Killing Kids (and Why I Still Don’t Carry a Concealed Weapon)

[Update: Today’s school shooting in Colorado occurred after I re-posted this piece from the archives. I am asking everyone who may want to comment to exercise grace and restraint out of consideration for families and friends of today’s victims, and all those who have suffered similarly in other shootings. Thank you.]

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[Ellen Painter Dollar writes about firearms on the fourteenth of every month in her continuing series “It Is Enough”, and I repost this article in an effort to join her this month (albeit a day early).

When I first became a judge, the Sheriff’s Sergeant in charge of courthouse security offered to qualify me on the shooting range for a concealed weapon permit and to help me pick out the right weapon to buy as well. He said the same went for my wife. We’ve never taken him up on the offer in the 18+ years I’ve been on the bench.

The killings in Newtown, Connecticut, occurred a year ago tomorrow. A lot of people argue for gun ownership on the basis that lawful citizens who train properly can prevent these types of tragedies. This article from the archives is not an attempt to support or refute those arguments about defense of others. This is my explanation of why I do not carry a firearm to protect myself, despite the fact that I have access to top training and have a job where there are reasons at times to fear for my safety.]

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Only Kill the Bad Man?

I watched Witness the other day, the old Harrison Ford movie about the Amish boy Samuel who witnesses a brutal murder and is then himself in danger from those who carried it out. Ford is the cop who moves in with the Amish family to protect Samuel, and by living with them brings new ideas – the ways of outsiders like him – to the family. At one point Samuel finds Ford’s handgun in a drawer, and his grandfather Eli Lapp talks to him about the discovery:

Eli Lapp: This gun of the hand is for the taking of human life. We believe it is wrong to take a life. That is only for God. Many times wars have come and people have said to us: you must fight, you must kill, it is the only way to preserve the good. But Samuel, there’s never only one way. Remember that. Would you kill another man?

Samuel Lapp: I would only kill the bad man.

Eli Lapp: Only the bad man. I see. And you know these bad men by sight? You are able to look into their hearts and see this badness?

Samuel Lapp: I can see what they do. I have seen it.

Eli Lapp: And having seen, you become one of them? Don’t you understand? What you take into your hands, you take into your heart.

Grandfather Lapp’s words make me wonder: If I faced a threat to my life, would killing the other person be a proper response? How can I be assured that it is better for me to live and for the other person to die?

You are able to look into their hearts?

When I was a kid there was a local radio station that would air shows from the 1930s and ‘40s during the summer nights, including The Shadow. The title character was a crime fighter with the ability to cloud people’s minds so they could not see him. The opening announcement always included the line “Who know what evil lurks in the hearts of men? The Shadow knows!”

That would be the answer to Grandfather Lapp’s question, right? Just become as good at reading people as that Shadow guy and – presto – you can see into someone’s heart. But the Bible says seeing into the heart is God’s job:

            A person may think their own ways are right, but the Lord weighs the heart. (Proverbs 21:2.)

            I the Lord search the heart and examine the mind. (Jeremiah 17:10.)

So the right answer to Grandfather Lapp is that we do not know what is in someone’s heart, what their intentions and thoughts are. Samuel Lapp knew that too. That’s why he said he would rely on what he saw people do in order to choose whether to kill. Grandfather Lapp questioned that too.

Into your hands, into your heart

“Having seen, you become one of them,” the grandfather says. There is some truth to this since the Bible tells us, “Bad company corrupts good character.” (1 Corinthians 15:33.) But it has to be more than just seeing it, right? Just seeing someone sin does not necessarily mean that you’ll become just like them does it? Frankly, I think this question puts it backwards. The real issue is whether you are an unredeemed and unregenerate sinner, not whether they are. Paul warns people who live like this:

            They are darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardening of their hearts. Having lost all sensitivity, they have given themselves over to sensuality so as to indulge in every kind of impurity, and they are full of greed. (Ephesians 4:18-19.)

God, Paul says, allows such people to continue pursuing what is in their hearts and taking into their hands whatever they like. Not so with those who belong to him, though. He heals – sanctifies – those who belong to him.

            May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. (1 Thessalonians 5:23.)

God chose you as first-fruits to be saved through the sanctifying work of the Spirit and through belief in the truth. (2 Thessalonians 2:13.)

I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. (Ephesians 3:16-17.)

God has given us himself, and that is what is in our hearts.

We are in God’s hands

Jesus gave his followers (including us) a powerful promise:

I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand. I and the Father are one. (John 10:28-30.)

God “is greater than all”. That means he is certainly more powerful than “the bad man” Samuel Lapp spoke of. But Jesus’ promise is not that we’ll live forever as we do presently, avoiding death and decay. He spoke of our eternal destiny. And in this eternal sense, I don’t know what God has planned for anyone else. I don’t even know God’s temporal plan for “the bad man”.

So what would I do if my life were threatened? What I’d do if ever put to that test is just speculation. Maybe I would try to defend myself and end up killing the other person after all. I can’t say, though, that the Bible teaches me to do so. And I don’t know that I am the one to take matters into my own hands even if confronted with a threat to my life.

It’s like I said above, God gave me himself and took me for his own. I think it’s best to let him take matters into his own hands.

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56 Responses to Killing Kids (and Why I Still Don’t Carry a Concealed Weapon)

  1. lwk2431 says:

    “Eli Lapp: Only the bad man. I see. And you know these bad men by sight? You are able to look into their hearts and see this badness?”

    And you are a hypocrite if you are a judge. What do you do, non-judgment?

