How to Think about the Risk of School Shootings and Proposed Countermeasures

I have a serious, non-snarky, and (hopefully) non-partisan proposal here for thinking about mass shootings and proposed gun control.

Before I give the proposal, let me say a bit about my background.

First, I am neither a Democrat nor a Republican. I am a moderate and an independent.

Second, I am not a gun owner, but I have had some exposure to guns. My father is a hunter and had various guns in the house when I was a child. I am also a veteran and have fired the Beretta M9.

Third, I do security risk analysis for a living. While my focus is information security, the general concepts for physical security are the same. As an expert on risk analysis, it’s my considered opinion that, as a society, what we are engaged in is essentially a debate about RISK. Specifically, the risk of mass shootings.

I’ve always been a fan of Bruce Schneier’s five-step process for thinking about security risks. I don’t have the answers, but I’m convinced his process forces us to ask the right questions. So here are the five steps / questions:

1) What problem does it solve?
2) How well does it solve the problem?
3) What new problems does it add?
4) What are the economic and social costs?
5) Given the above, is it worth the costs?

We can apply this simple process to a variety of proposed countermeasures to the risk of mass shootings.  Following the work of Winn Schwartau, I suggest that we organize proposed countermeasures according to a time-based model of security. Allow me to explain. We can categorize a countermeasure based upon its relationship in time to a security incident:

Before the incident starts: Preventative countermeasures help reduce the frequency of incidents

During the incident starts: Detective countermeasures help detect the incidents.

After the incident starts: Reactive countermeasures help reduce the severity of the incident.

While Schwarau’s book was written with information security in mind, it seems to me that his model is equally applicable to physical security and so I will adopt it here.

In future postings, I intend to analyze a variety of the proposed solutions to the problem of mass shootings in America, using Bruce Schneier’s five-step approach. Those solutions are listed below. As I publish posts about each of the proposed countermeasures, I will link to them from here. So you can think of this page as a “hub” for gun control content on the site.


P1: Thoughts and Prayers (not a serious proposal, so not considered in detail)

P2: Repeal the Second Amendment

P3: Various Types of Gun Bans:

P3a: Ban AR-15s

P4: Various Types of Accessory Bans:

P4a: Ban Large Capacity Magazine

P4b: Ban Bump Stocks

P4c: Ban Silencers

P5: Various Types of Bans for Classes of Individuals:

P5a: Ban Guns for Mentally Ill

P5b: Prohibit People on Terror Watch List from Buying Guns

P5c: Gun-Violence Restraining Orders (GVROs)

P5d: Raise the Legal Purchase Age to 21

P6: Allow CDC to Study

P7: Various Mental Health- and Quasi-Mental Health-Related Proposals

P7a: Improve Access to Mental Health Care

P7b: Notice Socially Isolated People and Engage Them

P7c: Address Fatherlessness

P8: Attach strict civil liability on on firearm ownership




R1: More Guns

R2: Arm Teachers

R3: Armed School Guards

11 thoughts on “How to Think about the Risk of School Shootings and Proposed Countermeasures”

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