Let's not lose our focus. We respond and neutralize, not hold political debate.
Photo credit: Frank Borelli
Virginia Tech… Aurora Theater… Sandy Hook… Names of place we’re all too familiar with. There are others we could list but they are all oriented around the same type of event: an evil person takes guns illegally into a given setting and proceeds to start shooting people. It used to be common for these folks to then kill themselves prior to being arrested, but with the Aurora Theater shooting we saw the perpetrator being apprehended. (Editor's correction: I incorrectly stated that the Sandy Hook shooter was also arrested. Adam Lanza committed suicide like so many school attack shooters do.) I’ve been an Active Shooter Response Instructor since 2000 and I’ve studied the history of active shooters in the United States for several years now. The one thing I see as constant is CHANGE.
Unfortunately, we police officers are almost 100% reactive. Training budgets are severely restricted and dedicated to covering the latest state mandates, court decisions, insurance claim results, etc. When an incident occurs, such as the one at Sandy Hook, all of a sudden politicians and law enforcement administrators find money to do some added training. If the opportunity presents itself, jump on it. I’d bet money that within three months that money will dry up as some new item takes the news headlines away.
Concurrent with the headlines proclaiming horrendous events are the headlines proclaiming what the latest political debates are surrounding the circumstances of such heinous crimes. It seems shameful to me that politicians (or news reporters) would leverage the loss of innocent life to further their own agenda or further line their pockets. Still, if we’re going to have a debate over what does or doesn’t work in making various locations safe, it seems to me that the conversation would have to include discussion about physical security characteristics, access control, access denial, emergency first-aid services, response strategies, organizational protocols, staff/employee responsibilities, coordination between public service disciplines and more. Instead, all we see is a debate over whether or not we need better gun control laws.
That I myself am pro-2nd-Amendment and against any further gun control laws is not a secret. Our ability to enforce all of the existing laws is obviously hindered by funding and manpower. To create more laws that we are expected to enforce without any financial support from the people creating those laws seems ludicrous. It only adds to the complication of the discussion when you consider the potential implications of the federal government trying to restrict a Constitutionally recognized right to bear arms.
Quite simply, I don’t think it’s the federal government’s place. Unless the guns being restricted can be specifically demonstrated to be part of interstate commerce (which is actually kind of easy but not 100% always the case) then the federal government should have no authority over them anyway. The states would, and when you look at the number of states with pro-gun stances versus the number of states with anti-gun stances it becomes clear that the large majority of our state governments have a favorable outlook toward the 2nd Amendment.
Finally, we have to take a look at the impact even the discussion about gun control is having on law enforcement efficiency. Several states have now passed laws, or have bills in progress, that create criminal prosecution potential for federal law enforcement agents attempting to enforce what the state deems to be an unconstitutional law. Sheriffs across the country have taken a stance against any further federal gun control laws and in at least one state (Delaware) the state’s Attorney General is attempting to strip the sheriffs of arrest authority – something older even than our country or our Constitution.
All of this adds up to an inefficient enforcement situation. Here’s what we law enforcement professionals need to know, need to have and need to do.
Need to know: What is our agency’s response plan/policy regarding active shooters? Are we properly equipped and training to carry out this policy/plan?
If you don’t know the plan or policy, learn it quick. If you don’t know what you’re supposed to have, find out. That’s what your chain of command is for.
Need to have: Sufficient arms, ammo, communications and first-aid supplies/training.
If you feel you are being shorted in any one of those areas, take your concerns up your chain of command. When you bail out of your patrol vehicle to go into an Active Shooter situation to go hunting the bad guy is NOT the time to wonder if you have what you need.
Need to do: Our job. Most of us took an oath that included protecting a given community or group of people. “Protect and Serve” isn’t just some feel good philosophy. It’s what we do… or what we’re supposed to. When an Active Shooter call goes out, get to the location in a safe and timely fashion. Kit up, go hunting. Neutralize that threat to our children and any/all other innocents in your community.
In the meantime, try not to be distracted by the posturing of politicians, the endless debates about what the country needs, etc. Stand for your beliefs, certainly. But don’t let those debates and disagreements distract you from your purpose and duty. Do it to the best of your ability and go home at the end of every shift without guilt or shame.