“A bank customer tried to take matters into his own hands as he fired close to half a dozen shots at an armed robber who was fleeing from a Sheridan Drive bank he had just robbed,” the Amherst police told buffalonews.com. WHAT?
The thief displayed a handgun and ordered the approximately 10 people in the bank, half workers and half customers, to put their hands up. He then demanded cash from the tellers. As the robber began to leave the area on foot after taking an undisclosed amount of money, the male customer followed him outside and fired four to six shots at him behind the bank, [Detective Capt. Enzio G.] Villalta and others said. No one inside the bank was injured, and police do not believe any of the customer’s shots hit the robber.
Let’s start with the last fact and work our way backwards . . .
At the risk of proffering a piercing glimpse into the obvious, there’s no point in carrying a firearm unless you can shoot what you’re aiming at. This is no easy feat—especially when you’re in a life or death situation. With adrenalin flooding your body, you have to aim properly (often at a moving target) and fire smoothly. The farther away your target, the more difficult it becomes. To fully master this murderous skill, you need a LOT of practice. And training. And more practice.
Note: this is not an argument for mandatory firearms training. There’s no getting around the fact that most CCW holders do not possess much in the way of practical firearms skills. But in many situations, not much skill is required. A woman about to be or in the process of being raped doesn’t need to be able to shoot the eye of a newt at twenty paces. And sometimes brandishing is all a CCW holder needs.
Besides, Americans have the right to bear arms. So . . . so be it. That said, this series is based on the idea that gun owners have responsibilities. While you could contend that shooting skills are an important part of that principle, I’d counter that knowing when to shoot is far more important for responsible gun ownership than well-honed marksmanship.
First and foremost, a responsible CCW holder must know the laws re: lethal force. Generally speaking, you can only draw a gun when your life or the life of an innocent third party is in imminent danger of death or grievous bodily harm. Although the Buffalo News article suggests it may be legal to fire at a fleeing felon in certain circumstances, I would hate to base a legal defense on any such technicality. You know; if I shot an innocent bystander.
Yes, there is that. To paraphrase Sgt. Callahan, a responsible gun owner’s gotta know his limitations. If you can’t hit squat beyond five feet, fair enough. Don’t shoot at a perp who’s beyond five feet—unless you have to. And if you have to, don’t—if there’s a chance that the bullets that miss your target could strike an innocent person.
That’s a very difficult judgement to make in the heat of the moment, when your focus instinctively narrows to the perp or even the perp’s hands. But make it you must. Because you are responsible for every bullet that leaves your gun, and bullets have a tendency to travel incredibly long distances.
If ALL of the unnamed bank customer’s bullets had struck the robber, MAYBE you could argue that he did the right thing taking down an dangerous criminal. As NONE of them found their mark, it’s an open and shut case. The CCW holder was wrong to shoot in general (the imminent danger was gone) and in specific (he lacked the skills needed to shoot safely).
The bank customer shooting at the fleeing felon was an irresponsible gun owner who should have his gun confiscated and his permit revoked.
The default option for any responsible gun owner in a dangerous situation: NOT to shoot. Again, that’s easier said than done. Well, sometimes. Sometimes not shooting is as simple as not chasing an armed felon out of a bank, not aiming at his back and not pulling the trigger. No imminent danger, no shoot, no woman no cry.