A few years ago Richard and I were invited to attend a special showing of the Universal Training Munitions (UTM) while we were at SHOT Show. I’m really glad that we attended. During that UTM showing Richard and I were able to fire both UTM rifle and pistol rounds through a converted AR-15, and converted Glock 9mm. Considering those two weapons platforms are what my department issues as on-duty firearms (albeit a Glock .40 cal.), I felt comfortable performing a solid evaluation.
AUTHOR’S NOTE: This is part 2 of a 2-part series on the increasingly difficult phenomenon of open carry by law-abiding citizens. In Part I the laws and actions of lawful gun owners in general opened the discussion into a hotly debated arena of gun ownership today. Part II will look at the legal responsibilities of law enforcement, and provide suggestions to law enforcement’s response to lawful citizens who open carry.
The Law Enforcement Response
So where do the current laws leave today’s law enforcement officers? In a very difficult situation full of legal land mines, that’s where. The law enforcement officer’s job is already difficult, but understanding how to properly handle citizens lawfully carrying firearms is really a newer phenomenon in the numbers we are seeing today. It is also a situation that officers must master in order to maintain officer safety and not infringe on a civil right.
The Legal Responsibility of Law Enforcement Officers
At one time or another every law enforcement officer swore an oath to uphold the U.S. Constitution, and the Constitution of the State they work in. The iconic ‘to protect and serve” is heavily influenced by this oath, and provides the foundation that all officers should work from in deciding how to handle any situation. Sometimes the application of laws can be somewhat cloudy, but the beacon of correct decision-making always goes back to the Constitution.
The most legally dangerous decisions law enforcement is faced with making are those that require decisions in a fraction of time. Thankfully the U.S. Supreme Court has consistently sided with officers faced with dangerous situations that evolve very rapidly to determine if the officer’s actions remain within Constitutional guidelines. The landmark case of Graham v. Conner laid out the legal standard judging whether an officer’s actions were “objectively reasonable”, even if ultimately they were wrong in their initial observations or decisions. An even stronger admonition by the Supreme Court is that officers must be judged by what a reasonable officer would have done given the same set of circumstances. Officers cannot be judged by the micro-analyzed view of 20/20 hindsight that is often the measure used by the media and attorneys.
Magpul Dynamics has announced an offering for their Long Range Precision Rifle Course in the Northwest. The course will be offered in Yakima, Washington from November 13-16, 2014 and will cost $750.
AUTHOR’S NOTE: This is Part I of a 2-part series on the complicated issue of open carry of firearms. In Part I the laws and actions of lawful gun owners in general will open the discussion into a hotly debated arena of gun ownership today. Part II will look at the legal responsibilities of law enforcement, and provide suggestions to law enforcement’s response to lawful citizens who open carry.
Openly Carried Firearms
It is not news that today’s law enforcement officer has an increasingly difficult job. Packed with all manner of new digital and computerized equipment, changing laws that sometimes contradict decades of precedent, and the ever-present video from in-car cameras, lapel cameras, or citizens, today’s officer is put in the spotlight every time they hit the road.
One of those challenges centers around citizens‘ right to carry firearms. A constant thought and concern of law enforcement officers is a confrontation with an armed person. However, the 2nd Amendment to the U.S. Constitution specifically guarantees the citizen’s personal ownership, possession, and carrying of firearms in most circumstances. So the job becomes an even more difficult challenge as an officer must consider individual rights while at the same time discerning if a legitimate threat may exist.
One of the bigger challenges faced by a law enforcement firearms instructor is creating an element of realism in the training environment.
Without this vital quality, a day at the range is just another administrative hoop to jump through as officers fail to make the connection between the exercises performed and the harsh reality of applying deadly force.
Sadly, a great many agencies merely have their officers qualify for the record and the training value of many drills designed to assess officer proficiency is questionable at best. The focus has become administrative survival rather than the acquisition and maintenance of skills to better prepare the officer for the street. Often, this seed is planted at the academy where officers are denied the opportunity to take their skills to the next level and become truly proficient. Standards are “dumbed down” and, as long as trainees can meet the minimum marksmanship level, there is no need to push any harder.