    If you are a judge then your judgments are enforced by people with guns and that is the same you carrying the gun yourself. Hypocrite.

    lwk

    • Tim says:

      Thanks for coming by, lwk. I think you missed the part at the very beginning of the post where I explained that this is only about my personal choice not to use deadly force in defense of my own life. It is not about use of guns for defense of others or for any other purpose.

      Also, you should read my comment policy. Name calling in the comments is prohibited.

      Blessings,
      Tim

      • lwk2431 says:

        “..this is only about my personal choice not to use deadly force in defense of my own life..”

        But you expect the police to use deadly force to defend your life and to carry out your judgments. I see no merit in your distinction. The use of force, including deadly force, is part of society and you as a judge are part of that use of force, whether or not you carry a gun for your own self defense.

        The “Eli Lapp” character you quoted did not believe in the use of force, period, by anyone for any purpose. That is how he understood the commandments of Jesus in the New Testament. You cannot claim to hold the same beliefs as long as you command the sword and use of deadly force by agents of the state.

        Also the Eli Lapp type character can only live in peace because others do carry the sword, and use it against those who would initiate the use of force against others.

        It is an either/or thing. Either you believe that there are justified uses of force, or you do not. Eli believed there was not. I personally believe there are moral justifications for the use of force, and Jesus is depicted as a warrior in Revelations – as was said in the Old Testament, “…a time to kill and a time to heal,.” (Eccl. 3:3). I do have a concealed carry license and I carry in church (legal in Texas).

        lwk

        • Tim says:

          Great points, lwk, very well said. My use of the movie dialog was more to aid in the conversation, not to say I hold to everything Eli’s character holds to. For example, I can very well see myself using force to protect others, and perhaps an extension of that is the police use of force you are talking about in how court orders are enforced.

          Also,as Ellen notes below, I did state that my actions in defense of myself might very well end up being deadly. I don’t know because I haven’t faced that challenge. I’m talking here about the Bible’s teachings solely on self-defense, though, and not defense of others or the government using force in carrying out it’s functions.

          Thanks again for being part of this discussion, lwk.

          Blessings,
          Tim

        • Tim says:

          P.S. lwk, it you’d like a glimpse into my courtroom life, check this out. (Warning – humor ahead.)

    • Kate Wallace says:

      Lwk,
      I think you may be confusing consequences of one’s actions in a state of law with an individual’s judgement of someone’s actions.
      I believe Tim is saying that he doesn’t believe in the ability of an individual to correctly judge someone’s intentions based on their actions. It logically follows that he wouldn’t want individuals to use violence in sentencing these people to a death simply based on their own opinion.
      This is very different from someone being held responsible for their actions in a state of law. Actions have consequences, especially in a legal system. If an individual is sentenced to a punishment, after being fairly tried according to the system in which they find themselves, then that is a different matter entirely.
      I understand your concern with the line between judging and carrying out the sentence. But being judged by a legal system according to laws is very different than being judged by a vigilante based on their personal opinion alone.
      Making that distinction in Tim’s thinking doesn’t make him a hypocrite, it makes him discerning.

      • Tim says:

        Thanks, Kate, for noting that distinction (and for suggesting that I’m discerning)!

        When it comes to determining a person’s intent from their action, sometimes it’s not so hard. Pulling a ski mask over your face and walking into a bank with a gun and demanding the money might lead one to suspect you had the intent to rob the bank long before you walked inside. As Thoreau put it, “Some circumstantial evidence is very strong, as when you find a trout in the milk”, meaning the circumstances indicate the trout did not get in the milk pitcher without help.

        In this post, I’m also getting at the value of life. One of the commenters here suggested that if my life is threated then my responsibility to God is to preserve the life he has given me. I wonder if that would mean I also consider my life to be more valuable than the attacker’s life. And that leads me to wonder if it also means I think God considers my life more valuable than the other person’s life, and that’s why God would want me to carry out the responsibility he’s given me by killing the other person before the other person kills me.

        Tough questions to ponder.

        • 3boxesofbs says:

          Tim,

          I’ll answer the question — No I don’t believe your life is more valuable than the attacker’s life. And the absolute opposite is also true — the Attacker’s life is not more valuable then your own.

          What is different is the attacker chose an action in which his life could be placed in jeopardy. You didn’t make that choice. The attacker therefore is showing how little he values his life — it is worth risking for your goods.

          And again — let me stress this point about armed self defense — the statistical evidence shows a person is unlikely to need actually use lethal force to stop an attacker. If we accept the 1993 National Crime Victim Survey’s estimation of 108,000 defensive gun use per year, we can readily see that most do not end with a shot fired, much less a death. And that survey is the low end estimate. The mid range estimate (conducted by the Clinton Administration no less) shown in the National Institute of Justice 1997 report estimates there are approximately 1,500,000 defensive gun uses per year.

          And in response to your final question I would ask – what makes you think that God would want you to give up your life instead of defending it?

        • Tim says:

          Those are good points and a good question at the end, 3b. It’s those ponderings that I’m wrestling with in this post and the discussion in all these comments.

          Thanks,
          Tim

      • Sailorcurt says:

        “But being judged by a legal system according to laws is very different than being judged by a vigilante based on their personal opinion alone.
        Making that distinction in Tim’s thinking doesn’t make him a hypocrite, it makes him discerning.”

        Except for one minor problem here…we’re not talking about “vigilante justice” here. This is a strawman that comes up in this type of discussion without fail.

        Vigilante justice is when, after the attack is over and the threat is no longer present, you pursue the attacker seeking revenge.

