Miriam Carey
This photo shows Miriam Carey with her child, who was present at her mother's shooting, and now has to live a life without her thanks to the Capitol Police
The family of Miriam Carey, the mentally disturbed woman who was shot by police up on Capitol Hill last week, has been on TV demanding answers about why she was shot.

Ms Carey, 34, died in a hail of gunfire after she led police on a high speed car chase from the White House up to Congress, failing to stop at least twice when officers pointed their guns at her. Here 18-month-old daughter was in the back of the car when her mother was killed.

You could argue, that anyone who behaves like that in an area as sensitive as Capitol Hill gets what's coming to them, but if you're mentally disturbed (she to have believed Barack Obama was stalking her) then by definition you are not rational.

This woman did not have a gun. She did not wave anything that looked like a gun at police, so far as we know - and if she had, you can bet the police would have made a big deal of it. She certainly did not fire at the police. And yet they still gunned her down.

Was this really necessary? Was there really no other way to stop that car? Clearly it needed to be stopped, as this woman was a danger to pedestrians, if nothing else.

Comment: More than Carey's driving, the police shots were obviously more dangerous to the pedestrians present, injuring one of their colleagues.

Given the concrete barriers that protect access to the Capitol buildings themselves, she was never going to get in there so what about deploying a "stinger" - one of those spiky thing that shreds a car's tires? Or using other cars to ram her off the road?

Those questions need asking because too often the US police and the media doesn't bother. They just accept uncritically that that's how the police (heroes, inevitably) should behave.

The young child who watched her mother being shot to death was, according to CNN, "rescued" from the car; an interesting turn of phrase which belies this mindset. Perhaps more questions would be being asked if the child had died?

As I've written before, the problem is not just that the media seems to accept guns being used in this way, but so do the law enforcement agencies who have an absolutely terrible - almost non-existent, in fact - record in disciplining trigger-happy officers.

Take a look at this recent New York Times analysis of FBI shooting of 150 lethal incidents involving FBI officers. Law enforcement was deemed faultless every time. You don't need to break out your copy of Freakonomics to know that doesn't pass the sniff test, unless the bar to using lethal force is set incredibly, dangerously low.

The FBI still hasn't provided proper explanation, for example, of how or why it shot 27-year-old Ibragim Todashev when he was being interrogated at his home in Florida over his possible links to the surviving Boston bomber. His father, the ACLU and others are rightly suing to try and find out more.

Like the woman, Todashev was also not carrying a firearm, although he might have had a knife, or a broomhandle, or a metal pole, depending on which half-cocked story that was briefed by FBI at the time you chose to believe - or not.

The fact, of course that the younger Boston bomber Tamerlan Tsarnaev was even alive was a small miracle, after the Boston cops unloaded their weapons into the boat where he was hiding, even though he wasn't armed either - so presumably didn't shoot first, or threaten them or wave a gun at them.

Again, virtually no questions were asked about that incidents which senior officers dismissed as "fog of war" or "contagious fire".

This should translate as "my trigger-happy officers were engaged in massive collective act of indiscipline that unnecessarily endangered the public and the investigation into the most serious terror incident on the US mainland since September 11", but of course, it doesn't.

I could go on. Remember last year's Empire State shooting where nine passers-by were shot or wounded by NYPD officers who were tackling a man who was, at least, armed with a firearm. The patrolmen fired sixteen shots, of which only three hit their target.

One of the victims of that shooting, a North Carolina student who was shot in the hip, is suing the NYPD, but already the police commissioner Raymond Kelly and the mayor Michael Bloomberg have come out and said that the cops "followed proper protocol".

The wider question common to all these cases is really about the acceptable level of violence in American society - about where the parameters of the debate are set when it comes to gun use.

In the US, certainly in comparison to other developed-world countries, the tolerance is extraordinarily high. As is the near-uncritical worship of anyone who wears a uniform.

Both of which means the pressure for accountability on law enforcement agencies from the public or the media is incredibly weak. And since environment is so permissive and the law enforcement agencies don't police themselves, the gun is too often the weapon of first resort.