Skip to Content

Brainstorm Health: “Target Hardening,” Uber Medical Transport, Painkiller Patch, CDC Gun Research

The term “target hardening” has been around for at least half a century. Experts in war and defense have used it to describe efforts to deter terrorist attacks against sensitive facilities such as nuclear reactors, refineries, and airports. Criminologists and other behavioral scientists have used the expression to capture a litany of things that appear to deter crime—from basic protections like gates, locks, and alarms to more sophisticated fortifications through architectural design. The academic literature on target hardening is extensive indeed—with the emphasis throughout the 1970s, ’80s, and ’90s, mostly on the goal of preventing burglary and other theft.

But in more recent years, the term has found new meaning. In the aftermath of several school shootings, many citizens and politicians have suggested that we begin hardening schools. The suggestions have ranged from installing metal detectors to hiring armed guards to even arming teachers, as President Trump has suggested. To supporters of this strategy, only a gun in the hands of a good guy can stop one in the hands of a bad guy.

I argued recently in this newsletter why arming teachers is a dangerous idea. And yesterday, in a sad reinforcement of that argument, a Georgia high school teacher was arrested for firing a handgun out the window of a classroom where he’d barricaded himself, for unknown reasons, and causing yet another panic among frightened kids—a case that’s hardly as rare as one might think (see here and here).

But the bigger concern isn’t the risk of a few teachers with excessively bad judgment. No, the real issue is that “hardening” schools with gun-toting profs or guards isn’t going to stop gun massacres in this country.

For one thing, there are too many soft targets in America (or anywhere else) to harden. The First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas, was a soft white target with a red front door and three flagpoles standing tall in the yard. In November, a lone gunman interrupted Sunday services with his Ruger AR assault rifle, murdering more than two dozen people—including the pastor’s 14-year-old daughter—and wounding 20 others. Nine were gunned down in similar fashion at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, in 2015. There have been mass shooting at places of worship in Colorado Springs and Oak Creek, Wisconsin; in Baton Rouge, in Fort Worth, and in Daingerfield, Texas: population, 2,560. Soft targets, all.

Five were shot dead at a Macy’s department store in the Cascades Mall in Burlington, Washington. No one had thought to harden the makeup counter where they perished. The IHOP in Carson City, Nevada, was serving fluffy stacks of pancakes—even on September 6, 2011, when a madman killed five and injured seven with his MAK-90 semi-automatic rifle. One victim was a 67-year-old woman, quietly eating her breakfast. Three others were National Guardsmen, taking a morning break.

Since August 1966, as the Washington Post outlines in a gut-stirring data visualization that truly every American should spend an hour with, there have been 150 mass shootings in which at least four people were murdered, nearly always by a lone gunman. Dozens of these rampages happened at stores, restaurants, bars, or nightclubs; they occurred at offices and on turnpikes, in movie theaters and in RV parks.

They happened at so many so-called soft targets that the notion that we can harden all of them, or most of them, simply defies reason. Moreover, the notion that we should harden them—that we should turn the peace and tranquility of everyday life into a showcase of defensive armor—defies the very spirit of American freedom.

We can call out lots of reasons why this nation suffers from a record of gun tragedies that no other country on earth experiences—and we can conjure up other theories until we forget the urgency of Parkland and Las Vegas and Newtown and move on to something else. But in the end, it comes down to this: We have too many damn guns in the wrong damn hands.

The news is below.

Clifton Leaf, Editor in Chief, FORTUNE
@CliftonLeaf
clifton.leaf@fortune.com

DIGITAL HEALTH

Uber launches service to get people to the doctor’s office. Say hello to “Uber Health.” The ride-sharing giant on Thursday announced a new program (or, rather, an expansion of a pilot project) to provide non-ambulatory rides to patients who need to get to the doctor’s office. Rather than functioning via a smartphone app, the Uber Health platform (in conjunction with health care providers) will notify patients of their incoming rides via text message or landline; drivers won’t know beforehand that the ride is to a hospital, and appointments will be billed to health care organizations rather than individuals. Why is it important? An estimated 3.6 million Americans miss doctor’s appointments or delay their care because of transportation problems. (NPR)

Novartis, Pear launch digital medicines partnership. Swiss drug giant Novartis is teaming up with upstart Pear Therapeutics in an effort to develop digital medicines for schizophrenia and multiple sclerosis patients, the companies announced Thursday. If these technologies clear regulatory hurdles, they could one day be prescribed alongside traditional therapies in an effort to change patient behavior via mobile and desktop apps. (Nasdaq)

INDICATIONS

FDA approves non-opioid pain patch from Sorrento. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved Sorrento Therapeutics’ ZTlido, a non-opioid pain killer patch that treats nerve pain that’s related to shingles. The FDA has been looking to promote non-opioid pain therapies in the midst of the ongoing addiction and overdose crisis. (Reuters)

THE BIG PICTURE

Parkland shooting spurs bipartisanship on CDC gun research. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has long been barred from actually researching gun violence (for about 20 years, in fact). But the Parkland shooting tragedy may prompt changes to that dynamic, if a bipartisan group of lawmakers has anything to say about it. The Wall Street Journal reports: “Rep. Ryan Costello, a Republican up for re-election in a competitive district in the Philadelphia suburbs this fall, said he supported resuming the CDC’s gun research to ‘allow an objective lens to aggregate all that data and come up with some sort of working hypothesis.'” (Wall Street Journal)

REQUIRED READING

The Number of Black CEOs at Fortune 500 Is at Its Lowest Since 2002by Grace Donnelly

6 Takeaways From Spotify’s Unusual IPO Filingby Polina Marinova

The 45 Best Companies to Work For In the Bay Areaby Fortune Editors

Who Will Be Sunday’s Big Oscar Winners? Here’s What the Experts Sayby Tom Huddleston Jr.

Produced by Sy Mukherjee
@the_sy_guy
sayak.mukherjee@fortune.com

Find past coverage. Sign up for other Fortune newsletters.