Yesterday’s shooting near the Empire State Building put the lie to the title question of this post. After the Aurora, CO, theater shooting, there was a lot of FUD flying around the Internet. I believe that there had been just one armed citizen in that theater, the loss of life could have been dramatically lower.
The absurd counter-argument has been that citizens are untrained and could have made things worse by mistakenly shooting other innocents. Really? Worse than 12 dead and 58 wounded? Seriously? But let’s look at the training premise.
Sure, there are gun owners that rarely shoot. But in my experience, most regular carriers do shoot and practice drills to stay proficient. Citizens don’t usually have high-dollar police union lawyers to defend them if they shoot the wrong people, so they tend to be scrupulously sure of their target and what’s behind it. They know that they will own all the consequences of every round that leaves the barrel. In fact, an armed citizen is 5.5 times less likely to shoot the wrong person than the police (great article at the link).
Are police officers really more proficient with firearms or threat recognition than armed citizens? In yesterday’s shooting, two NYPD officers let a flurry of rounds fly, killing the psycho but also wounding nine bystanders. The evidence shows that the psycho never fired a shot at the police, so he obviously didn’t hit any bystanders. Witnesses said that the police seemed to be shooting randomly into the crowd at a distance of only 8 feet or so. NYPD now says that the round count is at 14, so NYPD managed to shoot nine bystanders with at least nine out of 14 rounds at less than 10 feet. So, the two NYPD officers had about a 64% rate of shooting innocent bystanders! Talk about spray and pray.
I did an extensive Internet search, and could not find any incident where a law-abiding armed civilian produced such woefully disastrous results in a defensive shooting. Yet, these incidents are not uncommon in the NYPD with the Amadou Diallo case (41 rounds fired at a now-deceased unarmed citizen) being amongst the most infamous.
The issues comes down to training and proficiency. New York City apparently realizes the lack of proficiency, because they require a 11-12 pound trigger pull on NYPD pistols to prevent negligent discharges. The average trigger pull on those type pistols should be about 5.5 pounds. NYPD officers fire about 300 rounds a year to qualify. On an average day at the range, I fire about 200 when shooting pistols. Plus I use the Laserlyte Laser Training System in between range sessions. I know others who practice much more.
Combat shooting is about a lot more than marksmanship, including situational awareness, threat evaluation, mental toughness, willingness to act, and determination to win. But all that is virtually useless if you can’t keep rounds on the target.
I’m not saying that NYPD shouldn’t have shot in this situation. I wasn’t there. But I can say, based on the facts as currently known, that an armed citizen in a movie theater could hardly do worse than an NYPD officer on a crowded street. As Eric Puryear wisely concludes:
That is why while I hope to never have to fire a gun in self defense, I would much rather shoot in self defense than have armed police officers open fire in my vicinity, even if they are trying their best to stop a criminal.
So much for the FUD.