Ron Avery, head of the Practical Shooting Academy and a member of the Force Science Technical Advisory Board, explains that shooting for an assailant’s center mass
, a body’s largest target, is considered the most effective option. Faced with the threat of deadly force, officers risk death if they shoot for a smaller, faster-moving target, such as an arm or leg, with the intent to wound rather than to incapacitate, according to Avery. Yet if this proposal becomes law, an officer who does what Avery and similar experts advise could be charged with manslaughter if the shooting resulted in a fatality.
The unintended consequences of this ill-advised legislation could harm the public too. If police are forced to shoot for limbs, more shots could miss, hurting innocent bystanders. And bullets that do hit an extremity may be more likely to pass through the assailant’s limb and hit an unintended target. Moreover, to comply with the law if it passes, use of certain weapons such as shotguns and automatic SWAT firearms would be discouraged, allowing gangs and organized criminals to out-gun the police.
Another basic flaw of this proposed legislation is the assumption or implication that a firearm should be used as a means of nonlethal intervention. Shooting to wound is a misapplication of firearms. If wounding or nonlethal force is a reasonable option given the situation, police use the appropriate tools, such as batons and stun guns. By the time that an officer fires a deadly weapon, studies have found, less lethal measures have generally already been tried. Simply put, when police shoot their firearm, it’s because they judge deadly force as the only way to stop the threat of unlawful deadly force.
Accidental deadly shootings of innocent persons are, indeed, great tragedies. But in the quiet, bright light of day, second-guessing of the relatively few incidents in which police mistakenly fire when other, better options might have existed is simply unfair. In this case, it’s the bill that needs to be allowed to die so that officers’ lives are not needlessly put at greater risk than they already are.
♦ Ed Appel is a retired 28-year FBI Agent and owner of iNameCheck, which specializes in Internet intelligence. Tom M. Conley, CPP, is the president & CEO of The Conley Group, Inc. headquartered in Des Moines, Iowa, and is a senior-level commissioned officer in the United States Navy Police. Both Appel and Conley serve on ASIS International's Law Enforcement Liaison Council.
♦ Photo of NYPD officers by Nightscream/WikiMediaCommons