Ethics of force

I’ve been reading Cornered Cat lately, and one of the questions for concealed carry is “Could You Really?” – as in, could you really use lethal force against another human being to protect yourself? Due to my upbringing and the flavor of Christianity I hail from, the answer is an unequivocal YES! – at least in theory. I don’t think anybody really knows until the moment, but hypothetically I am perfectly willing to shoot in self-defense, whether the threat is a rabid dog or a predatory human. (I’m just glad I don’t live in bear country, because I believe you need larger guns than mine to effectively defend yourself from bears. And it’s very hard to concealed carry a long gun!)

I’ve not yet delved deeply into the published work on the ethics of force and violence, but I have always considered protecting oneself to be the first of three rings of duty.* Here’s the list:

First Duty: protect yourself, because you can’t save anyone weaker than you if you’re already dead/maimed/unconscious/tied up, etc.

Second Duty: protect your family, particularly anyone in your family who is weaker than you.

Third Duty: protect innocent strangers. Uphold the social fabric by preventing crime when you have opportunity to do so, whether you know the victim personally or not.

I call them the Three Rings of Duty because they’re concentric: that is, like the Three Laws of Robotics, the other two do not override the first.

The first thing I would try to do in any bad situation is get away, if I could – every defensive instructor I’ve had has emphasized “run like hell in the opposite direction” as your first line of defense. “Run and hide” is a perfectly good way to fulfill the First Duty. Take your dependents and anyone else standing around with you if you can; that settles the Second and Third. It’s only if you (or someone you’re responsible for) are trapped that “turn and fight” becomes unavoidable. And even then, I really like the “fight like a cornered cat” maxim – because you’re fighting not for honor or street cred or whatever, but to get away safely. Leave fighting for other reasons to organized militias, the army, street gangs, police, etc.

*These are for civilians, not active-duty military. The “throw yourself on a grenade to save your squadmates” situation could conceivably happen in a civilian milieu, I suppose, but it’s not very likely. I haven’t heard of run-of-the-mill criminals using grenades against their marks!

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