        That is not what is at issue here. The subject of this discussion is if defending oneself with deadly force WHILE BEING ATTACKED is a valid response.

        From the Christian standpoint, one of the most telling episodes on this subject was during the last supper as recounted in Luke 22:

        “35 And he said to them, “When I sent you out with no moneybag or knapsack or sandals, did you lack anything?” They said, “Nothing.” 36 He said to them, “But now let the one who has a moneybag take it, and likewise a knapsack. And let the one who has no sword sell his cloak and buy one. 37 For I tell you that this Scripture must be fulfilled in me: ‘And he was numbered with the transgressors.’ For what is written about me has its fulfillment.” 38 And they said, “Look, Lord, here are two swords.” And he said to them, “It is enough.”

        By my understanding, Jesus was basically telling his disciples that while he was around, they had gotten used to never needing to worry about worldly concerns like money, food or self defense, but now that he was no longer going to be with them, they needed to be prepared to take care of themselves.

        it is very telling to me that self defense was important enough that He specifically mentioned having the proper tools available for the job and placed enough importance on it that he even instructed them to sell their highly important protective outer garments if necessary to obtain those tools.

        My life is not more valuable than any other, but we are also possessed of free will and the ability to choose to act outside the will of God. If a bad guy tries to take my life, should I assume that this is the will of God and not, instead, the bad guy acting outside the will of God? Am I fulfilling God’s will by allowing my life to be taken? Or am I assisting the bad guy in thwarting God’s will by taking me before my time?

        Is that my decision to make? We have been entreated by Jesus to carry with us the tools for self defense. Should I refuse to do so, am I being righteous, or disobedient?

        These are all personal questions that have to be answered by each individual on his or her own. I cannot choose for you or for anyone else. All that I ask is that you (and those who would make the bearing of arms unlawful) afford me the same courtesy and refrain from trying to make the choice for me.

  2. “Maybe I would try to defend myself and end up killing the other person after all. I can’t say, though, that the Bible teaches me to do so.”

    Paradigm shift! Thank you for this post.

  3. Jeannie says:

    Thank you for re-running this, Tim. It’s a great reminder that God’s ways are greater than our ways.

  4. Puts my Bible reading into a new context:
    “For none of us lives to himself, and none of us dies to himself. For if we live, we live to the Lord, and we die, we die to the Lord.” (Romans 14:7-8)

  5. 3boxesofbs says:

    Maybe I would try to defend myself and end up killing the other person after all. I can’t say, though, that the Bible teaches me to do so.

    Then you ignore the Bible — Jesus stated that not one jot of the Law would pass away before He came again and the Old Testament clearly approves of self defense — even armed Self Defense.
    Look at Exodus 22 for example – “If the thief is found breaking in, and he is struck so that he dies, there shall be no guilt for his bloodshed.”

    And I don’t know that I am the one to take matters into my own hands even if confronted with a threat to my life.

    And isn’t part of being an adult, a Christian is doing just that? God doesn’t want us to be passive babes in life or in faith;He expects us to act. He gave us life, not to through it way just because some thug decides to attack us. There is a difference between being persecuted for our faith and criminal actions.

    So what Scripture are you using to justify your pacifism?

    • lwk2431 says:

      You quoted the author of the blog:

      “And I don’t know that I am the one to take matters into my own hands even if confronted with a threat to my life.”

      And said:

      “[God] gave us life, not to [throw] it way just because some thug decides to attack us. There is a difference between being persecuted for our faith and criminal actions.”

      Very good point. One will often read this quote (real source unknown, though often attributed to George Orwell):

      “”We sleep safely in our beds because rough men stand ready in the night to visit violence on those who would harm us.””

      That seems to describe some Christians today. They expect others to stand ready to do violence so they can practice their form of non-violence. Jeffrey Snyder’s “A Nation of Cowards” is something that should be required reading for them. A copy can be found here:

      A Nation of Cowards

      http://free2beinamerica2.wordpress.com/a-nation-of-cowards/

      Quoting from the above:

      “Although difficult for modern man to fathom, it was once widely believed that life was a gift from God, that to not defend that life when offered violence was to hold God’s gift in contempt, to be a coward and to breach one’s duty to one’s community.”

      regards,

      lwk

      • Tim says:

        I can’t say that my preference is for someone to kill the bad man coming to kill me, though, lwk.

        • 3boxesofbs says:

          Few people have a preference to kill the bad man coming to kill us but again — throwing away the precious gift that God has given us doesn’t make sense either. Not common sense or scriptural.

          Help me understand – that is what I’m trying to do. Are you saying it is okay to use force to defend your life but not something that could cause death?

          Where do you draw the line, what Biblical basis do you use?
          People have been killed, in self defense and without premeditation, in unarmed self defense. Pepper Sprays and Tasers have caused deaths also.

          Please understand that those of us who do carry, who have made the decision to use a firearm (as the most effective means of self defense) do not want to kill anyone if we don’t have to. We just want to stop the criminal.

          Most Defensive Gun Uses don’t involve pulling the firearm; announcing its presence (and most of the time awareness of events ) or even showing the firearm stops most crimes. A few require the firearm to be pulled and/or aimed.
          A very rare minority require shots to be fired. The CDC reports around 200,000 intentional firearm injuries (read criminal) — and yet only around 11,000 homicides. The odds are clearly in the favor of NOT killing someone if a firearm has to be used for self defense.

        • Tim says:

          Those are all excellent points, 3boxes. My desire here is not to argue against those who choose a different course on the issue than I do. After all, we are free in Christ and your way is part of that freedom as is mine. No condemnation in Romans 8 means just that, no condemnation. I am merely writing through what some of my thoughts have been on the matter, and certainly not all my thoughts (this is a blog after all, not a treatise!).

