The “shoot to wound” proposal in New York

When I was in law school, one of my classmates was a lovely man who had decided to go to law school after several years as a police officer in Oklahoma.  I forget the context of our conversation, but he once told me that, in law enforcement, you never shoot to wound.  Shooting is binary.  Either you don’t need to shoot at all, or if you need to shoot, the only way to ensure a safe outcome for both officer and innocent bystanders is to shoot to kill.  In other words, by the time you’re firing, the time for some hypothetical “shoot to wound” has already passed.  As part of that point, my friend told me that, unless you’re a sharpshooter, in a chaotic, adrenalin filled situation, you can’t shoot for delicate targets such as a hand, foot or knee.  You go for the big target — the torso — or the second biggest target — the head, and then you shoot to kill.

Despite his long, long years as a lawyer, I have no doubt that my friend is shocked and horrified, as are New York cops, at the new rule the Legislature is mulling over, one that requires them to shoot to wound:

City cops are livid over a legislative proposal that could handcuff the brave officers involved in life-and-death confrontations every day — requiring them to shoot gun-wielding suspects in the arm or leg rather than shoot to kill, The Post has learned.

The “minimum force” bill, which surfaced in the Assembly last week, seeks to amend the state penal codes’ “justification” clause that allows an officer the right to kill a thug if he feels his life or someone else’s is in imminent danger.

The bill — drafted in the wake of Sean Bell’s controversial police shooting death — would force officers to use their weapons “with the intent to stop, rather than kill” a suspect. They would be mandated to “shoot a suspect in the arm or the leg.”

Under present NYPD training, cops are taught to shoot at the center of their target and fire their weapon until the threat has been stopped.

“These are split-second, spontaneous events — and officers have to make a full assessment in a fraction of a second,” said an angry Michael Paladino, president of the Detectives Endowment Association. “It is not realistic, and it exists only in cartoons.

“It’s moronic and would create two sets of rules in the streets if there is a gunfight. This legislation would require officers to literally shoot the gun out of someone’s hand or shoot to wound them in the leg or arm. I don’t know of any criminal who doesn’t shoot to kill. They are not bound by any restrictions.”

Read the rest here.

This one is right up there with the medal the military is contemplating for courageous restraint — an honor, Rush Limbaugh says, correctly, will surely be awarded only posthumously.

Is there anyone else out there who thinks it utterly insane that we, as a society, blithely assume that our troops and police should take all of the risks on our behalf, while we systematically strip them of their right to defend themselves against the bad guys?  Oh, wait.  Of course it makes sense.  I’m just looking at this whole thing wrong.  If you’re a Progressive, the troops and police are the bad guys.  It’s the ones on the receiving end of the evil cop and evil American soldier guns who are poor, misunderstood victims of the man, of America, of white imperialism, etc., and it’s only right and proper that they have the upper hand in any engagement.


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  • Charles

    “It is not realistic, and it exists only in cartoons.”

    Unfortunately, this also exists in the minds of too many people.  It is one thing when the general public is naive; but, it is altogether a completely different, and dangerous, thing when those running the government are that naive.  (I promise, I won’t mention Obama’s name here!)

    Several years ago I served on a grand jury in which we heard about a police shooting case.  Many jurors felt that the police officer should have tried to shoot to wound.  Fortunately, we had two former cops on the jury who set things straight during deliberations about how that was unrealistic.

    Two other things that are just as insane:

    One –  shooting at a moving car.   As one cop said to me (sarcastically, of course, when we were talking about the police shooting on the NJ Turnpike):  “yes, change the situation from a moving car with a live person behind the wheel to a moving car with a dead person behind the wheel that will certainly improve the situation.” “and, BTW, the bullet could very well hit the innocent passengers if it is a car jacking”

    Two – I don’t know if it is still the law, but, when I lived in DC police and emergency vehicles were forbidden by law to exceed the posted speed limit.  Yep, that’s right, do NOT rush to the burning building!

    Three – okay, so I am a liar. I will mention Obama here.  This is exactly his mentality!

