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Bessent: Shooting holes in the guns-for-everyone argument

Investigators retrieve a black bag and gun after

Investigators retrieve a black bag and gun after a shooting at the Empire State Building, where a gunman and one other person were killed and nine were wounded. (Aug. 24, 2012) (Credit: Getty Images)

Anyone who believes the answer to gun violence is more civilians locked and loaded should consider the nine innocent bystanders felled by police gunfire Friday outside the Empire State Building.

They were wounded when two officers from the New York Police Department opened fire on Jeffrey Johnson, a man who murdered a former coworker moments before the confrontation with police in which he was himself shot and killed. The wounded were hit by police bullets, bullet fragments or shrapnel from ricochets. When NYPD officers have discharged weapons in the past in the line of duty, only one in three bullets hit the intended target.

The officers in this instance had to shoot. Johnson left them no choice when he leveled a gun at them, even though he didn’t fire a single shot in the standoff, according to the NYPD’s count of spent shells.


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But the incident undercuts the argument, routinely voiced after high-profile shootings, that if a few members of the public had been armed — for instance, in the movie theater in Aurora, Colo. where James Holmes is accused of killing 12 people and wounding 58 in July — they could have limited the body count by taking him down.

If highly trained officers shooting on a crowded street during a tense crisis inadvertently hit nine bystanders, it’s not likely that untrained civilians blasting away in a dark, chaotic theater, or any similar situation, would have been more accurate.

The NYPD will dissect Friday’s incident and review protocol for discharging weapons.

That’s appropriate; each shooting has lessons to teach. But one that should be clear is if untrained people started shooting in such situations, it would increase the risk of innocent people getting shot.

Pictured above: Investigators retrieve a black bag and gun after a shooting at the Empire State Building, where a gunman and one other person were killed and numerous others wounded. (August 24, 2012)

Tags: Empire State Building , gunfire , gun control , shooting , Jeffrey Johnson

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