It’s tempting to paint the 35,000-member NYPD with a broad ideological brush. While it’s fair to say that most officers probably do line up right of center, I’m always reminded of the cop I met for beers a decade ago who thought that President George W. Bush ought to be tried as a war criminal for the invasion of Iraq. In a department that’s larger than most towns in New York, there’s room for divergent opinions.
This is also true of the department’s critics. Protesters on the political left are the more numerous and vocal, calling for punishing officers involved in civilian deaths, ending racially skewed enforcement tactics and other changes. Some of these voices seek reforms while others advocate the abolition of the police.
Conservatives typically are cast in the role of defenders of the police. There are, however, voices on the right that view New York City’s force with true contempt. Such is the case on some websites that cater to gun-rights enthusiasts—evidenced by Monday’s post on the website Bearing Arms headlined “New Pistol, Magazine Policy Confirms NYPD Is Led By Howling Morons.”
The article criticizes the NYPD for adopting a new handgun for use by officers but demanding that those guns be modified to use a magazine* that holds 15 bullets—like other models currently in use by the force—as opposed to the 17 bullets that the magazine in an off-the-shelf version of the new gat would hold. Bearing Arms believed the sole rationale for the move was to prevent veteran cops, carrying 15-bullet magazine, from feeling slighted by newbies with magazines that held two more bullets.
Dubbing the NYPD “the Gang That Couldn’t Shoot Straight,” the article’s author called the move “an entirely political decision made by brain-dead NYPD brass far more interested more in ‘fairness’ than competence or performance.”
“This is far from the first display of politics-driven firearms ignorance displayed by the nation’s largest police department,” Bearing Arms continues, before rattling off other supposed slip-ups, like the department’s late adoption of hollow-point ammunition or its use of heavy trigger tensions to prevent misfires.
Of course, there are plenty of reasons other than intergenerational equity that might have motivated the NYPD here. There might be a tactical reason to make the magazines used by all cops interchangeable. And 16 bullets (cops are required to have one round in the chamber and 15 in the magazine) seems usually to be sufficient for the department’s purposes. According to the NYPD’s annual firearms discharge report, individual officers fired fewer than 15 rounds in 89 percent of the combat incidents in which the NYPD was involved last year. Sixty-five percent of officers involved in what the PD calls “adversarial” shootings in 2015 fired five or fewer bullets.
According to the NYPD patrol guide, each officer is required to carry two spare magazines on their belt, giving each officer the ability to fire 46 bullets if need be. Spent magazines can be ejected and replaced in a few seconds. Keep in mind that only 89 NYPD officers fired their guns in 33 adversarial situations last year.
This isn’t the first time Bearing Arms has taken a harsh tone in its coverage of the NYPD. Past articles have faulted its firearms training and its policy of destroying seized guns, while also defending the cops involved in some police-on-civilian shootings.
The site is a publication of Salem Communications Group, which runs a sprawling network of Christian and conservative radio, magazine and publishing businesses. It’s home to conservative commentator Hugh Hewitt, the right-wing website TownHall.com and the publishing company that handles Dinesh D’Souza, Donald Trump and children’s author Callista Gingrich. In some ways, the “howling morons” article is evidence of the extent to which New York City stands apart from the pro-gun Republicans who now control both houses of Congress and the White House.
* Correction: As a reader (their comment is below) gently pointed out, the original version of this article was sloppy with its terminology. Clips and magazines are different; the latter has a spring mechanism that feeds bullets into the gun.