It has become axiomatic that when seconds count, the police are only minutes away. In the case of the first responders to the horrific school shooting in Newtown, Conn., it was 20 minutes, to be exact.
That’s the picture that is emerging from the 9-1-1 calls from that terrible day. Twenty minutes. I have tried in vain to imagine my 7-year-old grandson, his defenseless classmates and their equally defenseless teacher being shot to death one by one while waiting 20 minutes for police to arrive. It is a scenario too terrible to conjure in my mind. To imagine local law enforcement personnel taking a full one-third of an hour to respond to such a monstrous event is infuriating. And yet, there it is. Those who wish to protect themselves and their loved ones in almost any situation should not depend on government. How many times have we seen it before?
On Sept. 11, 2001, government failed to protect the unsuspecting victims on those four airplanes, as well as those on the ground. On Flight 93, it was courageous passengers, taking matters into their own hands, who stopped those Islamist monsters from making that day even more infamous.
In September 2005, government — federal, state and local — completely failed the people of New Orleans when Hurricane Katrina flooded the city’s poorest section. Those who were willing and able to take care of themselves and their families were spared. Many of those who counted on government simply perished.
Even the attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, last September, was a case study in brave volunteers, not government — especially not this government — making a difference.
And in every mass shooting, in every school or other public place, in every corner of this country, government has betrayed the very people it is sworn to protect, usually by declaring a “gun-free zone” or some other absurd control on the right of private citizens to render protection for themselves, their families and their neighbors.
On Oct. 16, 1991, in Killeen, Texas, an assailant drove his pickup truck through the front window of the Luby’s Cafeteria. He then shot 50 people, killing 23 of them, before turning the gun on himself.
Two of those victims were the elderly parents of Suzanna Hupp, whose revolver was useless to her because it was 100 feet away in the glove compartment of her car. Hupp later was elected to the Texas Legislature on a platform of allowing Texans to carry concealed handguns, legislation she successfully pushed through and which then-Governor George W. Bush signed into law.
On April 20, 1999, in Littleton, Colo., two high school students decided to murder as many of their teachers and classmates as possible. Their subsequent rampage — again carried out in gun-free zone — left 13 innocent victims dead.
On April 16, 2007, at Virginia Tech, a lone gunman shot and killed 32 people, wounding 17 others. Another school, another gun-free zone.
A few months later, just before Christmas, on Dec. 5, 2007, in Omaha, Neb., a 19-year-old loner walked into the Von Maur department store at the Westroads Shopping Center and murdered eight innocent shoppers.
As I wrote in a column at the time, “This individual looked at the ‘no concealed weapons’ sign and read, ‘Murderers welcome here. Please come in and shoot as many people as you like. No one here is capable of stopping you. Even our mall security officers are not armed.’ ”
Jan. 8, 2011, at a Tucson, Ariz., supermarket, six people were murdered and 13 others wounded, including then-U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, who miraculously survived a bullet through her brain.
July 20, 2012, Aurora, Colo., in a movie theater that does not allow law-abiding citizens to carry their licensed, concealed firearms, 70 people were shot, 12 of them fatally, by a single shooter.
And now, most recently, we have Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., with its horrendous toll of 26 dead — 20 of them 6- and 7-year-old children. As usual, no one there was allowed the tools to protect them. One of the teachers reportedly huddled with her students in hiding and assured them, “The bad guys are here now. We just have to wait for the good guys to get here.”
Sadly, the good guys didn’t arrive for 20 minutes.
Doug Patton describes himself as a recovering political speechwriter who agrees with himself more often than not. Readers are encouraged to email him at firstname.lastname@example.org and/or to follow him on Twitter at @Doug_Patton.