Saturday, July 4, 2009

The morality of carrying a weapon for self defense


In one way or another I have been armed since I was old enough to have my own .22 rifle.
When I was of age I applied for and received a carry permit, and have held one most of my years since then. Truth be told, permit or not I have always had a weapon near me.

Since I grew up with weapons as tools, the morality of being armed was never raised as an issue. You had a chain saw to cut wood, and you had a firearm to defend yourself. You learned to use the chainsaw safely because you would need the skill as a capable adult. For the same reason you learned to shoot well and safely keep a weapon, as defending oneself is what a capable adult does. Personal responsibility demands one be able to do what’s needed, and be able to use the tools to meet that need. Anything less is a failure to oneself, ones loved ones, and ones community.

Later, in adult years, as introspection grew and answers to life’s questions were sought, I faced the issue of self defense. After carrying a weapon for years I finally took the time to ask myself why, and took the time to reason out an answer, or at least one of them.

I carry a weapon because it is the moral thing to do. It meets with my definition of doing ‘right’. Being prepared to defend myself and loved ones is part of being a responsible person.

Please allow me to explain…

I believe people have a ‘moral obligation’ to take responsibility for themselves, not leaving the task as a burden to others. I know this may not be a popular concept in some circles, but that doesn't change it as my belief. I know we are laden with entire generations of people who honestly think they bear no responsibility for their own safety, wellbeing, and actions.

I choose not to be one of those people.

I carry a weapon for much the same reasons as I usually have a pocket knife and a flashlight around me. These are all tools I may need to take care of myself and pull my own weight. To think of them other than tools is silly. Everything a man lays his hands on to complete a task is a tool, and no morality can possibly reside in the inanimate objects we use.

Why not leave my personal defense to ‘The Authorities’?
For several reasons, as I’ll explain.

It’s simply not possible for any government authority to defend my person. There is no arguing this point. Even in the most restrictive environments imaginable, our federal prison system, there are daily physical attacks resulting in death and injury. There is no ‘civilized’ society in the world where government authority has been able to protect and defend the individual citizen from criminals bent on harm. There is an element, a breed, of humans who live as predators on their fellow humans, and they reside next door to each of us. No amount of authority can take on the task of defending the individual, no matter how well meaning. If it must be done, then I must do it myself.

This notion of ‘The Authorities’ is often a nebulous one, with folks forgetting that government service is peopled with humans no different than ourselves. Good and bad, competent and worthless, our government mirrors our population and that should cause a moments thought. When I call on the police to help me, what am I really doing? I am asking my neighbor to put his life on the line for my needs. Perhaps not when simply investigating a break in or calming a troubled situation, but often enough when danger calls. For an unreasonably small handful of dollars I should expect the officer to arrive with weapon in hand and interpose himself between trouble and I? Is this right?

It’s here that morality raises its ugly head. How can I ask my neighbor to risk his life for me when I am not willing to do so for myself? How can I in good conscience expect an officer to care more for my loved ones and me, than I do myself?

I was raised understanding that a man did for himself, and only asked for help when he had to. This went hand in hand with the idea that you always helped your neighbor when they asked, because they wouldn’t ask if they didn’t really need it. That and it was part of the contract that they would be there when you asked in return. This contract has fallen by the wayside in our society, in many places. Too many now demand ‘help’ with every problem real or perceived, and too many honestly believe that ‘help’ is owed them by society for some unknown reason. Far too often, ‘help’ is defined as ‘Someone come and do this for me because I don’t want to!

I carry a weapon because I believe a person has a moral responsibility to take care of themselves and not be a burden on others. The pistol I carry on my belt, and the rifle stored in my safe, are nothing more than tools needed to meet my responsibility. This is not a responsibility that can be relieved by some fool wishing it so and announcing it.

It’s a moral obligation that can only be self imposed, self delivered, and self administered.


Farm.Dad said...

Fantastic post , you really nailed it .

Rev. Paul said...

Well said! Thank you.

Old NFO said...

On point all the way! Thank you for posting this!

James R. Rummel said...

Good post.

Everett said...

Just because #2 says I can, I do. Have for the 34 yrs. since I did my 20. Don't have a permit because we are so overly regulated here in RI. Never have had to take it out in public and no one has ever seen it on my person. Don't take it into banks, schools, churches, or the town meeting where I might be induced to use it if the need arose. I FEEL comfortable with it and know that I will be able to protect me and mine if the need should ever arise. All my children male AND female, as well as the grandchildren are also shooters and have been taught all their lives, the same precepts you so beautifully espoused in your piece! Thanks!!

Christina LMT said...

You've said everything that needed to be said, brilliantly.
Thank you.

John said...

I believe people have a ‘moral obligation’ to take responsibility for themselves, not leaving the task as a burden to others. I know this may not be a popular concept in some circles, but that doesn't change it as my belief. I know we are laden with entire generations of people who honestly think they bear no responsibility for their own safety, wellbeing, and actions.

This is only true of said person insists on being protected by others. If a person refuses to protect himself, but declines the protection of others, what moral wrong has he done?

