Friday, August 7, 2009

In Defense Of Deadly Force

Gun ownership is somewhat like Mr. Obama's Gov'ment Healthcare: it divides people into two groups. One group is completely for it, the other is completely against it. I don't think that we will ever agree on them. I have not received any flaming comments lately, so I thought that I would write something provocative and see what happens.

Gun Owners Are Nuts

A few days ago I listened to a state politician’s tirade against guns, calling every gun owner “a nut”, and “one who would shoot up the town at the slightest assumption of provocation”. Obviously, being elected to a state office does not have a pre-requisite of being rational. This man was clearly off the deep end.

It’s Not How Fast You Are …

Years ago I watched a Western movie in which a pipsqueak of a gunfighter forced an old codger into accepting his challenge. After the gun smoke cleared, the codger stood holding his hand on his bleeding ribs, saying, “It’s not how fast you’re with a gun, but where you put the bullet…” The pipsqueak lay in the dust before him.

Trained Killers

I went through basic training in one branch of the US armed forces. I succeeded, in theory, to a certain level, and I attained the badge of “expert rifleman”. What that meant then is that I could have maybe seven hits out of ten shots. The ones, who had more hits, were destined to specialize in becoming snipers if their demeanor could handle it. Becoming a sniper was neither my inclination, nor within my skill.

Some years later when I went through police academy one of the qualifying tests was what was called, “tactical”. I already knew where I was in reality: so-so, with respect to hitting the target. At the beginning of the test, my first target was a steel silhouette, one hundred yards away (three hundred feet, or 91.44 meters), which would pivot if I hit it with a bullet from my handgun as I was running to complete the test in the allotted number of seconds. I tried not to play John Wayne, so I stopped, aimed, and fired. Sonofagun! The target pivoted with a satisfying “plink” half a second after I pulled the trigger. I may have made history there, but I considered my prior mediocre achievements with respect to hitting the target, and attributed it to chance. The rest of the time, and later on the force when I had to re-qualify repeatedly I was adequate, but never that good. We have never been encouraged or tested to do fast draw, and I can think of several reasons for that.

Let’s face it; we were trained to be killers in both cases. In the armed forces it was part or the entire job. With the police, well, it was another situation with far more implications. Under the best of circumstances a police officer will never kill another human. Yet we expect him to disarm and arrest a dangerous or deranged criminal who is in a position to do great harm.

First consideration is whether I should pull the gun out of the holster at all. Next, making sure that I have a clearly defined target, and finally, whether to pull the trigger. The only times these considerations don’t apply is when the deadly danger is unavoidable: someone points a gun at me, wields a two-by-four within a short distance of my head, or drives a car at me deliberately, and so on. On the job it causes an automatic reaction of moving out of the line of fire and responding with whatever it takes.

Off the job, it is just like with the rest of you: if someone points a gun at me, he is not asking for a verbal answer. If he is, that is a really stupid and deadly way to go about it. Not my fault if he gets hurt. There are gray areas. Even when I see a person about to shoot another, I must evaluate the situation. Does the gunman pose a threat? Does he mean to kill? Most of us have never experienced this, and never will. Not having a gun in your possession all you can do is duck, keep your eyes open, and try to remember what takes place as someone is being killed. If you survive, you can tell the police about it. If you have a gun, you may be able to prevent a murder or a rape.

The perpetrator’s life is worth less than the victim’s, regardless of what the politically correct bleeding hearts try to tell you. If a woman does not ask to be raped, and she is being raped, the perpetrator of this crime forfeits his life, whether by the action of an armed citizen, or the jury after months or years of judicial deliberation. In my state, justifications for using deadly force are self defense against clear and deadly force, defense of another person against clear and deadly force, and stopping an on going or about to occur rape. However, regardless of how guilty a criminal might be, if he is running away after a crime, there is never a legal justification for deadly force. Pity.

Those of you who think that only the police should have guns may be right to a small extent. In an ideal law-abiding society with no criminals, even the police need not have guns. Then again, we would have no need for the police either.

