Writing for the steadfastly anti-gun latimes.com, Bob Owens of bearingarms.com reckons police shouldn’t carry GLOCKs. In the grand tradition of such things, he begins with anecdotes. “Timothy Stansbury died in a New York housing project stairwell in 2004 because he startled a police officer. The officer’s surprise at encountering Stansbury caused the officer’s hand to clench and his weapon to fire. The death was ruled accidental by a grand jury, though the officer was later stripped of his gun for the remainder of his career.” Uh, maybe the officer’s finger shouldn’t have been on the trigger? Bob’s anti-“handgun with no external safety and a short trigger pull” rant’s got an answer for that one . . .
If a law enforcement officer, soldier or citizen does exactly what they are supposed to do all of the time with cyborg certainty, there will be no problems with the Glock or other popular pistols mimicking its basic design. Unfortunately, “RoboCop” is only a movie, and humans are liable to make similar mistakes over and over again.
The underlying problem with these pistols is a short trigger pull and the lack of an external safety. In real-world encounters, a short trigger pull can be lethal, in part because a significant percentage of law enforcement officers — some experts say as high as 20% — put their finger on the trigger of their weapons when under stress. According to firearms trainers, most officers are completely unaware of their tendency to do this and have a hard time believing it, even when they’re shown video evidence from training exercises.
I have no cause to doubt Bob’s contention that 20 percent of police officers – or more – subconsciously “register” their gun’s trigger with their trigger finger during a crisis. But his editorial fails to address the critical question: can training reduce or eliminate that number? Because we all know that police training really, really sucks. (If you don’t, click here.)
And then there’s another issue: would a handgun with a longer and presumably harder trigger pull and an external safety be any safer than a standard-issue GLOCK? Because we all know that handguns with really a hard trigger pull – like the GLOCKs issued to the NYPD – dangerously decrease officer accuracy. (If you don’t think so, click here and here.) Bob skates over that one.
Though short trigger-pull guns dominate the law enforcement market, they aren’t the only game in town. A number of major and minor agencies use guns with much longer double-action triggers that are just as easy to fire deliberately but that are much harder to fire accidentally. The half-inch difference of trigger travel may not sound like much, but it can be the difference between life and death.
That’s a heck of a statement: guns with a longer double-action trigger pull are “just as easy to fire deliberately” as a standard issue GLOCK. Again, it’s not only a matter of deliberate fire, but accurate fire.
By the same token, if officers can’t remember to keep their finger off a gun’s trigger in a crisis, will they remember to switch off the external safety? That little mistake could also be the difference between life and death.
We’ll continue to see more Timothy Stansburys, more Akai Gurleys and more Jared Forsyths until law enforcement agencies and city governments quit listening to hype about how wonderful these systems are from the companies selling the weapons, and start caring more about the lives of their officers and citizens.
Payouts to settle lawsuits over accidental shootings with these weapons have cost cities millions of dollars. Washington, D.C., for instance, paid out $1.4 million in a single six-month period in 1998. And the casualties and lawsuits keep mounting.
I’m amazed that an experienced and respected gun blogger like Bob Owens would blame a gun for an officer’s negligent discharge, and insinuate that police departments are providing cops with inherently defective guns. And if you accept his premise that GLOCKs are just too dangerous for cops to carry, they’re too dangerous for civilians, too.
While I understand his desire to prevent bad shoots and his appreciate his hard work and writing talent, this is a great landing at the wrong airport. [h/t TT]