|Pictured above, a Sig Sauer, |
a P229 .40 caliber gun,
the sort of firearm used
by Officer Darren Wilson.
The folks at MSNBC seem to think that Wilson was in an unfair fight with Micheal Brown simply because Brown was unarmed. Of course, officer Wilson could not assume Brown was unarmed. Even worse, it turns out that Wilson's gun was unreliable. This is a little known fact that crops up when you read the transcript of Wilson's testimony.
As I read through the transcript of Officer Wilson's statement to the Ferguson Grand Jury, I was shocked to learn that his gun malfunctioned at least (3) three times while he was still trapped in his vehicle by Michael Brown. I feel like such an amateur, but I was sincerely startled that a police officer would have that much trouble with a gun. I have fired my father's semi-automatic pistol and it worked flawlessly. I sort of assumed guns only misfired in movies like Clint Eastwood's Unforgiven.
It turns out that Wikipedia has an article that lists a sobering number things that can happen to make a gun malfunction. It looks to me like the key to reliable use is keeping the gun clean. According to John A. Dreyer: "A dirty gun is the cause of possibly 90% of mechanical function problems." As friend on Twitter pointed out: "Lots of cops don't take care of their guns - being a cop doesn't make you a gun guy." Firing rounds causes gunk to build up in the weapon and that can take a toll on performance. You can also have problems with your ammunition.
I would be curious to learn more about what went wrong when Wilson first sought to fire his weapon to scare Brown away from his vehicle. The story, from Wilson's perspective, sounds pretty alarming. According to Wilson's testimony, he says:
Like I said, I was just so focused on getting the gun out of me. When I did get it up to this point, he is still holding on to it and I pulled the trigger and nothing happens, it just clicked. I pull it again, it just clicked again.
At this point I’m like: why isn’t this working, this guy is trying to kill me if he gets a hold of his gun. I pulled a third time, it goes off. When it went off, it shot through my door and my window was down and glass flew out of my door panel. I think that kind of startled him and me at the same time. When I see the glass come up, it comes, a chunk about that big comes across my right hand and then I notice I have blood on the back on my hand.
After seeing the blood on my hand, I looked at him and he was, this is my car door, he was here and he kind of stepped back and went like this. And then after he did that, he looked up at the and had the most intense aggressive face.
The only way I can describe it, it looks like a demon. That’s how angry he looked.
He comes back towards me again with his hands up. At this point I just went like this, I tried to pull the trigger again, click, nothing happened.
To me, this information is significant. I have not noticed anyone in the news or anywhere else talking about how officer Wilson's gun malfunctioned. To me, the unreliability of his weapon might help explain the officer's alarm, the number of shots he fired to stop Wilson, and why he thought he was perfectly right to use deadly force to stop Brown's menacing advance. As a police officer protecting the public, Wilson was not a character in a movie. He was a real life person working in an imperfect world, a world where he could have little confidence in his ability to protect himself. I think the more people learn about the failure of Wilson's gun, the more sympathy they will have for the decisions he made under those tense circumstances.
John C. Drew, Ph.D. is an award-winning political scientist.