Pol Pot’s Atrocities Still Matter, 45 Years After Khmer Rouge’s Fall

“Forty-five years ago last Sunday, Vietnamese troops seized Phnom Penh and ended Cambodia’s 45-month reign of terror known as the “killing fields.” Under the leadership of Pol Pot, the Khmer Rouge government implemented policies—forced labor, resettlements, torture, starvation—that led to the death of 1.7-to-3 million people, or at least 20 percent of the nation’s population. The regime destroyed the country, caused untold suffering, and left permanent scars.”

“The Cambodian revolution wasn’t spontaneous. Its leaders honed their philosophy while studying in Paris. And one usually finds intellectuals behind crazy notions. As the saying goes, “Ideas have consequences”—and they’re often tragic.
Cambodia’s leaders sought to create an idyllic and classless agrarian society, one that harkened to the Angkor Empire from the 800s. “They wanted all members of society to be rural agricultural workers rather than educated city dwellers, who the Khmer Rouge believed had been corrupted by western capitalist ideas,” according to the Holocaust Memorial Day Trust. Their philosophy echoed Mao Zedong, whose efforts to remake China led to unimaginable horrors.”

“In 1999, the “Black Book of Communism” tried to detail the number of civilian deaths caused by the world’s communist regimes—not deaths caused amid wars and civil strife, but direct massacres from the kind of policies so efficiently carried out in Cambodia. The authors came up with a figure of 100 million. These deaths don’t tell the entire story of fear, slavery, and repression. It’s simply unfathomable that any modern American could have a view of communist regimes that were any more favorable than the views most of us hold of Nazism.

Then again, ideological narratives grab hold of people in ways that are hard to understand. So many young leftists are nurtured in a university hothouse that divvies up humanity into fixed groups of “oppressor” and “oppressed.” They learned to have an endless faith in the government’s ability to reorder humanity. They probably haven’t been taught about what happens when officials are given unlimited powers to launch a “Great Leap Forward,” create “Year Zero” or design a “New Soviet Man.”

That’s too bad because the reason we live such free and prosperous lives is because we live within a system that limits the government’s power to take our property, throw us in prison, depopulate cities, execute us, force us onto long marches and put us in re-education camps. History proves that many people—including those who claim to have the best intentions—would do horrific things if they had such powers at their disposal. We can even point to horrors in the history of our own country, of course.”


Extremist-Related Mass Killings Have Been On The Rise

“despite the total number of mass killings staying static, the number of events with extremist ties has increased, resulting in a higher percentage of extremist-linked mass killings.”

“reports from the DHS and ADL also indicate far-right extremists make up the plurality of violent attacks with extremist ties.”

““Over the past decade, right-wing extremists have committed the majority of extremist-related killings in all years but one — 2016, the year of the shooting spree at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida, by a person motivated by Islamist extremism,” the report read. “Of the 444 people killed at the hands of extremists over the past 10 years, 335 (or 75%) were killed by right-wing extremists.” The report also found that the majority of deaths caused by these killings are from shootings — over 80 percent of the victims of deadly extremist violence were killed with firearms in each of the last five years.”

3 takeaways from Texas’s investigation of the Uvalde school shooting

“There’s only so much that schools can do to defend against a determined individual with access to guns. Militarizing public schools doesn’t foster a welcoming learning environment, nor is it particularly cost-effective for taxpayers.

“Installing bulletproof glass in all the windows — stuff like this is hideously expensive and not sensible. There’s only so far you can go to harden a public facility,” said Robert Spitzer, a professor at SUNY Cortland who studies the politics of gun control.

But a simple security upgrade could have made it harder for the shooter to enter the school: ensuring that the doors were locked. There were three exterior doors in the west building where the shooting took place, and all three had been left unlocked, according to the report. The door to one of the classrooms where the shooter took his victims was also known to have a faulty lock, but no one had created a work order to repair it. School staff also frequently propped doors open, especially for substitute teachers who didn’t have their own keys.”

The problem with schools turning to surveillance after mass shootings

“The problem is that there’s very little evidence that surveillance technology effectively stops these kinds of tragedies. Experts even warn that these systems can create a culture of surveillance at schools that harms students. At many schools, networks of cameras running AI-based software would join other forms of surveillance that schools already have, like metal detectors and on-campus police officers.

