When You Have to Shoot, Shoot; Don't Talk
By William A. Levinson
First, why did the officer in question need to fire eight rounds to disable the gunman? Front Sight's four-day defensive handgun course includes considerable emphasis on putting a single bullet into the cranio-ocular cavity of a criminal who is using a human shield. My first impression was that the time might be better spent on other skills, because a private citizen is extremely unlikely to have to deal with a hostage situation. In retrospect, however, one might ask why the world's best armies still teach soldiers to use bayonets. Even if an ordinary soldier is very unlikely to need his bayonet, his life will depend on knowing how to use it if he does. Mastery of this weapon also builds overall confidence, and it is therefore a morale-builder. The soldier knows he can, if he must, handle close encounters of the wrong kind.
The same goes for Front Sight's hostage rescue training. The knowledge that you can shoot more accurately than almost every action movie hero (who always drops his gun when so ordered by the hostage-taker) is a definite confidence-builder. The typical Front Sight student can, upon completion of the course, shoot better than 24's Jack Bauer except when the script calls for Bauer to drop the bad guy with one shot. Even more importantly, you learn how to clear a weapon malfunction quickly, as opposed to trying to figure out what to do while the criminal shoots you. Colonel Jeff Cooper's To Ride, Shoot Straight, and Speak the Truth stresses the fact that "the right mindset" is every bit as important as the weapon. Confidence is part of the right mindset, and Front Sight's training program builds that confidence.
What was New York, the gun control capital of the nation, doing while Front Sight, and Gunsite in Paulden AZ, were training ordinary people how to handle life-or-death confrontations? The death of Andrea Rebollo, and nine bystander casualties at the hands of Michael Bloomberg's, police, are the answer.
This is emphatically not a criticism of the police officers involved. General Lewis Walt's The Eleventh Hour contends that, when you issue a soldier less than the best available weapon, you are committing first-degree murder. Field Marshal Aleksandr Suvorov would have said that a general who doesn't train his soldiers adequately is guilty of their murder, which is why Suvorov's troops always made mincemeat of whomever they fought. New York State and New York City are similarly accomplices to every cop-killing in which the officer's inadequate training played a role.
If inadequate police training is one of New York's problems, confusion and delusion about tactical doctrine is another:
"The big question is, how do you know, when someone's pointing a gun at you, whether you should keep talking to them, or shoot?" said Michele Galietta, a professor of psychology at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice who helps train police officers. "That's what makes the job of an officer amazingly difficult."
Pay close attention: Professor Galietta says there is a "big question" as to whether you should shoot somebody who points a gun at you. This question was answered very conclusively in 1966, and also in a shower scene that is far less famous than the one in Psycho. The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly and Big Jake are two rare examples of movies that actually teach a valid real-life lesson: when somebody has actually aimed a deadly weapon at you, he can kill you before you can say a single word. When you have to shoot -- and you do if somebody menaces you with something that can end your life in a fraction of a second -- shoot; don't talk.
Police instructor Masaad Ayoob goes even farther in his book, In The Gravest Extreme, with regard to an armed home invader whose back is turned to an armed defender.
If you have ascertained that the man you have the drop on is a deliberate intruder into your occupied home (and therefore, by definition, a deranged or vicious enemy); if you are certain that he has a weapon in or at hand; if you and he are in positions where he can shoot or stab you-
Shoot him. In the back, if you have to. And keep shooting him until he is unable to shoot back.
This advice goes against everything we have seen in movies that involve criminals and police officers. The officer always orders the bad guy to drop his weapon, and the bad guy almost always complies. Here is what is likely to happen in real life, as stated by Ayoob. The criminal, who is hopped up on adrenaline, drugs, or both, is likely to turn instinctively toward your voice to fire his weapon. "The point is that you can't afford to find out [whether he would have surrendered] because there's a good chance that his reaction is the last thing that will register in your mind before he kills you."