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Monday, Apr 23, 2018
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The fatal flaw in policymaking-by-anecdote

Much of the fury surrounding last week's deadly theater shooting in Wesley Chapel swirls around the fact that Curtis Reeves Jr., the retired and decorated Tampa cop, brought a pistol to the movies.

Indeed, there's every reason to believe that absent the gun, the worst likely outcome is Reeves and the victim, Chad Oulson, might just now be nursing fading bruises and shared anonymous embarrassment.

Fair enough.

But be wary of your neighbors who would have us then leverage anecdotes into policy, because just as soon as we are ready to enact stern new gun restrictions over of what happened inside Theater 10 at the Cobb Grove 16, this happens (as reported by the Selma (Ala.) Times-Journal:

ORRVILLE — Law enforcement officials are calling Marlo Ellis a hero in the wake of Thursday's shooting at the Dollar General in Orrville.

Ellis shot and killed Dallas County resident Kevin McLaughlin after McLaughlin entered the store, reportedly shouting and waving a gun.

Authorities said that as McLaughlin was [herding] a group of people into a break room, Ellis turned and used his own pistol to shoot McLaughlin. Ellis' weapon was concealed according to Sheriff Harris Huffman.

McLaughlin was pronounced dead shortly after the shooting.

Two (perhaps three) points worth noting: Not only have authorities called Ellis' action a case of self-defense, they've described him as a “good Samaritan” protecting other innocents. Also, a sign at the store's entrance makes clear Dollar General disapproves of firearms being carried inside the store, an arrangement that may have emboldened McLaughlin's fateful activities. Arguably, several central Alabamans are alive today because self-evident good guy Marlo Ellis paid the sign no heed.

So, upon which anecdote shall we create new weapons-wielding law?