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Is it true that 7 out of 10 police bullets miss their target?

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The truth behind a popular gun control argument is complicated.

A gun control protest outside the Philadelphia School District headquarters in March.

By Michael Martin, Metro

After the most recent school shooting in Santa Fe, Texas, which left eight students and a teacher dead, prominent gun control advocate Shannon Watts called for additional reform.

In one tweet, she rebutted the popular statement of Second Amendment activists that "the only way to stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun," by citing a statistic about police shooting accuracy.

"Trained police hit their targets less than 30 percent of the time, yet the @NRA wants to arm volunteer teachers," Shannon Watts, founder of Moms Demand Action, tweeted May 21. "It's on each of us to prevent this NRA dystopia, and stop letting the gun lobby write our gun laws. We're sacrificing our children at the altar of gun manufacturers' profits."

Is it true that police bullets miss their target 30% of the time?

In a new analysis, Politifact ranks Watts's claim as "half true."

That's because of two main factors: 1) Reporting on police marksmanship is very inconsistent, and truly national statistics are not available; and 2) Shooting accuracy varies according to target distance.

Politifact notes that a 2008 Rand study looked at NYPD target accuracy over a decade, and which found that bullets hit their target 18 percent of the time during gunfights; 23 percent of the time from long ranges (seven yards away or more); 30 percent of the time when suspects didn't return fire; and 37 percent of the time when the target was closer than seven yards away.


In 2016, the NYPD's "hit ratio" was 38 percent, while in 2017, it was 44 percent.

That said, we're still talking below 50 percent. "Less than half of the time, the way to stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun" doesn't quite have the same ring.

"Hit rates vary notably across police agencies but rarely exceed 50 percent," wrote Michael D. White, a criminology professor at Arizona State University, in a 2006 study. "The research examining shooter accuracy overwhelmingly debunks the Hollywood myth of police officers as sharpshooters who can wing suspects in the shoulder or leg or shoot weapons out of suspects’ hands."

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