  • JKB

    Well, your friend was a blowhard or maybe indoctrinated in tough guy speak.  Police, like everyone else faced with imminent threat of death or serious bodily injury. shoot to stop.  To shoot to kill is to imply intent beyond what is required for self defense.  Any shot is potentially a kill shot, even to the extremities.  They shoot for the center of mass because it is the slowest moving part of the threat and also a less than perfect shot will still hit.  Even with a target to the center of mass, the kill targets are small.  Sure, SWAT snipers will purposely target for immediate death but that is so the person can’t harm others in the time it takes the entry team to secure the suspect, i.e., stop the threat of death or serious bodily injury to others.  Head shots are also not primary targets as the head moves faster than the body and is small.
    The shoot to wound is problematic for reasons other than it requires skills within the capability of few.  Even fewer who can shoot that well under stress, breathing hard and in a split second.  More rounds will be misses and travel great distances all the while a threat to the innocent.  An extremity wound is far less likely to stop the imminent threat.  What are they to do, shoot the bad guy in the left arm, then the right arm, then the legs?  That’s a lot of shooting all the while bullets are whizzing by the kids playing a couple blocks away.

  • Bill Smith

    Bookie, I carried a gun — several, actually — for 10 years while I was a cop. Your friend is absolutely right.
    In addition to his entirely sufficient points, let me add this. It’s impossible to “shoot to wound.” People have survived being shot through the head with high-powered hunting rifles — AND people have died from being shot in the arm with a little .22 cal. pea shooter. If you are hit in an artery the right way with this small round, and other circumstances don’t go your way, and you’ll bleed out even though someone only “intended” to wound you. Bullets don’t care what your intentions were.
    Can you imagine the lawsuits if police officers are presumed — even deemed — to be expert marksmen, and therefore capable of, and legally REQUIRED to “shoot to wound,” and the perp nevertheless dies of his wounds?  Negligent homicide! I can hear the cross examination now, and so can you.
    And, who gets to make the determination that we have crossed over into shoot t0
    stop mode? Does some judge magically on the scene suddenly fire a flare that frees all weapons Free?
    That is,  How and When do we know — exactly — when we really ARE in a kill or be killed situation, and what evidence will there be left behind to document this transition from Shoot to Wound to Shoot to Stop to protect us in court later?
    Do you all not see how grotesquely perverse, and flawed this becomes?

  • pst314

    “It is not realistic, and it exists only in cartoons.”
    When I was a very young child I believed some of the stuff I saw in cartoons and cowboy movies, but then I grew up. One of the results of the sixties is that we now have a significant population of “adults” who live in a fantasy world.

  • lookingforlissa

    When people make the shoot-to-wound argument I point them to the YouTube of the cop shooting himself in the leg.  He limps around and then asks for the second gun.
    Add a little coke or PCP to the criminal and imagine the fun that will ensue!

  • Ymarsakar

    This is why everybody in the US needs to pass a basic marksmanship test before they get to vote.
    Ignorant sheep voting on how to kill seems a tad ridiculous.
    Lookingforlisa, that was hilarious. This ranks up there with the British officer that told his people in the field, “They can’t hit an elephant at this range” and then got shot and killed by American snipers.
    This guy got the glock, which often does not have a manual safety, with the slide open, then he cocks the slide forward, does not check the magazine, and then actually points it at his leg and then says “I am the only one professional alone to handle the *BOOOOOOOOM*”
    Btw, you don’t want to shoot the extremities because a gun is a ranged weapon. I can close the distance from somewhere between 10-25 feet in 1-2 shots, and others are far faster. If in that time, you have not stopped the assailant, you are now in MELEE range and your gun is not nearly as effective as it was.
    The central nervous system is what you are aiming at. For the bullet to go in there and either hit an organ or hit the CNS and thus cause the person to drop due to spinal reflex/shock effect. This is also why larger calibers are better, as it forces a hydrostatic effect reaching greater parts of the body. Not only does the kinetic force become greater to mitigate a person’s attempt to move forwards, but the hydrostatic effect has a far greater likely hood of triggering a spinal malfunction to collapse that person to the ground.

  • Ymarsakar

    I promise and guarantee you. When these bureaucrats and politicians want their body guards to stop somebody they want to get rid of, they will order shoot to kill orders.
    Just remember WACO.

  • Ymarsakar

    For more information on Glocks and why they don’t have integrated manual safeties.
    The gun was unloaded only in the sense that the chamber was empty. It still had a mag, which nobody seemed to have bothered to check for. When he pulled the trigger, the self loading gun should have then sent up another round from the mag. How these “government” enlightened masters of us peons didn’t know that, you can blame it on them being paid government, not private, wages and benefits.
    Ain’t no way Black Water could function that way with ignorant as hell operators like that DEA agent.

