What Does “Unarmed” Mean Anyway?

Without directly engaging the issue of police bias or excessive use of force (about which I do not know enough to engage intelligently), I do want to address the issue of people being “unarmed” at the time of their encounters with law enforcement officers.

People often declare “the victim was unarmed at the time” to suggest that lethal force was not justified. But one of my best friends is an expert in the martial arts and could certainly kill me with his bare hands very quickly if he wanted to (not to mention his rattan sticks).

I have already addressed this issue in terms of citizen self-defense, but was reminded of it today when I saw a story about an Iowa father who was killed with one punch to the head by a (seemingly) random stranger: “De Moines man dies after single punch.”

Photo Credit: De Moines Register
Photo Credit: De Moines Register

It may be unlikely, but if you are the ONE in the one-in-a-million — like Ryan Thompson of Des Moines — it is a very grave matter for you, indeed.

The same is true of law enforcement officers. As in the case of the “unarmed” inmate who, despite being handcuffed, all of a sudden wasn’t unarmed and killed two bailiffs in St. Joseph, Michigan this week.

Michigan Courthouse Murderer

So, the issue isn’t whether someone is “armed” or “unarmed” when you engage them, but what sort of threat they pose. Certainly a person who is armed with a gun and bad intentions is a threat, as is someone armed with a knife, rattan stick, or fist.

At the same time, someone could be armed with a knife and NOT be posing a threat at the moment, as appears be the case with the shooting of Laquan McDonald by Chicago police officer Jason Van Dyke (though Van Dyke has not yet been tried in court).

My bottom line: Those who want to move the conversation about police bias or excessive use of force forward would do well to establish whether or not the victim in question posed a threat instead of simply being “unarmed.”


  1. Reblogged this on Rifleman III Journal and commented:
    Very good. I do have another consideration to add. Years ago, in high school, we learned about, “With Rights, Goes, Obligations and Responsibility”. Maturity, was taught. Before you leave high school, every student needed to know how to behave successfully and why, Good Citizenship, is necessary. You know, “the Big Picture”. Everyone armed, is only good if, everyone understands how, to conduct themselves responsibly as adults. Behaviors, need to include things such as the benefit of hard work and self application. Putting the needs of others, before your own needs. Too many feral people around. Too many bad, unchecked, savage behaviors.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. That class is long gone from modern schools Rifleman. Unfortunately.

    I’ve posted other places and I’ll add it here. When they finally ban all other weapons will the ban the five weapons that have killed more people since the beginning, the human mind, hands and feet?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Unfortunately that is true. I enlisted in the Marine Corps while a senior in high school and three days after graduation, it was Parris Island, then a tour in Southeast Asia.

      When you see firsthand, man’s inhumanity to his fellow man, for some political ideology, beyond sobering, it ages you, quickly. Seven weeks into it, you turn hardcore, but I feel that the reason is an indignation of how we live life in America, as opposed to those who have some desire to hurt people, just because they can.

      My career later on, was a cop. I had a desire to help people, because at times, no matter what ever I could do to help some, simply was not enough. It also turned me asocial (not anti-social). I hardly speak, and stay by myself.

      Thank you, for your input. I appreciate it.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Being killed as the result of a single punch is probably far more likely than one-in-a-million. People regularly die because they are punched, fall, and suffer a brain injury during the fall.


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