Last month, 43-year-old African-American Eric Garner died in consequence of a chokehold applied by a NYC police officer.
Mr Garner was unarmed.
Although the police officer who killed him was armed (in the sense of carrying a firearm), he never pulled his weapon but instead used his arms (= his upper limbs) to deal death, inadvertent as the fatal outcome may have been in this case.
So as far as is relevant regarding the termination of Mr Garner’s life, his killer was unarmed, too.
This proves that one doesn’t need to be armed (= carry an external weapon) in order to present a lethal threat. The physically stronger, or trained in pugilism or martial arts, we are relative to our adversary or intended victim, the easier it is for us to kill or harm with our bodies—our “bare hands”—alone.
In other words, if we have arms (or legs, for that matter), we’re armed, no matter how technically “unarmed” we may be. (Mileage, of course, varies greatly among individuals, depending on factors such as age, health, physical fitness, predisposition for daredevilry and aggression, etc.)
Many centuries ago, a weapons ban on the island of Okinawa helped fuel the refinement of a nascent combat technique named karate, which literally means “empty hand.”
So when we hear that someone, like a police officer, gunned down an “unarmed” individual, what exactly does that tell us about the danger said individual was posing, or could reasonably have been assumed to pose, and hence about the justification for using a firearm in order to neutralize that danger in order to protect oneself or others?
Absent additional information, it tells us nothing.
If you doubt that, ask Mr Garner, who can testify to the fact that “unarmed” doesn’t necessarily mean “harmless.”
On second thought, he can’t testify to anything.
Because he’s dead.