The Hank Earl Carr argument is an argument used to dispute the lawful possession of handcuff keys. It’s a hasty generalization (a logical fallacy) made in reaction to a terrible event that took place on May 19, 1998.
A hasty generalization uses an unrepresentative sample to conclude a general rule. In this case, the sample is Hank Earl Carr, a murderer who possessed a handcuff key. He is unrepresentative of the population at large of individuals who possess handcuff keys. But because his actions were so reprehensible, the knee-jerk reaction to his case is to argue that since he committed terrible crimes and also used a handcuff key, the possession of handcuff keys will therefore lead to terrible crimes.
Hank Earl Carr was a violent murderer. By the time he shot himself in the head while barricaded inside a convenience store on May 19, 1998, he had murdered four people including his girlfriend’s four-year-old son. He is often brought up as an argument against making handcuff keys legal to the public, because while he was handcuffed in the back of a police car after bringing the mortally wounded four-year-old to a fire station (claiming the gunshot had been an accident), he used a concealed handcuff key to unlock his cuffs, after which time he shot and killed both of the officers in the front of the vehicle.
There were several unfortunate factors that led to the disaster that was May 19, 1998. Hank Earl Carr's girlfriend corroborated his story that he was actually a man by another name, and the 4-year-old child's biological father, who had no criminal record. Believing him to be a bereaved father rather than a violent criminal with an already-extensive rap sheet, the officers placed Carr in a squad car that had no protective cage between the back seat and the front seat.
No one is arguing that Carr’s crimes were reprehensible, or even that his handcuff key was used in ill fashion for horrifying intent. The problem with the common argument is that it makes assumptions about a large population of dissimilar individuals based on an isolated incident. The majority of individuals who possess handcuff keys are either law enforcement or law abiding citizens who want to be prepared for rare but possible eventualities. We can no more prohibit the possession of a handcuff key because of one person’s terrible choices than we can prohibit the possession of multi-tools, or bolt cutters, or lengths of rope.
Last Updated: October 10, 2017
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