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Guest Post: Training should be a priority for those carrying firearms.


"Chris K. is a professional educator and certified firearms instructor since 1992. Also Paddy's brother."

I'm writing this for two reasons so please read it in its entirety rather than taking it as simply an attack on the NYPD.

Just before noon today news agencies reported a shooting at the Empire State Building in NY city. Initial reports led readers to believe that a gunman had shot up to 9 people. Bystander reports and updates painted a different picture.

Apparently after confronting his target and killing him with three shots from a handgun a gunman fled the building. A construction worker alerted two NYPD officers who confront the suspect. There is some differing opinion as to whether the gunman fired at police at all but multiple shots were fired, the gunman was killed, and eight bystanders were wounded.

Now it's come to light that the bystanders may have all been wounded by the NYPD officers.

Let me state that firearms training has been woefully inadequate in the NYPD for years. Indeed, it is often a topic of much sarcasm among the members of other law enforcement agencies. There have been umpteen "accidental discharges" and dozens of shootings where multiple shots were fired to no effect. This reflects directly on the NYPD and their firearms training program. Just google NYPD shooting and prepare to be shocked at the results you come up with.

Case in point, several years ago the NYPD requested a firearms manufacturer to modify pistols for their force to require 13 pounds of force upon the trigger to fire. Standard duty weapons across the country have a trigger pull from 5 to 7 pounds. Why was this request made? Evidently there were multiple "accidental discharges" of the firearms leading to several injuries.

There is no such thing as an "accidental discharge". There are however "negligent discharges". One's finger must be on the trigger for the firearm to discharge. Standard training procedure dictates fingers stay off triggers until the gun is brought to bear on the target. After being unable to modify the weapons to fire with 13 pounds of force the NYPD dropped the brand from its approved list of duty weapons.

In the case at hand it is imperative to note that training on when and if to shoot is nearly as important as training in how to shoot. Firing a weapon under stress is completely different than firing at a paper target on the range with no pressure. Clearly a full review of the NYPD's training program is in order. I can't imagine why no serious restructuring has occurred to prevent these type of incidents. It's long overdue.

Police departments across the country are constantly trying to improve their officers' skills in every conceivable area, including firearms training. The litigious nature of our society and the safety of citizens necessitates it. Without a doubt there will be lawsuits filed by the bystanders shot by the NYPD officers today, probably sooner than later.

The average police officer shoots less than 300 rounds a year. Training standards should dictate a minimum of 2000 rounds fired in practice scenarios yearly including standardized professional development in the use of firearms. Sounds like a lot but it's just over 35 rounds a week. At $0.20 per round of 9mm ammo, the standard round of the NYPD, that's a total of $400 a year or $33.33 a month. That's six coffees from the local coffee shop.

How does this relate to the recent mass shootings we've seen? The call for more armed citizens has been the mantra of right wingers after every shooting in the last few years. Clearly, more armed citizens hauling their guns around everywhere is not the answer. Why not?

Believe it or not the requirements to carry a firearm in most states are minimal. Take a course that conforms to the state standards, pass a background check, submit your paperwork and fingerprints along with a fee and you get a license to carry. In most states the requirement is a 10 hour course. The vast majority of people who obtain a license will never carry or rarely carry a weapon.

A small percentage will train extensively independently or through courses offered at hundreds of facilities across the country. Some will do both. Once again, the majority who obtain the license will practice rarely and simply believe that having a weapon is sufficient. As I'm fond of saying, having a gun makes you a gun expert like having a piano makes you a pianist.

In closing, in anyone, police officer or civilian, is planning on toting a gun around they had better darn sure that when the proverbial poop hits the fan they are prepared to deal with the threat without endangering the populace.


**Paddy note- Very soon after the shootings and way before any info was out, Chris emailed me to basically say that if it was NYPD there was probably two shooter victims and the rest were NYPD bystander casualties. Guess what.