We do not live in an ideal society. Making the possession of guns illegal is useless, because criminals and deranged people don’t abide the law, and will use guns as you and I use a fork with a meal: as they deem necessary. If a criminal knows that I may be armed, he is less likely to start anything illegal in my presence. That is the real purpose of being armed. Oh, and another: being prepared to use it when warranted.

Why Have Guns?

A gun is the choice of offensive weapon for today’s criminal. It’s small, any idiot can use it, fits in his pocket, and easy to obtain without a permit or traceability. Once on the job to use it, whether he escalates to the use of automatic weapons and bombs, or stays with a single handgun, it is unlikely that he could be disarmed or killed by using kind words, pepper spray, or a baton.

There have been several mass murders in the last two decades, none perpetrated by a man licensed to carry a concealed weapon. Take the Columbine incident as an example. The two killers, Harris and Klebold, were psychotic teenagers. In addition to legal and illegal guns they used propane tanks, nails, and explosives in homemade devices to add to their arsenal. Yes, it is illegal to bring a firearm to a school campus, but they were not concerned about that. After all, who was going to stop them? The propane tanks and nails are not specifically mentioned in federal or state statutes as being illegal on campus, but as I said, these killers were not worried about being legal.

My point is that killers will always find a way, and a legally armed citizen may be able to stop them. Somebody might get hurt in the process; then again, mass killers want somebody to get hurt. I would rather take a chance on having an armed citizen there as a deterrent or to minimize the damage, even if an innocent bystdander gets hit. We will never know what the outcome would have been with the presence of a couple of armed teachers, but I doubt it would have been worse. These killers did gun down an unarmed teacher who was trying to help the students to get away. I have been in hostage rescue situations, and can tell you that the bad guys can and should be disabled early in their transgression before they do their damage. You will get a different view from official police organizations, but only because they have to cover their asses with respect to law suits, which is why the swat team at Columbine did not go in there and take out the perps at the beginning. Individuals of the force will back me up on this.

Living Or Dieing By Your Decision

A philosophical argument on this issue would be based on my right to take another human’s life. Gun ownership is not a philosophical issue. I could use a propane tank, a pipe bomb, a motorized vehicle, a baseball bat, a knife, or anything to kill one or more people. Having a gun has little to do with my deranged motive.

My argument is not philosophical; rather, it is based on reasonable judgment. As such, you will have a counter-argument, and we may never agree. Keep in mind, however, that, you are, as an adult, responsible for your own actions. Also keep in mind that you are not responsible for the actions of another person. For example, a criminal in action is responsible for his own deeds. You cannot "cause him to do things", neither are you responsible for what he does. All you can do is sit back and wait for him to do his evil deed, or end his life abruptly if you have the means.

Since your mommy and daddy are not there to keep you from coming to harm, that responsibility is yours. The police is somewhat effective in crime disposal, but less so in crime prevention. They simply cannot always be there to protect you. Sometimes it is best if you protect yourself until the police arrive. If you live to tell them about it, you have done well.

To be sure, taking a life in self-defense or in the defense of another person is a tremendous responsibility and a life-long burden. Some people cannot live with it. I do not advocate killing, but as lawyers tend to say, “there are mitigating circumstances”.

Or as I say, “sometimes the lowlife asks for it”. Harris and Klebold asked for it, and since nobody complied (the swat team was still outside waiting for the bean counters to decide), they themselves satisfied their own need. However, between the time they began their methodical hunting and killing of unarmed people, and their self-inflicted exit, they had done much damage. I can’t help but think that even one armed person would have reduced their effectiveness in killing.

I know, it takes balls to intervene in a violent situation. But when someone is obviously going to kill me, and I have a gun, what could I lose? What would that heroic teacher at Columbine have lost by shooting back? Certainly not his life. He died of several gunshot wounds anyway. Having a gun he may have prevented some killing.


Miss Jaye said...

