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Massad Ayoob on Guns

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Archive for September 9th, 2017

Massad Ayoob


Saturday, September 9th, 2017

In the last blog entry below this one, discussion of the Philando Castile incident led to some interesting dialog between two regular correspondents here: retired cop Dennis, and retired attorney Liberal Dave.

Liberal Dave writes, “…your replies imply that nothing can be done about this and since it comes down to officer safety versus safety of innocent impaired persons that the lives of officers have more value than the lives of the innocent.”

I teach armed citizens and cops alike that when they have a reasonable, prudent belief they are dealing with a violent criminal, they should indeed prioritize their life, and other lives present and at stake, over that of the person generating the unlawful deadly threat. That priority is driven, not by self-importance, but by pragmatism and logic.  If you are the one taking the offender at gunpoint, you are probably the only one present who is both trained and equipped to stop him from doing lethal harm.  If you allow him to kill or overpower you, he now has your weapon as well as his own, and no one left to stop him from killing or terrorizing every other innocent person present.

As you sit reading this now, do you have a key to your home on your physical person? And perhaps some government-mandated ID card which lists your street address?  Then think about this, if you haven’t already: the dangerous person you’re facing will have that key to your home and the wherewithal to find it, if you allow him to overpower or murder you.  Do you not owe your family a duty to keep that from happening?

The key to Liberal Dave’s argument seems to be found in the term “innocent impaired persons.”  That covers a lot of ground. Let’s see if we can narrow it down.

Liberal Dave, meet Robert Louis Stevenson. In his famous Victorian novel, kindly Dr. Jekyll commits suicide to save the innocent from the murderous alter ego he has created within himself, Mr. Hyde. In the classic 1931 movie of the same name, Mr. Hyde as played by Fredric March forces the police to shoot him dead to keep him from murdering an innocent person.

And of course, in death, the evil Mr. Hyde transforms back into kindly Dr. Jekyll. Just as happens today when an “impaired” person takes actions that convince reasonable and prudent people that only shooting him will stop his life-threatening acts.

If the impairment of the person in question is due to alcohol or drugs, he becomes, like Dr. Jekyll, responsible for turning himself into Mr. Hyde, and bears responsibility for whatever the impaired Hyde does that causes an innocent, reasonable person to fear him enough to shoot him.  If the impairment was not his fault – organic or traumatic brain damage, for example, or underdeveloped cognitive capabilities, for example – it is certainly tragic, but it is the responsibility of his caregivers to keep him under sufficient supervision that he does not carry out activities reasonable, prudent people will construe as being so lethally dangerous he must be shot to be stopped.

In neither case, in my opinion, does blame fall on the reasonable person forced by the impaired one’s actions to pull the trigger.

But, as noted, that’s just my opinion.

What’s yours?

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