Or, as a great bumper sticker once said, Safety Third! November 2, 2009 11:32 AM   Subscribe

Safety First Filter: Can we not advocate actual death, please?

There's a really great AskMe going about a poster's girlfriend and her safety for a stalker. There are excellent points made about guns and gun safety - which, do, of course mention that guns are primarily used to kill.

And then there's this comment, which totally crosses a line for me and makes me wonder where the line actually IS in terms of community standards: "However, I just wanted to say re: the "killing a human" thing...sometimes people have to die. Make the decision to try to harm (kill!) me or someone I care about, and I will have no second thoughts about killing you."

Yeah, I'm all for advocating for gun safety - especially as the OP is in the US where guns are legal, but it really bothers me to see actual DEATH advocated as a solution. Can we draw the line that a "helpful answer" does not include "actively advocating for the death of another human being?"
posted by grapefruitmoon to Etiquette/Policy at 11:32 AM (266 comments total)

Sure, when the problem to be solved is not "someone is actively trying to kill me."
posted by Dasein at 11:33 AM on November 2, 2009 [20 favorites]


If you could flag really shitty comments like that one, it might help keep MeTa a little more "OMG who said that??" when we inevitably delete the comment that you're referring to. Yes, advocating death is not a solution.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 11:34 AM on November 2, 2009


One of the great benefits of the Second Amendment is that we get Internet Tough Guys, ready to kill at a moment's notice. Flagging and ducking for cover may be the only options, here.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 11:36 AM on November 2, 2009 [5 favorites]


Can we draw the line that a "helpful answer" does not include "actively advocating for the death of another human being?"

No, we can't. We are constrained to answer the question, as asked. If the question is "Quick, how do you kill a zombie?" The only acceptable answers are, "Cut off the head," "destroy the brain," "burn the remains," and "with SCIENCE!" Flowers are not an option. If you replace "Zombie" with "Ex-boyfriend," the anwers are pretty much the same.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 11:38 AM on November 2, 2009 [12 favorites]


That thread is full of WTF.
posted by chunking express at 11:39 AM on November 2, 2009 [10 favorites]


One of the great benefits of the Second Amendment is that we get Internet Tough Guys...

You can have my mouse when you &c.
posted by DU at 11:39 AM on November 2, 2009 [2 favorites]


Flowers are not an option.

Respectfully, I beg to differ.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 11:40 AM on November 2, 2009 [8 favorites]


Sure, when the problem to be solved is not "someone is actively trying to kill me."

Well, then thank goodness that in this case the problem to be solved isn't "someone is actively trying to kill me." It's "Someone is actively threatening to kill me."

It saddens (but, unfortunately, doesn't surprise) me that there are people who apparently don't understand that there is a difference between these two things.
posted by dersins at 11:41 AM on November 2, 2009 [3 favorites]


I really don't see the point of any comments in that thread that aren't GET OFF THE INTERNET AND CONSULT A RISK SPECIALIST but I do think that "use a legal weapon in self-defense if you have to" is perfectly reasonable advice.

And when you use a firearm in self-defense, every lesson in your training will have taught you to shoot to kill. The whole "try to wing them" business is an artifact of popular culture.
posted by Sidhedevil at 11:41 AM on November 2, 2009 [8 favorites]


Dasein: there's more than one way to solve the "someone is actively trying to kill me" problem. Guns aren't the only option.

Guns are a solution if you know how to use them. Suggesting she get a gun and then learn how to use it would be a practical solution for THE FUTURE, because it takes time to learn how to use it. It does not help her in the present, when she is actively being stalked.

Suggesting she get a gun and just have it, as many in the thread suggest, carries the risk of escalating the situation beyond anyone's control (although, hey, if she ends up getting shot, then that WOULD stop the stalking -- granted, it's because she'd be DEAD, but hey, at least it stopped the stalker, I guess).
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 11:42 AM on November 2, 2009 [3 favorites]


It saddens (but, unfortunately, doesn't surprise) me that there are people who apparently don't understand that there is a difference between these two things.

When people make serious threats to kill you, it's wise to be prepared for serious attempts to kill you.