Carteach0 said...

John... That would make them a pacifist I suppose. A real one.
I've never met one. Do they really exist?

Oleg Volk said...

Even that variety of pacifism is lousy: it conditions predators to eat humans. Feeding dangerous animals near a camp site is a bad idea...even if one feeds his own body to them.

Commander Zero said...

Pacifism is a shifty doctrine under which a man accepts the benefits of the social group without being willing to pay; and claims a halo for his dishonesty. - Robert Heinlein

Not taking responsibility for oneself, nor expecting others to take responsibility for them could be, I suppose, considered moral...but only if at the same time you don't reap any of the benefits gained by the responsibility that others were willing to undertake.

Ambulance Driver said...

Well said.

Kneil said...

I'd say that If that person has a family, particularly childern or other dependants, he or she has harmed them.

Anonymous said...

Well said.

John said...

John... That would make them a pacifist I suppose. A real one.
I've never met one. Do they really exist?

My friend Dan is one. Although he's the only one I can think of right now. Authentic pacifists are very rare.

I'm not, so it's not my place to defend pacifism to the hilt. So to speak. But it occurs to me that a moral obligation to defend oneself only exists if one insists upon the defense of others. Otherwise, one is not leeching off the efforts of others.

If people are truly free, they are free to make bad, and even self-destructive choices.

Greg-o said...

I tend to look at pacifists the same way as I look at the anti-immunization people. They both have the right to behave in a way I consider silly and/or stupid, and by themselves, they are harmless.

However, get enough as a fraction of the whole population, and the predators will come for all of us, in the same way as a large enough population of non-immunized folk can act as suitable feed stock for a plague that eventually mutates and jumps to the immunized.

Singly, both are fine. As even a reasonable fraction of the population, it brings trouble.

Scott said...

Check this out, from -
The kirpan has both a physical function, as a defensive weapon, as well as a symbolic function. Physically it is an instrument of "Ahimsa" or non-violence. The principle of ahimsa is to actively prevent violence, not to simply stand by idly whilst violence is being done. To that end, the kirpan is a tool to be used to prevent violence from being done to a defenseless person when all other means to do so have failed. Symbolically, the kirpan represents the power of truth to cut through untruth. It is the cutting edge of the enlightened mind.

Anonymous said...

By not calling the police, you are depriving an officer of his job. You are stealing his noble cause and taking it for your own. You are assuming the role of a specialist, and you are doing so with the life of whomever you point the gun at.

It's cool that you want to be self sufficient. Chop your own wood, grow your own food, pull your own teeth, perform your own surgeries even. But don't expect anyone to help you, or to make it legal. They all have bigger concerns.

Anonymous said...

If you really want to take a burden off society, you should learn how to do your own taxes. Police officers merely surrender their lives to the common good. Tax lawyers give up their souls for people like you.

Matt said...

Has anyone here every actually had to defend themselves with their weapon? Has anyone here ever been a victim of the type of violence where they wish they had a weapon to defend themselves or a loved one? If so I'd love to hear more about their experience (if they were willing to share) in order to add some real-life context and depth to the discussion.

Heroditus Huxley said...

Spectacular. I hope you don't mind, but I linked this to my site.

Carteach0 said...

Huxley, be my guest.

Diana Kennedy said...

A well written and very interesting post. I grew up in a city and never learned to hand a chainsaw. I now live on the country and this spring, had to ask my neighbour to take down a dead tree on my ground with his chainsaw. I wish, I could have done it myself.
So far, I totally agree to your philosophy. Thing is, never was in a situation where I wished I had and could use a firearm. Was you?

Ogyes, one expeption, was the night an old goat-buck of mine died and I wished I could end his misery quickly.

I had of course quarrels with people but never to the point where I even thought " I wish I had a gun". Just - maybe - "I am happy they don't have one".

So I am still sceptic about the "need" to have a gun for self-defense, altough I do respect your view and I also like your way to see things.
I also admit that if I lived in a satelite town near Paris, I probably would like to carry at least a knife.

Matt said...

I've thankfully never had to defend myself but I'm very curious what someone else's take on this would be if they had. Not that they would say "yes you should" or "no you shouldn't" but rather to give more depth and complexity to the meaning and morality that we are placing on it.

Also, pacifism and nonviolence are not necessarily the same thing though they are often similar. Nonviolence should be looked at on a spectrum from being a moral belief system on one end to being a strategy for social change on the other end.
The nonviolence has often been used as a strategy by people who are not opposed to the use of violence but recognize it as not being the most effective response to the situation. In addition to US Civil Rights and Indian Independence, other examples are Polish Solidarity, the Singing Revolutions of the Baltic States and many, many other successful nonviolent revolutions of the past 100 years. It can also be viewed as a diverse set of highly developed actions and skills to prevent violence without the use of force. Think of it as Aikido w/o touching people.
For many pacifists, non-action is NEVER an appropriate response to violence. So pacifism can't be related to non-action in most cases. (I know a bit about pacifism, etc. but I wouldn't necessarily consider myself one.)