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Run! Hide! Fight! The school survival advice you need ... like in any normal country

America at Large: An entrenched demographic in America renders sporting response to Texas shooting commendable but useless

The first time I heard “Run! Hide! Fight!”, I figured it was one of those tiresome university songs that drunken alumni sing when they return to campus for sporting events and a glimpse of their misbegotten youth. It is not. It is the official government guideline about what students and faculty should do during a mass shooting. I know this because, in my day job at a third level college, I’ve sat in meetings where we have received this advice. As with fire drills or an undergraduate having a medical event, every professor must be prepared for the day somebody might stroll down the corridor wielding a machine gun.

Like in any normal country.


If you can go in the opposite direction to the attacker, you should do that. Out the window or through the door. Fast as your legs can carry you. Flee the scene.



Blockade the door or doors in the classroom with desks and bags and then huddle together in any corner where the shooter can’t see you through the glass panel. No, seriously. That’s what it says to do in the literature.


Throw phones and anything to hand directly at him (it’s always a guy) because it may buy time to get out of the line of fire. Then, when you have no other options left, rush at him in a large group.

That last part makes some sense if there are many of you and the attacker is using a pistol (hardly ever in these situations) but very little when he is brandishing an AR-15, the so-called “Zombie Killer”, a weapon of mass destruction, in a room full of primary school children. That’s what Salvador Ramos deployed to shoot those little kids so badly in Texas last week that their parents had to submit DNA to help identify the bodies. Lest we forget, the Armalite Rifle, capable of unleashing more than a hundred rounds per minute, is officially classified and zealously promoted to hunters as “the modern sporting rifle”. The sport of spraying bullets at innocents.

There are few things quite as disconcerting as departing an academic conflab in which the college’s head of security calmly talks about somebody potentially shooting up the school and then strolling into a lecture to teach the Christians being fed to the lions by the Romans. As apt a metaphor as any for the way this country has allowed the repeated slaughter of children and to normalise all that goes along with that. Like my own boys coming home from school and sitting at the dinner table calmly discussing “lockdown drills” where they are trained in the art of trying to survive one of these events.

Like in any normal country.

None of this is normal but too many people around here are unwilling to admit that. Or to confront the weird culture that idolises and idealises weaponry. The preamble to the start of the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway in North Carolina last Sunday evening was an elongated affair. And a case in point. As it was Memorial Day weekend, when America remembers its war dead, the pre-race ceremony showcased the full military-industrial complex, including helicopters, tanks, and a fly-over. In one scene, to the delight of the crowd, a group of soldiers mimicked loading, aiming, and firing their rifles. Repeatedly.

After the extended fetishising of weaponry and glorification of firepower was finally over, and the drivers were about to start their engines, there came a solemn prayer, including a pause to acknowledge the suffering of the children and families of Uvalde. As if it was some sort of natural disaster that befell the town. Not a troubled teen who, as part of his 18th birthday celebrations, went to a local gun store and legally purchased two AR-15s and more ammo than any American soldier carries into battle.

Like in any normal country.

That whole NASCAR pantomime jarred because some denizens of the sports world struck a different chord in response, speaking out against the demented gun lobby that has turned schools into killing zones. Not for the first time, the Golden State Warriors’ Steve Kerr, whose father Malcolm, was shot and killed at the American University in Beirut in 1984, delivered an impassioned takedown of the senators who are bought and paid for by the all-powerful National Rifle Association. In baseball, the San Francisco Giants’ coach, Gabe Kapler, announced he would no longer be standing for the national anthem before games until the country changes direction on the issue.

Inevitable vitriol rained down upon both men for utilising their media profiles to try to promote measures of sanity. Similarly, the New York Yankees and Tampa Bay Rays received plenty of criticism for using social media platforms during a match to post thought-provoking content about gun violence rather than mere scoring updates. What the baseball teams, Kapler and Kerr did was laudable and commendable. And, unfortunately, utterly useless.

Nothing will change. Ever. Protests, no matter how eloquent or how beloved the sporting figure involved, will have as much impact as people putting the Ukrainian flag in online avatars will affect Vladimir Putin’s plans. An entrenched demographic will never surrender any of the 393 million privately-owned guns currently in American homes, and they are backed by a powerful industry that will always buy enough politicians to ensure they never have to.

Like in any normal country.