If said attempts don't eventuate, it's gravy for you. If they do eventuate, you're prepared.
posted by Sidhedevil at 11:43 AM on November 2, 2009 [5 favorites]


Science never killed no ex-boyfriend.
posted by cjorgensen at 11:44 AM on November 2, 2009


So, sidhedevil, I assume it takes time to train in the use of a gun, yes?

So what's she supposed to do WHILE she's training to use a gun? Tell her stalker she's taking a "time out" and she'll let him know when he can start again?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 11:44 AM on November 2, 2009


I find it academically interesting that very few people in that thread seem to be aware that if the poster buys a weapon, stakes out his girlfriend, and subsequently shoots and kills this stalker, that sure looks like your basic premeditated murder.

A law student could hang you with it.
posted by scrump at 11:45 AM on November 2, 2009 [11 favorites]


Yes, advocating death is not a solution.

What is the difference between that and advocating carrying a deadly weapon though? It seems pretty obvious to me that anyone who suggests carrying a gun for protection against a stalker is implicitly suggesting that lethal force should be used in certain circumstances.
posted by burnmp3s at 11:45 AM on November 2, 2009 [1 favorite]


Well, then thank goodness that in this case the problem to be solved isn't "someone is actively trying to kill me." It's "Someone is actively threatening to kill me."

If we take the AskMe at face value, the person threatening to kill the other person is someone who's actively tried to kill the other person already. So it's not like the fears of attack are groundless.
posted by Sidhedevil at 11:46 AM on November 2, 2009


So, sidhedevil, I assume it takes time to train in the use of a gun, yes?

Certainly.

So what's she supposed to do WHILE she's training to use a gun? Tell her stalker she's taking a "time out" and she'll let him know when he can start again?

I would vote for finding a risk specialist and taking his or her advice, which will most likely include lots of strategies including leaving the area, covering her trail, and perhaps learning to use a gun properly if that seems like a solution she's comfortable with.

Guns are useful tools. They're not panaceas. But they're not useless, and they're not so immensely complicated it takes months to learn how to use them properly.

I agree that a gun is not the solution. A gun may or may not be part of the solution.
posted by Sidhedevil at 11:48 AM on November 2, 2009 [1 favorite]


I do not, somehow, believe in that thread. Something about it makes no sense to me. Well. That is neither here nor there nor important and I suppose it's possible that it's all true but, just for the historical record, I doubt it.
posted by mygothlaundry at 11:49 AM on November 2, 2009 [1 favorite]


Lol I figured that comment would pop up over here.

Lemme explain.

If you read earlier up, I advocate specifically for them to NOT get a gun. Absolutely. Bad choice if they have no training. ABSOLUTELY.

We are talking here, however, about a situation where someone is TRYING TO KILL SOMEONE ELSE. Let me tell you, if someone threatens to kill you and then comes in your home, you have to come to grips (quickly) with the realization that someone is, most likely, going to die. It's really up to you to decide who it's going to be. No amount of pleading, no volume of hair-color-changing and best intentions are going to be effective if this person comes into your home to do you harm.

I'm not espousing that the op strap up and go looking for this guy. I'm responding to the poster who said "the best case scenario here is that your girlfriend TAKES A HUMAN LIFE..." I'm arguing that if it comes down to brass tacks, it's kill or be killed.

I hope that most mefites would willingly make the decision to kill someone to protect their families.

You completely took the comment out of context and did not represent either the message or the earlier post. It is clear that I'm not advocating murder as a delightful proposition.

I did advocate for suicide-by-cop, which is really what I figured would pop up over here. I advocate it because it a) removes the offender b) makes it so he can't get out on parole c) takes the pressure off the victims, at least theoretically. I also said that I wish that the offender would turn himself in and get treatment.
posted by TomMelee at 11:49 AM on November 2, 2009 [4 favorites]


Doesn't the suggestion to get a gun for protection logically already contain the suggestion to (at least threaten to) kill someone? It seems like if "get a gun" is allowed then "get a gun and shoot that guy if he attacks you" is the same thing.
posted by DU at 11:50 AM on November 2, 2009 [1 favorite]


If you could flag really shitty comments like that one, it might help keep MeTa a little more "OMG who said that??"

