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In the Crossfire

Living in a state of uncertainty

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WASHINGTON (CNN) Residents in the Washington D.C. area are being terrorized by a sniper or snipers killing and shooting people at random. Schools around Richmond, Virginia, were closed Monday and Tuesday and many people are afraid to go about day-to-day activities.

Are people overacting or are their fears justified?

Forensic psychologist Mark Siegert and security analyst Kelly McCann joined "Crossfire" hosts Tucker Carlson and Paul Begala to debate the issue.

CARLSON: May I ask you a question, Mr. Siegert? Why aren't more mental health professionals, such as yourself, standing up and saying the most healthy thing to do is to stand tall [and] not be afraid? Why isn't that psychologically more healthy than cowering, let's say?

SIEGERT: Tucker, it may be for some people. Some people may really be able to do that, but I think this is very similar to what we had after 9/11 where you had all of these credible threats. You had all these people worried in public places. You have alerts, and then you have somebody say, "But go about life normally."

Now, maybe some people really can do that, but I'm more concerned about the people who feel really bad about themselves because they are afraid. And, I think with a man like this -- and I do believe this is a new type of killer -- that there is good reason for fear.

BEGALA: Kelly, can't we take some lessons from our friends in Israel who live with lots and lots of psycho killers every single day? Today, again, a bus [was] blown up by terrorists in Israel, and yet they go on with their lives. The buses will be running tomorrow in Israel.

MCCANN: There are two good points there. One is ambient threat. An ambient threat is an omnipresent threat ... and they live with it.

The second is, to go to your comment about why aren't people standing up saying "Don't be fearful." It is an unfair expectation to generally try to tell a population how to execute their courage, or how to execute their daily life because people's personal experiences have been different. This is the human condition we're dealing with right now...

SIEGERT: Kelly, I couldn't agree more.

CARLSON: But isn't that a problem with children, though, because when you tell children there is a threat -- and by closing their schools, you're telling them there is a threat -- don't you risk really scaring them? Children don't have perspective on the magnitude of threats. So when you say there is a sniper, a killer out there, you're liable to really hurt them.

SIEGERT: Well, I think you have to deal with kids. You have to deal with their fear, and you have to make them feel safe, but [also] not [to] feel [like] there is something really wrong with them for feeling afraid.

I think that [this] is the job of us as parents. If there was a sniper at the school, you wouldn't even be asking this question. You'd say, "Of course you do that." It's more that we don't know. We can't predict how long this is going to last. But we really have someone here that has created -- similar to 9/11 -- a different atmosphere than Americans are used to.

So yes, we have to reassure our kids. Yes we have to make them [feel like] they're safe. But I don't think we have to be too cavalier about this or let our kids feel there is something wrong with them for feeling afraid.

BEGALA: So, Kelly, you fight fear with facts, right. What are the facts that people can use? You said to interrupt the sightline. [To] go to a gas station [that] puts up a tarp. What else do we need to do? We're not going to be running, zigzagging, through the lumberyard.

MCCANN: Well, no. Exactly. There's two real parts of this. Number one is making your personal decision about how you live your life. Courage is operating proficiently in the face of fear. It is not not being fearful. That's psychosis, OK? The second part of it is...

BEGALA: This from a special forces veteran, right?

MCCANN: Operations.

BEGALA: Special operations. So our audience knows you know a lot about courage.

MCCANN: It's well-thought-out stuff that men talk about in intimate moments, you know. And I mean, it's OK to be fearful. It's also OK to show other people that you're fearful, but it is also OK, on the other side, to not irrationally show courage when you shouldn't be.

So if you stand up in front of your kid and say, "You shouldn't be afraid. Get out here with me." It is probably not a good decision because if you take all of that out -- logic tells you -- if you can be shot, then you should probably look over your shoulder a little bit.

CARLSON: Well absolutely. But isn't it true in the end, that Washington, D.C., the metro area, still has to be one of the safest places on the planet?

MCCANN: Yes. Absolutely.

SIEGERT: Statistically that's true. But I think you shouldn't minimize what Kelly just said. I think he's just dead on. Courage is something that's built. Courage is something that the environment and ambience does. But courage also needs to be something that is well-thought-out and reasoned.

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