Quote of the Day – 2011-07-19

Linoge hits one out of the park, in a follow-up to some of the recent discussion about whether your “stuff” is worth using lethal force to defend. He gets to the true heart of the matter.

It is not our responsibility to take wild stabs at guessing what other people’s motivations and desires are – it is other people’s responsibility to not threaten us with force if we do not give them what they want, and to not take what is not rightfully theirs.

If someone is threatening to kill you over “stuff”, your life is in danger, period. Whether “stuff” is worth killing over is generally a bit of an academic question at this point, because the criminal has already made that decision. The problem you face as the victim is that you cannot know what he has decided until he either leaves or kills you.

The question does become relevant in the uncommon situations where the criminal is simply leaving with your stuff. In these cases, I do agree with the others, and for the same reasons, that lethal force is morally justifiable, though it may be impractical or undesired. It is also worth noting that, in many states, lethal force is legally justified in some or all of these situations – especially if you believe the value or nature of the stolen goods raises the crime to the level of a felony (for example, as noted in the linked story, in Virginia the law allows deadly force during a citizen’s arrest if the person making the arrest believes a felony has occurred).

Realistically, it boils down to what it’s worth to you. Personally, I would most likely not threaten or use lethal force to defend mere possessions. It’s just not worth it to me. Firearms are probably the one exception to this rule, and that is because stolen firearms would most likely end up being used to kill someone – probably an innocent – and that is something I would probably act decisively to prevent. While I would probably end up having to defend myself in court afterward, theft of a firearm is a felony in Virginia, so I would have a good chance at prevailing.

But I hope it’s a decision I never have to make.

END OF LINE

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2 Comments

  1. Thanks for the honor!

    To be certain, if I were to wake up one morning and find someone attempting to steal my car, I would unquestionably call the police, but I almost as certainly would not engage the thief. I would be morally justified in doing so – that car represents a significant portion of my life that I spent working, saving, and planning – but the action probably would not be worth the resulting legal battle (though my county just had an interesting case wherein a man was acquitted of murder for doing almost exactly that).

    Now, if someone were to accost me on the street and demand the keys to my car at the point of a weapon, all bets are off. I do not, I cannot, know what that person’s intentions are, and I only have the one life to gamble with – I will not take the chance that he means to do me harm, and I will remove the threat he offers by any means available to me. The aggressor chose to start an interaction that involved deadly force; I am not required to abide by his intended outcome.

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  1. It’s just money, is it really worth a life? « Curses! Foiled Again!

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