According to this news story, the attorney representing Minneapolis police officer Jeronimo Yanez claims Officer Yanez saw that Philandro Castile was carrying a gun, and in reaction to “the presence of that gun and the display of that gun,” he shot and killed Castile. Of course, there may be other information that has not yet come to light, but if one takes this explanation at face value, it sounds like Officer Yanez murdered Mr. Castile.
The statement made by the attorney doesn’t allege that Mr. Castile had drawn the gun, much less that he was pointing it at anybody; simply that it was visible. In this case, it appears that it was perfectly legal for Mr. Castile to carry a gun, but that’s not actually relevant. You do not get to kill somebody just because they have a gun, regardless of whether or not it’s legal for them to have it. If the simple presence of a gun was enough to justify killing someone, then anybody could go to the local shooting range and kill everyone there. Or, for that matter, they could shoot any police office they see.
Imagine, just for a moment, what would have happened if the situation had been reversed. Suppose that Officer Yanez had been off duty, and Mr. Castile had not known who he was. Officer Yanez started to get something out of his wallet, and Mr. Castile got a glimpse of the gun that he undoubtedly carries. If Mr. Castile had shot and killed Officer Yanez in that situation, does anybody think that this excuse would be accepted? Or that he would be walking around free while the police decide whether or not the shooting was justified?