Katie 'Oakley'? Couric Suggests Air Marshals Shoot at Specific Body Parts

Has Katie Couric watched too many westerns? You know, the kind where the sheriff shoots the gun out of the bad guy's hand?

You'd think so, given the repeated questions she posed to a former air marshal in the wake of yesterday's shooting of a frantic passenger claiming to have a bomb aboard an American Airlines flight .

Katie's guest was former air marshal Tony Kuklinski, who stated that "by all accounts I've seen, what [the air marshals] did was necessary."

Katie wasn't so sure:

"Do they always shoot to kill, Tony? In other words, I guess the average person hearing this [on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, Katie?] might think: isn't there a way where they could have shot this person and not killed him? Wounded him or incapacitated him in some way without killing him?"

As Kuklinksi patiently and professionally explained:

"law enforcement officials aren't trained to shoot to kill; they're trained to shoot to prevent the action from taking place. We're not trained to precision-shoot in the knee or in the arm or in the finger to prevent something from taking place. Your accuracy goes down, the potential for a stray bullet or a missed shot hitting a bystander goes up tremendously."

That wasn't enough to satisfy Katie:

"I know that last July, London police shot and killed a Brazilian electrician because they'd mistaken him for a terror suspect. It raises the question: should there be further training? Do you think that air marshals should be taught to shoot at a specific location on a body?"

One sensed Kuklinski's rising frustration. Yet he remained patient and polite, and gave what is really the key answer:

"Federal air marshals have one of the best training programs anywhere in the country. [Precision shooting creates] too much potential for secondary casualties. There's no time to sit there and take precision aim. [Attempting a more precise shot] - to shoot him in the shoulder, shoot him in the leg - it may not prevent the crime from being committed.

It makes you wonder: what questions do you think Katie might pose if an air marshal, following her recommendations, shot a terrorist in the hand, who as a result was capable of detonating his bomb that in turn brought down a jumbo jet filled with passengers?

Mark Finkelstein
Mark Finkelstein
Mark Finkelstein is a contributing editor for NewsBusters.