What short memories we have. Perhaps it's a cultural defensive mechanism to allow us to delete from our collective memory debates that are never really resolved.

While listening to a radio talk show this past week, I kept waiting for a listener to call in and remind everyone that one reason why the police in Ferguson, MO, carried military weaponry and wore army-style body armor was because of the way cops were getting the short end of urban violence just a few years ago.


That, and the insidious influence of the Homeland Security Administration.

Doesn't anyone recall the national headlines that were generated when a couple of bad guys in body armor and carrying powerful military weapons held off half of the LAPD? One gunman took a score of direct hits but did not, would not, go down, despite the fire from cops from every angle. He just stood on the sidewalk, took the hits, and returned fire that killed and maimed enough officers to kick off a national outrage.


Editorials and government meetings across the land demanded to know how did we get to the place where the thugs and terrorists had better weapons than our peace-keepers.

Militarization of police forces became fodder for editorial boards, talk shows, Internet clucking and, of course, cable TV screamers.

America allowed the bureaucrats to gain power with elected officials after the attacks by terrorists on the New York Word Trade Center Towers and the Pentagon. The Homeland Security Act not only militarized police forces, we militarized the check-in counters at airports around the world, the boarding and re-boarding of cruise ships, even entry to the ball park. Never mind that it smacked of Gestapo mentality.

America is afraid of the gun-toters, so we allowed – no, we insisted – that our police officers had adequate firepower to put down threats to the public. And then we had serious public discussion about arming school teachers so they could shoot back if armed crazies invaded the elementary grades.

Fear and ignorance are lethal to good public policy, but fertile to those who would exploit it for either profit or ideology.

Some blamed the influence of the National Rifle Association, but the NRA doesn't pull the triggers; it just makes sure anyone who wants to can. It's good for the gun manufacturers and sellers.

Polls show that 74 percent of NRA members – as opposed to gun makers and sellers -- support mandatory background checks and reasonable regulations. The NRA says it disregards polls, and openly threatens to unseat elected officials who even participate in the discussion.

The NRA spent up to $2.7 million lobbying against any gun regulation since 2001. Gun manufacturers have contributed up to $38.9 million to the NRA since 2005. So does the NRA represent 75 percent of its members, or primarily the gun makers and power merchants?

After the massacres of children in Aurora and Newtown, gun sales increased. The gun industry pushes the manufacture and sale of military style weapons: handgun sales are surging.

In the past 25 years, 100 million guns have been made in the U.S.; over 8 million in 2011.

In the rest of the world in 2007, there were an estimated 6 million guns. Most people don't know that, never thought about it, or don't care. What we did know, we have forgotten.

The unceasing competition and power struggles between law enforcement agencies and the egos of top cops and political leaders also contributed to the militarization of local police and sheriff's departments.


Call it the Big Toys factor.

Since Homeland Security started offering grants for increased weaponization of state and local police forces, a lot of money – your tax dollars – has bought military style weapons, armor, even vehicles, command centers and helicopters for just about any law enforcement agency who asks for bigger toys.

If the cops in the next town or county have a tank, the local boss cop wants one, too.

Who will stand up and say any of this is wrong?

Dean Minnich writes from Westminster. His column appears on Thursdays. Email him at dminnichwestm@aol.com.

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