“In an attempt to stop, let’s say, a shooter like what happened at Uvalde, those schools have actually extended a cost to the students that attend them,” Odis Johnson Jr, the executive director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Safe and Healthy Schools, told Recode. “There are other things we now have to consider when we seek to fortify our schools, which makes them feel like prisons and the students themselves feel like suspects.”

Still, schools and other venues often turn to surveillance technology in the wake of gun violence.”

“Even more advanced forms of surveillance tech have a tendency to miss warning signs. So-called weapon detection technology has accuracy issues and can flag all sorts of items that aren’t weapons, like walkie-talkies, laptops, umbrellas, and eyeglass cases. If it’s designed to work with security cameras, this tech also wouldn’t necessarily pick up any weapons that are hidden or covered. As critical studies by researchers like Joy Buolamwini, Timnit Gebru, and Deborah Raji have demonstrated, racism and sexism can be built inadvertently into facial recognition software. One firm, SN Technologies, offered a facial recognition algorithm to one New York school district that was 16 times more likely to misidentify Black women than white men, according to an analysis conducted by the National Institute of Standards and Technology. There’s evidence, too, that recognition technology may identify children’s faces less accurately than those of adults.”

“Research conducted by Johnson, the Johns Hopkins professor, and Jason Jabbari, a research professor at Washington University in St. Louis, found that a wide range of surveillance tools, including measures like security cameras and dress codes, hurt students’ academic performance at schools that used them. That’s partly because the deployment of surveillance measures — which, again, rarely stops mass shooters — tends to increase the likelihood that school officials or law enforcement at schools will punish or suspend students.

“Given the rarity of school shooting events, digital surveillance is more likely to be used to address minor disciplinary issues,” Barabas, the MIT researcher, explained. “Expanded use of school surveillance is likely to amplify these trends in ways that have a disproportionate impact on students of color, who are frequently disciplined for infractions that are both less serious and more discretionary than white students.”

This is all a reminder that schools often don’t use this technology in the way that it’s marketed. When one school deployed Avigilon’s software, school administrators used it to track when one girl went to the bathroom to eat lunch, supposedly because they wanted to stop bullying. An executive at one facial recognition company told Recode in 2019 that its technology was sometimes used to track the faces of parents who had been barred from contacting their children by a legal ruling or court order. Some schools have even used monitoring software to track and surveil protesters.”

Suicide Prevention Could Prevent Mass Shootings

“Even once you identify some details that many of the attackers have in common, such a large swath of the population shares these traits that the “profile” is fairly useless for prevention. Red flag laws circumvent that problem by focusing less on a type of person and more on a type of emotional and situational crisis — where the people involved aren’t necessarily “bad guys” but troubled individuals in need of help. Gill thinks of it as a public health approach, analogous to the way we treat physical health problems that are hard to profile.

“We know that raised cholesterol leads to heart problems. We don’t have the ability to predict who in the general population who already has raised cholesterol will go on to have a heart attack. So we put in place prevention policies to try to decrease cholesterol in the whole ‘at risk’ community,” he said.

For the researchers who study mass violence, what’s appealing about red flag laws is that these rules have the potential to shift the emphasis from a cut-and-dried checklist of dangerous traits to a more nuanced system that accounts for a person’s big-picture emotional state.”

“these researchers supported red flag laws because they could create a clear plan of action for friends and family concerned about a loved one’s combination of emotional crisis and violent threats. It creates a place to take concerns, a system to evaluate those concerns and a means of mitigating them. That’s particularly true, researchers said, if national red flag laws are set up so that the system isn’t punitive. Ideally, the process would focus on helping a person get through to the other side of an emotional crisis rather than putting them in jail. It’s also important, the researchers said, to make sure the laws are focused on professional evaluations of overall behavior, not checklists.”

“there’s some evidence this could work. An analysis of records from California, where one of the first red flag laws was enacted in 2016, found at least 21 cases where the laws had been used specifically because people around a person were worried about their potential to commit a mass shooting. As of 2019, none of those people had followed through on that potential. It’s impossible to know, however, how those risks would have played out if the red flag hadn’t been there.

But if those parts work together the way they should, then red flag laws really could be a useful tool for combating the segment of mass shootings that function like very public, violent suicides. “There’s an important piece when we interviewed school shooters and active threat cases,” Randazzo said. “They feel very strongly about two things: They have to carry out the violence, they have no options left, but they also don’t want to do it and hope someone will stop them.””

Would These 4 Gun Controls Prevent Mass Shootings?

