There is a theme that runs through some of the recent deaths of Americans at the hands of police. That theme is the failure of the citizen in question to comply with an order or demand by a police officer. Repeatedly, we hear that somehow that noncompliance was regarded by one or more officers as a mortal and immanent threat to their safety. Some significant proportion of those killed (Accurate and complete statistics are not being kept.) have been Black. Another group that seems to be disproportionately involved is the mentally ill. Whatever the race, ethnicity, social-economic status, religion, or mental state of the victim, this is wrong. Noncompliance with a police officer’s order is not supposed to be a capital crime. It is wrong for it to resutl in summary, extra-judicial execution.
Very often in these situations we hear that the citizen killed had a gun, or something that appeared to be a gun, or was believed to be reaching for a gun. I one recent case, the dead man had informed the officer that he was the holder of a permit to carry his gun and was killed anyway. *[I’ll come back to another aspect of this.]
I’m going to do a small thought experiment with a possible rule about when police would be allowed to shoot someone. I do not expect the rule ever to be adopted. It is a fantasy. I know also that if it were used it would increase danger to police officers, so don’t hammer at me that I’m trying to get cops killed. This is a “what if” experiment.
The rule would be that the police could not, no doubt with some exceptions, shoot unless the subject shot first. Simply having a gun, or brandishing a gun, or having what appeared to be a gun, even pointing or appearing to point a gun at the police would not be enough. If such a rule had been in effect, it is likely that the gentleman killed on Tuesday in Charlotte, NC would still be alive. Tamir Rice would be alive. The 13 year old with the BB gun would be alive. That man in Baton Rouge would likely be alive. Even that fellow involved in the occupation of the wildlife refuge in Oregon would possibly be alive. I don’t know how many others, or at what price to our police.
*Returning to the matter of people being killed because they have a gun, there is a generally very vocal faction I would expect to be quite concerned with that, but from whom I am not hearing about these incidents. I speak of the defenders of the interpretation of The Second Amendment as enshrining an individual right to be armed. I should think that the idea of American Citizens being killed for having a firearm in their possession would be anathema to that community, that they would see that as the most egregious possible violation of a sacred Constitutional Right. Maybe I’m not tuned into the right channels, but I do not hear their outrage. I hope it is not because of who is dying being more important than why they are dying.