Regardless of how the story of the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo., turns out, public outrage and shock repeated by the media over so-called militarization of the police reflect ignorance of or indifference to the facts [“Some dismayed by military-like show of force,” news, Aug. 15]. So-called militarization has been going on for more than a dozen years. There are two reasons this has happened, and both the public and politicians were responsible.

The first was Sept. 11, 2001. The Patriot Act and other federal requirements mandated that local police forces be prepared to deal with serious terrorist threats. Hence, SWAT teams from Maine to Washington state seem indistinguishable in combat kit from the best U.S. Special Forces in preparing for terrorist contingencies.

Second, police forces said they were being outgunned by criminals, especially the drug cartels. A .38-caliber revolver was no match for an M-16, Bushmaster XM15 or armor-piercing ammunition. Police had to overcome this huge firepower disadvantage.

Americans cannot have it both ways. If police are to be able to deal with terrorists and well-armed and dangerous criminals, sadly, what is the alternative to the situation we have now? The sensible solution is serious and effective gun and ammunition control. But this is often not a serious nation.

Harlan K. Ullman, Washington

The writer is a senior adviser at the Atlantic Council and on the advisory board of Business Executives for National Security.