I was watching a movie this weekend, and there was another of that most overused scene, again. You know the scene. A desperate man is holding a gun to a woman’s head and telling the police to drop their guns or he will shoot her. And of course the police all drop their guns and the guy gets away with the woman still in his grasp. At least in this movie the guy didn’t shoot the cops. Of course they deserved to be shot, dropping their guns in a hostage situation and essentially becoming hostages themselves. I also read a book last week in which the captives had almost taken control of the spaceship, and one of the crew, in desperation, held a gun to a child’s head and told the most capable of the captives to drop her gun. Which the woman did, and was promptly shot. Even worse here was the heroine had a stun gun, and could have taken the villain and the hostage out with no real damage. I really don’t know what the objective of this scene is. To keep the tension going for sure. To maybe show how caring the person is who drops their weapon and puts themselves at risk for the sake of an innocent. Whatever the reason, all I can think is how stupid the person was who dropped their gun and placed themselves in the same position as the victim. Now when I was in the Army we trained in hostage situations. We guarded devices that could kill a hundred thousand people at a shot, and we damned sue didn’t want them in the wrong hands. We were told to never drop our weapons in a situation where a terrorist attempted to get a weapon off site through the use of a hostage. In fact, we were told to shoot them right away, and hope the hostage made it. Didn’t matter who the hostage was. Your best friend. The President of the United States. Sure, you didn’t aim to hit the hostage on purpose, you would give it your best shot to take out the hostage taker. I was a good enough shot I would have bet money on my ability to take out the perp and spare the hostage. But nonetheless, the order was to not let that weapon off the site, and to not let the perp escape. And if an officer had told us to lower our weapons? Then that was considered an unlawful order that we were to disobey at all costs. All costs, meaning the order giver might just get shot if he tried to enforce such an asinine directive.
That’s all fine and good for the military, but what about the police, who are not guarding weapons that can kill a hundred thousand at a shot? I asked a friend who has been a long time policeman and he scoffed at the idea of lowering a weapon in a hostage situation. From his explanation it was easy to see why. The average cop wants to go home to his family, even if that family is only a pet. He is most likely dealing with a killer or a madman, someone who won’t hesitate to put a bullet in him as well if given the chance. And he is also someone the cop would most likely not want roaming free on his streets. So there is no way that gun is going to be lowered. Even if the perp is allowed to leave the scene with the hostage, guns are still going to be readied for the chance to take him down. Now this makes the hostage trope seem pretty ridiculous. No one in their right mind is going to lower their weapon and put themselves in the same position as the hostage. Not soldier or cop, and probably not even most civilians. In fact, there would be so many holes in the gunman the blood would be confused as to which opening to flow out of. I know for a fact that if you were holding someone I loved hostage and told me to drop my gun it would remain leveled at you. If I got a chance for a shot that could take you out and leave the loved one alive, I would take it. The one thing I would not do would be to make it easy for the hostage taker to have two hostages, or two easy kills. No way. But fiction is still full of this trope, as if writing a scene where something else occurred was just too much work. Below I offer a scene I would write.
“Drop your gun or she gets it,” shouted Frankie, holding his revolver to the woman’s head. She stared at the world with wide eyes, her breath coming in gasps, terrified.
“No way I’m dropping my gun,” said Officer Brinkley, keeping the sights of his Glock centered on Frankie’s face. “You’re only getting out of here one of two ways. In cuffs, or dead.”
“I mean it,” said Frankie, sweat pouring down his face. He jerked the woman closer to him and ground the barrel of his pistol into her temple.
“I know you do,” said Brinkley, his finger tightening on the trigger. “And the second she dies you follow. Only I hope my shot doesn’t kill you instantly. Maybe you’ll be in pain for a long time while I watch you bleed out.”
“You’re crazy,” said the gunman, his knuckles whitening on the gun. “If she dies it’s your fault.”
“No,” said Brinkley, a cold smile playing across his face. “I didn’t pull the trigger to the gun at her head. You did. I only pulled this trigger.”
The Glock thundered in the closed area. The woman fell to the floor as the hand holding her went limp, and Frankie slid to the ground with a bleeding hole in his forehead.