Protestors autograph a sketch of Michael Brown during a protest, Monday, Aug. 18, 2014, in Atlanta, Ga.
Photo by David Goldman/AP

Parsing the meaning of the word ‘arms’

Since Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson shot Michael Brown on Aug. 9, there’s been all kinds of political commentary, some of it profound, some of it heartbreaking, and some of it just kind of dumb. Joan Walsh today flagged some analysis that, I have to confess, I never saw coming.
Fox has peddled every allegation of wrongdoing by Mike Brown from the beginning of the story. On Fox and Friends Monday morning, Linda Chavez argued that the media should stop calling the teenager “unarmed” because “we’re talking about an 18-year-old man who is 6-foot-4 and weighs almost 300 pounds, who is videotaped just moments before the confrontation with a police officer strong-arming an employee and robbing a convenience store.”
So Mike Brown can’t be considered unarmed because … he had arms?
Oh good, we’ve reached the point of the national conversation at which the right wants to parse the meaning of the word “arms.”
For what it’s worth, and I’m still hoping that reality and common definitions of words is worth something, whether or not a person is “armed” is not based on their physical size.
It’s based on whether or not they’re carrying weapons. This really isn’t complicated. By Linda Chavez’s reasoning, it’s literally impossible for big guys to be “unarmed,” regardless of whether or not they’re carrying, you know, firearms.
Of course, I’ll look forward to related constitutional analysis of the Second Amendment. Sure, a well-regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, must mean that the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed, but what about big teenagers? Are they already armed just by walking around without weapons?
Brown’s death has touched important debates. The meaning of the word “unarmed” need not be part of the conversation.

Ferguson, Fox News and Michael Brown

Parsing the meaning of the word 'arms'