CNN: Why Don’t Police Shoot to Wound?

David Klinger, a nationally recognized policing expert at the University of Missouri at St. Louis.

David Klinger, a nationally recognized policing expert at the University of Missouri at St. Louis.

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.  

About the author: S.H. Blannelberry is the News Editor of GunsAmerica.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

  • Dusty October 12, 2016, 6:44 pm

    For renny: Virtually ALL police Departments have psychiatric testing and evaluation prior hiring. The liability for not doing so could bankrupt an agency/ and/or the local government.
    For Norm Olsen: They don’t dart charging rhinos, they take very carefully planned, set up shots to avoid striking eyes etc., and FWIW, an armed human being is much more dangerous than a charging rhino.
    For consideration, during my 30+ year career as an LEO- when asked by citizens if they should consider owning a firearm for self defense- I usually asked the questions- 1) what is the ‘precedence 1’ response time for your local police? (Sort of a trick question- as nationwide, a 7 minute arrival of the cops from the instant of the 911 call is considered pretty ‘fast’.) and 2) How long can you hold your breath or survive arterial bleeding? (Another ‘trick’ question, but usually the answer was/is “about 2 minutes”…)
    Then I asked them to do the math and answer the question “So you’d be dead for about 5 minutes or so, when the cops arrive, right? Sometimes the ‘lights’ came on, sometimes not…
    Lastly, deliberately “shooting to wound” is an almost automatic trip to Federal Court in a civil rights trial- because if you don’t need to apply lethal force, and then do- you have used the wrong tool.

  • renny October 8, 2016, 8:30 pm

    how many departments do an in depth psychiatric examination of prospective officers there is a certain percentage of psychopaths in the general population some of them apply for police jobs

  • Charles Lemak October 8, 2016, 4:53 pm

    Bwahahahahhhhh! “Shoot to wound.” Funniest/stupidest expression I’ve ever heard. I’m not a law enforcement officer, but I am a US vet, and a seasoned hunter. In shooting situations, you either shoot for terminal effect, or you just plain don’t shoot. The only exception might be suppressive fire, but that’s not the discussion topic here.

    So again, in real life, if you have to shoot, you shoot for center of mass, and in effect, shoot to kill. There’s no other practical option. Shooting to wound would require expertise well beyond the abilities of even the most experienced marksmen in a stressful, combat situation. And what does “shoot to wound” even mean? If you shoot someone in the leg and it hits the femoral artery, the subject will most likely bleed to death, or die from shock.

    To civilians who haven’t been there, shut up! You have no clue what our guys and gals in blue experience on a daily basis. May their god or gods watch over each and every one of them, and give them the judgement and guidance they need to do their job, enforce our laws, protect innocent civilians, and go home in one piece to their families at the end of their shift!

    • Mark Timblin October 10, 2016, 11:43 pm

      Thank you Charles, as a retired police officer, retired asst chief of police and retired Army Gulf War/Dessert Storm veteran when you’re in the middle of the shit you shoot until there is NO threat to you or anyone around you. Again, so often people walk around with their noses in the air and rose colored glasses wouldn’t sacrifice themselves nor would they be martyrs they would die stupidly in some back alley or at the cafe or anywhere our enemies are.
      No sir, I have never and will never even think about not having a concealed carry license, I’ve had one since 1979 since I turned 21 and was able to obtain a conceal carry permit from our county sheriff back in the mountains of NW Pa. had to renew it every year, still have my original somewhere, probbly in and old scrapbook somewhere. Am still trying to convince my wife and daughter to just go ahead and get their CCL, here in Florida though to get you CCL its gonna cost you $200-$250
      my wife works for the school district here, so carry at work ain’t gunna happen not any time soon any way.
      All in all, I consider myself fortunate that in my 24 year career in law enforcement I never had to shoot anyone, I have enough demons to deal with in those 24 years to last me the rest of my life thank you very much. Conceal carry shoot till it stops moving….works for me.

  • Norm Olson October 7, 2016, 8:54 pm

    Wildlife managers in Africa can drop a rhino with a dart loaded
    with knockout chemicals. Why can’t such a method be used
    by police? A CO2 pistol would be adequate to deliver the
    nighty-nite dose… It’s better than spray and better than lead.

