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“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 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.

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  1. Although I’m all for constitutional carry and truly dislike New York State’s onerous handgun laws, the fact that obtaining a permit is such a lengthy and clunky process should give would-be do-gooders like that some extra pause before acting rashly. Knowing how easily the permit can be revoked should also have some deterrent value, too.

  2. Something doesn’t pass the smell test here. Who exactly is this individual who tried to blast the perp after the fact? And then just walked away when it was all said and done?

    I have a suspicion this gun user is connected to LE or local/state government somehow…

  3. I read that he also got himself cuffed and detained for his trouble. Had the timing been different, he might have even gotten shot by responding police.

  4. I was going to write this up for RF but I didn’t have the time and I was dying to know what kind of potentate can not only get a carry permit in NY, but also can shoot wildly down a crowded street and not get charged. I was guessing either cop, ex-cop, or the mayors son.

    Local station WGRZ was also interested, but…
    Channel 2 News pressed Amherst Police to release more information about the customer who fired his weapon, even asking them if this man is an off duty police officer. All Amherst Police would say is the man is a private citizen.

    So I assume that rules out current LEO. Possibly the mayor’s son, or a car dealer who owns the mayor?

  5. And another thing that stinks to high heaven (I was working on this for days): Why is WGRZ the only station that even mentions asking what the deal is with the shooter, and why is there no local follow up? The local paper and tv stations have the same story that they had at the time the incident happened. I would think that the Brady Bunch types that populate the average media outlet would be all over this.

  6. “I have a suspicion this gun user is connected to LE or local/state government somehow…”
    Robert Farago says:
    ” I got the same feeling. Even so, four to six misses?”

    From the other LEO-shooting stories I’ve seen, 4-6 misses sounds about right.

  7. In NYC carry permits are reserved for the wealthy, famous and/or politically connected.
    In the rest of the state, everyone that goes through the paperwork grind gets a handgun permit.
    This is a permit to possess the gun, but is also a “restricted carry” permit. The default “permission level” is “hunting and target” meaning that you can own the weapon in your home, and carry it to a hunting ground or to the range, concealed or locked in a box.
    Now, various counties have a lot of control over the issuance of permits, but generally any county other than Nassau, Westchester, Suffolk, Rockland or Putnam will issue the “full carry” with little or no need to justify it.
    Carrying “off hours” means risking only a permit revocation, not even a civil penalty or misdemeanor.
    I don’t like the New York “permit” system, but I think it must be said that except for NYC, it really is “shall issue” at least to own and take it to the range.

    • I don’t like the New York “permit” system, but I think it must be said that except for NYC, it really is “shall issue” at least to own and take it to the range.

      I think that woefully misconstrues the common definition of “shall issue.”

      A shall issue state is one in which any law-abiding citizen may get permit to carry a firearm concealed on their person. It has nothing whatsoever to do with the ability to buy or own a gun. Even in a fairly left-wing state like Maryland it is possible to walk into a store, pass a NICS, and walk out with a gun. The only exceptions are assault sporting rifles with three or more of the following features…

  8. I am a former police officer and concealed weapons permit instructor and I agree with everyone who posted that this was a “no shoot” situation. I also agree that all states need to make their concealed carry permit training requirements tougher to pass, and this case illustrates why.

    In Florida you can use deadly force to stop and armed robbery, but this armed robbery was already over as the suspect fled. Many concealed carry permit holders seem to think that they are “honorary police officers” once they get their permits, and run out and by a “concealed weapons permit badge” they stick in their wallet. I blame their instructors for not properly training them more thoroughly.

    A big problem with training is the gun show “cattle classes” where 50 or 60 people at a time listen to a two hour lecture, and then fire one shot into a sand bag or barrel of water. To me that is not training – its a disservice to society and sounds more like a scam.

    Lastly, I think people should have to qualify by shooting a law enforcement or security guard 48 round course, and then re-qualify once per year just like police officers and security guards do.

  9. Too many wrong facts getting tossed around… Here are some truths…

    NYS is not a shall issue state. In Erie County, it takes almost a year to get a target/hunt permit. And there is an extensive backround check done, and sneexing wrong gets permits revoked. After lots of years pass, and if you demonstrate a “need”, a judge might make it a CCW. There are exceptions, but few and far between. Other counties are not as strict.
    NYS law allows a licensed gun owner to shoot a bank robber. Either in the bank or fleeing. Front, back, side, anywhere.
    The choice to shoot can be (and is) debated as wise or not, but it is legal.
    It was not a crowded street. News reports are that it was the back of the bank with nobody else around.
    NY City permits are nothing like the rest of the state. It should be thought of as a different state totally. Buffalo is 450 miles from NYC.
    Laws in other states are almost always less strict than NY (except CA).

    • For years, CA was better than NYS for gun owners. Now it seems to have gone the other way.
      Yes, NYS has an assault weapon “ban” but we’re free to own and transfer pre-ban weapons and magazines. We DO NOT have assault weapon registration.
      NYS doesn’t have a proscribed/approved list of guns like CA does.
      NYS still allows the purchasing of mail order ammunition, something Californians can’t do after January, 2011.
      I listened to a podcast of some speakers at the last Gun Rights Policy Conference. Calguns is making some significant progress toward neutralizing/revoking some of CA’s zaniness, so perhaps the pendulum will swing the other way in five to ten years.

  10. NYS law allows a licensed gun owner to shoot a bank robber. Either in the bank or fleeing. Front, back, side, anywhere.
    The choice to shoot can be (and is) debated as wise or not, but it is legal.

    If what you say is actually true then NYS law is completely divorced from reality.


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