As all serious gun owners know, the use of deadly force is generally considered lawful when one reasonably fears death or great bodily harm. It really doesn’t get any more complicated than that. Whether you are Joe Civilian or RoboCop, when you reasonably believe your life is imperiled, you can shoot to kill — or as concealed carry instructors like to euphemize it, “Shoot until the threat is eliminated.”
What deadly force comes down to then is what’s reasonable given the circumstances. For a lot of anti-gunners, the thought of owning a gun, let alone carrying one in public, is unreasonable. Until they themselves are victimized or someone they love is victimized, they live in a world filled with rainbows and butterflies. They just can’t imagine why anyone would need to use a gun against another human being. So, all deadly force encounters whether justified or not are generally considered by them to be unreasonable or misguided or craven acts of inhumanity.
This pervasive mindset explains why after a high-profile shooting there are so many stupid questions from the uninformed sheeple. You know, “Why didn’t he shoot him in the leg?” “Why did he have to fire all those shots?” “Why didn’t he use a less-lethal option?”
Well, kudos to CNN for attempting to set the record straight. In a recent article, the network spoke with David Klinger, a nationally recognized policing expert at the University of Missouri at St. Louis, who very succinctly answered some of those inane questions. Below is the Q&A:
Why don’t police officers shoot to wound?
Officers are trained to “shoot to stop,” which often results in a homicide, Alexander said. They aim for the center mass of a person’s chest because it is the target they are most certain to hit and is most likely to take the suspect down.
Even a skilled marksman would have difficulty hitting a suspect’s arm or leg in a fast-moving situation. And a wounded suspect could still possibly shoot the officer or someone else.
Why do officers fire so many shots?
Most officers today carry semi-automatic pistols instead of revolvers. Two decades ago, officers were trained to fire one or two rounds from their revolvers and then assess whether they needed to keep shooting.
But now officers are trained to assess the threat level while firing, which means the officer may pull the trigger multiple times before the suspect has fallen, Alexander said.
Why don’t officers pause while shooting to reassess the threat?
An armed suspect may still be able to return fire if the officer pauses during shots, Alexander said. Because semi-automatic pistols carry many more rounds than six-shot revolvers, and magazines make for quick reloading, modern police doctrine stresses firing until law enforcement and the public are safe.
Why don’t police use Tasers instead?
Legally, officers are only to fire when they feel their life, or someone else’s life, is in danger. But different officers are going to perceive a threat differently. While all officers are encouraged to use non-lethal means to subdue a suspect if they deem it feasible, they may use deadly force if they believe they are in imminent threat of harm.
That might be a tough sell in the Tulsa case where the man who was shot had his hands in the air — and the officer has been charged with manslaughter — but an easier one in the Charlotte case, where the suspect appeared to be holding a gun and refusing to drop it, Alexander said. [The family disputes that he had a gun.]
Tasers have a reach of nearly 35 feet, which lets police use them to immobilize people within the same distance as many armed confrontations. But their effective and safe use requires “a great deal of training” that many departments don’t provide, according to National Police Training, a training website for law enforcement.
There are also concerns that Tasers are occasionally misused or overused by officers, sometimes with fatal consequences, the website says.
Klinger’s answers should hopefully be a dose of reality to those who are unfamiliar with firearms and the use of deadly force. While Q&As like this one are a small step in the right direction, we (the gun community) need to do a better job of engaging those on the other side of the divide when it comes to lawful self-defense as it really underscores the need to not only keep arms but bear them as well.
We need to convince non-gun owners that carrying concealed firearms is, in fact, the most reasonable conclusion one can draw given the threats we face nowadays. The way to lead one to that conclusion is to get them to step outside the bubble and place themselves in a hypothetical self-defense, kill-or-be-killed, situation. It can start with a few simple questions:
- What if you went to pick up your teenage daughter or son from a movie theater and found that he or she was being gang raped by three large men in a back alley. What would you do to rescue your son or daughter? Would you want a firearm in that situation?
- What if you were in a crowded cafe and a man pulled out a rifle and began gunning down patrons? With no time to make it to an exit, what would you do? Would you want a firearm in that situation?
Not everyone is going to want a firearm in those dire situations, believe it or not. There are extreme pacifists who will accept being martyrs for their cause of nonviolence. They’ll watch their son or daughter being raped and either intervene unarmed (a lot of good that’ll do) or wait for the police to arrive. They’ll willingly die in that cafe instead of taking the necessary action to eliminate the threat.
But, I believe, extreme pacifists are few in numbers. The vast majority of people (non-gun owners and even anti-gunners) will, if given the opportunity with the proper tools and training, do the right thing. They’ll eventually come to the conclusion that it’s better to have and not need than to need and not have. We just have to help them pop that bubble and remind them that evil exists in their world too. That if they want to avoid becoming a statistic or a headline, they need to step up and take responsibility for their safety.