Until U.S. Understands Police Limitations, Some Will Put Faith in Gun Control

Newtown, Connecticut: twenty children and seven adults are dead at the hands of a madman. Across the nation, police officers are shaking with frustration.

They rage because the facts of the attack -- which will continue to develop for many days -- are already all too familiar. They think, over and over again, what they might ever do to respond to an active shooter in a school, yet they know there is very little they can do. As in this vile crime, all they'll be likely to do is to coordinate medical care for the wounded and to deal with the crime scene surrounding the shooter, who in almost every case will have shot himself long before the police could lay gun sights on him.

What can be done to prevent this kind of wanton murder? Security measures such as locks, reinforced doors, security cameras, hardened glass, and a variety of other devices and procedures are useful but ultimately cannot stop a determined attacker armed with tools no more complex and high-tech than a hammer and crowbar.

They can only delay him, and only for a matter of seconds. Run-and-hide policies and drills are useful, but do nothing to deter or stop an active shooter.

There is one thing that can immediately stop an active shooter, and which, if handled properly, may even serve as a deterrent. Unlike most governmental initiatives, it will cost little or nothing, and is undeniably effective. However, until the public understands the reality facing the police -- the people they look to for the protection of themselves and their children -- that single most effective solution is impossible.

Active duty officers usually cannot tell the whole truth to the public; they'd lose their jobs.

Police administrators won't tell the whole truth to the public; they have to please the politicians that hired them.

Since I'm no longer serving as a police officer, I can tell the truth -- the whole truth -- and it's not encouraging. Remember, above all, this foremost truth: No one is responsible for your personal safety and that of those you love but you.

The Police Want To Help You, but They Don't Have To Help You

Have no doubt: Police officers love to catch bad guys in the act. They particularly love to catch bad guys who would harm children. Virtually nothing pegs their righteous takedown meter faster than stopping a school shooter, hopefully with blindingly fast and effective overwhelming violence, and before the shooter can harm a single child.

But every competent officer knows the chance of that happening is on the order of being hit by a meteor: virtually nonexistent.

They also know they have no obligation whatever to protect or help any individual, and they cannot be successfully sued for failing to provide such protection. It sounds outrageous, but it's rational and necessary.