Sunday, September 15, 2013

New York's Gun Problem

In this post, I'm actually not talking about how strict gun control doesn't work in New York, though it doesn't.

I'll be discussing the fact that New York's police force is more dangerous with their guns than lawful citizens are, and how it's not all their fault.

The story that sparked this post is in the New York Post (and no doubt elsewhere, but the Post loves descriptive writing).  You can read it here:  Cops shoot two bystanders on Broadway
Cops trying to subdue an emotionally disturbed man with a long rap sheet accidentally shot two female bystanders outside Port Authority Bus Terminal on Saturday night, source said.

One victim, 54, was struck in her leg — breaking two bones in her calf — as she stood leaning on her four-wheeled walker across from the terminal; a second woman, 35, was grazed in her buttocks.
This reminds me of a previous story.  You may recall the Empire State Building shooting.  A criminal determined to kill a man against whom he had a personal grudge did so.  9 other people were wounded afterward, and the media started in with anti-gun outrage, only to suddenly go quiet when it turned out the 9 innocent bystanders were wounded by police, not by the criminal.  The criminal killed only his intended victim, which is bad enough, but the police shot everyone else.

It is hard to hit a moving target, even if you train quite a bit.  Still, there's a real problem when police aren't adhering to one of the basic rules of shooting (know what's behind your target) and missing.

While training is part of the problem, another big part may well be the NYPD's modifications to their guns.  As I understand it, when they switched from revolvers to semiautomatics, they started having accidental discharge issues.  Officers unused to the light trigger pull of many semiautos were shooting themselves in the legs and feet while trying to draw their weapons (fingers outside the trigger guard until you're on target, guys--you can fix that with some training so it becomes automatic even in a panic situation).  New York's solution wasn't more training, though.  Instead, they had all firearms modified to a 12 pound trigger pull.  Non shooters probably don't understand.  There's a great explanation linked here.

To give you frame of reference, my very accurate handgun comes with a measured 9 pound pull for the first double action shot, then a 4 pound pull for each single action follow up shot.  You're never going to fire the first shot by accident, but 9 pounds isn't fighting your handgun to try to get a shot off.  4 pounds makes the follow ups easy and accurate.

When you have a fairly light gun with a really heavy trigger pull, even a great shooter who trains a lot is going to have more trouble hitting the target.  A patrol officer who only makes it to the range the mandatory minimum and can barely pass qualifications isn't going to hit anything he or she intends to in a panic situation, but a lot of unintended targets will be hit as we've seen at least twice now.

Training can be expensive, but I bet it's less expensive than 11 lawsuits for accidental shootings.  In my humble armchair trainer (and I'm not a trainer, just a guy fairly familiar with firearms), NY would be far better off doing the necessary training to have officers keep their fingers out of the trigger guard until the gun's up and on target and lessening the trigger pull resistance.  If you train enough, the movement becomes instinctive.  Most shooters who practice drawing will keep their index finger alongside the body of the gun even in a panic situation and won't shoot themselves, but can actually hit their intended target because they're not fighting a 12 pound trigger pull.

For the interested, in the first 11 seconds or so of this video, you can see clearly a proper draw:


The instructor is not in a panic situation, but the movement is so practiced that he'll draw that way from his holster every time, no matter what the situation is.  It's fast, but notice that his finger does not enter the trigger guard until the gun is up.  That's what the police need to do.

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