Glocks, Tasers and How US Law Enforcement Policies Cost Lives
I’m going to give you a new weapon to carry. It looks like your Glock, similar in shape and size and you're going to wear it in the same place you carry your Glock, on your hip. Your Glock can kill, this weapon, called a Taser, merely stuns. Try not to get them mixed up, would you?
So there we have an example of how stupidity gets you killed, the importance of proper gun safety in a public-facing environment where the majority of combatants you face aren't armed to teeth and looking to kill you, and how America’s police departments need to revert back to the military for advice on how to maintain correct protocols for handling a deadly weapon.
Never carry your weapon (Glock) with a live round in the chamber. There is no other rule that should carry more weight. Pistols require priming (racking the slide) before they can fire, This is the mechanism by which a bullet is transferred from the magazine, into the chamber of the weapon. Until this is physically done by pulling back the top section of the pistol (the slide-see diagram below) the weapon will not fire as it has no bullet in the chamber.
Any policeman or woman that can draw their weapon and immediately fire it by simply pulling the trigger, has already “loaded” that weapon prior to placing it in their hip holster. This flies in the face of “safe weapons’ training. The accepted protocol is to push the magazine into the pistol and to only rack the slide (place a bullet in the chamber for firing) when you are called on to use the weapon or have drawn it for protection against an impending threat.
In the case of the recent, much-televised, shooting of 20-year-old Daunte Wright this simple and broadly adopted safety protocol in other countries, would have saved his life. The young officer would have pulled the trigger and not fired a bullet, not having cocked the weapon beforehand. Had she still shot the suspect, her motives would have been crystal clear, as she would have been forced to rack the slide on releasing the pistol from her holster. No possible mistake in intention.
This firearms safety protocol serves two purposes, both safety-related. It prevents accidental (negligent) discharges, (which is essentially what the police would like us to believe occurred in the above instance) and it prevents you from being immediately shot with your own weapon, should it be removed from your holster by another person. Chambering a round for a pistol to make it ready to fire requires an action, that if practiced repeatedly, can be performed in a fraction of a second. It isn't that simple for a civilian. That window the action offers may buy you the time you need to retrieve your weapon.
Here’s a video that explains exactly how the Glock works. Note the video starts with a round that has already been loaded into the chamber. If you simply push the magazine into the pistol without the slide being pulled back, no round is placed in the chamber. This is the safe way to carry your pistol.
Why do Police Forces not enforce this policy?
That's an excellent question and I suspect a number of factors would be offered in defense of carrying a live chambered round in the pistol. That split second to cock the weapon, they might argue, may cost the officer his life. It’s a terrible defense for a number of reasons.
- We no longer live in the wild west, where victors are determined by who can draw the fastest.
- Most incidents encountered by police where the possession of a firearm is suspected, involve drawing your pistol for safety. To ensure you're not firing tasers, you chamber a round prior to confronting the suspect. It is both simple and safe.
- Very few incidents involve an officer working alone. Most conflicts involve two or more uniformed officers. There is both time and opportunity in these cases to free your weapon and chamber a round.
- Officers are on occasion deprived of their weapons by third parties who then proceed to shoot them with the chambered round. They may still be shot, but the window of opportunity afforded by a “safe” weapon may also save their lives.
The arguments offered of this process adding time to the officer's ability to protect themselves is neither here nor there. If someone “has the drop” on you, loaded or not, your weapon is not the solution if it is still in your holster. Intelligent and cautious assessment of risk is a far more useful tool to officers and then this one simple rule. If in doubt, free your weapon and chamber a round prior to the confrontation. No mistakes.
Lastly, the clear directive of my police force worldwide. Your goals are to both protect and serve the public. You work for them, they pay your salaries and their safety is paramount. Not yours. This comes with the risks of the profession and guidelines and practices that improve your safety while placing civilian lives at risk, simply are not acceptable. Ever.
Overcoming the Taser mix-up.
This is so moronic as to hardly even warrant discussion, but it would appear discussion is needed as the case of Mr. Daunte Wright is not a singular occurrence in American Law Enforcement. Accidents like Mr. Wright’s happen all the time. These issues need to be addressed because despite being taught proper gun safety, individuals will still load a round in the chamber before leaving their precinct. People always “know better”. So here are three practical and very simple solutions to the issue.
- Paint your tasers bright yellow. Canary bright yellow. Every bit of it, not just the butt, the whole pistol-shaped contraption, and where police forces carry tasers, ensure they arent older black-colored models.
- Kill off the habit of holstering the weapon on your hip. Really? Who came up with this stupid idea. Carry it in a chest holster, strapped across the front of your chest.
- No mistakes then about which weapon you're drawing and your dominant hand can access it with more dexterity from this position than you having to rely on your non-dominant hand.