On New Years Day 2009, there was a police shooting in which a Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) police officer shot and killed Oscar Grant III who was face down on the ground, unarmed, and surrounded by multiple police officers. Witnesses and cell phone video footage appear to indicate that the shooting was not justified (although remember, innocent until proven guilty). The (former) BART police officer, Johannes Mehserle, has been criminally charged, and the family of the deceased man has filed a lawsuit.
Against this backdrop, a gentleman named Steve sent me an email. Steve has taught defense pistol shooting for over 25 years, and offer the following thoughts about firearms training (although he declines to state an option as t whether the BART shooting was justified):
I have long admired your site for your straight forward approach to common sense gun safety and training. In that vein I have written some training comments based upon the shooting at the BART station in Oakland, CA by a BART police officer. As all the facts are not in yet (only an apparently damning Youtube video), I will not opine at to the incident or the officer. I will however bring up some thoughts on firearms training for both police and citizens that I believe bears repeating.
I have taught defensive pistol shooting for over 25 years, but I do not have all the answers. YMMV.
1. Practice not /only /drawing and firing; practice drawing and NOT firing as you give commands. (i.e. Stop, don’t move, drop the weapon, etc.) Range practice and qualification courses of fire reinforce the DRAW-SHOOT response. Use of lethal force requires use of brain.
2. Learn to NOT /automatically /shoot when anyone around you yells FIRE!, SHOOT!, or GUN! You must decide if each shot is legal and justifiable and “ignore” other’s shouts—even if from a superior officer or field training officer. You are the one who will be held personally responsible. Obviously you must Alert on such shouts.
3. Learn the difference in trigger feel between firing with gloves on as well as without. Gloves can make an ND more likely if one hasn’t practiced shooting while wearing them. Further, Taser grips feel much different from Glock grips; but less so if you are wearing gloves.
4. Adding after market grips aid some people. However, does the after market grip now make your handgun grip feel similar to your Taser’s grip?
5. Position non lethal projectile weaponry in different places on your belt. Some police carry Tasers in drop thigh holsters for “weak hand” use. This reduces confusion during a highly charged situation.
This is my humble opinion; presented only to further the discussion.
I find each of those point to be great advice. While I don’t know what was going through the mind of the former BART police officer before he killed Mr. Grant, I do know that there are plenty of situations where a shooter ends up discharging their firearm due to the type of errors that Steve’s suggestions can help avoid. My thanks to Steve for sharing this advice.
When the BART shooting occurred, I thought long and hard about whether to write an article about it for this website. In the end, I decided not to. This was because I didn’t think that there was much I could say about the shooting itself that was on point with this website’s goal of discussing and promoting gun rights. Remember, I try to keep my non-gun-related opinions to my other websites. This is because I’ve found that a great many pro gun people will use their gun blogs to discuss other contentious issues, which seems to divide gun rights supporters at a time when we need unity more than ever. I also believe in the presumption that one is innocent until proven guilty, and while I personally find the video of the shooting to be quite damning for the police officer, I really believe in letting our court system work before opining about a person’s guilt or innocence.