If published reports about the fatal shooting of a gunman by an armed citizen in the parking lot of a Walmart in Tumwater, Washington Sunday are accurate, the “good guy with a gun” was likely acting within the parameters of the state constitution and the state use-of-force statute adopted more than 40 years ago.
UPDATE: 6/18 @ 12:55 p.m. — The suspect who was fatally shot outside the Walmart has been identified as Tim O. Day, 44, of McCleary. He has a criminal record that should have precluded him from possessing a firearm.
According to several news agencies, including the Seattle Times, Daily Olympian and Washington Post, the suspect attempted a pair of carjackings in which one motorist was shot. That was followed by the gunman’s appearance at a Walmart in Tumwater, a short distance south of the State Capitol in Olympia, where he fired shots inside the store. That’s where the suspect was confronted by at least two armed citizens, and one of them shot him fatally.
How it all shakes out remains to be determined. The incident was being investigated by the Thurston County Sheriff’s Department and Washington State Patrol. The motorist who was shot by the suspect was taken to Harborview Medical Center in Seattle in critical condition.
Article 1, Section 24 of the Washington constitution states:
“The right of the individual citizen to bear arms in defense of himself, or the state, shall not be impaired, but nothing in this section shall be construed as authorizing individuals or corporations to organize, maintain or employ an armed body of men.”
Such amendments are common in state constitutions. The Second Amendment Foundation lists all of them here. Washington’s constitution was adopted Nov. 11, 1889 when statehood was achieved. Interestingly, when Arizona became a state on Feb. 14, 1912, it’s right-to-bear arms amendment copied Washington’s word-for-word.
Under the statute covering justifiable homicide, RCW 9A.16.050 states:
“Homicide is also justifiable when committed either:
“(1) In the lawful defense of the slayer, or his or her husband, wife, parent, child, brother, or sister, or of any other person in his or her presence or company, when there is reasonable ground to apprehend a design on the part of the person slain to commit a felony or to do some great personal injury to the slayer or to any such person, and there is imminent danger of such design being accomplished; or
“(2) In the actual resistance of an attempt to commit a felony upon the slayer, in his or her presence, or upon or in a dwelling, or other place of abode, in which he or she is.”
According to the state Department of Licensing, as of May 31, there were 584,293 active concealed pistol licenses issued by the state. Washington is traditionally among the top states for legal concealed carry, and there is also an active open carry movement. Of the number of active CPLs, 28,272 were listed for Thurston County, where Tumwater is located. Neighboring Pierce County has another 72,689 CPLs and to the south, Lewis County reported 10,376 licensed citizens.
This shooting has made headlines across the country. Fox News was reporting on the incident Monday morning and other news agencies also covered the story. This may be due to media attention to all things related to firearms in recent months, as gun control has once again taken center stage following the tragedies at high schools in Florida and Texas.
According to the FBI Uniform Crime Report for 2016 – the most recent year for which data is available – armed citizens justifiably shot and killed 276 people, which was a slight uptick from the 272 killed in 2015.