Well, yeah, but I didn't even know where to START with flagging it - obviously. It was only slightly different from the previous "get a gun, but know that guns kill people" comments - which seemed reasonable for the situation at hand. Offensive? I guess, but I generally see the "racism/sexism" part of that as putting offensive as "tasteless beyond the pale" and not well, on the offense as opposed to defense.

I also, honestly, have a difficult time with the line on this one - yeah, gun safety and guns are going to come up as part of this discussion... so where IS the line between "be prepared to kill this guy" and "Kill this guy."

(Maybe a ZOMG WTF BBQ flag?)
posted by grapefruitmoon at 11:50 AM on November 2, 2009


I would vote for finding a risk specialist and taking his or her advice, which will most likely include lots of strategies including leaving the area, covering her trail, and perhaps learning to use a gun properly if that seems like a solution she's comfortable with.

Fair, but that distinction is not being made within the thread. An uncomfortably large number of respondents have simply said "get a gun", full stop. Not "consult with a risk specialist, who may or may not suggest a gun which incidentally may be useful in the long run provided you know how to use it". It's more like, "get a gun and wave it at 'em, that'll spook 'em good". Which is...not wise.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 11:52 AM on November 2, 2009


EmpressCallipygos, you are right that there are more immediate solutions that need to be put into effect, but grapefruitmoon isn't asking that this advice be deleted on the grounds that it's too much of a medium-term solution. Instead, he is asking that Metafilter's policy be that advising someone to prepare to use lethal force is out-of-bounds. Well, I don't think it should be out of bounds. Not if there is a real possibilty that someone will try to kill you and your family in the near future.
posted by Dasein at 11:52 AM on November 2, 2009


Excuse me, that should be she is asking.
posted by Dasein at 11:53 AM on November 2, 2009


I hope that most mefites would willingly make the decision to kill someone to protect their families.

No, no I wouldn't. That person is someone else's family. I could never, under any circumstances take a human life and I'd never advocate that anyone else knowingly do so. I'm not against guns, and I'm not against self-defense. I am against "Kill or be killed." Having the mindset that you are going to kill this guy is different - to me - than saying "Well, I have a gun, and yeah, I hope I'm never ever in a situation where I have to use it."
posted by grapefruitmoon at 11:53 AM on November 2, 2009 [3 favorites]


I really don't see the point of any comments in that thread that aren't GET OFF THE INTERNET AND CONSULT A RISK SPECIALIST.

See, people saying "get off the internet what the hell are you doing on the internet" are a pretty big pet peeve of mine. While true that ultimately, many answers of this magnitude will not be found online, when we use AskMe we all sort of have to agree that people come here for all sorts of reasons and have varying degrees of knowledge. What if they don't know what a risk specialist is? What if someone has no idea how to find an appropriate lawyer? What if someone has never been to a doctor and hasn't the first clue how to see one?

Yes, in these cases, the answers won't be on the internet. But sometimes in our haste, and in our legitimate desire to help people, we sort of shame them for being online during a crisis, even though it's kind of standard for this generation.

/derail
posted by ORthey at 11:56 AM on November 2, 2009 [5 favorites]


that distinction is not being made within the thread. An uncomfortably large number of respondents have simply said "get a gun", full stop. Not "consult with a risk specialist, who may or may not suggest a gun which incidentally may be useful in the long run provided you know how to use it". It's more like, "get a gun and wave it at 'em, that'll spook 'em good". Which is...not wise.

Agreed times ten million.

Have gone to said thread with info about risk specialists. Hope that the questioner will look into that.
posted by Sidhedevil at 11:56 AM on November 2, 2009


I could never, under any circumstances take a human life...

I take it you don't have kids.
posted by DU at 11:57 AM on November 2, 2009 [3 favorites]


so where IS the line between "be prepared to kill this guy" and "Kill this guy."

