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Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Guns, Obama, NRA... NRA, Guns, Obama... and Bioethics

I don't own a gun. I wouldn't mind owning a gun, and my kids play with toy guns all the time. Just last week, I bought my 8-year-old a cap gun and some caps. They also have a ton of toy swords and Nerf weapons of various kinds.

They are not violent kids. They have a natural revulsion to causing others harm. They play at heroics in the eternal battle between good versus evil, and that's fine.

A few lunatics later and we're talking about gun control.

This is what I think about it. No one should ever trust a government that wants to have all the guns. The very fact that a government suggests that guns should be outlawed - except for the police and military - means that government is tyrannical. No government should control all the weapons. It's bad enough that governments have all the cool weapons. In a fight with its own people, even well armed citizens, the government will have all the technical advantage. Still, I don't trust a government that wants to disarm its citizens.

Nonetheless, I will not have a real gun in the house until my boys are old enough to know what it means to hold a real gun.

Guns are made with one purpose in mind. Killing. Handguns are made to kill humans. This is an serious fact. Then again, swords are made for hacking. People, not animals.

People have a natural right to defend themselves. By natural right, I mean that it is a matter of justice, which is above and prior to any enacted human law and against which human laws can be measured, that human beings are permitted to defend themselves. Laws should respect this fact and not undermine it.

Given that there are violent people against whom we need to defend ourselves, it is also a natural right that we be permitted adequate means to exercise our right of self-defense.

In a society in which law-abiding people are not permitted to own guns, how is one's right to self-defense to be exercised in face of a threat wielding an (illegal) gun?

Anyway, this is not really about defending gun ownership, but about what are the ethics of using a gun.

Through the principle of double effect, it is ethically permissible to kill an assailant IF a) the use of potentially lethal force is the only recourse one has to stop the assailant; b) one's intent is honestly focused on stopping the assailant; and c) killing is thus specifically not intended, even if it is foreseen.

So the guy is coming at you with a big ol' knife and you have a gun. We're past warnings and such; they haven't worked. We're at the stage where you have to shoot or you will die.

Do you shoot him in the head to kill him?
Do you shoot him in the chest, hoping to miss his heart but to incapacitate him?
Do you shoot him in the legs?

There was a movie with Julia Roberts who played a woman who married a charming man who turned out to be a really jealous control freak who made her life miserable. Sleeping With the Enemy. She left him. He came after her. Relentless hounding ensues. Suspense. Violence. Then at the end, he's in her house, she shoots him in one knee. He can only hobble. She shoots him in the other knee. He can't walk now. She picks up the phone, calls the police, says she just killed her husband, hangs up the phone. And then kills him. Cheers in the audience.

I was horrified. That was an evil act. My sympathies for her went out the window. She was as bad as him.

A Christian may shoot at an assailant, and I would say he should go for the chest as the biggest target and the most effective way of accomplishing the goal of stopping him. The goal of stopping him. He can stop the assailant. If he happens to hit the assailant's heart in the process, that's the breaks. I do not say that tongue-in-cheek, as if to say, "Go for the heart and say you hoped you would miss it." No, I mean honestly, hit the chest, miss the heart if you can, but no guilt if he dies.

If he is a really good shot under such stressful conditions, maybe he can aim for the legs, depending on the gun and the kind of wounds it would make in the legs. It may not stop the assailant, or more than one shot would be needed. If he's a good shot and aims for the heart? or the head? Then his intent is to kill. Guilty of killing, because the intent was to kill.

Now, things get a little less clear or at least a little more complicated in the use of the death penalty and in war. In both cases, the one doing the killing as a moral act is the civil authority who ordered it as a mode of defense of the innocent in society. But I would set aside further comparisons for now.

But for the individual exercising his right to self-defense, it is he himself who is the moral agent. Can he call himself a Christian who intentionally kills someone who is in the midst of committing an act evil enough to warrant damnation to hell? Where is love of enemy, the love that Christ has for us, and that he commanded us to have? Surely, a Christian should take some element of risk upon himself to give the assailant one last opportunity to repent, and not kill, or at least leave some chance however slim that the assailant could avoid bodily death at this time, so as to avoid eternal death a moment later.

Finally I just want to say this. The gun and ammo makers couldn't have asked for a bigger boon than Obama and other politicians wanting "to protect" the people with restrictions on guns. If I were really cynical, I would say they're in cahoots. But again, I have said that Obama is a tyrant in the past, and this is just another piece of that puzzle.

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