  • Ymarsakar

    Oh wait, I shouldn’t call the DEA agent an “operator”. he is more of a clown, a piro.

  • Oldflyer

    I knew all of those Lone Ranger and Roy Rogers movies would come back to haunt us.  If they could do it 100% of the time, why can’t a highly trained police officer?  Wonder how many practice sessions on the range the NY police will be allowed per year?   I wonder if NY will punish cops who lose their hats during a physical confrontation?

  • Danny Lemieux

    Anybody that has qualified on a handgun knows how hard it is to hit a stationary target (accurately, anyway), much less a moving target, without huge amounts of practice. However, as this video shows, it can be done…even with a moving vehicle:

  • lookingforlissa

    Ymarsakar, there are lots of “I am the only one professional enough . . . ” posts, memes and snarking by gunbloggers.  The idea that a “designated defender” can intuit that you are in danger, arrive on the scene and stop the threat more quickly and efficiently than you can — and the idea that ONLY designated defenders are “professional” enough to do it safely — is ludicrous.

    And oh yeah, DEA guy – that’s why we always obey the Four Rules!!!

  • BrianE

    Aren’t all police issued tasers? I thought that was what they were for, when less than lethal force was necessary to control a situation.


    Shoot to wound and courageous restraint – a pairing of political goals to cripple law enforcement. There are forces and there are fanatics and when the two join together to change the very way the police and military operate to protect and defend; it is not only a cartoon – it’s catastrophic.
    Porky Pig: That’s all folks.
    Obama: I huffed and puffed and blew your house down.
    No upper hand for the Progressives unless my middle finger is raised. Book..I think Regressives is better word as they have no problem taking us back to the Stone Age.

  • Ymarsakar

    This is probably a shake down of the NYPD law enforcement public sector unions. It makes them give the pols more money, which they will need to re-elect themselves.
    NYPD unions, for example, tried to kick out Rudy. And for good reason. Rudy was actually getting the corruption out of the NYPD. Bad deal for those union bosses.

  • jj

    Oldflyer, #10 – because they’re not that highly trained.  Cops in NY only have to qualify once a year at the range, under pretty close to ideal conditions.  (The range is well lit, the target is stationary, so’s the cop, the target’s not shooting back, there’s no screaming and wailing sirens, and you can stop between rounds to take a drag on your cigarette and a sip of coffee.)
    This means that most cops spend about an hour a year doing live fire – which is a very long way from being “highly trained.”  The sad fact is, most of your run-of-the-mill street cops are fairly lousy shots who never practice and who, furthermore, hardly ever clean their damn guns.  This does not improve the innate accuracy of the weapon.
    JKB is correct: you don’t shoot to wound, nor do you shoot to kill: you try and stop whoever you’re shooting at.  Most single shots will be to wound by the nature of the fact that most cops are using nines these days, with .38s as their holdout gun.  Neither 9mm’s or .38’s are guaranteed one shot put-downs (unless you hit a vital area) – which everybody knows.  Thus, if you have eight cops in at the end of the pursuit, the bad guy will be dead as everybody empties his weapon.  (Though what usually happens is like that deal in the stairwell of a building in NYC a few years ago: 40-something shots fired (in a confined space, no less!), six hits, two of them fatal.  (There’s marksmanship for you!  If the guy’d been more than seven feet away, would he have been hit at all?)
    Expecting cops – or pretty much anybody else except really highly trained, expert shots who spend some time every day at the range and probably shoot competitively – to “shoot to wound” is about like expecting Obama to run a successful business, or give a straight answer to a straight question.

  • Bookworm

    One of the things I totally love about my blog is that it’s like knowledge on steroids.  I bring a small amount of information to the table, and you guys just build on it.  The collective knowledge here is staggering and so welcome.

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  • Ymarsakar

    On the topic of that “collective knowledge”, I just read my email and there’s a call up I can vouch for.

    Event: “Home Invasion Survival” live call

    Date & Time: Wednesday, May 26, 2010 @ 9pm Eastern

    Register by clicking here:
    (Limited seats available; attend free from anywhere in the world)
    My TFT instructors sent it to me today, so right on the deadline. Should be perfect for those procrastinator types ; )

    In these times of economic stress generating more property crime, if you want some more resources on how to protect your home or your family, I greatly encourage you to hear for yourself.