You're changing the argument here. The comment you've objected to says:

However, I just wanted to say re: the "killing a human" thing...sometimes people have to die. Make the decision to try to harm (kill!) me or someone I care about, and I will have no second thoughts about killing you.

That's not saying, definitely go out and kill this guy (as opposed to, call the cops when you see him but be ready to shoot him if you can't get the cops there in time, which I think goes pretty much unsaid). It's simply expressing, however imperfectly, a moral justification for killing that is not at all out of place in a thread where you're asking someone to contemplate using lethal force in self-defence, which is something that might unnerve a lot of people. (And clearly does.)
posted by Dasein at 11:57 AM on November 2, 2009


See, people saying "get off the internet what the hell are you doing on the internet" are a pretty big pet peeve of mine. While true that ultimately, many answers of this magnitude will not be found online, when we use AskMe we all sort of have to agree that people come here for all sorts of reasons and have varying degrees of knowledge.

Fair enough.

What I should have said was that the only answers that would be likely to help the guy are answers that pointed him in the direction of the people who could help him, rather than all the back-and-forth about guns.
posted by Sidhedevil at 11:58 AM on November 2, 2009


Instead, he is asking that Metafilter's policy be that advising someone to prepare to use lethal force is out-of-bounds. Well, I don't think it should be out of bounds.

Well, not quite. Because I'm saying that I'm not sure where that line is between "guns kill people and maybe you should have one" (which I'm not opposed to) and "be prepared to kill this guy." And I'm saying that the latter - actively advocating for someone's death should be (kind of obviously) a no-no.

I'm not objecting to any of the comments that say "Well, you should never use a gun unless you're prepared to kill someone." It's that one tiny baby step over the line into "You should kill that guy" that really, really bothers me. So, no, I'm not advocating against potential force - I'm advocating against advising people to willingly kill someone. Even if that person wants to kill you. There are better solutions than "eye for an eye" - and as most people have mentioned, that solution has its own huge pitfalls. Such as: Someone dies. That isn't going to go well for ANYONE.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 11:59 AM on November 2, 2009


I take it you don't have kids.

Lots of absolute pacifists have kids, and they love their kids as much as you do.

So please don't get into this kind of ad hominem bullshit.

On the other hand, I don't think that AskMe needs to have the mods ensuring that every answer is pacifist-friendly, any more than it needs to have the mods ensuring that every answer is vegetarian-friendly or Catholic-friendly or whatever.
posted by Sidhedevil at 11:59 AM on November 2, 2009 [21 favorites]


I'm advocating against advising people to willingly kill someone. Even if that person wants to kill you

There's a big difference between "be prepared to kill an attacker who's trying to kill you" and "go out and hunt him down and kill him first."

I think it would be inappropriate to advocate the second. Advocating the first is advocating something that is, in the US at least (which is where the asker lives and where this site is based) a social norm that is reinforced by the legal system.

I'm not saying that I don't think you should express your point of view on it--I'm saying that I don't think the mods need to moderate in a way that expresses your point of view. This is an issue on which reasonable people of good will disagree.
posted by Sidhedevil at 12:02 PM on November 2, 2009 [9 favorites]


I could never, under any circumstances take a human life...

I take it you don't have kids.


Not of my own, no. I do acknowledge the "protect the cub" instinct is a fierce one and I reserve the right to change my view on this if I do have kids - I'm just saying as is, the circumstances for me do not exist in which I could willingly kill someone else. Period.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 12:02 PM on November 2, 2009 [1 favorite]


I take it you don't have kids.

Can we stop doing this, please?
posted by lalex at 12:03 PM on November 2, 2009 [25 favorites]


Killing doesn't seem out of bounds to me, either, fwiw. If someone's threatening to kill you or your family they automatically get "mad dog" status. It sucks for all involved but better them than me. Also, the stalker put me in this position. The consequences are on him, not that I wouldn't be deeply affected. (Though she's deeply affected already, without a doubt.)

I wouldn't do any of the tracking down, though. Sure I'd get a gun and self defense training, but I'd also hire a PI/bounty hunter AND check in with the cops for advice and updates daily, AND get some small yappy dog as an alarm system.

