OPINION: This article contains commentary which reflects the author's opinion
Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden created quite a firestorm last week when he seemed to suggest during an ABC town hall that law enforcement could attempt to shoot suspects in the leg.
During the town hall, Biden suggested training police to shoot suspects “in the leg” as a viable way to avoid fatalities while discussing the killing of George Floyd and others.
“There’s a lot of things we’ve learned and it takes time, but we can do this,” Biden said. “You can ban chokeholds … you have to teach people how to de-escalate circumstances. … Instead of anybody coming at you and the first thing you do is shoot to kill, you shoot them in the leg.”
Police officers and law enforcement groups slammed the suggestion that officers would train to shoot someone in the leg rather than “center mass,” the largest part of the body that has long been the firearms training target, Fox News reported.
Former VP Joe Biden’s suggestion that cops should “shoot someone in the leg” if they’re coming at them is insulting and demonstrates his incompetence & inability to understand the grave dangers cops face as they protect the public and themselves from violent, heartless criminals. pic.twitter.com/7faAJjCoyZ
— Detectives' Endowment Association (@NYCPDDEA) October 16, 2020
John Evans, president of the Buffalo Police Benevolent Association, told Fox News that Biden’s suggestion is “absolutely ridiculous” and “incredibly ignorant.”
“The guy’s clueless,” Evans said. “And I know he’s just trying to appease his left-wing base but it’s a really foolish statement.”
Joe Gamaldi, vice president of the national Fraternal Order of Police, dismissed Biden’s suggestion as “completely ridiculous, “unrealistic” and a “pandering talking point.”
“Shootings are dynamic situations and we shoot to stop the threat,” Gamaldi told Fox News. “It’s incredibly difficult to hit a moving target.”
The Fraternal Order of Police has endorsed President Trump.
Police are trained to aim at center mass because it’s the largest target, whereas aiming at a leg would be much more difficult because it’s smaller and a moving target.
“By aiming at legs we are much more likely to miss and we already only hit roughly 50% of the time,” Gamaldi said.
Gamaldi recalled a shooting he was involved in about 14 years ago. “Between being terrified I was going to die, someone shooting at me, and then I need to aim at their legs — it’s not realistic.”
The law enforcement officials interviewed by Fox News also say it’s a fallacy that shooting someone in the leg could be less lethal, especially if a bullet hits the large femoral artery in the thigh.
But officers fear the consequences if they miss the leg completely and the bullet goes astray. Or if their leg shot doesn’t slow down the suspect, he has a chance to harm the officer or a citizen.
“If an individual is coming at you with a knife and you shoot for the leg and you miss, he’s on you,” said Evans, a Trump supporter.
Dana Schrad, executive director of the Virginia Association of Chiefs of Police, said Biden isn’t the first person to peddle the leg myth.
“That myth has been around for a long time. And a lot of Democrats and Republicans have fallen for it,” Schrad said. “To be honest with you, Joe Biden has actually been fairly supportive of law enforcement and he’s done a lot over the years in different areas supportive of law enforcement. So it’s unfortunate that he would not know that that’s not a [viable] training tactic in law enforcement.”