“Contagious shooting,” the phrase used to explain the 50 rounds fired at a suspect last week in New York City, should be examined more closely, says Slate.com. “We can’t keep doing what we’ve been doing: giving cops high-round semiautomatic weapons because we trust them not to blast away like robots, then excusing them like robots when they blast away,” says Slate.
Once you start describing a behavioral phenomenon as a predictable sequence of events–like “post-traumatic stress disorder”–people start reading it as an excuse. Slate says that what makes contagious shooting a handy legal defense is its mechanical portrayal of behavior. You’re not choosing to kill; you’re catching a disease. “Contagious” is being used not to clarify matters, but to confuse them. Some of the same people who invoke it often point out that the number of shootings by police is low and has been falling. “An urge that’s so commonly resisted can’t be irresistible.” says Slate.