Every time there is a mass shooting someone will opine, "If only more people had guns...someone could have stopped this carnage." Yes, gun-toting citizens are the best defense against gun-toting killers!
What many of these folks fail to grasp is that most gun-toting citizens aren't trained in using their weapon of choice during a confrontation or a situation marked with chaos. It is not as if a mass shooter is willing to stand still and draw a big X on his shirt. Bullets are flying everywhere and most people involved in these sorts of situations can't tell up from down.
Besides, even those professionals who are trained to handle such situations aren't always the best shots either as a recent incident in New York City underscores.
Two police officers opened fired on an emotionally disturbed man who was dodging cars on a busy Manhattan street on Saturday night, wounding two bystanders and sending people running for cover, authorities said.
On Sunday, authorities identified the man as Glenn Broadnax, 35, of Brooklyn. He faces multiple counts including menacing, riot, criminal possession of a controlled substance, and resisting arrest. He was in custody. The Associated Press could not locate a phone listing for his home.
Police said Broadnax made movements suggesting he had a weapon, though he turned out to be unarmed. The officers' shots missed him, and he was eventually brought down by a stun gun. The encounter happened just before 10pm near the Port Authority Bus Terminal, a block away from Times Square.
Officers saw Broadnax, who was on foot, weaving erratically through traffic and sometimes blocking vehicles. "It appeared he wanted to be struck by cars," police commissioner Raymond Kelly said, at an early morning news conference.
As officers approached, police said, Broadnax reached into his pocket as if grabbing a weapon, and two officers fired a total of three shots. The bullets struck a 54-year-old woman in the right knee and a grazed a 35-year-old woman in the buttocks, police said.
Police officers spend a good deal of time on the target range and they receive training in how to manage situations such as this. Still, we have officers firing at a suspect and missing. Do you think a citizen or two who happened on a similar scene and pulled out their trusty six shooters would have possibly shot even more bystanders? I say the chances of that happening are fairly good!
There are two other issues concerning this story. For starters, how does an unarmed man make "movements suggesting he had a weapon"? This is an all too common rationale offered by the police. Is putting your hand in your pocket sufficient? Is waving your arms? If you say, "Bang, bang," does that suggest you have a weapon?
The other question is why were they prepared to shoot this man anyway? Nothing in the report suggests that he was trying to harm anyone...other than possibly himself. This isn't the first case in which someone is thought to be suicidal and so the police decide to try to defuse the situation by killing the person. I am not a big fan of stun guns (tasers), but this seems like the kind of situation where its use may have been appropriate.