Another day, another fatal shooting of an unarmed black man in the Minneapolis area. The officer’s body cam footage seem to reveal that she meant to use her Tazer but somehow grabbed her gun instead. That’s a potential reason but is most definitely not an excuse. I found some articles on the Internet that claim this is a somewhat common experience, but most point to one incident per year nationally. There are approximately thirty-two million traffic stops in the US annually and in one of those an officer grabs their pistol when they mean to grab their stun gun. That’s a rate of 0.00000003. That’s not “uncommon,” it’s virtually nonexistent! Officers likely are incontenent of bowel on the job at a much higher rate, but I digress.

A reason explains how something happens. If I don’t pay attention, I will close my finger in a car door. If I text while driving, I am more likely to have a car accident. If it rains too much, the crops will fail. Johnny hit Marilyn over the head with a baseball bat and she died. Tanning cream will turn you orange. An excuse might be thought of as an explanation why whatever happened was reasonable. In the above examples, if Johnny hit Marilyn over the head with a baseball bat as she was chasing Johnny’s wife with a knife, we have an excuse. As any parent, teacher, or boss knows, there are good (justifiable) excuses and bad (insufficient) excuses.

If society allows you to carry a weapon, you also carry responsibility. There are no mistakes, just a failure to carry out your responsibility. If someone dies as a result of your irresponsibility, you may be criminally negligent. If so, you should be prosecuted. If you don’t want to take the chance that you may be prosecuted, either don’t become a cop or – better yet – train until you won’t make mistakes because your mistake may cost an innocent person their life. If that happens, no matter how hard you try, you won’t come up with a justifiable excuse.

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