          Thanks for helping the dialog progress.

          Tim

        • Eainsdad says:

          I respect your personal beliefs.
          I personally believe that killing *anything* _unnecessarily_ is wrong.
          I only hunt varmints or predators. I don’t hunt trophy animals. I will go out of my way to live trap poisonous snakes and other venomous pests to remove them from my territory.
          Up to a point.
          That point is where my lack of decisiveness of action will bring someone ELSE into harm’s way.
          The snake that I released yesterday into an area I assumed was far enough away from a populated area might strike a child whose parents camp in that area regularly, unbeknownst to me.
          This would be happenstance and bad luck.
          But the person who has the traits requisite to attack a judge is not the same type of thing as a wild animal or an insect. This individual can and -will- cause greater problems and (simply based on the fact that it is in that individual’s comfort zone to attack a *judge*) will have no moral qualms about doing grievous harm to anyone who crosses their path.
          My beliefs state that my inaction weighs against my moral standards *more than* my actions. By failing to eliminate that snake (that was under my control) in the first example, I would have been culpable in the injury or death of that child. By failing to kill coyotes when I see them, I am culpable in the damage they inflict on livestock and people’s pets. (Basically if they come to my attention the population has become entirely too numerous in that area.)

          Killing people is always going to be wrong.
          But aggressive defense may save more than your own life or those of your family members.
          *Not* acting aggressively in your own defense or defense of others might just be the greater evil.

        • Tim says:

          Thanks for taking the time to read and to comment, Eainsdad. I see a couple places where I might quibble. If someone is trying to kill me, it’s as likely (if not more so) that it has nothing to do with my job. Also, if someone is trying to kill me because of my job, then it may not be as likely that they are a threat to people that they do not think have wronged them from a position of power.

          All that said, this post was written solely from the view of being threatened for the same reason others are threatened. You are saying that it is my moral responsibility to neutralize that threat – by deadly force if necessary – so that others are not subject to the same threat. Again, I have a couple of quibbles. Who’s to say the person would try to kill others? Sure it’s a hypothetical possibility, but using deadly force should not be justified by hypotheticals. Also, I know of no place in the Bible that it teaches people who are threatened that they have a moral obligation to kill the threatening person so that the person won’t hurt others. Some might argue that this is a proper role of government, but it is not a Scriptural mandate for individuals.

          Cheers,
          Tim

    • Tim says:

      I don’t use Scripture to justify pacifism because I’m not a pacifist. This post is only wrestling with the issue of what I am thinking about when it comes to deadly use of force in defending my own life. Reading more into the post is just that: reading something into it that is not here and not intended to be here.

      As for the use of OT law and Jesus saying it would not pass away, the Bible clearly explains that the OT law is fully in place for those who are outside the kingdom of God. For those who belong to Christ, we are no longer subject to the law that leads to death. I have a bunch of other posts that discuss Christians and legalism.

      Please poke around the blog for a while before accusing me of things I don’t say and don’t believe.

      Blessings,
      Tim

      • 3boxesofbs says:

        Okay Tim,

        Let me rephrase the question — what scriptures are you using to justify your decision not to use lethal force to defend yourself?

        • Jeannie says:

          I think it might be better to ask what words in the original post suggest that Tim is TRYING to offer a Scriptural justification for not using lethal force to defend himself. To me, his 2nd-last paragraph makes it very clear that he is not attempting any such justification nor even wanting to speculate on what he would/would not do if his life was threatened. The post is about the decision not to carry a firearm — not about a decision not to defend oneself with lethal force. So I think it’s always best to refer to and comment on what is actually in the post; then we know we are on solid ground whether we criticize it or support it.

  6. Lyndsay says:

    This was a well thought out post Tim. I do have to say: should someone else act on a decision to harm onto me – to the point of taking my life – I will do whatever I can to defeat that person. I personally believe that the will to live, which is SO strong, is one of God’s gifts to us. When we are confronted with violence we absolutely should attempt all peaceful resolutions first (discussion, negotiation, promises, beg, plead), but for a VERY small subset of the population this approach is meaningless (this smallness is the reason I wouldn’t carry concealed – though this is illegal where I live).

    Should I allow that person to take my life? Does my faith require that? I am not sure it does. Though I do contend you have a well reasoned argument, and I will need to spend more time in thought on this issue. As of now, I do not believe I am (we are) called to non-violence in response to threat. I do believe we have the will to live as a piece of God’s character in us. I believe this will to live is one of our strongest drives, and therefore contend that this will to live is fundamental in informing our ‘in the moment’ life/death decision making. I also think that the pursuit of justice is a factor here. We are called to justice missions (poverty, homelessness, modern slavery, etc…). I do think that when we are confronted with someone trying to harm us, for either a perceived ‘valid’ reason, or for the pleasure of harming us, we are confronted with an unjust action. We should then respond in a fashion that addresses the injustice. For me, this is a huge piece.

    Thanks for such an engaging topic this Friday AM, it fits in an interesting place in my life and I am intrigued!

    Warmly

    • Tim says:

      Lyndsay, I’d say that everything you’ve said are the same points I would make. Self-preservation is one of God’s common graces, I think, shared by all his creation. Like everything in creation, that one has also been corrupted by the fall. It can be pursued as he intended and it can be abused like other common graces can.

      There is no way I would ever try to argue against your take on things, and this post is not meant to be an argument in favor of my position. My position, as the post makes clear by the end, is not based on a sense of absolute certainty. It’s just where I’ve come so far in thinking about the issue.