  • Ymarsakar

    “One of the things I totally love about my blog is that it’s like knowledge on steroids. ”
    Well, it probably wasn’t the case when guns were brought up amongst people you knew. Because they weren’t part of the “gun culture” so to speak ; )

  • Danny Lemieux

    (Though what usually happens is like that deal in the stairwell of a building in NYC a few years ago: 40-something shots fired (in a confined space, no less!), six hits, two of them fatal.  (There’s marksmanship for you!  If the guy’d been more than seven feet away, would he have been hit at all?)
    It sounds counter intuitive, I know, but you actually have a better chance against a pistol if you are up close and moving fast than if you are further away. Hitting a moving target with a pistol is HARD (as the guy in the video above demonstrated against the cop).

  • socratease

    Ymarsakar, that quote isn’t from a British officer, but by Union General John Sedgwick, who uttered it during the Battle of Spotsylvania Court House.

  • Ymarsakar

    The police also initially reacted wrong in Danny’s tape. Instead of going inside the arc of the gun and slamming the arm into the top of the window/door using the police officer’s body weight, he ducked and covered, with no cover, then opened the distance to the car.
    The nearest cover around was behind the tail light of the vehicle. Running out into the road was the wrong reaction. Running behind the car was the right one. Only good training allows people to react correctly.
    Only luck and a lack of total commitment on the part of the driver-shooter saved the officer from a bullet wound. The driver wanted to get away. If he wanted to kill or wound the officer, he should have opened the door first, to get the officer out of line of sight of whatever you have, walk out, then shoot him up close.
    A gun provides a labor shortcut in terms of penetration, rotation, in effecting an injury. All you need to do is to get the targeting right.

  • Jose

    The main lesson we should learn from this is that politicians are woefully under-equipped to be deciding how the public lives.   It illustrates that they probably know just as much about regulating our economy, conducting military operations, cleaning up oil spills, or managing our health care.
    They are POLITICIANS.  If they were experts in something else, they would probably be making money at it.

  • Bill Smith

    Y, It also helped that the perp was drunk — which may have saved the officer from his really poor tactics. He was standing broad to the door instead of behind the driver where you, the cop, can see the perp, including his hands and lap, but he can’t see you. He has to make significant, obvious movements to bring a weapon out of concealment, and aim it at you if you are standing behind him, and behind the swing of the door.
    Having said that, the cop recovered pretty well after the several mistakes that you pointed out. All of you reading this, you DO NOT KNOW how you will react to sudden violence, never mind to staring down the barrel of a gun pointed at you from a foot away. You don’t, and you are a fool if you think you do. The only thing that will prepare you is realistic, stressful training, training, training — emphasis on STRESSFUL, scare the crap out of you TRAINING. But, I guarantee you you will STILL make mistakes the first time it happens for real.
    So tell me, mr. genius boy-legislator, what exactly do you aim at on the back of an SUV to “wound?”
    Other bad practices I saw: His gun hand was full of flashlight. Gun hand should be free, and quite near your weapon, or even on it. Left hand should have a long, heavy flashlight to shine in perp’s eyes, which gives you an excuse to have it raised so you can slam it down instantly on anything that needs slamming — like a weapon.
    Had he had his light in his left hand, and his weapon in his right, he could have slammed the perp’s weapon down, and shot him a moment later, and ended it right there. And, Yes, hindsight IS 20/20, but I’ll bet he never approached a car again with anything in his right hand.

  • Ymarsakar

    He does look like his reaction time was slow by 1-2 seconds.

  • Ymarsakar

    One of the officer’s issue is that, as I mentioned, the moment I’m on the street and some guy in a ghetto car shouts out at me, I’m already aware of exactly what kind of threat, angle, arc, distance that I am in. It’s just automatic. Because I’m always holding in my head, “how am I going to get to this guy inside the car and take him out” or how am I going to get under cover when firearms are brought into play.
    By knowing the threat and understanding the environment, you change the strategic situation such that when the Tactical Problem arises, you aren’t faced with a “shock” time.
    The police officer was obviously not even thinking about these issues from the right perspective. He was not aware. That communicates to the other guy that this police officer is “easy” to take out. People will take you up on the offer, if you give them the incentive.

