Steve Chapman: Dangerous People and Deadly Force


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When a man jumped over the White House fence, ran across the lawn and entered the residence, the Secret Service failed and failed again. One of the most conspicuous and surprising failures was that though it had armed agents on the ground and snipers on the roof, no one fired a shot to stop him.

In fact, the agency bragged about not using their guns, saying that "the officers showed tremendous restraint and discipline in dealing with this subject." The agents didn't shoot Omar Gonzalez because they "apparently concluded that he was not armed and did not appear to be carrying anything that might contain explosives," reported The New York Times.

Lucky guess. As it turned out, he was carrying a folding knife with a 3 1/2-inch blade, which could have been put to deadly use. But agents were able to subdue him without bloodshed. A man reported to be mentally ill didn't hurt anyone and wasn't killed unnecessarily.

The problem lies in the limited nature of the agency's options: shoot the trespasser or hold off in the hope that he is unarmed and can be captured alive. What the Secret Service needs is something every law enforcement agency needs: weapons that can incapacitate threatening suspects without inflicting deadly wounds.