As yet I have read nothing but scorn and condemnation for Florida deputy Scot Peterson, leading me to wonder whether there is any middle ground between hero and coward in his case. An early account mentioned that he had a long exemplary record prior to the mass shooting that left 17 dead.
Mr. Peterson was armed with a pistol. He says he thought the shooting was external to the building during a crucial four minutes during which his boss says he could have possibly saved lives. Even if this is not true, one might consider the situation he was up against, a notoriously inaccurate weapon with a 5, 6 or 9 bullet magazine against a semiautomatic rifle capable of spraying bullets, high-velocity and possibly armor-piercing, at 60 to 90 rounds a minute.
There are good reasons for SWAT protocols, the team approach, the armor, the deescalation communication attempts. An assailant will always have the advantage of foresight and planning, e.g., the pulling of the fire alarm in the Parkland shooting and the blending in with the fleeing students. Had Peterson thought about this situation ahead of time, and surely he had because of the commonality of mass shooting now, he must have considered the possibility of wounding or killing an innocent in the melee. He was no youth and and he would know this would be a tough thing to live with.
Heroism is highly revered in our culture, but the real thing is rare. Only six Medals of Honor have been awarded since 9/11 and only 472 in WW II. Since Pearl Harbor, 60% were awarded posthumously. The actions that merit this are usually spontaneous and derive from total selfless commitment to one’s comrades. I submit that while this is highly laudable, it ought to be the epitome of what is expected and not what is demanded of all. Men are not taught to fall on live grenades. There is good reason why the most effective military recruits are the very young and it’s not just physical vigor. Reality sets in with age. Congress, famously, has almost no personal experience with such situations.
I debated for a while whether I even ought to post these thoughts for we are culturally conditioned to accept nothing less than perfection from military and police ideals. Real life is much more messy. I will be interested in your reactions, particularly as they pertain to the gun control issues. I understand that deputies in Broward County will now carry semiautomatic long guns. This is logical, given that these weapons are so easy to acquire.
When I was in the Navy I saw police in the Philippines patrolling the streets with machine guns. We are becoming much like them.