All nine people wounded in the shooting outside the Empire State Building on Friday morning were hit by police gunfire, Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly said on Saturday.Read the rest here.
“We recovered whole bullets from two of the victims,” Mr. Kelly said at an event in Harlem. “Actually, we think a total of the three out of the nine bystanders were struck with bullets, the rest were struck with fragments of some sort.”
Mr. Kelly’s comments reinforce the picture that began to emerge on Friday: that in acting quickly and with deadly force, the police prevented the gunman, Jeffrey T. Johnson, 58, from inflicting more harm but in so doing also were responsible for many of the injuries.
This incident bolsters a longstanding concern of mine about the militarization of civilian police. More and more street cops are being given high capacity and very high powered weapons with manifestly inadequate training and little need for them. When you have 15+ rounds in your service pistol it creates a powerful temptation, which may become near irresistible in a sudden life threatening emergency, to resort to the "spray and pray" method of shooting. This sort of thing was extremely rare, for obvious reasons, when cops were not issued high capacity semi-autos. Nor is there any compelling evidence in statistics about police shootings that suggests a need for them on the part of regular police.
Yes, some law enforcement (think SWAT, DEA or Secret Service) have a legitimate need for heavier weapons. But they also receive very intensive training in their use. To my mind the solution is obvious. Uniformed police and detectives should be issued revolvers with a limited capacity. It discourages wasteful and indiscriminate firing of rounds and they have the added advantage of being much more user friendly and lower on maintenance.
The arguments against revolvers generally don't hold up under scrutiny. Cops say they need the extra firepower because the bad guys are more heavily armed. But this is bogus. If you can hit your target you don't need 15 rounds to stop someone no matter how heavily armed they are. And stats repeatedly demonstrate that the sort of protracted shootouts popular in Hollywood films are rare to the point of almost unknown in real life. And bluntly, if you need more than 6 rounds to hit your target you should not be carrying a gun. They also complain, with some justification, that the old .38 special which was standard police issue for most of the 20th century was anemic and inadequate in stopping power.
Time's have changed however. In the old days those weapons were usually loaded with a 158 grain round nosed bullet which was indeed a poor cartridge for defense. In recent decades a much wider and more effective variety of ammunition chambered for .38 spl and many other calibers has become available including +P hollow points. These vastly increase the stopping power. Judiciously loaded a .38 revolver today has about the same stopping power as a 9mm. Nor does one have to be limited to .38 spl for a caliber. For cops in a non urban environment .357 magnum is much more powerful than the 9mm. And in your city type environments where you need to be careful about over-powerful rounds you could opt for .44 special. The rounds are slow enough that you don't have to worry about them passing through several apartments and wounding innocent bystanders but big enough that they would deliver a very potent knock down punch to anyone they hit.
The bottom line is that there is little justification for beat cops carrying high power - high capacity weapons and a long history of incidents that call into question the wisdom of militarizing our civilian police. Go back to revolvers. They are easier to train with and much less likely to fail you in an emergency situation (jam etc.). Cops who know they are limited to six rounds are also much less likely to just start popping off rounds with the hope that one will hit the bad guy.