Also, reddit and getting the neighbors involved are GREAT ideas.

The part that makes this awkward is that it's her boyfriend asking the advice, not the woman herself. I understand and commend his taking care of her, but I'd be a little afraid that he's turning himself into a full time protector and boyguard, instead of getting more expert help.
posted by small_ruminant at 12:03 PM on November 2, 2009


I am against "Kill or be killed."

This makes no sense at all. Kill or be killed is not a mindset, it's not a worldview, it's a factual situation in which you can find yourself. Maybe you think you're going to get to heaven if you turn the other cheek and let your obsessive ex put a bullet through it, but to use this sort of fuzzy-minded pacifism to censor the advice we can give to someone whose life might actually be in danger is insane.

Having the mindset that you are going to kill this guy is different - to me - than saying "Well, I have a gun, and yeah, I hope I'm never ever in a situation where I have to use it."

No one is advocating that he hunt this guy down and kill him. Some of us are saying precisely that the girlfriend should carry a gun, hope not to have to use it, but train in how to use it. That's not the same as resolving to kill the guy regardless of whether he is posing a mortal threat. It's the difference between seeing him outside the store and walking outside and shooting him, versus only shooting him if he corners you somewhere and there's no escape.
posted by Dasein at 12:04 PM on November 2, 2009 [13 favorites]


It's that one tiny baby step over the line into "You should kill that guy" that really, really bothers me.

Actively advocating harm to someone else is pretty much out of bounds for AskMe. I'm sure you could split hairs about times when people have, in fact, done this, or whether emotional harm counts etc. That said, if we see comments on any part of the site that are basically "someone should kill that person" whether they're referring to Rush Limbaugh or Jimmy Carter, we'll usually remove it. This goes double for AskMe.

None of us liked that question very much, but we've decided to have a "watch closely" approach over a "delete as implausible/problematic" and we figured it would be showing up in MeTa anyhow. This is one of those policy-by-fiat situations where the policy came about more as "this is something really really bad for the site" as opposed to "this is something the users are clamoring for" I'll be happy to clarify any more of you'd like to, this is probably something that has shifted into place over the past few years, so it's unlikely to have applied to older threads.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 12:05 PM on November 2, 2009


I do, though, very much, draw the line between "it might be a good idea to have a gun" sorts of comments and "you should kill that guy" comments. I realize this is problematic for several reasons that people have been talking about. That said, that's where my own personal moral compass lies.

I had to make a decision, at one point, whether to get a gun when there was someone who was harassing me [though not threatening to kill me, certainly] and inevitably my own personal decision was "no gun" because I couldn't see myself killing anyone, and I thought gun ownership was too slipperly a slope in that direction. Other people have other, also totally valid, ways of looking at this sort of thing. My perspective is that this is the sort of topic that reasoned intelligent people will still disagree on.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 12:08 PM on November 2, 2009


Lots of absolute pacifists have kids, and they love their kids as much as you do.

Perhaps they do. And I don't want to start a gun flamewar or sound like an Internet Tough Guy, but....apparently they love their principles more. If someone is about to kill a child of mine and I have a button that will kill the attacker, that button is going to be pushed. I don't care what principles are in play, if I can protect my child that's it, period.
posted by DU at 12:08 PM on November 2, 2009 [1 favorite]


I'm not against guns, and I'm not against self-defense. I am against "Kill or be killed."

I don't understand -- there has to be some standard for what "self-defense" is, and generally, it's when you're faced with a situation that is "kill or be killed." "Kill or be killed" is actually the strictest standard for self-defense I can think of.

I don't think I can really fathom what it would be like to be faced with someone who served time for trying to kill me and my family, and as soon as he got out of jail, hunted us down in semi-hiding in our new home to try again. I think the level of threat here is different from "a guy said he was going to kill me."
posted by palliser at 12:12 PM on November 2, 2009


Lots of absolute pacifists have kids, and they love their kids as much as you do.