      Cheers,
      Tim

  7. 3boxesofbs says:

    Tim,

    I hope you understand that I do follow the maxim “An unexamined life is not worth living” — And the Biblical equivalents (although I don’t think they capture the intent so eloquently); because of that, when others have made a different decision regarding something so fundamental, I seek to understand.

    One of the scriptures that really spoke to me when I was making my decision was Timothy 5:8
    “Anyone who does not provide for their relatives, and especially for their own household, has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.”

    Now in context, the passage is about food, shelter, clothing primarily but in larger terms is it not also talking about self defense? How can I, a Christian Husband and Father, provide for my wife and children if I am not there?

    Ron Rhodes on his blog had this quote:
    Theologians J. P. Moreland and Norman Geisler say that “to permit murder when one could have prevented it is morally wrong. To allow a rape when one could have hindered it is an evil. To watch an act of cruelty to children without trying to intervene is morally inexcusable. In brief, not resisting evil is an evil of omission, and an evil of omission can be just as evil as an evil of commission. Any man who refuses to protect his wife and children against a violent intruder fails them morally.”

    Consider that point strongly — by your actions (which armed self defense greatly increases the likelihood of success) may stop the criminal from later raping or murdering someone; and not necessarily your family.

    Are we not called to stand up to evil?

    • Tim says:

      Those are good points too, 3b. They are similar to the ones Samuel Lapp’s character made, and I find them somewhat compelling as well. There is no way I’ve reached absolute certitude on this whole issue, that’s for sure. Blessings on those of you who have, and may God guide us all.

  8. 3boxesofbs says:

    Jeanie,

    You said:

    I think it might be better to ask what words in the original post suggest that Tim is TRYING to offer a Scriptural justification for not using lethal force to defend himself. To me, his 2nd-last paragraph makes it very clear that he is not attempting any such justification nor even wanting to speculate on what he would/would not do if his life was threatened.

    I asked my questions because Tim had indicated — in his 2nd to last paragraph something I didn’t follow

    Maybe I would try to defend myself and end up killing the other person after all. I can’t say, though, that the Bible teaches me to do so. And I don’t know that I am the one to take matters into my own hands even if confronted with a threat to my life.

    I can’t say, though, that the Bible teaches me to do so — I was trying to figure out if he was talking about the Bible in reference to non-lethal self defense or not. From the tone of the prior passages — especially the quotes from Witness – it appeared he was leaning toward non-violence.

    And as far as not speculating on what he would or would not do — look again at what he wrote — And I don’t know that I am the one to take matters into my own hands even if confronted with a threat to my life.

    Doesn’t that clearly indicate doubt –speculation — if he should or should not defend himself?

    My additional comments sought clarification as soon as Tim made his points.

  9. JerryT says:

    I think it important that each individual makes up their mind in advance as to whether or not they are willing to take a life if presented with such circumstances. When the actual act takes place there is usually no time to be considering the question.

    Found you through RoP. Interesting blog. :)

    • Tim says:

      Yay RoP! Pemberleans unite!

      Thinking these things through ahead of time makes sense to me too, jerry. What actually happens in the heat of the moment may not be dictated by having thought it through, but it will certainly be one effect on how we act in that heat.

  10. We can debate gun control forever but the truth is give Adam Lanza a box cutter instead of a gun and those parents at Sandy Hook would be celebrating Christmas with their babes.

    • Tim says:

      Good point, Karen. I read a tweet earlier today that said America doesn’t have a gun problem but a sin problem. The sin problem part is very true, of course. I also wonder if Adam and Eve had never sinned would guns have ever been invented?

      • lwk2431 says:

        “I also wonder if Adam and Eve had never sinned would guns have ever been invented?”

        My family has a dog and a cat. The cat eats canned food and the dog loves it. It absolutely cannot resist licking the cat bowl clean, or even stealing the whole meal if it can scare the cat away while we are not looking.

        If I get mad at the dog, or yell at it, or chase it away it looks up at me with big soulful eyes that absolutely cannot understand it is doing anything wrong. It is beyond its comprehension.

        I think the Garden of Eden was something like that. Adam and Eve were like this dog and the Tree of Life was a bowl of cat food they absolutely could not resist. I think it was a setup from the beginning. They weren’t supposed to succeed at resisting temptation. :)

        Ask yourself, did the serpent really lie?

        “And the Lord God said, “The man has now become like one of us, knowing good and evil. He must not be allowed to reach out his hand and take also from the tree of life and eat, and live forever.” -Genesis 3.22 NIV

        regards,

        lwk

    • lwk2431 says:

      “We can debate gun control forever but the truth is give Adam Lanza a box cutter instead of a gun and those parents at Sandy Hook would be celebrating Christmas with their babes.

      And if the secretary and principal at Newtown had been able to go to a locked cabinet or safe in their office and retrieve a loaded AR-15 then the only news that Adam Lanza would have made would probably have been that he had committed suicide after meeting determined resistance while trying to shoot his way into the school.

      Instead the principal had to confront Lanza with words and open hands. From all accounts she had real courage, but a loaded gun would have been useful too and a lot of kids might still be alive.

      If you study many of these killers they have some common denominators. They generally are cowards who are brave only when their victims are disarmed. They are not SEALS or Green Berets and don’t have any real tactical training with real firearms. They want to commit their deed for whatever reason and then commit suicide as a statement to the world, “SEE WHAT YOU MADE ME DO!” Some commit suicide and some lose their nerve and can’t kill themselves and surrender when police arrive.

