Video warnings about mass shootings aren’t a replacement for gun control

People of a certain age will note the similarities between the “Run, Hide, Fight” video posted recently by the Boston University police, which offers tips on how to survive a mass office shooting, and Cold War civil defense films. The same clipped tone, like a “Dragnet”-era police procedural. The same sense of shock at the implicit assumption that viewers should treat a horrific attack — nuclear war, an Aurora-style mass murder — as an eventuality to prepare for, like a flat tire or power blackout.

“Unfortunately, you need to be prepared for the worst,” warns the narrator of “Run, Hide, Fight,” which was produced in Texas under a Homeland Security grant and is being reposted by web sites around the country. Has BU gone too far in joining them? Perhaps, in that there is little in the video that isn’t obvious or intuitive — if someone starts shooting, get out fast! If you can’t, then hide. If you can’t do that, then fight back. In the end, more viewers will be alarmed than educated.

It gradually dawned on Cold War policymakers that the Soviet threat was better addressed through arms control and engagement than film strips advising school kids to hide under their desks or families to stockpile canned goods in backyard shelters. Likewise, there are better ways than “Run, Hide, Fight” to guard against a crazed loner with an assault weapon — such as by banning assault weapons.