Why police departments should require all long guns to be equipped with a sling

A long gun without a sling makes as much sense as a handgun without a holster


A policy I highly recommend for all departments is simply this: All long guns must be equipped with a sling.

I’ve increasingly seen events in which officers respond with a shotgun or rifle with no sling. This creates a dangerous situation. Once contact is made with a suspect, what is the officer supposed to do with the long gun? Typically, the officer experiences a moment of confusion, and then lays the weapon down on the ground prior to physically contacting and attempting to control the suspect. 

I was involved in a case in which several officers, all armed with long weapons without slings, rapidly approached a suspect. Not surprisingly, bad things can happen in this situation. Here are some scenarios that cause unnecessary risks, all of which can be prevented by using a sling.

An AR-15 rifle, a shotgun, a vest and other safety gear is pictured in a police patrol car in Edmond, Okla., Thursday, July 14, 2016. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)
An AR-15 rifle, a shotgun, a vest and other safety gear is pictured in a police patrol car in Edmond, Okla., Thursday, July 14, 2016. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)

Scenario One

The officer who takes responsibility to handcuff the suspect lays his/her weapon on the ground within reach of the officer, but also near the suspect. The officer has now created the possibility the suspect will attempt to lunge for the weapon.

Scenario Two

The officer lays his/her weapon on the ground far enough away from the suspect that the suspect can’t easily reach the weapon, but there is still an unsecured weapon. Now, the officer has to deal with the suspect and also keep an eye on the weapon to ensure no one else approaches and grabs the weapon.

Scenario Three

The officer attempts to control and handcuff the suspect while simultaneously trying to maintain control of the long gun. I’ve seen this happen and it’s scary. The officer will attempt to handcuff with one hand or place the long gun in the crook of his or her elbow while handcuffing. The officer is vulnerable to a weapon disarming technique and the likelihood of a negligent discharge is increased.

Scenario Four

The officer uses the long gun as an impact weapon. I recognize that a handgun or long gun can be used to strike an assailant when necessary, but it is rarely a good idea. The officer risks the possibility of damaging his or her weapon, taking it out of battery so it can’t be fired, negligent discharge and, as in Scenario One above, the deadly weapon is now within reach of a suspect.

Scenario Five

The officer uses the long gun to prod or push the suspect. In the event I mentioned, an officer used the muzzle of a shotgun to push the suspect to the ground and attempted to roll the suspect over onto his stomach. Again, there is a risk of negligent discharge and the deadly weapon is now within reach of the suspect. It is also human nature to grab at anything that pokes us. Poke people with a finger, stick or any other object, and they will instinctively reach out to move it off their body.

To avoid all of these unnecessary risks, the answer is simple: Make sure all long guns have a sling. Recognize there is still a training component in practicing slinging the weapon behind you as you approach or kneel to handcuff a suspect. If you’ve never done it, it does take some practice to smoothly transition the weapon from your front to a secure position on your back.

A long gun without a sling makes as much sense as a handgun without a holster.

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