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SWAT and the Second Amendment

Police have not released many details, but the deputy fired multiple rounds, including some through the door of the apartment. Initial police statements suggested that Scott pointed the gun at deputies, but they seem to have backpedaled to the position that Scott was merely holding the gun. Scott apparently had prior arrests for drugs, and a small amount of marijuana and related paraphernalia was found in Scott's apartment. News accounts made no mention of a warrant.

Said Sheriff's Spokesman Lt. John Herrell: "It's just a bizarre set of circumstances. The bottom line is, you point a gun at a deputy sheriff or police officer, you're going to get shot."

How are these cases related? In each case, an innocent man was unnecessarily killed by police officers.  And in each case, the police justified the shooting by the fact that the victim, reasonably defending his home, was armed when confronted by the police. In the Guerena case, Sheriff Clarence Dupnik said: "I don’t think anything was mishandled. Unfortunately, this individual points an assault rifle at cops. You do that, you are going to get killed. And the community has no reason to be concerned about it."

Unlike Sheriff Dupnik, the community -- every community -- has more than sufficient reason to be concerned about the idea that anyone holding, perhaps merely carrying, a firearm within his own home is fair game for absorbing an unlimited number of police bullets should the police suddenly arrive and demand entry, with or without identifying themselves or their intentions.

To understand this issue and the danger this kind of police thinking presents, it's important to understand the general legal requirements for the use of deadly force. These requirements may vary a bit from state to state due to differences in statutory language, but they apply to police officers and citizens alike. In many respects, police are expected and required to be far more capable and accurate in the application of deadly force than citizens, and rightfully so.

Deadly force is justified only to stop the imminent threat of serious bodily injury or death to oneself or another. A possible threat at sometime in the future is insufficient. A threat that might reasonably result in a painful bruise is not sufficient. A reasonable person -- or reasonable police officer -- must believe that if they do not immediately use deadly force, they or another will be very seriously injured or killed, and they must be able to clearly articulate their convincing reasons for that belief.