courage" and "honor" have been redefined, unfortunately, and are now owned wholly by people who feel intimidated if they're without semi-automatics to defend themselves. Who feel it's important to go hunting with weaponry appropriate to SEAL Team Six, because that's the only way they're fully assured of taking down a deer. Until these words are reoccupied by the American people, illiterate constitutional scholars who purchase "courage" and "honor" at barely-regulated gun shows will continue to achieve a compromise -- which is to say, win -- and children will continue to die
In contrast, the merit of this proposal by the Notional Rifle Association is that it honours the arguments of gun owners and arms manufacturers, whilst at the same time responding to the enthusiasm of children for guns and to their parents in enabling access to them. These are indicators of political feasibility in contrast with the token proposals of the gun control lobby.
As with other dimensions of the debate regarding the possession and use of weapons by citizens, this proposal highlights the issue as to whether the US Constitution, and its Second Amendment, will necessitate reinterpretation over the coming centuries or millennia -- consistent with emergent cybernetic insights regarding self-regulation. The pressures for reinterpretation or amendment are a topic of investigation by the Comparative Constitutions Project. which has developed a Cross-National Historical Dataset of Written Constitutions in response to the lack of information on the matter. It is noteworthy that the valuable Wikipedia List of National Constitutions offers no indication as to their individual durability. When might the Second Amendment be interpreted in the light of insights from cybernetics and its psychosocial implications?
|Increasing business opportunities of guns for children
(in the spirit of the above recommendation of the Notional Rifle Association)
|A five-year-old boy who shot dead his two-year-old sister in the US state of Kentucky used a gun specifically marketed for children. (Five-year-old boy shot two-year-old sister with kids' gun, BBC News, 2 May 2013; Guns for Kids Marketing Debate Ignited by Latest Child Death, ABC News, 2 May 2013; Here's How the Rifle That Just Killed a 2-Year-Old Girl Is Marketed for Kids, Mother Jones, 1 May 2013; Selling a New Generation on Guns, The New York Time, 26 January 2013)|
Zachary Elkins, Tom Ginsburg and James Melton. The Endurance of National Constitutions. Cambridge University Press, 2009
Zachary Elkins, Tom Ginsburg and James Melton. The Comparative Constitutions Project: A Cross-National Historical Dataset of Written Constitutions, 2010 [text]
Jon Elster. Born to be Immortal: The Constitution-Making Process. Cooley Lectures, University of Michigan Law School, 1991 (on file in University of Chicago Law Review).
Paul Krassner. Who's to Say What's Obscene?: Politics, Culture, and Comedy in America Today. City Lights Publishers, 2009
Sanford Levinson. Responding to Imperfection: The Theory and Practice of Constitutional Amendment. Princeton University Press, 1995
Gabriel L. Negretto. The Durability of Constitutions in changing Environments. Kellogg Institute, Working Paper # 350, 2008 [text]
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