I agree with what you had to say about the criminal's life being worth less than the victim's life.
Although I believe there is an intrinsic value to human life, I also believe that value decreases based on how that person lives their life.
A rapist, for instance, is worth what it takes to stop them from being a rapist, usually that is a bullet or a needle in the arm full of euthanizing drugs.
The debate I get regarding capital punishiment is, "that is someone's child" and my response is always the same, "everyone's child dies, a rapist is just deciding for himself how he will die".
I believe the same about a criminal that is brought to gun point by the police or by a citizen; they have made the decision to give up their life to pursue their crime should that be the outcome.
Yes, someone might grieve the loss of the criminal's life but grieving happens daily over people making decions that cost them their lives such as the smoker who dies of lung cancer, the drunk who decide to drive and crashed into a tree, the drug addict who overdosed or the adrenline junkie who was killed during a stunt accident.
Why are criminals protected as if they didn't make a decision that risks their lives?

subservient-husband said...

I heard it summed up this way; gun laws don't stop gun crime because crime is caused by criminals and criminals don't follow laws anyway.

Around rural areas where police response time is 20-30 minutes, thief’s generally know it would be suicide to break into a remote farm house. That is just how it is. Protection comes from personal firearms. That is why break-ins occur in cities and suburbs where criminals know there isn't a trigger itchy farmer waiting inside the house.

Susan's Pet said...

I can see myself pulling the trigger when the deadly danger is clear and imminent. I might not like to live with the result, but we must take a stand sometimes, and I would like it less if I could have saved another person's life and did not act on it. Given that, I would not, and could not kill the same criminal after the fact, even if it were legal.

I was going to include state sponsored killing by execution in this treatise, but I took it out at the last minute. Here is when we get into philosophical arguments, and will never agree perfectly. I think that executions by injection or other are equivalent to revenge killing. The judge does not do the killing; the jury does. Let's say that a father, whose son was killed by a criminal, and the criminal escapes justice. If this father goes after the criminal and kills him, it is just as premeditated murder as when the executioner pulls the switch upon the judge's order. However, one is legal, the other is not.

I am not a proponent of capital punishment. On the other hand, it is by far the best deterrent to recidivism.

One of the most poignant events in my life was when I observed a woman who dropped to her knees over a stain in a parking lot. She wept uncontrollably. It was the place where her son was killed a few days prior. Her son was a bad person with no apparent socially redeeming values, as he demonstrated it during the incident that caused his death. I am sure that she had tried to set him straight, but with some people it just does not work. Yes, at some time this young man had a worth, but at some point he dismissed it. By the way, he was not killed by the police or a legally armed citizen.

subservient-husband said...

I believe the distinction you are searching for is the flaw in allowing vigilantism within a society.

If "every man does as it right in his own eyes" as referenced in the Old Testament, it leads to chaos.

Capital punishment ensures a standard of culpability is met.

Susan's Pet said...

I try to stay out of the capital punishment decisions. This is one reason I fear being a juror, when I may have the life of a person in my hands. And that would be with deliberation. I have nightmares about having committed murder and feeling guilty about it. Not the same as shooting someone in self defense, but premeditated.

You are right about having to have some way to keep people from doing whatever they feel like doing at the expense of another. This is a complex issue.

doll said...

I am just glad that I have always lived in jurisdictions where only people in authority should have guns. I still get a tremendous jolt if I find myself in an elevator with a security guard that is sporting a gun in his belt.

Susan's Pet said...

Sweet Doll,

You said, “I am just glad that I have always lived in jurisdictions where only people in authority should have guns.”

Do you mean that ‘only authorities do have guns’ in these jurisdictions? If so, why do they need guns?

On the other hand, if you mean ‘only authorities should have guns but some bad people also have them’, then you have demonstrated my point about the need for an armed citizenry.

doll said...

I don't think that individuals in a society need guns. I think that spawns an increase in deadly violence. Take a break-in to your home whilst you are there. In a society that has widespread gun ownership then both the burglar and the home occupier may shoot to kill. In my society if some-one breaks in then they will head to the kitchen to find a knife to use for defence so that they are not found carrying out on the street. So I keep my knives out of sight and difficult to find. It is a difference that might be hard to appreciate.

Naturally the serious criminal element have guns. Thankfully they appear to find them useful for ridding themselves of competition!! They might achieve wealth but have a decidedly short life expectancy.