If you take a moment to consider a police officer’s real world of work, they do not kill the enemy as the military does; they seek out lawbreakers and take them into custody. That’s a HUGE difference in tactics!
The military is constantly looking for ways to engage at greater distances (consider the dissatisfaction of the long-range kill- ing power of the 5.56mm in Afghanistan) while cops will always have to close in on those they confront to arrest and handcuff them. Even common citizen contacts will be within earshot as conversation with police is something most want to keep “low key.” Can you imagine the uproar if officers stood back ten or 15 yards and yelled their commands? “Sir! Give me your driver’s license! We have a report you are flashing yourself at children!” Yep, that would go over great – no controversy there.
Up Close and Personal
These days, I teach far more armed citizens than I do cops and, when I teach extreme close quarter shooting, I never fail to get one student who claims, “I don’t need this. I don’t let people get close to me.” Really? So, you never stand in line at a sport- ing event to get tickets; wait to place your order at a food counter; ride an escalator or elevator; wait on the sidewalk to cross a street with the light; board a plane or train, etc., etc. Everyone makes close contact with other humans, whether you like it or not, and law enforcement officers make more close contacts than most other professions. Thus, if you are a student of combative pistol craft and carry a gun daily, you had better learn how to deploy and shoot it at extreme close quarter distances – what I have come to call “critical space engagements.”
The MAG30BLK is a training magazine from CAA Tactical that allows for the use of blank ammunition in an AR-style rifle. The magazine allows blank 5.56 ammo to be inserted and cycled normally through the mag, but makes it physically impossible to load or chamber a live cartridge.
With the unfortunate number of accidental shootings in training in both law enforcement and the military, such a magazine could be very helpful in minimizing needless deaths. The mag allows trainers to maintain a high degree of realism, but removes one potential source of unintended, tragic consequence.
The CAA Tactical training mags hold 30 blank rounds (5.56 or .223) and is made the same high strength polymer used in the company’s other magazines.
In the last few months I was made aware of an incredibly important study conducted by the Firearms Section of the Kansas City, Missouri Police Department. The results of that study should have far-reaching implications for any officer who engages in enforcement action during an undercover assignment or while off-duty in plain clothes.
The Background for Testing
Unfortunately there are several tragic cases in the history of law enforcement where a responding on-duty officer mistakes an undercover or off-duty officer for an armed subject and shoots the other officer. The National Law Enforcement Memorial has recorded over 100 undercover officers killed in the line of duty, some of whom were unintentionally killed by other officers. This does not take into account probably hundreds of more officers that have been wounded by friendly fire, or “blue on blue”.
A recent example was when undercover Oakland, CA police officer William Wilkins had cornered a suspect in a stolen vehicle and had him at gun point. Two rookie patrol officers arrived on scene and mistakenly shot Officer Wilkins killing him.
The first time I saw an ankle holster was in the 1971 Academy Award winning movie, The French Connection. I was in high school at the time and I hadn’t even thought about a law enforcement career. My total focus was on two things: girls and sports – in that order! I saw the movie at the drive-in and I was immediately taken by the concept of strapping a gun to one’s leg. It was so cool looking and it’s something I have learned to avoid as the years have gone by.
When I graduated from the police academy, one of the first things I did was buy a snubby revolver and an ankle holster. Carrying the gun was easy because of the pants style at the time (large bell-bottom trousers) and I (admittedly) fantasized about confronting armed robbers and being able to swiftly draw my gun from my leg while saving every damsel in distress in the area. But, once it happened, I realized that relying on an ankle gun for primary carry was/is a huge mistake…one I will never make again!
Back in November, Aaron wrote an article on off-hand shooting. A number of people left comments and sent in e-mails with some questions on the topic. To help clarify one of the things mentioned in the article, Aaron recorded this short video to show how to transfer a handgun from one hand to another using a technique called the palm-to-palm transition.
Questions, comments and concerns can be left in the comments section below. As with any firearms training technique, this may or may not work with your current tactics, department policies and existing training. You have to evaluate on whether or not you want to use this technique. It is not the only method of transferring a gun from hand to hand, but it is one way of getting it done.
Oh, never practice this with a loaded firearm.