Shooting the unarmed

A Phoenix anti-cop activist shows surprising flexibility of thought after completing a shoot/don't-shoot training course.  It obviously made him rethink what should happen when an unarmed man walks right up into an officer's face.


Grim said...

There are some problems with the way the course was set up, I think. I won't go so far as to say that they built the course this way to try to sway the activist, but having done such training myself more than once, I find the setup a little odd.

In the first case, no legal justification would have existed for shooting the guy because he walked around the back of the car. If you had drawn your weapon and leveled it at that time, the best you could have done was take him with you. But this was the introductory scenario -- to show the activist that even when a guy is retreating from you and not showing any sign of being armed, you can be killed. So it seems the first lesson is that doing everything right won't save you! The only thing that would save you is to kill the guy at a moment when it was not legal to kill him.

That sets the tone for the second scenario, the one where both guys shot. This scenario is also dominated by the "only tool is a hammer" problem: providing a handgun but no other option for reaction. The question becomes "do you react?" rather than "how do you react?" There's no nightstick, no taser, no handcuffs... the structure of the scenario forces you into a 'shoot/no-shoot' model. Especially with the first scenario immediately in mind (and the same actor playing the bad guy, even), of course they both reacted -- and the only way to react was to shoot.

That really gets to the point about training and options, and it's a good thing for anyone who might carry arms to think about. If you trap yourself in a situation in which your only defensive option is a handgun, you may end up killing someone you later wish you hadn't. It's better to have wider options, and to train for those too.

It's always a good idea to go through training like this no matter who you are. I have some questions about the structure of this training, but I do approve of the idea of having people go through training of this kind.

MikeD said...

This also reminds me of the ever present "did they really need to shoot him" second guessing that goes on. I know of the Tueller Drill>, but I suspect most people do not. In fact, if you ask 10 people if the police are right to shoot a suspect twenty feet away if they are armed with a knife, I doubt you will get 9 people who say yes. And yet, the Tueller Drill clearly shows that most of the time, at that range, the one with the knife wins (or at least gets the first blow).

Grim said...

Right, we've done that drill many times. It's one reason I carry a knife instead of a handgun most of the time. I'm convinced that it's a better close-range weapon if you're willing to invest the time in mastering it: it's less dangerous to nearby people you don't want to hurt (no ricochets, no overpenetration, and no hitting a kid whom you didn't see down the street), there are many nonlethal ways of using it if that is the appropriate degree of force, but it's at least as deadly at handgun range in the hands of a skilled user.

Not that I'm suggesting police should be armed with knives instead of handguns, of course. I do think that, if you're willing to put in the training time, it's a viable option for self-defense or defense of others against criminals. It can cut down on a lot of the problems and limitations of handguns, but it requires continual time and effort to be in the kind of shape to use one.

MikeD said...

But that's generally been the trend of weapons development in any case, hasn't it. The crossbow was not really "better" than the longbow. But it certainly required less training to use effectively. The muzzle loaded musket had a far lower rate of fire than the bow, but again, you needed to worry far less about the skill of the musketeer than you did of the archer (in fact, it is interesting to note that the French musketeers were known for their skill with the sword, not with the very weapon from which they derive their name).

Grim said...

Well, the crossbow precedes the longbow as a battle weapon, so the longbow is kind of a counter-example. Actually, bows in general are a counter-example to that thesis. The kind of shorter bows that precede the crossbow were easier to use and required less strength to operate than the crossbow, just as the crossbow required less strength and skill than the longbow.

In general, I think, the rule runs this way: those who invest more in developing skill and strength tend to prevail. A weapon that enables someone willing to make the investment to achieve greater results will tend to prevail.

The thing about handguns is that they're a stopgap for those who don't have the time to invest. Infantrymen don't carry handguns, they carry rifles and -- should they end up in close contact -- bayonets. The guy who carries the handgun is the officer who isn't going to spend all that much time on the range, but a lot more in his office; or the tanker, whose real investment is in the operation of the tank, but for whom the handgun provides some capacity to resist if the tank fails.

So it makes sense as an option for policemen: their real investment is going to be in talking to members of the community, keeping watch, helping out in all the ways for which they're called to help, writing citations, writing reports, and so on. Probably they'll never fire their weapon in combat. It's good to give them an easy way to protect themselves if it comes up, and of course they should invest some time in training (as should anyone going to carry a weapon). But we don't expect them to master a martial art; we know that the most of their time is not going to be spent busting heads or shooting folks. It's going to be spent talking or writing.

douglas said...

Every major city should offer this publically to every 'activist' and 'civil rights leader' around. At the very least, get a reporter from every local news station to do it, so people can see that maybe it isn't so clear cut as they think.