Monday, August 27, 2012

So, Tell Me Again How Only the Police Should Have Guns?

The big story over the weekend was the shooting in New York City:

Police: All Empire State shooting victims were wounded by officers
New York (CNN) -- On a busy Friday morning in Manhattan, nine pedestrians suffered bullet or fragment wounds after police unleashed a hail of gunfire at a man wielding a .45 caliber pistol who had just killed a former co-worker.

The officers unloaded 16 rounds in the shadow of the Empire State Building at a disgruntled former apparel designer, killing him after he engaged in a gunbattle with police, authorities said.

The "gunbattle", as it turned out, was a little one-sided - the deceased had shot a co-worker to death but had not fired at the police at all. Now, that's not to say that the cops didn't have reason to shoot him, far from it. But hitting three bystanders with gunfire? Imagine the outcry if a concealed carry holder had hit three people in a defensive shoot? I searched a while over the weekend for a story in which a concealed carry holder had injured an innocent in a defensive shoot, but couldn't find any (although I did find another story of a bystander shot by cops...)

Now, my beef here really isn't with the police. This was a tough, tough situation - they're confronting someone they know to be armed who has already shot someone to death. They catch up to him, and he pulls out his gun - they have a second or two to react at best, and they need to stop this guy quick. While backstop and target should be in mind whenever there's a need to shoot, you don't always get the luxury of being able to choose the perfect shoot in the real world.

It's the reaction - or, specifically, the lack thereof - from those that claim to care about innocent people. Those opposed to the thought of armed citizens point to the superior training and marksmanship of police - yet are silent when something like this happens. There are thousands of IDPA/IPSC/CAS/etc. adherents who undoubtedly fire more rounds per month than the average cop shoots in a year (or a career) - yet the highest-ranked IDPA Grand Master would be viewed as less capable than a rookie cop in the eyes of those who think only cops should carry guns.

People panic. Situations go pear-shaped. The real world isn't cut-and-dried; targets shoot back; no-shoots dart back and forth. Again, the most realistic training in the world isn't going to have the target shooting back at you or unscripted bystanders behaving randomly - while there are steps that can be taken to improve one's performance under pressure, there's no possible way to train for every possible scenario in a place like New York City ("Really? On a tricycle? While playing a banjo?")

It happens on both sides, too. Those who scoff at the media using terms like "Glock service revolver" or "38mm" or "0.9mm" will suddenly take any report as gospel if it makes the NYPD look bad. In the Aurora, CO shooting, the goblin (I still won't use his name, ever) was reported to have body armor - which was later found to be a mag carrier, nothing else; however the "what good would a handgun do against body armor" trope still pops up in regards to the shooting.

Yes, innocent people were hurt. Yes, the NYPD should probably examine the living hell out of this situation to see how they can improve their response to active shooters in urban environments. Should the police have refrained from shooting? Hell no - assuming, of course, that the guy did actually point a gun at them (given that it was initially reported that he shot at them - later revised - I am skeptical; even eyewitnesses claim to have seen the deceased shoot at officers when ballistics determined that he only fired his gun to kill his co-worker).

Could this have happened differently? It's incredibly hard to say. In a place like NYC, good luck finding a spot that won't have a zillion people around in the middle of the day. Trying to follow the dude until you have a good backstop relies on many unknowns - will you lose him before you find that backstop? Will he start randomly shooting at people? He's already killed one person; if there was someone else he had a grudge against, they could be his next target - you want to gamble with their life that you can wait to intercept him?

I know. It's tempting and convenient to jump on the "ZOMG TEH POLICE SUCK AT SHOOTING" bandwagon. We've had plenty of stories where multiple shots were fired with minimal hits, sometimes at close distance, sometimes with long arms. We've seen stories of bad shoots, where wallets/cell phones/etc. were mistaken for guns. There's ample reason to suspect the worst in a case like this.

I think, though, that a good deal of it is misplaced anger - again, if a concealed carry holder had shot three people by accident in a defensive shooting, it defies credibility to think it would be treated in the same manner. There would be no commissioner claiming that the shoot was "handled well"; the very best the shooter could hope for would be a sharp defense attorney. We're expected to be better than that - the old saw that "you own every bullet" applies here - yet the same standards are not applies to the very people that are supposed to be the "only ones" trusted with firearms.

