Rico Marley was arrested as he emerged from the bathroom at a Publix supermarket in Atlanta. He was wearing body armor and carrying six loaded weapons — four handguns in his jacket pockets, and in a guitar bag, a semiautomatic rifle and a 12-gauge shotgun.
Moments earlier, an Instacart delivery driver had alerted a store employee after seeing Mr. Marley in the bathroom, along with the AR-15-style rifle, which was propped against a wall. A grand jury indictment later described what had come next: “panic, terror and the evacuation of the Publix.”..
Mr. Marley’s arrest kicked off a long and as yet unresolved legal odyssey in which the criminal justice system waffled over what it could charge him with and whether to set him free. Clearly, visiting the grocery store with a trove of guns had frightened people. But was it illegal?..
In states with permissive gun laws, the police and prosecutors have limited tools at their disposal when a heavily armed individual’s mere presence in a public space sows fear or even panic.
In situations like this, it can take only seconds before a heavily armed person begins shooting. Marley did not shoot anyone, but the outcome was different in a similar situation where the police elected not to act:
In 2015, a woman in Colorado Springs called 911 after seeing a man in her neighborhood with a gun. The dispatcher reportedly explained to her that Colorado was an open-carry state. Within minutes, the man went on a shooting spree, killing three people.
In states with permissive gun laws, police and prosecutors have limited tools at their disposal when a heavily armed individual sows fear or panic in public.
How should police handle these situations?
What limits should there be on carrying guns in public places?