Accidental gunshots by Los Angeles County sheriff's deputies have more than doubled in two years, endangering bystanders and occasionally injuring deputies. The jump coincides with the department's move to a new handgun that lacks a safety lever and requires less pressure to pull the trigger, reports the Los Angeles Times.
Sheriff's officials say that the increase in accidental discharges — from 12 in 2012 to 30 last year — occurred because deputies were adjusting to the new gun. They expect the numbers to fall in the years ahead. So far this year, the department has recorded seven accidental discharges, five of which involved the new weapon.
But the problems may not be over, as more deputies switch to the Smith & Wesson M&P9. In response, department officials have imposed extra training requirements.
The M&P has obvious benefits. It is easier to shoot accurately, can be fired more reliably under stress, and is a better fit for people with small hands. The switch was prompted in part by the threat of a lawsuit by women who had failed the Sheriff's Academy. More recruits — including more women — are now passing the firearms test, and veteran deputies are also logging better scores at the firing range.
But the sharp increase in accidental discharges has prompted an investigation by the Sheriff's Department's new inspector general. Critics say this type of semiautomatic, which is widespread in law enforcement and includes the Glock used by many agencies, is too easy to misfire.
L.A. County sheriff's deputies learning to shoot the Beretta 92F were taught to rest a finger on the trigger as soon as they took aim. The mantra was "on target, on trigger." With M&Ps and Glocks, the trigger finger should stay on the side of the gun until the last moment.
The LAPD recently began issuing M&Ps after using Glocks since 2005, said Lt. Dana Berns, who heads the firearms and tactics section. The department did not provide accidental discharge statistics in response to requests by The Times. But Berns said he did not believe the department had a problem when officers made the transition to the Glock, and none is expected with the M&P because it is similar to the Glock.