Sunday, May 13, 2007

Gandalf, Batman, and a Moral Issue

A few days ago I did my best to answer an unanswerable question: what type of handgun was "best" for a congregation to ask a member to carry to help defend the congregation?

In the comments on James Rummel's blog, Bob Golding raising an interesting related issue.

He wrote,
"Specifically, if a Christian uses a non-lethal method, like a Taser, or a weak pistol round, and the criminal runs off to vitimize others that night, I would think they suffer some moral responsibility for that."
Now, Oregon law states those who carry are supposed to use their gun to stop an attack involving deadly force, period.

At least in Oregon, it's illegal to shoot at a fleeing criminal or otherwise use deadly force against him/her, which means it is unlikely most people could legally stop a criminal from fleeing once the crminal realized the victim could defend himself or herself. (Tangentially, the potential victim has no duty to retreat.)

Is there a moral responsibility to try to prevent further crimes? Regardless of how we answer this moral question, in practice it would usually be illegal to try. The only exception is an act made as the act of stopping the attack.

In other words, people legally surrender the right to act as judge, jury, executioner the moment their lives are no longer being threatened. Since I'm glad the law works this way, I think I disagree with Bob. Yes, a criminal loose in socieity is bad. But a vigilante is also a terrible thing.

Still, it seems odd when I realize that people in that panic situation have a legal ability to use violence to prevent further crimes, which people outside that panic situation lack. This seems to be one of the few times being clearer-headed does not allow you to better make a decision. I'm fine with that in this case, but it is odd.

(Researching this post, I found that I am not as alone as I thought in acquiring an Oregon CHL without owning a gun. Also, more statistics, and an editorial.)