On July 10 a man named Erik Scott was killed by Metro police officers at a Las Vegas Costco store. The details of the incident seem to still be unclear: A Costco employee called 911 because Scott had a gun on him in the store and was behaving “erratically,” though the nature of this behavior remains in debate. As customers, along with Scott, were evacuating the store, did Scott pull his gun and aim at officers? Did he reach for his gun at all? Did it remain in the holster? Was he merely trying to surrender it after receiving conflicting commands from police officers? Is it merely a coincidence that the surveillance footage covering the incident is damaged and not retrievable or is there something more sinister at play?
A Coroner’s inquest is in progress here in Clark County (for more on that, check out the latest from the Las Vegas Sun here.), so debate about the events of July 10 is freshly raging. One such debate took place on the radio this morning as I was driving to work–listeners were calling in and weighing in on the topic. Some sided with Scott’s family (a former girlfriend of Scott was one of the callers) and others sided with the police (they have families to go home to and need to protect themselves).
The conversation called to mind a story in Malcolm Gladwell’s book “Blink.” It was about police officers in the Bronx who, several years ago, gunned down a young man because they were certain they saw him pull a gun on them. As it turned out, the man didn’t have a gun anywhere on his person. So why, then, were the officers so sure that this man was pointing a gun at them that they confidently took him down? The answer isn’t simple, so I recommend reading “Blink” for the full story and analysis–it has to do with rapid cognition, and the decisions we make quickly…in the blink of an eye. Sometimes this works really well and other times it fails, as was illustrated in the Bronx debacle.
But I do wonder: did these Metro officers fall victim to the same circumstances as the policemen in the Bronx? Did they only think they saw Scott pull a gun, when he really did not?
As the conversation continued on the radio, one of the hosts suddenly made a rather disturbing point: why did Erik Scott take a gun to Costco in the first place? Why did he need a gun on his person at a store? A follow-up caller echoed her point and implied that he was asking to get into trouble with the police because he made the bad decision to carry a gun with him to the store.
I couldn’t believe what I was hearing! Not only is it legal to carry a concealed weapon (with the proper permit) in Nevada, but open carry is also legal. Did Erik Scott need to have a gun with him in Costco? Probably not. Was he asking for trouble simply by exercising his constitutional right? Absolutely not!
I think it’s incredibly dangerous to say that we should stop exercising the civil rights guaranteed by the Constitution simply because “it’s asking for trouble.” The implication of that statement is incredible!
I’m no Second Amendment warrior, but I think if someone wants to legally carry a gun on his person, he should be able to do so without the fear of being harmed.
Would these same people so easily give up their First Amendment rights? Should we stop criticizing elected officials for fear of repercussion from them?
Erik Scott was not asking to be killed simply because he was carrying a gun in Costco. Now, whether or not he did something else to merit being shot remains to be exposed–along with the other fuzzy details of this incident–but to relinquish civil rights in the blink of an eye is the poorest judgment of all. That, I believe, is what’s asking for trouble.