No, Joe Biden, Cops Can't Just Shoot People in the Leg
The former vice president's comment during the ABC town hall was idiotic.
During ABC's town hall event with former Vice President Joe Biden, the Democratic Party's presidential candidate provided a garbled response to a question about criminal justice reform. In particular, he wrongly suggested that when police fire their weapons at suspects, they could shoot to wound instead of shooting to kill.
"You can ban chokeholds, but beyond that you have to teach [the police] how to de-escalate circumstances," said Biden. "So instead of anybody coming at you and the first thing you do is shoot to kill, you shoot them in the leg."
This was just one line in a very long, rambling answer to a question about police violence—but it stuck out for its sheer absurdity. The suggestion betrays a total lack of understanding about how guns work.
Note that it was not some slip of the tongue: Biden has previously proposed this exact idea. 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.
It's true that some police officers are too eager to fire their weapons in the first place, and idiotic police tactics—like no-knock raids—place them in situations where overreactions are likely to occur. But the public policy intervention needs to occur before the shooting starts. Shooting to wound is not a realistic tactic in the vast majority of cases, and it's embarrassing that Biden doesn't know this.