      What they absolutely do not want is to be killed by someone else because that destroys their fantasy of power. Therefore determined armed resistance is the best way to stop them. Not saying that is 100%. The Columbine killers did encounter one police officer, but at that time the strategy of the police was to wait for backup instead of going in immediately with determined aggression against the shooters. That has changed I have read to a more immediate and aggressive response which is good.

      The real answer is not to try to disarm law abiding people. The answer is to determine that we will protect our kids.

      [Redacted political comments.]

      Haven’t read the details yet, but seems there was another school shooting today in Colorado.

      regards,

      lwk

      • Tim says:

        lwk, I redacted part of your comment as being too close to political commentary. They were not out of line as such, but I have to keep the blog as free of political speech as possible, and usually err on the side of being too cautious. Thanks.

    • 3boxesofbs says:

      Let’s not forget that Cain killed Abel with a rock. That man was killing man for thousands of years before gun powder was ever invented.

      Nor should we forget that nearly 2,800 lives were lost on 9/11 — by terrorists using box cutters.

      And 19 children were killed in the Oklahoma City Federal building bombing (AMFO explosive) and the single greatest American school massacre (Bath Township) was done using dynamite.

    • Sailorcurt says:

      Your logic fails when you consider that no one “gave” him the guns he used. He sought them out and obtained them.

      Had they not been available, he easily could have sought out another weapon. Would he have chosen a less lethal weapon, or a more lethal one? The most deadly school attack in US history didn’t involve firearms. It involved explosives. Had the assailant in Newtown chosen (not “given”), say, molotov cocktails, or propane tanks, or any number of other potentially explosive substances that are readily available, the results could have potentially been much worse.

      And I think that presuming that edged weapons would prevent deaths in such a situation is a bit optimistic in its own right: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/School_attacks_in_China_%282010%E2%80%9312%29

      The point is that evil is evil regardless of the tools employed. Being properly prepared to defend against it is the key.

      • I meant for my response below to be in response to Sailorcurt:

        Adam’s mother gave him the guns.

        As a fellow mother, my take away from Sandy Hook is that it is vitally important how I raise our children.

        • Sailorcurt says:

          Actually, the perpetrator in this case murdered his mother and stole the guns, she didn’t “give” them to him. Yes, she took him to the range and showed him how to use them, but he was required to murder her to obtain the firearms he used in the attack.

          I would posit that someone who is willing and determined enough to murder their own mother in preparation for a mass murder would probably not be much deterred by the proposition of having to obtain a different mechanism for their mayhem…especially something as easily obtainable as, say, glass bottles, gasoline, some strips of cloth and a lighter.

          I agree that it’s vitally important how we raise our children, however you cannot judge the rightness of an action or philosophy because of one isolated incident.

          I was raised with guns. I had two in my room with ammunition from the age of 9. Where and when I was raised this was commonplace. There were no school massacres where I’m from, nor in any of the other myriads of rural and suburban communities where this is still to this day the norm.

          The issue here was mental illness. The mother was apparently well aware that her child had issues. If your argument is that she should have been more careful in light of that, I wouldn’t disagree.

          if your argument, however, is that the inanimate object is to blame and should be avoided, I would strongly disagree. Learning the discipline and responsibility involved in safely and properly using firearms can have a very large, positive impact on the upbringing of children. As an NRA, Boy Scout and 4H firearms instructor who regularly teaches these things, I see it constantly. Also as a father (and now grandfather) who successfully raised two children with guns in the house, teaching them responsible and safe use of these potentially hazardous tools (much like I taught them to safely use power tools, chainsaws, gasoline and matches and knives), wherein we avoided either of my children turning into mass murderers (one is a middle school teacher and the other works with the physically and mentally handicapped), I’d say condemning the entire idea of children being raised around guns (if that is, indeed, what you are doing) is a bit of an over-reaction.

          Yes, one tragedy is one too many, however you must face the fact that tragedies happen every day. Children…even children raised in homes with guns…have a HUGELY higher risk of dying in a car crash, a fall, drowning, being struck by lightening, or any number of other tragedies than of dying in a school shooting. There is danger in the world, there is evil in the world, it can’t all be protected against and prevented.

          Based on my experiences and upbringing, I would say that teaching kids safe and proper use of firearms does MUCH more to prevent these kinds of tragedies (and others) than it does in promoting them.

          Be that as it may, as I said before, I have no objection whatsoever to you choosing to eschew firearms in your home. That is a personal decision that you have to make. The only thing I ask is that you afford others the same courtesy.

        • Sailorcurt,

          I completely agree with you that the problem in Adam Lanza wasn’t the guns at his disposal. I quibble with you on needing to murder his mother to obtain the guns. He obviously had access to them while she slept. However, you are right that even had they been locked away where he couldn’t get them, he could have easily devised different means to murder others. Columbine was not merely intended to be a shooting spree. It was a botched bombing designed to kill many, many more. And I write this last with a heavy heart knowing that the young woman shot in Littleton, CO the day this post was published has died today. For her family and that entire community, Christmas will be a dark one this year.

          We have guns. We hunt. We have taken our children target shooting. The problem in Sandy Hook, MS and Littleton, CO wasn’t the guns. Mental health was at the root of the problem within Adam Lanza. I find it hard to believe that allowing a person to sequester himself in his room is in that person’s best interests.

          Thanks for stating so well that guns in and of themselves aren’t the problem. Mental illness, social isolation, lack of empathy, anger, hate–these all are at the root of what causes murder. It is my job as a mother to teach my children love, respect and empathy.