  • 11B40

    I almost always comply with wishes of my better, my rulers and my better rulers.  SO, how many times can I would the guy???

  • Ymarsakar

    When you are sitting around thinking nothing bad will happen. And something bad has happened, your reaction time is slow as molasses.
    Training is only one part of the equation. And police officers, not to mention some military units, are poorly trained in some critical aspects. But you can “prime the pump” in the moment itself. If the police officer doesn’t like walking up behind a car in the dark not knowing what is going on, he should think about the exact order in which he will draw and aim his gun, and the exact order in which he will react to a specific threat that can manifest.
    Get everything processed out, then just wait for more stimuli. Your brain will then adapt based upon seeing something new, instead of reacting to something new and then trying to figure an entire New Dynamic from scratch.
    Instead of trying to figure out when he pulls a gun on you what you are going to do. Think of a solution before hand. If you think taking out your gun and shooting him in the head could be a solution, visualize this. Remember the muscles you will need to use and in what order. And then think about doing exactly that, without actually activating the muscles.
    There is a physiological change in people when they prepare to do violence. The more you prepare, the more you train, the less you will bleed. And that includes right up to the moment when you actually have to do something.
    And, assuming the criminal in question is sane and reasonably smart, will understand exactly how the tables are turned against him. He may want to resist, but he won’t like the odds. Thus there’s more reason for him to cooperate.
    If he thinks he can beat you, this is what’ll happen.
    They interview you and ask you “Can I take you out” and if you answer “Yes, I’m clueless, you can take me out”, they will try you. And often times, the criminal, the career criminal, will be right. Because their instinct and interview will be successful. As in the video. There’s a lot of body language communication going on that people don’t seem to realize.

  • Bill Smith

    Whom are you arguing with, Y? Me?
    I was mostly agreeing with you. The cop in the video was definitely lucky, but his reaction — or recovery, whichever you want to call it — I ASSURE you — was lightning quick. Do NOT imagine that you would be any faster, my friend.
    Watch the video again. The cop’s reaction time was NOT “slow by 1-2 seconds.” He deflected the perp’s pistol virtually instantaneously — as viewed from our point of view — and it saved his life. But, had the perp not been drunk, the cop might well have been shot because of his poor tactics.
    As for imagining that you can know the thought process this perp went through — which you appear to have done — well, I simply point out that this not-so-cunning perp caught the cop absolutely flat-footed, at point blank range, and STILL failed not only to hit him, but even to pull the trigger until several seconds later when he had no target in his sights.  There was no high level perp tactical calculating going on there. The perp was drunk, and the cop was quick, and very, very lucky.
    Watch it again, Y, before firing back, OK?

  • Bill Smith

    30 is in response to 26 & 27, not 29.

  • Ymarsakar

    I’m just elaborating on some points.

    “The cop’s reaction time was NOT “slow by 1-2 seconds.””

    That was in response to your statement that the perp was drunk. The fact that you took this statement as a negative one about the officer, speaks more about your assumptions than what I was trying to say. It is very important to take the ego out of situations involving violence. Because you don’t want your emotions telling you what is real or not.

    In a social setting, asking people what is really going on can be useful and helpful in avoiding bad situations. In a violent confrontation, letting your emotions dictate your reality (and thus your actions) is the difference between living and dying.

    Something to keep in mind.
    Police, ego is not your ally in a fire fight. Nor on training to prevent needless casualties in a firefight.

  • JKB

    Apparently, this shoot to wound idea isn’t new.  Here is an analysis by people who study use of force scientifically from 2006:  Force Science News #40: Why Shooting to Wound Doesn’t Make Sense Scientifically, Legally or Tactically at Force Science News
    Re: #3 – Defense attorneys in my state had already started bringing up police shooting quals when they used numeric scores.  The standards were changed to pass/fail to avoid the “so I see you shot a 98 on your last qual so why didn’t you…” questions.  The numeric scores were just bragging rights since all that was required was to pass the minimum to be deemed qualified to carry.

  • Bill Smith

    That could go another way, too!
    “So, I see you shot a 98 on your last qual, so isn’t it true that you deliberately aimed for my client’s testicles to prevent him from producing more children?!!”

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