This is where politically-focused gun sites (there are a few of those, aren’t there?) start ranting about the unfairness of the system, the wrongness of convicting someone who’d never done anything criminal before, and the political implications of coddling thieves at the expense of homeowners and small business owners.
Not my focus here. Because frankly? Learning to defend yourself with a firearm isn’t about politics. Oh, of course I’m in favor of good people having guns that they can use to protect themselves and their families. And I’m equally against laws that make it more expensive, more difficult, more elite to carry a gun. Self defense is a basic human right that should be equally available to everyone, no matter how much money you have or don’t have, and no matter what kind of neighborhood you live in. The right to stay alive is not just for rural rednecks. It belongs to everyone.
Nor am I going to second guess the choices this man made in the heat of the moment. Of course we could do that. It’s easy to pick apart news accounts with imaginary blow by blows. We could talk about the ethics of shooting someone as they’re running away, or about the physical, practical difficulty of hitting a moving target. We could discuss the importance of being sure of your target and what’s beyond it — which was one of the things that landed this man in legal hot water. 1
But instead of all that, I want to focus on this one heartbreaking sentence from the linked news article. Here it is:
The defendant …said after firing the gunshots he “prayed to God” his bullets had not struck their intended target.
People, if you’re going to carry a gun at all, you owe it to yourself and to your family to count the entire cost of doing that. Good outcomes and bad ones. Don’t indulge in fantasy. Think it through, thoughtfully and maybe even ruthlessly. Think about evil, had-it-coming-to-him thugs … and also about emotionally disturbed people, teenage attackers, maybe the neighbor’s drug addicted grandkids. Think it through. You don’t get to choose who your attacker might be or what the circumstances might be. The only hope you have of getting it right in the heat of the moment, under life threatening stress, is to think it through as much as you can beforehand.
Are you willing — are you really willing? — to outright kill someone in order to protect your life?
Under what circumstances?
Under what circumstances would you hold fire, even at the cost of your own life?
If you haven’t thought through these ideas and aren’t willing to ask yourself the hard questions, a deadly weapon isn’t the right tool for you… because you never want to be standing over a dead body, praying for a do-over that life won’t give you.