On Thursday, speaking at a townhall hosted by ABC News, Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden posited that if police officers encounter dangerous criminals, they should shoot them in the leg.
Biden stated, “We can do this; you can ban chokeholds. But beyond that you have to teach people how to de-escalate circumstances, de-escalate. So instead of anybody coming at you, and the first thing you do is shoot to kill, you shoot them in the leg.”
— Tom Elliott (@tomselliott) October 16, 2020
As Robby Soave noted at Reason, Biden has suggested shooting suspects in the leg before, in June of this year. Biden stated, “Instead of standing there and teaching a cop when there’s an unarmed person coming at them with a knife or something, shoot them in the leg instead of in the heart.” He then bragged, “We set up, in the Justice Department, the ability for the Civil Rights Division to go in and look at the practices and policies of police departments. That’s why we were able to stop stop-and-frisk.”
Soave explains the problem with Biden’s idea about aiming for a suspect’s leg:
Contrary to the former veep’s repeated assertions, neither the cops nor anyone else — except perhaps James Bond — could plan to shoot people in the leg as a matter of routine practice. It would take an expert marksman to accomplish that feat consistently. Unless a target is at close range, standing perfectly still, it’s very difficult to hit a specific location on the body. In reality, people are often moving during shootouts, which means that legs and arms can be the hardest part of the body to hit.
Soave quoted Bill Lewinksi in a paper for the Force Science Institute stating, “An average suspect can move his hand and forearm across his body to a 90-degree angle in 12/100 of a second. He can move his hand from his hip to shoulder height in 18/100 of a second. The average officer pulling the trigger as fast as he can on a Glock, one of the fastest- cycling semi-autos, requires 1/4 second to discharge each round.”
Soave concluded, “Shooting to wound is not a realistic tactic in the vast majority of cases, and it’s embarrassing that Biden doesn’t know this.”
David Klinger, professor of Criminology and Criminal Justice at the University of Missouri-St. Louis, who had served as a Los Angeles Police Department officer, told a story of a 1981 incident in which a suspect stabbed Klinger’s partner in the chest with a butcher knife, then jumped on him and and held the knife to his throat. After Klinger shot the suspect, piercing his aorta and left lung, the suspect still fought for another 30 seconds, requiring six officers to subdue him.
Klinger noted, “Even if an officer shoots with a lethal firearm, it may not stop a person. When there is a threat to life right now, or serious bodily injury, deadly force is the appropriate response.”
Klinger pointed out that a human body can only be shut down by deadly force by either a loss of blood or a shot hitting the central nervous system. He added that if there were two officers in the incident and one used a taser, the other would provides “lethal coverage” if the taser proved ineffective.