  • Larry Koehn October 7, 2016, 7:17 pm

    Why don’t police shoot to wound? ANS. Because that only works in the movies. When I started carrying over 30 years ago I asked myself if I could kill someone without killing myself with remorse and I said, “sure, why not,” If you can’t kill someone don’t carry it to wave it around and think you will impress someone. The only reason ever to pull a pistol on someone is because you or someone is in danger of dying. So before you pull it you should have already made up your mind that you are going to kill someone. This eliminates all the hands up, get on the ground stuff the police have to go through and as soon as you have a good sight picture you keep shooting till the guy is on the ground. Just remember that you will have to prove to the DA that someones life was in real danger or you will face charges from murder to manslaughter. In over 30 years I have never had to pull a pistol and the threat has always backed off as I just calmly stare at them with all the confidence in the world that if the threat becomes live or die the threat will die.

  • BRASS October 7, 2016, 5:59 pm

    A famous cop killing in NYC before self loading pistols became common found an NYC uniformed cop confronting a perpetrator with only his service issue .38 S&W cal revolver. The perp was under the influence of PCP, an animal tranquilizer known to have the effect of making humans extremely violent, not responsive to pain, strangely strong and difficult to stop. Of course the officer didn’t know this, but it likely would not have saved him if he did.
    The officer emptied his revolver into the perps torso at close range with hits that would have put down a normal man, but thanks to the PCP, the perp didn’t know he was bleeding out, in pain, in shock or anything else. The end result was the bad guy drugged our of his mind on PCP took the officers now empty .38 caliber revolver away from him after absorbing direct hits to his chest and beat the cop to death with his own gun.
    The perp of course died from his lethal wounds, he just didn’t die fast enough to save the cop. That incident was part of the reason the NYC police began transitioning to semi-automatic pistols and explored other calibers. The then standard issue 158 grain hard lead round nose bullet doesn’t expand on impact, at close range often passes right through the target doing little damage to tissues, creating only a small expansion cavity and less likely to create dramatic shock or massive damage that shuts down the nervous system and causes a rapid loss of blood pressure.
    Modern techniques target destruction of the central nervous system, at T shaped area across the eyes and down the spine intended to break the Cortex, spinal, medal connection where impulses from the brain tell the rest of the body what to do, as the only reliable means of creating a rapid loss of ability to fight followed by the heat and lungs as a less reliable and slower but easier to hit point of impact/aim.
    The point of this training is not to kill anyone although it makes that eventually more likely, but to stop the fight as quickly as possible to save innocent life. Many people have died at the hands of violent criminals who later dies of lethal wounds, after they have killed another or more. As we saw just this week, one man whom police tried to subdue at close combat range with a taser was not incapacitated and was able to continue the attack.
    The infamous Miami shootout that led the FBI to switch from 9MM to 10MM was another good example of ineffective hits on target. The FBI of course later switched to a downloaded version of the 10MM, the .40 S&W and are now switching back to the 9MM due to great advances in ammunition technology and effectiveness combined with the realities of effective marksmanship under stress with higher recoil handguns. Increased knockdown power is of no use if sharp or heavy recoil prevents on target follow up or even first shots.
    The ability to put hits on target rapidly and repeatedly is more important than Ft lb. of energy at CQB ranges in split seconds count engagements. I love my 1911s in 45 ACP & 10MM and shoot them accurately, but, double taps and precision subsequent shots in a timely manner are more achievable with my 9MM guns all other things being equal. I would rather put a heavy for caliber 230 grain +P+ 45 ACP Federal HST round in a perps eye socket if possible, but what if I don’t make that shot and need rapid second or more shots?

  • rt66paul October 7, 2016, 10:39 am

    While I agree with you about “doing the right thing” and shooting a daughter’s assailants, that is “the right thing” for us, it may not be “the right thing” for that pacticulair father. This country is great because we allow others to have conflicting views about all things. If someone believes strongly that it is wrong to hurt another, even in protecting themselves, their own, or others, so be it. They are doing the right thing (for them).

    • mach37 October 7, 2016, 1:53 pm

      Klinger should have started out citing FBI records that indicate the percentages of criminals with “soft” wounds who killed whoever tried to gently, humanely subdue them. I suggest that all who carry a handgun, whether for self-defence or in the conduct of their employment, try to memorize those FBI statistics.

