Neal Boortz and Mark Steyn are going on about how we’ve created a culture of passivity that prevented the students from acting.
In the first place, people have often been passive in these situations. I have read numerous Holocaust stories of people standing in line waiting to be machine-gunned or marching passively into gas chambers. The Killing Fields, the Gulags, Jonestown, even slavery often relied on masses of people complying with the orders of a minority who they could have overwhelmed.
If you read up on spree killers, you’ll find that the students’ behaviour was, tragically, typical.
Even in battle, passivity is common. Inexperienced soldiers often don’t fire their guns or flee against a foe they outnumber and outgun. Military engagements rarely result in a huge casualty rate — 10% is big.
Second, a lot of this is keyed to the story of students standing in line to be shot. But the reconstruction of that event (warning, that story is very very brutal) indicates this is a myth. The students mainly went for “duck and cover”, the natural instinct. They did not have the time, as the students in the other classrooms, or say the people on United 93, did to think out a rational course of action. Hindsight is 20/20. You know how you’ll often think of something you should have said to someone in an argument? This is the same phenomenon, with lots of people thinking about what they should have done in the heat of a terrifying and unexpected moment.
Finally, the bystander effect is very powerful here. When you’re behind a desk hoping not to get shot, it’s easier to think someone else will do something.