John Scott Masthead
March 6 2012 at 11:06

Whether to be sad or glad that 27 000 police persons failed their firearm test – that is the question. It depends on which side of the law you stand.

If you are escaping from police custody and they are firing shots at you, they will probably shoot miss. But if you are an innocent bystander, as most of us presumably are, they are quite likely to hit you instead.

The other day a policeman even managed to shoot himself while booking out a firearm at Kempton Park police station.

It’s fellow police who are most in danger of being shot by the thousands of officers walking round with loaded pistols they don’t know how to use.

Never mind the baddies, they risk their own lives by associating with colleagues who still don’t know how to aim and think the safety catch is a hook from which to hang their weapon.

It seems to me that the test is too difficult. For instance, it states that “all shots must hit targets”. That sounds unreasonable.

All shots? What about one out of five? That at least gives fleeing suspects a sporting chance.

The practical handgun session stipulates that an A4-size target be shot at from 7m. No wonder the 27 000 missed it. No criminal is that small. Make the target person-sized at 7m and quite a few police might score a bullseye.

The alternative is to reduce the distance to 1m, which would also improve police accuracy.

Fortunately, the four-week SWAT programme, now known as the street survival course, has been simplified, otherwise thousands might have failed that, too.

They have scrapped roadblock etiquette, counter-sniper techniques, and ambush and counter-ambush techniques.

How can you rely on a counter-sniper who is still unsure where the bullets fit into his rifle?

And what good is roadblock etiquette if you accidentally shoot a motorist while he is showing you his driving licence?

It all makes a mockery of suspended national police commissioner General Bheki Cele’s alleged call on the police to “shoot to kill”. The general has variously denied using those words, or having any recollection of using them. What he did say, after a policeman was shot by a suspect he had wounded in the leg, was that the policeman should rather have shot him in the head.

Some people actually survive after being shot in the head, so no one can accuse Cele of instructing his police to shoot to kill, only to grievously injure.

Besides, police accuracy being what it is, they are happy to hit a suspect anywhere they can. Some heads are even smaller than an A4, and unfairly jiggle around while a police person is taking aim.

Many police have been temporarily deprived of firearms, thanks to thieving or their own carelessness.

In the past five years, 11 935 firearms allegedly under the control of the police were lost or stolen.

It means that a percentage of police and civilians who might otherwise have been accidentally shot by unlicensed officers have escaped injury.

There is an upside to everything.

All those missing firearms have probably fallen into the hands of people who are better able to use them, and who almost certainly won’t shoot anybody they don’t intend to, which is also a blessing.


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