I was recently asked whether I hope that I’ll ever get the “opportunity” to use a gun in self defense, be it my concealed carry pistol or a home defense gun. The person who asked this question did so in all sincerity, and I gave the following sincere answer in return:
The short answer
Absolutely not! I hope that I never have to use a firearm (or any other weapon) against another human. I hope that my life will be boring and uneventful, at least insofar as violence and the use of deadly force is concerned.
The long answer
Contrary to the inaccurate stereotypes that the media regularly applies to gun owners, I am a peace-loving person (and the same holds true for just about every gun owner I’ve met). My realistic ideal day involves accomplishing something worthwhile at work (preferably a favorable jury verdict, as there is nothing quite as exciting for an attorney), having a nice diner, enjoying my hobbies, and spending some quality time with my loved ones. Hitting the lottery would be nice too, but then again I did say “realistic.”
Having to use a gun in self defense would be one of the worst, if not the absolute worst, days in my life:
- To begin with, a situation where I would use a gun in self defense is necessarily a situation in which a criminal has threatened to inflict death or bodily harm. That is not a situation that I ever wish to experience, as I don’t think I would enjoy having my life or bodily integrity placed in peril.
- Next, although armed self defense has been shown to be an effective means of saving oneself from an attacker, that doesn’t mean that there is no risk. Instead, armed self defense seems to be the best option from a rather short list of less-than-ideal options, such as just giving up an allowing the criminal to complete their violent crime, or being overpowered by the criminal. So, while I would rather defend myself with a gun than suffer as so many unarmed crime victims suffer, I would still yet prefer to not be in the situation at all.
- Then, even assuming the best possible outcome, where I skillfully use my gun in self defense to stop the criminal and suffer no physical harm myself, it is still a bad situation. If the criminal dies, then I will suffer the emotional distress that one tends to suffer after killing another human being (and I doubt the knowledge that the self defense killing was morally correct would completely allay that emotional distress). If the criminal doesn’t die, then I would still likely be left with some lesser degree of emotional distress from having used a gun against a human being.
- Finally, there are the potential legal issues, which range from criminal prosecution by some over-zealous prosecutor to being civilly sued by the criminal and/or his family.
To be clear, I unreservedly embrace and recommend armed self defense
As discussed above, I hope to never need to fire my gun at anything but the paper targets at the range. However, that does not mean that I would hesitate to defend myself or my loved ones. Indeed, as I discuss in more detail here, I believe I would be committing a moral wrong were I to choose not to defend myself and my loved ones. So, if a criminal ever forces me to choose between using my gun in self defense or becoming a victim of violence, I will certainly use my gun. But I will never seek out such a confrontation, and sincerely hope that I never need to act in self defense.
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