Once again, blame the shooter(s), not the gun(s)

Well, after a couple days without power (and thus without internet access), I’m back, and ready, willing, and able to mix it up with the anti-gun extremist pantywaists.

Today’s pantywaist is William Saletan, of Slate. In the above mentioned piece, he discusses the NYPD’s shooting of three unarmed partygoers, in which one man (due to marry later that day) was killed. By the way, try to ignore the author’s annoying insistence on referrring to magazines as “clips,” and cartridges as “bullets”–inaccurate terminology is the least of his problems.

While we do not yet know all the details of what actually happened, it does sound as if, at best, the involved officers engaged in some very poor police work. Their “marksmanship,” for example, was egregious, with some of the fifty rounds fired hitting houses and parked cars, and shattering a train station’s window. Since no one was injured by the stray rounds, though, their inaccuracy is a much smaller problem than the shots that actually did hit their intended targets. Clearly, there needs to be a very close look taken at the justification (or lack thereof) for shooting in the first place.

Saletan, however, wants to concentrate on the magazine capacity (or “clip” capacity, in his vernacular) of the guns used:

How can you control a contagion of police overreaction? By controlling the crucial mechanism: guns. The key number in the Diallo case wasn’t 41; it was 16. Two of the four officers accounted for 32 of the 41 bullets, because each of them emptied his weapon. NYPD rules “require that the officers carry nine millimeter semi-automatic pistols with 16 shots in the magazine and the first trigger pull being a conventional trigger pull and all subsequent trigger pulls being a hair trigger pull,” one defense lawyer told the jury. That’s why the officers fired so many shots so fast: Their guns, loaded with 64 rounds, “were all capable of being emptied in less than four seconds.

Same thing this week. Thirty-one of the 50 bullets reportedly came from one officer’s 16-round semiautomatic. One reload, two clips, total mayhem.

This is why Mayor David Dinkins and his police commissioners, including Ray Kelly, originally opposed giving cops semiautomatic weapons. In 1993, when they gave in, they put a 10-round limit on the clips. A year later, Mayor Rudy Giuliani and his commissioner lifted the cap. They argued that cops shouldn’t be outgunned and would handle the weapons responsibly. It’s the same argument the National Rifle Association makes for the freedom to use firearms: Guns don’t kill people; people kill people.

The reason the NRA makes that argument is that it is absolutely, utterly correct.

Mr. Bell’s death resulted from one of the shots fired (the one that hit him in the neck). The shooting appears to have been wrong because it was wrong to shoot at all–not wrong to shoot that much.

The problem, William, isn’t that the guns are too capable–it’s that the officers responsible for it weren’t capable enough.

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