Harden Targets, Soften Hearts


 Law Enforcement Today

Harden Targets, Soften Hearts

 Another mass murder on a school campus has everyone searching for answers. What to do? While the rejoinder has multi-layered complexities, it is also simple. We need to harden targets AND soften hearts.

A 19-year-old teenage gunman (intentionally left nameless) is accused of murdering 17 people when he opened fire at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida yesterday. His actions sent students panicked and running into the streets to flee the bloodbath.

The homicidal suspect reportedly pulled a fire alarm and fled the school with those he terrorized while leaving behind the dead. Naturally, some of the talking points include gun control and mental illness.

Gun control is a topic that makes people “feel” like they are taking steps to remedy a problem that begins in the heart—or head if it’s truly a mental illness, which I’d question at this point based upon what is known.

Removing firearms from a free society is as absurd as taking automobiles off the road. Motor vehicles that are abused, misused and operated negligently cause far more death than firearms ever will. Moreover, the numbers are not even close. Beyond that, when is the last time someone—off-duty police officer or citizen—drew a “car” from a holster to prevent crime? In others words, a weapon plays a major role in neutralizing hostile activity.

We should do everything possible to keep cars and firearms out of the hands of people who’ve proven untrustworthy, but guns are not the basic problem. The argument to disarm America is a “topical antiseptic” missing the root cause.

What is happening in our culture that is producing those willing to commit mass murder, whether it’s from a hardened heart or mental illness?  That is the real dilemma.

Knowing there are a thousand opinions as to the root cause, from disintegrating moral values to the erosion of self-control and boundaries in human behavior, we better prepare for more of the same.

So how do we do that?

Harden targets!

“If it’s predictable, it’s preventable,” has been coined and preached by Gordon Graham for years. He is a retired CHP commander, attorney, trainer, and highly respected author of police policies. Furthermore, he is spot on! Therefore, what are we doing to prevent that which is predictable?

While we cannot turn schools into prisons, we absolutely need elevated security for educational institutions to become a blossoming industry. Sadly, this has been an uphill battle since resistance comes from many sources.

Yet think about this for a minute. Lt. Dave Grossman highlights the major deficiency by comparing applications in the fire code to school security. In other words, we have hoards of codified ordinance and requirements to keep children from burning in a building, but somehow find it troubling to develop safety measures to protect them from homicidal individuals. Grossman appropriately comments,

It bears repeating, that there has not been a child killed in our country from a K-12 school fire in over 50 years, yet there have been hundreds of kids killed and injured due to school violence over the past decade! There are codes, and signs, and plans, and construction, and mandates, etc. which all act to prevent fatalities when it comes to a school fire. We now need to focus this same preparedness concept towards school violence.

I am not producing a list of specific remedies to harden targets or soften hearts. My head began to spin as I started to itemize ideas toward that end since there are hundreds of solutions once the creative mind gets to work. My purpose is to get people thinking in this direction … to harden targets and soften hearts. We need to get more aggressive in treating the “sucking chest wound”—school shootings—in our culture!


Jim McNeff worked in military and civilian law enforcement for 31 years. He retired as a police lieutenant with the Fountain Valley Police Department in Orange County, California. He currently serves as the editor-in-chief of Law Enforcement Today. Jim holds a Bachelor of Science degree in criminal justice from Southwest University and graduated from the Sherman Block Supervisory Leadership Institute as well as the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) course, Leadership in Police Organizations. He authored “The Spirit behind Badge 145” and “Justice Revealed.” He is married and has three adult children and three grandchildren. You can contact him at jrmcneff@gmail.com or view his website http://www.badge145.com. You can also follow him on Facebook at “Badge 145 – Trending Truth” or Twitter @jimmcneff.

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