      The belief that it is wrong to hurt another is why the US has such a problem with violent criminals; criminals who don’t hesitate to harm anyone who stands in their way. This belief has resulted in violent criminals being released from prison to create more havoc and violence, or even to have avoided going to prison in the first place.

      Incidentally, the female officer in Tulsa who shot the guy who reportedly was “hands up” may be an argument against female peace officers, who usually have less physical strength to defend themselves. She may have believed herself to have been in more danger from a large unarmed male than would the average male officer.

  • Infidel7.62 October 7, 2016, 9:57 am

    Wounded scumbags can still shoot you.

  • Robert Bradley October 7, 2016, 9:48 am

    The worst part of having to use your gun against a deadly threat is it is going to cost you $50,000 and up even if justified to do so as a civilian due to no laws in most states not protecting those who choose to use their gun! This is wrong! The saying I’d rather be judged by 12 than carried by 6 is so true but how many of us can afford that kind of money? We need to strongly make our lawmakers change the laws to protect us against such costly ramifications, a lot of DA’s don’t care if you are justified, they want another notch in their oversized belts of prosecuting some poor person who can’t afford a good defense attorney! Either way it will ruin your lives , you either die by doing nothing or you loose the farm so to speak for defending yourself or others! Damned if you do and damned if you don’t! Yet if your a cop, x-cop etc your a hero, as a civilian, your going to be prosecuted! Then be sued by the damned family which is another expensive case! No one wins! If lawmakers refuse to change laws, you can get petitions signed and registered with the state voting authority to have any law put to a vote of the people and that’s how to bypass your governor and legislators who refuse to act for your rights! It takes a huge effort state wide to get signatures in a timeframe the state voters office gives you to collect enough of a percentage of the population to sign your petition! So just get all details as to how they want you to proceed! Push for Constitutional Carry, Castle Doctrine, and stand your ground these will help immensely!

  • JackSchitt October 7, 2016, 7:29 am

    Police Officers do not wish to kill anyone. Police Officers are highly trained on the use of force. Police Officers are trained to stop the threat. Police Officers are taught to aim and shoot at center of mass (the largest target on a human is the upper torso). When confronted with a serious situation that would dictate to an Officer to use his most deadly force, he must shoot with the best chance of striking and stopping the threat (center of mass). It is a terrible thing when anyone puts a Police Officer in a situation where he has a split second to decide what force is necessary to immediately stop the threat. “In fear of his life, the lives of others / Also if the threat exits the area is the threat going to take the lives of others”.

  • John S October 7, 2016, 7:12 am

    I carried a weapon nearly every day for more than 20 years while serving as a Law Enforcement Supervisor in the US Air Force. We went to the target range about every 90 days and practiced shooting with rifle and handgun. The range instructors always told us the idea was to aim to wound rather than kill, but then scored hits on the target by how many bullets hit center of mass… That means right in the middle of the chest for a silhouette target. When you are in a combat situation, the idea is to stop the other guy BEFORE he stops you. There is no better way to do that than to aim center of mass. If I have a choice of who is going home to their family at the end of the day, I’m going to make damn sure it’s ME and not some gang-banger thug.

  • RetNavet October 7, 2016, 6:51 am

    The only question the ClintonNonsenseNetwork should have asked: Why do criminals continue to commit crimes when they know police will shoot to kill?

  • Jerry Jensen October 7, 2016, 6:34 am

    Most would answer the hypothetical questions with, “that does not happen very often” or something to say how “unlikely” it is. To which I reply, have you ever bought a lottery ticket? Also unlikely but you bought the ticket because it was possible. The cost to be prepared is well worth the ability to protect against the potential loss described just as the cost of the lottery ticket is worth the potential winnings.

  • roger October 7, 2016, 6:23 am

    Great blog. Too bad the Clinton News Network of PBS support Hillary and gun confiscation.

  • Dustin Eward October 7, 2016, 4:38 am

    It would be democrats to ask the stupidest questions of all time… By the time these words cross a person’s lips, they should ahve realized the answers, and how stupid the questions were.

  • David Gauss October 4, 2016, 2:48 pm

    Thanks for all you do under nasty circumstances. Frankly, I don’t care if a young punk was “raised” without a father-influence, If they don’t act civilly, Too bad./

Send this to a friend