Columbine Follies

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The governor of Colorado has finally released his report on the Columbine massacre, and it concluded — big surprise! — that the law enforcement officers present at the school during the shooting were incompetent. Singled out for special condemnation was local Sheriff John Stone who not only refused to believe the students who gave the officers accurate information on where the killers where inside the school, but Stone also commanded his men to stand outside while victims bled to death hours after the killers committed suicide.

Stone also was criticized for refusing to investigate shooter Eric Harris who, prior to the massacre, was openly threatening students and plotting the massacre on the internet in plain view of anyone who wished to visit his site. The Sheriff’s department, of course, maintains that they behaved heroically, and maintained this position throughout last year’s attempt by the department to keep all records of police behavior out of the hands of the parents of the murdered students.

Perhaps Sheriff Stone could have used a few pointers from the Denver Police Department who are now famous for murdering Ishmael Mena while performing a "no-knock" raid on his house. The police had meant to perform the raid on the house next door.

Unlike the Mena case, some people at Columbine might have actually benefited from a few cops heading in guns ablazin’. Contrast the police behavior at Columbine with the behavior of law enforcement when there are no rampaging gunmen on the loose, and we end up with a quite confusing picture.

Apparently, the preferred method of law enforcement at Columbine was to: (1) Make sure that no law abiding citizens inside the school carried fire arms. (2) If guns enter the school, seal it off and let no one out. (3) Stand outside "minimizing police casualties" while the killers murder all the law abiding citizens and allow all wounded victims to bleed to death.

Now let us compare this to law enforcement’s behavior at the Branch Davidian complex in Waco: (1) Start yelling "Showtime!" and charge the compound with machine guns blazing. (2) If innocents try to surrender, shoot them and continue the destruction. (3) Gas everyone inside and burn down the complex. (4) Dismiss dead civilians as "religious fanatics".

Is there any rhyme or reason to the contrast in these two scenarios? Perhaps, but the fact remains that in the first scenario, law enforcement officers, armed to the teeth, did nothing to save innocent civilians who were in grave danger, and in the second scenario law enforcement officers viscously stormed a compound full of innocent men, women, and children, who were no danger of being murdered by anyone but the rampaging law men.

The lesson that should be learned here is that government law enforcement is, at best, undependable, and, at worst, malicious. Protected by government monopoly, they are directly accountable to no one, and they choose to flex their muscle at inappropriate times in inappropriate places.

In the end, what is the proposed solution to these acts of incompetence? To enact more gun control restrictions so that our safety can rest even more in the hands of law enforcement people like those at Columbine and Waco. Keeping guns out of the hands of ordinary people necessarily increases the power of government law enforcement officials whose behavior becomes more capricious and militaristic every year. While keeping so-called assault weapons out of the hands of ordinary people, Americans call for more federal law enforcement grants putting ever more destructive hardware in the hands of a bunch of gung-ho young men who live for the chance to blow something up.

The governor’s Columbine report is yet another illustration of the impossibility of using government law enforcement to prevent violent crime in a society where only criminals carry guns. As long as people continue to accept the fallacy that armed police can protect an unarmed citizenry, the killing must go on.

May 19, 2001

Ryan McMaken [send him mail] lives in Denver, Colorado. He edits the Western Mercury.

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