The first three articles in this series:

A Gun Ownership Primer: The Philosophy Of Gun Ownership 

A Gun Ownership Primer, Part 2: Does Evil Exist?

A Gun Ownership Primer: Is Killing Morally Justified? Part 1 

Part one of this article explored the morality of killing, and exposed the reality that the police not only cannot protect any individual, they have no legal obligation to do so. It ended with this observation:

“Whose survival best serves a just society governed by the rule of law: the honest and law-abiding that wish harm to none, or the brutal, cruel and sociopathic? In Los Angeles in 1992 and New Orleans in 2005 the politicians and the police knowingly chose the latter. In truth, the veneer of civilization is thinner and far more fragile than most imagine.

When the rule of law is suspended, those that violate societal norms justly do so at their own risk, unless public servants disarm the innocent.”

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When a woman found herself the only thing standing between her young children and an armed burglar, she saved all their lives because the politicians of her state had been unable to disarm her.

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Sometimes, the mere threat of deadly force does not suffice, as in the January, 2013 case of a woman at home alone with her 9 year-old children when a burglar armed with a crowbar and trailing a long criminal record broke into her home during the day.  Armed with a revolver, she hid her children and herself in the attic, but the criminal searched every room of her large home, hunting them down, and when he opened the attic door and advanced, she fired, striking him with five of six rounds.  He was knocked to the floor. Holding an empty handgun, she was able to bluff him, threatening to shoot him again until she could flee the house–her own home–with her children.  He eventually got up and fled, soon crashing his car nearby.  Who could legitimately argue that society would have been better served by the deaths of the mother and her children that the burglar–who did survive–might practice his trade unmolested?

The burglar's crashed vehicle
The burglar’s crashed vehicle

Some people of good will oppose capital punishment, arguing, among other things, that to put men to death is playing God, capital punishment is not a deterrent, and that with life imprisonment, capital punishment is no longer necessary as a means of protecting the innocent.  Perhaps the strongest argument against capital punishment is that human beings make mistakes and sometimes execute the innocent.

But if the individual may act in self-defense, why is the state, a government deriving its just powers from men, prohibited from acting in defense of men?  True, it is the nature of our criminal justice system that execution takes place not on the spot, but after many years of the exhaustive application of due process, but this long, careful process would seem to be an argument for, rather than against, the capital power of government, for it provides multiple safeguards against the accidental execution of the innocent, which might even be more likely to occur on the spot. In fact, the police, forced to barge into ambiguous and potentially deadly situations, often shoot, and sometimes kill, the wrong person.

Can we limit human action to only that which may be performed perfectly, without possibility of error, at all times and in all circumstances?

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