The shooting by a police officer of the knife-wielding teenager in Columbus, Ohio has summoned forth the same absurd comments by media and politicians who know nothing about firearms – and their use in adrenaline-filled situations – that we heard from Joe Biden more than once during the campaign: Perhaps the words of wisdom Miyagi gave to Daniel-San should be given unto them: “You… too much TV.”  Since they do watch TV, and presumably the movies shown thereon, perhaps the most famous gunfight in the history of the United States would serve to drive the point home: If you have to shoot, put your target down.

October 26, 1881 – Tombstone, Arizona Territory.  All of the participants in this fight were skilled with the powerful weapons they possessed; i.e. .44 and .45 cal. pistols, a 12 gauge double-barrel shotgun, and  Winchester rifles. Some of the participants had killed men before this fight, and would kill again afterwards. When the fight commenced, the combatants were only about six feet apart in an empty lot next to Fly’s photograph studio. (Some of the “cowboys” had come through the back entrance to the OK Corral nearby, but that is its only connection to the fight.) The shooting lasted only thirty seconds, but in that time about thirty shots were fired. Consider that for a moment – six feet apart, thirty seconds, thirty shots. What were the hits?

Billy Clanton was hit in the right wrist and in the guts. He switched hands and kept firing. When the fight ended, he lay dying in the dirt, but was still trying to reload his pistol.  

Frank McLaury was also shot in the stomach. He staggered out into the street to challenge “Doc” Holiday, and they exchanged fire. Frank was finally dropped when the wounded Morgan Earp, steadying himself on a dirt pile, put a bullet in the side of Frank’s head.

Tom McLaury took a shotgun blast from “Doc” Holiday in the armpit, tearing into his lungs, as he was trying to uncase a Winchester from his horse. He too staggered out into the street, finally collapsing under a telegraph pole yards away.

Virgil Earp took a bullet in the calf almost immediately and spent the rest of the fight shooting while sitting on the ground.

Morgan Earp received a serious wound when a bullet grazed across both shoulder blades.

“Doc” Holiday was grazed in the hip from Frank McLaury’s shot.

Only Wyatt Earp remained untouched by the gunfire. (Witnesses testified that he never moved – perhaps that is why. In such a fight there is a tendency to shoot at what moves.)

Let us return to the case of the teenager. As she was shot, she was about to plunge a knife into another teenage girl. What was the officer to do? Try to shoot her in the leg? The arm? Even if he had the skill of James Butler “Wild Bill” Hickok and could hit such a small target in an instant, there would still be a good chance that knife would have found its target. There was only one thing he could have done that had even a chance of  putting her down and stopping that knife – four shots, center mass. That is what police are trained to do, and there is a reason for it. If you have to shoot, put your target down.

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Photo by WordRidden