          Young people murdering others is one of the darkest of realities we live with. Jesus came because of the darkness of the sin within us all. He came to unlock the cage of sin and darkness we are locked within. He came to set us free and join Him in his work of letting people know there is freedom to be found in Him. Only in Him.

  11. Aimee Byrd says:

    Wow, loved reading through the comments section here today. I grew up in a family that is obsessed with self-defense. My dad and brother are both Martial Arts teachers, and my dad was also in the Secret Service for a while. One thing that has been ingrained in me since childhood is that self-defense, or defending others, is very much a mental, preparatory act and way of life. There are so many decisions that can help to prevent the combat moments. However, “our capacity for evil is astounding,” and there are those times where we should be prepared to defend life (ours or someone else’s). There are also times where we should be prepared to sacrifice our own life for someone else’s. JerryT makes some good points about premeditation.
    But one thing my dad has always taught us is to look for a way to escape above all. If there is any possibility to run, it’s always the best option. Bruce Lee talks about “the art of fighting without fighting.” And yet, he has committed his life to knowing how to fight if need be.
    So, I appreciate this post. These are issues we all should wrestle with. I also believe in the right to bear arms (has anyone seen the hilarious t-shirt with a human w/bear arms?). But even my dad wrestled with the implications of bringing a gun in our home. We had ancient weapons hanging from our walls as decoration, and yet dad never brought his fire arm home. He was mostly afraid of those incidents where children go a hold of them. Hard choices.

    • Tim says:

      Running from danger is engrained in us as a survival mechanism, and I think making that an intentional part of your thinking through how to handle things is not only wise but vital (in the truest sense of the word). Our American psyche tells us that we shouldn’t back down from a fight, but that doesn’t mean the Bible tells us that’s always the best way to go. And now you’ve got me thinking of other ways to defend people, Aimee.

      When it comes to defense of others we need to prepare ourselves to overcome the flight impulse and stand up for them, whether it’s in a deadly situation or otherwise. Defending those who are threatened comes in many forms, though. Sacrificing one’s position at work, losing standing with one’s friends, giving up something one cherishes; who knows what sacrifice must be made to help the oppressed. Being prepared for these situations is important too, especially since these are the types of sacrifices most of us will be asked to make in our lifetimes, don’t you think?

    • lwk2431 says:

      “But one thing my dad has always taught us is to look for a way to escape above all.”

      The problem with looking for escape routes in a truly violent and life threatening situation is that we tend to get “tunnel vision” on the threat and even things that might be seen later as easy – if you survive – can be terribly difficult to see when fear and adrenaline do really weird things to your vision. Most people watch too much TV and movies and have no concept of how hard it is to do the simplest thing under the hammer blow of adrenaline, fear, and unambiguous lethal violence headed in their direction.

      This is one reason that “stand your ground” laws can make sense. Too many people have been unjustly punished under the doctrine that said you had to retreat if you could instead of using deadly force in self defense. But sometimes you can’t see those routes, and actually running away can trigger more violence in your attacker (read Lt. Col. Dave Grossman’s book “On Killing” where much of the killing in ancient warfare occurred when one side decided to run away).

      That said about escaping, there is a really good book that I recommend called “The Gift of Fear” by Gavin de Becker (is on Amazon). If you read the book you will in no way get the impression he is an NRA member or advocates owning guns. His really important message is to listen to your intuition and to trust your feelings. He details in case after case (he has a company involved in protecting high risk individuals) how people actually knew or sensed they were in danger but ignored the plain signs, perhaps because they were afraid to offend someone. He talks about how violent attackers often “interview” a victim to determine if they are as “easy mark” or not.

      Criminals tend to look for people who are not paying attention to their surroundings, who are absorbed in some personal drama and not watching their surroundings. Simply paying attention and being alert can help a person fail the attacker’s “interview” and not become a victim.

      “… my dad wrestled with the implications of bringing a gun in our home.”

      It is an incredibly serious decision. One should weigh both sides of the equation carefully, the ability to defend one’s self and the possibility of misadventure. I do however believe that some “researchers” have given a false assessment of the danger to advance an agenda. Also other research (see Kleck and Gertz) has shown that self defense is far more common than formerly believed (and almost always involves the victim displaying a firearm and the attacker deciding to quickly leave the area – actual self defense scenarios involving firing a gun are very, very rare which is why counting the number of criminals shot or killed in self defense gives a huge undercount of the actual occurrence of self defense uses).

      Many, many people are perfectly safe with guns, but then they tend to be people who are generally safe with everything. Then there are people who are habitually careless and not safe with a gun, a car, or a bottle of vodka. :)

      When I was growing up in the 1950s it was not at all unusual for people to keep a loaded revolver in the nightstand. Some years ago when I had young kids in the house I decided that might not be the wisest option. I know have a small metal safe that can be opened in seconds – with a combination I can do in the dark easily – where I keep my handgun during the night, or when I am not carrying it (I have a concealed carry permit and usually carry it).

      I would never urge anyone to own a gun unless they were willing to do an honest self assessment of their ability to act responsibly (which it seems is very difficult for a person to do). In reality the majority of people cannot deliberately kill another person (without specific training to short circuit higher levels of consciousness – see “On Killing” which was mentioned earlier). I think we should see this as very encouraging. Despite what we see on TV and movies it is not “human nature” to kill, at least not for most.

