NYPD evidence suggests new gun law’s seven-round limit a threat to innocent life

Allowing no hearings or public comment on a law that abrogates the natural rights of all New Yorkers to keep and bear arms suitable for their defense, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo – exploiting the December 14, 2012 murders at Sandy Hook Elementary – led passage of the New York Safe Act, yesterday.

Among other abrogations of their rights, one provision of the new law almost certain to lead to innocent loss of life is the outlawing of more than seven rounds in a gun magazine. According to the New York Police Department (“NYPD”) Annual Firearms Discharge Report [PDF, 740 KB] for the year 2010 (the most recent available), even NYPD’s highly-trained officers frequently must fire more than seven rounds against armed adversaries. Neither Cuomo nor any elected official voting for the new law explained how ordinary people should protect innocent life if they, like police officers, find themselves in a situation where seven rounds are insufficient.

In 2010 NYPD officers fired more than seven rounds in thirty-three percent of the adversarial-conflict incidents in which they fired their weapons (Figure A.10, page 8). Unlike on-duty police officers, ordinary people typically do not have the protection of bullet-resistant vests for their vital organs. These vests protected the chests of two officers from rounds during the year covered by the report.

During the same year, despite its multi-billion-dollar budget, NYPD failed to prevent almost 1,800 criminal shootings (page 18). During this period it made 28,880 weapon arrests, including 6,021 gun arrests, suggesting criminals in New York City are not only armed but plentiful.

Even when NYPD officers discharged their weapons in cases of animal attack, they frequently needed to fire multiple rounds to thwart the attack (Figures B.10 and B.11, page 26). In ten percent of the incidents, officers fired at least ten shots. They required three or more shots in forty-three percent of the incidents.

The report also includes data on total shots fired and incidents involving police shootings over the forty-year period 1971-2010 (page 43). During this period NYPD officers fired 38,197 shots in 12,967 incidents, for an average of 2.95 shots fired per incident. In 2007 and 1995, NYPD officers fired on average over five shots per incident. In eight of the years covered by the report, NYPD officers fired on average over four shots per incident.

NYPD incident reports include accidental firearms discharges by its officers, so not all of the shots fired during the forty-year period were against suspected criminals or attacking animals. Presumably, though, accidental discharges rarely exceed more than one shot per incident. If so and the data were adjusted for shots fired by officers to protect innocent life, the average shots fired per incident would be higher. The data do include cases where multiple officers fired shots in single incidents, however, so average shots fired per officer would presumably be lower. That said, in cases of ordinary people using guns to defend themselves, they have no assurance of back-up by other people, much less trained professionals.

NYPD data, collected annually under Department Order SOP 9, provide strong evidence that in multiple cases of attack against innocent life, even professional defenders need to discharge more than seven rounds in order to thwart these attacks. Accordingly, New York’s outlawing of more than seven rounds in a gun magazine for ordinary people represents a reckless disregard for the right of individuals to defend innocent life.

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