With several recent well publicized police-involved shootings in several cities across the country, there has been a common myth perpetrated by people who know nothing about guns or policing. Case in point, Los Angeles: When a man on Skid Row grabbed an LAPD officer’s gun, other officers opened fire, killing the man. One witness stated that there was no reason to kill the combative man; they should have shot him with the intent to wound him.
The evidence was spelled out by the Associated Press: “The officer’s gun was later found partly cocked and jammed with a round of ammunition in the chamber and another in the ejection port, indicating a struggle for the weapon.” The facts wiped out credible cries of unlawful action by the officers.
To non-gun owners and those untrained in firearms handling, shooting is easy. In the movies, a good guy can leap through the air, shoot a bad guy or two, spin, shoot the thug holding the damsel in distress, pull out his cell phone and order a latte, then hit the ground and roll and fire 35 more shots, never once facing the need to reload. Shooting a man from just a few feet away, with feet firmly planted on the ground? That’s a one-take proposition, isn’t it?
For the purpose of full disclosure, this writer has never had to shoot another human being. I have been through various types of training, but I am not qualified to teach anyone on how to proceed in such stressful situations. In this context, I have two desires: 1) that I never have to be in a situation where I have to shoot anyone; 2) if I have to shoot someone, that I am prepared to do so without hesitation. Hesitation may be the difference between survival and funeral.
That said, I have been trained well enough, shot enough, and understand enough to know that the stress of being shot at and being responsible for making the decision of whether to pull the trigger and potentially end a life is a heavy burden, particularly in split-second situations.
In Maricopa County, Arizona, a pastor who had led protests against law enforcement was invited to participate in training simulations. He quickly learned that armchair critiques are easier than heart-pumping decision-making confrontations. In the first scenario, he was shot to death. Fortunately for him, like a video game, real life continued. In the second scenario, he not only shot an unarmed man, he immediately justified the shooting by repeatedly claiming, “He (the suspect- the “victim” if you are Al Sharpton or Eric Holder) shouldn’t have approached me! He shouldn’t have approached me!”
Ironically, prior to the police invitation, when a Phoenix PD officer shot and killed an unarmed man, the pastor led a rowdy public march, complete with a chant that demanded that the officer should be fired from his job. Give credit to the pastor for changing his view. His biggest takeaway from the scenarios was that compliance with police officer commands is vital.
On the other hand, shooting to wound someone is dangerous. First, hitting at a target while shooting under duress lowers the odds of a true shot. Which is easier, hitting a torso center mass or shooting an arm or a leg? Second, stories abound of combative criminals attacking people- police or otherwise- and continuing the attack after being shot. Hitting a vital organ stops the attack.
The subject of guns is one that evokes a lot of ignorant statements. Not everyone has fired a gun, and oddly, the people usually most vocal against guns are the ones who have little to no training or experience with such weapons. The same applies to police tactics. If people sometimes say dumb things under duress, imagine the amount of duress when the possibility of killing or being killed is on the line. Words do not impact the body in the same manner as a bullet. Saying dumb things happens; there is no taking back a bullet.
Equally as foolish is the firing of a warning shot. Where does that “warning” bullet go? If the shooter knows the answer, that means his focus has been averted from the potential threat to where the bullet is traveling. If he does not take his gaze off the potential threat, where did the bullet go? Who or what did it hit? A dangerous situation now has been created and this is obviously ill-advised.
While gun owners do not expect gun-haters to understand this, it is expected that members of the media learn about that which they are reporting.
Shooting to wound is not and should not ever be the goal of the police. Their focus is and should be to shoot to stop. They have to protect the lives of others around them as well as their own. It is not too much to ask for people to educate themselves on the world around them. Given the number of confrontations every day between law-abiding police officers and non-law abiding citizens, this subject would be a good place to start for the average uptight protestor and member of the media.
Brian W. Peterson has been a columnist for a mid-size California newspaper, is a veteran of political campaigns, and was a member of the publicly elected Republican Central Committee of Los Angeles County. His psychological thriller Dead Dreams and sci-fi adventure Children of the Sun are currently available through Amazon.com. You can follow Brian on Twitter @cybrpete.
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