      If you read Grossman’s book you might also be surprised by one other finding. Of those who can kill in war and with little emotional trauma afterward, not unsurprisingly some are sociopaths, but another significant group are men who go on to become very successful in business and especially politics.

      regards,

      lwk

      • Aimee Byrd says:

        Sounds like an interesting book, thanks. I’m not against carrying a concealed weapon either, but I think that Tim brings up some points everyone should wrestle with. In thinking about escape routes, I was mainly referring to premeditation. When I park my car, when I am entering a party, or whatever the case, it’s good to scan the area and think about these things. You don’t always have to fight. For example, I was at a party once in college and a guy kept grabbing my backside inappropriately. I warned him to stop, he didn’t. This is where I should have just left the party with my friends. Instead, I delivered a right hook that knocked him straight to the ground. Did he deserve it? Yes! Was it the best way to handle the situation? No, and it was really stupid because I then put myself in a situation where I could have really been hurt. Thankfully, I knew the guy whose house it was, and he had the bozo and his friends leave. But he could have waited for me, and pursued revenge.
        One other important time to escape: If you are unarmed and someone points a gun at you and says, “get in the car,” your chances for living are probably better if you run.
        But that being said, my dad taught us how to fight, especially to stand our ground for others. I am very thankful for that. I really like what you said about other sacrifices this takes in life as well, Tim. These are more likely to happen, and we are all too often passive instead.

        • lwk2431 says:

          “I think that Tim brings up some points everyone should wrestle with.”

          I absolutely agree these are important points. My main contention with the initial post was that he is – as a judge – very much a part of the mechanism of using force which translates into people with guns enforcing the dictates of the state – sometimes those dictates are his. I found it hard – either rightfully or wrongfully – to accept some of his statements at face value.

          In scriptures Jesus says somewhere to “render unto Caesar,” and I think that Tim is a part of what Jesus considered to be “Caesar.” Don’t take that statement too negatively. It is absolutely not meant to be either a personal condemnation or a personal accusation. Many of us have been part of “Caesar” at some time and most of us cooperate, and often support “Caesar” at some time in our life. I supported “Caesar” many decades as a willing and eager participant in Operation Linebacker in the Vietnam War. My youngest son is a machine gunner in the Marine Corps and wants more than anything to “see the elephant” and hopes to get assigned to Afghanistan while there is still shooting to do. My heart grieves for him and what he may learn about the circus.

          Every day we cooperate and often support “Caesar” or authority. A popular saying when I was a teenager was “Question Authority.” It has taken me a truly long time to understand that – maybe not exactly in the way originally intended. Nevertheless we need to question both authority, and what we are willing to do to other human beings.

          I respect that view of those like the Eli Lapp character where they are consistent in both actions and belief. I think they are fundamentally wrong but I respect their integrity. Christians like this were largely responsible for changing the course of the Roman Empire and fulfilling Christ’s injunction to take his message to the entire world.

          Personally I don’t see Christ ever giving a completely unambiguous commandment on self defense. I think people that look to Christ for black and white answers to many questions are missing the point. The issue of using force, of killing others, is a perfect example. In any case, my answer to that question was answered many years ago.

          regards,

          lwk

        • Tim says:

          lwk, I think you’re reading way too much into my original post. I’m just talking about personal use of deadly force in self-defense. Nothing more, nothing less. Please just take the post at face value, because that’s all I meant, really and truly.

  12. lwk2431 says:

    Tim writes:

    “I think you’re reading way too much into my original post…”

    I probably am, and am using it as a jumping off point to discuss the whole idea of the use of force by Christians. Are Christians commanded to never use force, or is that too black and white an interpretation of the words we have in the New Testament? Please note that I said that we _all_ “are part of Caesar” at some point. Part of my point, not entirely made clear, is that perhaps being “part of Caesar” is in itself not always wrong. But I think we need to clearly understand what that means and implies. That is why I specifically criticized your words re “personal use” as if that actually made a difference when you are part of the larger use of force by society. But it is absolutely not my intent to say you are a bad person because you try to make that distinction. I just don’t think it is really valid.

    Let me use an example from Matthew 7:

    1 Judge not, that ye be not judged.
    2 For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again. Mk. 4.24
    3 And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye?
    4 Or how wilt thou say to thy brother, Let me pull out the mote out of thine eye; and, behold, a beam is in thine own eye?
    5 Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother’s eye.

    Does the above give a black and white commandment to _never_ judge, or if it is taken as a principle (vs. a black and white commandment) is it saying that you must seek to judge by the highest possible standards and always look for the “mote in [your own] eye” so that one can judge correctly?

    My interpretation is the latter. Jesus is not saying _never_ judge, but to work as hard one can to clear out one’s illusions and false beliefs because by whatever standard you judge you will also be judged. However the difficulty of making correct judgments is not a valid excuse to never to do so when they are required. It is only in making judgments about every action in our life that we progress.

    Without going into laborious quotes, we know that Jesus said to turn the other cheek, and he also said that he did not come to overthrow the Law of Moses which seems very clearly to justify use of force, even killing, in self defense. We know that the actual commandment was “thou shall not murder,” not “thou shall not kill.”

    My view is that the use of force is justified in self defense (either against individuals or nations). Like the “Judge not” statement above I think one needs to look for principles, not black and white commandments. The principle of the use of force is that it is indeed in self defense, and only taken as a last resort to save life.

    regards,

    lwk

  13. Pingback: 3 Boxes of BS » Blog Archive » Scripture and Self Defense – About Judgment

  14. Adam’s mother gave him the guns.

    As a fellow mother, my take away from Sandy Hook is that it is vitally important how I raise our children.

    • Tim says:

      What goes on in the homes of people who end up hurting other people is tragic, Ellen. Our God-given responsibility to our children is monumental, no doubt about that.

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