On Memorial Day 2011, in the town of Roanoke, VA, a Sheriff allegedly pulled up behind his ex-wife in the parking lot of a convenience store and shot her to death with a rifle. This was done near a busy intersection, near an exit onto a local bypass. This was done in a state that allows for open carry of firearms, as well as concealed carry permits dispensed on a "shall issue" basis.
As a person who just acquired one of those permits, I can't help but wonder how one reacts to such a situation. The reason one carries a firearm is to, primarily, be able to respond to a situation involving lethal force with a similar amount of force, should such an unlikely situation arise and your life is in danger.
The hope is that a person in such a situation can protect themselves more effectively, provided they have an opportunity to react, than if they did not have the firearm available to them. The most frequent objection to concealed carry is that the presence of additional armed people, with nothing to indicate guilt or innocence, will complicate matters for law enforcement and for others who are defending themselves. Dire predictions of people popping off rounds like the finale to a Western get made, though evidence of such careless discharging of weapons has, to my knowledge, never been demonstrated, even in the rare instance a concealed carry holder has been in the presence of such a tragedy in progress.
In most cases, the best thing an armed civilian can do, I imagine, is fire only if fired upon, and then only as a way to neutralize the obvious threat, or if that's impossible, to ease removing one's self from the situation.
So back to the dreadful circumstances of the past Memorial Day.
How does one react when a man in a Sheriff's uniform, standing next to a proper, state owned Sheriff's car, is standing over the body of a person they apparently just shot down in cold blood? We've been trained to trust men in uniform, to look for them when things go haywire and to cede authority to them, as authority is vested in them by the state to enforce the law.
Even if one could determine accurately the nature of the situation, would you attempt to detain or apprehend the officer until help arrived? How would you know he wasn't about to turn the rifle on the nearby patrons? Fire into traffic?
What if you'd spotted the officer taking aim at an unarmed woman before shots were fired? If you had the opportunity to react and were armed, what do you do when the aggressor is wearing a badge and you are not?
It is unlikely anyone would have had the chance to intervene from the time the officer pulled up to when the deadly shots were fired. The best action once could take after the incident, I imagine, would be to not interfere, but to contact 911 immediately. And yet, minus the trappings of law enforcement, this is exactly the sort of situation that prompted many of us to consider going about armed.
The officer in question also allegedly went on to fire on a State Trooper, from a position adjacent to a busy highway. He awaits trial after being shot and forced to stop later on. Many condolences have been passed on to those who cared for his ex-wife. The investigation is ongoing. The whole region is shocked by the news.
But the question remains: if the person doing mayhem is a police officer, what does an armed, law abiding citizen do?