“The New York Times reckons that four gun control measures Congress is considering “might have changed the course of at least 35 mass shootings” since 1999—one-third of attacks in which a gunman killed at least four people. While that conclusion is excessively optimistic, the newspaper is at least asking the right question: Are new restrictions on firearms likely to work as advertised?

President Joe Biden, by contrast, simply assumes the wisdom of the policies he favors and the bad faith of anyone who opposes them. “The issue we face is one of conscience and common sense,” he insisted last week, implying that skeptics lack one or both.

Among other things, Biden wants Congress to require background checks for private gun transfers, which means such transactions must be completed through a federally licensed dealer. The Times found that four of the mass killers in the 105 cases it examined bought guns in private transactions.

One of those perpetrators had already failed a background check. One of the other three, the Violence Policy Center reports, “legally bought” a pistol from a gun shop. According to a 2013 review in The Atlantic, it is not clear whether either of the two other killers had disqualifying criminal or psychiatric records.

In at least one case out of 105, then, an expanded federal background-check requirement might have been an obstacle. But that’s assuming private sellers generally would comply with that mandate, and data from states that notionally require “universal background checks” suggest such rules are widely flouted.

The Times found that at least 20 mass murderers used magazines that held more than 10 rounds. The 1994 federal “assault weapon” law, which expired in 2004, prohibited the production and sale of such magazines, and Biden wants Congress to renew that limit.

Even if we assume that the need to switch magazines after firing 10 rounds can make an important difference in mass shootings, the effectiveness of a ban is doubtful. A 2004 report commissioned by the Justice Department found that the 1994 ban had no measurable impact on the use of “large capacity magazines” in crimes, probably “due to the immense stock of exempted pre-ban magazines”—a stock that is even bigger now than it was then.

In 10 of the 105 mass shootings analyzed by the Times, the perpetrators used stolen guns. The paper suggests “safe storage” legislation backed by Biden might have made a difference in those cases.

One such bill would establish a $500 fine for gun owners who fail to secure their weapons in circumstances where a minor “is likely to gain access” to them or in households where a resident is legally barred from possessing firearms. If a minor or prohibited person uses an unsecured gun to injure or kill someone, the owner would face up to five years in prison.

The bill also would provide grants aimed at encouraging states to establish and enforce similar requirements. The idea that such laws could prevent would-be mass shooters from obtaining firearms assumes wide compliance and a lack of alternative sources, both of which are debatable assumptions.

The Times says “four of the gunmen might have been stymied” by a law prohibiting federally licensed gun dealers from selling semiautomatic centerfire rifles that accept detachable magazines to anyone younger than 21. That bill, which Biden also supports, avoids the arbitrary distinctions drawn by “assault weapon” bans, which target guns based on functionally unimportant characteristics.

Since the bill does not apply to private transfers, however, adult buyers younger than 21 could still legally obtain semiautomatic rifles. Furthermore, a federal appeals court ruled last month that prohibiting young adults from buying such firearms because a tiny fraction of them might commit violent crimes was inconsistent with the Second Amendment.

Before deciding whether to support policies like these, legislators should rationally weigh their costs and benefits, including their constitutional implications. Biden prefers a different approach, replacing logic and evidence with self-righteous certitude.”

New York’s restrictive gun laws didn’t stop the Buffalo shooter

“In 2019, New York enacted an extreme risk prevention law, otherwise known as a “red flag law,” that can bar individuals who are believed to pose a danger to themselves or others from possessing firearms. New York state police decided not to invoke that law against the Buffalo shooter, who didn’t have a previous criminal record, but had made serious threats of violence. On Wednesday, Hochul issued an executive order requiring police to do so going forward.”

“She also called on the state legislature to pass bills that would require police to report guns associated with crimes within 24 hours and mandate that semiautomatic pistols sold in New York be microstamped so that law enforcement can link cartridges found at crime scenes to the gun that fired them. And she announced the creation of a dedicated domestic terrorism unit within the state police, along with efforts to investigate social media companies that have provided platforms for hate speech.

The goal is to ensure that people like the Buffalo shooter don’t fall through the cracks again. When the shooter was 17, he said that he wanted to commit murder-suicide at his high school. He was required to undergo a psychological evaluation and referred to police, who decided not to take further action for reasons still unknown. So when he turned 18, there was nothing preventing him from legally purchasing a weapon. And he did. The weapon he used in the shooting was purchased from a store in Endicott, New York: a Bushmaster semiautomatic rifle that he illegally modified to increase its capacity.

Under New York’s red flag law, that never should have happened.”