I’ve been following a sad story out of Las Vegas this week. A man by the name of Erik Scott, a 38-year-old (some articles say 39) highly-respected West Point graduate and businessman, was gunned down by police outside a suburban Costco.
It appears to have started when Scott, who has a concealed weapons permit, was taking metal water bottles out of their packaging to see if they’d fit in his cooler. After a store employee confronted him about taking merchandise out of the packaging and noticed his gun, he called 911 and the store was evacuated. Police arrived at the store as it was being evacuated and shot Scott to death while yelling at him to drop his weapon.
There’s a very wide discrepancy between what the police are saying, what witnesses are saying (including Scott’s girlfriend), and what people who know Scott are capable of believing. The police claim that Scott was acting erratically in the store and then pointed his weapon at them. But a number of witnesses say that Scott never pulled his weapon and that the police just started shooting as they yelled commands. Las Vegas police are withholding the surveillance video and the 911 recordings until September, after the coroner’s inquest.
Proponents of gun permits are quick to argue that carrying a gun makes you safer. But this incident highlights an important counterargument to that. Sometimes carrying a gun makes you a target as well. Anyone who has read my thoughts on this subject know that I’m not some radical gun control proponent. In fact, I was happy to see the Supreme Court rule that Chicago’s gun ban was unconstitutional. Too often, cities with a lot of crime use gun bans as feel-good fixes that don’t actually address the underlying causes of violence within their communities.
But in this incident, Scott likely became a victim because the gun he was carrying made him appear to be a threat. Even if Scott did absolutely nothing wrong (and from what I’ve read so far, that’s likely true), his not-quite-concealed weapon was likely the reason he ended up the victim of trigger-happy cops. I’m still comfortable with the idea of registered citizens having the ability to carry guns in public, but the added security of doing so is not without its risks.