I think, though, in this case that this was one of the "least bad" outcomes that could have happened. Again, assuming that the story is as told, we have an active shooter on the loose in one of the largest cities in the world, when confronted by the police he produces a weapon. In the split second between the time he opens his briefcase and displays the gun, the police officers have to make the decision to use deadly force. They don't have the luxury of making sure a sturdy berm is behind the nutcase pointing a gun at them - and they also don't have the luxury of waiting to see if he's going to shoot someone else before they can maneuver into a good position for a shot.

Yeah, it sucks all around - especially for the bystanders shot - but in this specific case I'm not ready to condemn the cops just yet...

That is all.


Bubblehead Les. said...

Well, I'm gonna agree to disagree, Jay. Remember the brouhaha a few weeks back where the NYPD had to shoot the guy with the knife in Times Square? Lots of Video showing the Guy moving all over the place, but the NYPD didn't shoot him until the Coast was Clear.

Now, granted, that might be Apples to Oranges, but let's keep in mind the Classic CCW Scenario. There's a Goblin with a Gun in your Face RIGHT NOW. As an Armed Civilian, we (and I mean those who take their CHP as a tool for Survival) practice and practice and practice as much as our time and budget allows for just that incident. These weren't Rookie Cops. These guys had 15+years on the NYPD. And they knew they were going into Harms Way, because the Construction Worker took them to the Goblin, telling them the guy had a Gun and had just shot someone.

But I think the Root Cause was the Fact that the "Only Ones" Attitude has settled into the NYPD Mindset. These Guys were in a "Safe Area" of the City, and they probably fell into the Mental State where their Weapons had become "Badges of Authority," rather than a Survival Tool that could be needed RIGHT NOW. Combine that with the Modern Police "Tactic" of "Securing the Perimeter until SWAT arrives," and it doesn't surprise me that they couldn't hit well from a range of less than 20 feet.

Bottom Line: I don't know about anyone else, but for me, when I put on my Pistol, the First Prayer I say is "Lord, I hope I don't need to use this Today." And my Second Prayer is "Lord, if I have to use it, help me to use it right." And I believe that if those Cops had that Mindset, there might not have been as much "Friendly Fire."

But you are 1,000% correct about the Blood Dancing from Bloomberg and the Political Elites and the AntiGunners.

Anonymous said...

there was a case years ago when a robbery took place,a guy across the street in a motel swimming pool drew and shot a civilian.Think he got 10 years for it.Love the AZ gun laws,or lack of!

Anonymous said...

The two guys did MAG DUMPS one a guy 10 feet away in a very crowded situation.

How many shooters do you know who can control seven or nine shots in rapid-fire mode?

There's a reason most schools and trainers teach two to three-shot groupings followed by a reassessment.

Have a look at this study.

The cops here did something stupid and got predictable results.

I want to know why NYC has the money to spend on "stings" in other states, but won't spend the money to make every cop a competent shooter.

Mikael said...

Agreed with the last anonymous, the cops did mag dumps, non-stop fire until dry, they also did it in a very short amount of time judging by the video I've seen. This is basically spray and pray behavior. Even if they first shot was aimed, anything after shot 2-3 could go anywhere. This was not controlled gunfire by any stretch of the imagination. But I also do not judge the officers, I judge their inadequate training, and the NYPD policies, and to some extent the politicians.

Brad_in_MA said...


Alphecca has up a post indicating that NYC duty guns are REQUIRED to have a 12# trigger pull, ostensibly to prevent NDs. Moreover, the post also says that guns which come from the factory as DA/SA must be modified to be DAO on all trigger pulls. MUCH harder to have accurate, aimed fire with a long string of heavy DAO trigger pulls.

- Brad

Brad_in_MA said... was not at Alphecca. Now I cannot recall where I saw the info.

Ken O said...

This kind of lack of marksmanship has plagued New York for some time. Let us not forget the case from some ten years ago where a NYPD officer found himself in an elevator with the armed suspect that he sought. Thirty four rounds were fired in the confines of the elevator and no one was struck. Personally, I feel that cops who do not practice should be treated like Barney Fife.

Brad- Gun Free Zone has it.

TigerStripe said...

I have to agree with most of your post. I wasn't there and even if I had video I wasn't in their minds at the time. I'm not going to blame the cops involved in the shooting unless or until something damning comes out.

Having twelve pound trigger that must be DAO instead of say a pistol with a safety with a seven pound trigger doesn't negate the need for training or at least practice. I had to carry one of those once and it doesn't lend itself to accuracy. Someone who is a natural (good) shot (I'm not) or someone who has years of handgun experience can do okay with one. Otherwise...