I really, truly believe that if they would rather stand by and watch a murder stab their children to death than have that murder's death on their conscience, then, no, they don't.
posted by Dasein at 12:12 PM on November 2, 2009


I could never, under any circumstances take a human life...

I take it you don't have kids.


You might consider giving them up for adoption instead.
posted by ODiV at 12:12 PM on November 2, 2009 [4 favorites]


Guns are for people who can't afford velociraptors.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 12:12 PM on November 2, 2009 [15 favorites]


Perhaps they do.

No, I'm certain they do.

And I don't want to start a gun flamewar or sound like an Internet Tough Guy, but....apparently they love their principles more.

That doesn't make them bad parents; it just makes you a jerk for implying that they are.
posted by Sidhedevil at 12:13 PM on November 2, 2009 [2 favorites]


Jesus, the kid issue isn't even germane here, and is only going to lend heat, not light. Can we please leave it out?
posted by Skot at 12:14 PM on November 2, 2009 [13 favorites]


I really, truly believe that if they would rather stand by and watch a murder stab their children to death than have that murder's death on their conscience, then, no, they don't.

Then I seriously believe you should shut the fuck up with shit like this. I mean, seriously.

If you get off on feeling morally superior to Martin Luther King, Jr., have fun with it. But this is ad hominem nonsense that doesn't belong here.
posted by Sidhedevil at 12:15 PM on November 2, 2009 [1 favorite]


Some of us are saying precisely that the girlfriend should carry a gun, hope not to have to use it, but train in how to use it. That's not the same as resolving to kill the guy regardless of whether he is posing a mortal threat.

Right, and my problem isn't with those comments. My problem is with the ONLY comment that went over the line into "People have to die."

And while I may be an absolute 100% pacifist, I don't believe it makes me morally superior and I don't even believe in heaven in the first place and would like to have people not put words in my mouth. If you read my contributions in thread, you can see that I am not against guns or knowing how to use them. Not in the least. I am against crossing the very thin line into "He has to die."

I totally understand the POV that says "Better him than me" but I just happen to be on the other side of that coin that says "I couldn't do it." Would it, in fact, to be better to live with myself after the trauma of that experience and the knowledge that I had ended someone's life? I honestly don't know. I do value my life, but I know that it will end, and I'm not prepared to end someone else's life that they are presumably equally attached to. Couldn't do it. I respect other people's opinions otherwise and would never, ever try to talk them out of it.

I simply do not believe that advising someone to take another person's life belongs on AskMe. And yeah, with gun safety, this is a really thin line.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 12:15 PM on November 2, 2009


I really, truly believe that if they would rather stand by and watch a murder stab their children to death than have that murder's death on their conscience, then, no, they don't.

No one said that. No one in this thread, not even me, said "I would watch someone stab my kids and do nothing." You're taking this already amped issue and turning up to INSANE.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 12:18 PM on November 2, 2009


If you get off on feeling morally superior to Martin Luther King, Jr., have fun with it. But this is ad hominem nonsense that doesn't belong here.

No one has said anything about equating loving one's children with morally superiority. If anything, refusing to kill someone is probably the morally superior position. That doesn't make it the one I'm going to choose, though.

(And since that equation has not been made, it definitely is not a matter of ad hominem.)
posted by DU at 12:20 PM on November 2, 2009


I think there are people out there, with kids and other loved ones, whose values preclude killing as a viable option, even in the face of violence. Dr. King had children - he still seemed very hard core non violent. It's a personal choice thing, and I think it would be nice if we didn't belittle people's choices, however they come down, or assume that a particular situation would change their mind.

(Disclosure: Personally, I don't have kids. But if I did, and someone was threatening to kill them, I'd probably imagine that the only way they'd get to them is over my dead body- I'm not sure that's the same as saying I'd kill someone. That said, I am struck by organizations like the forgiveness project, who don't speak in hypotheticals about this. They have forgiven the people who killed their loved one. I also have relatives who were murdered, and I realize I don't want their killers executed. So it's kind of complicated, at least for me.)

That aside, I think the people focusing the OP on the legal, finding support options, are to be commended. I sensed from his question that what he felt was uninformed and helpless. Hopefully some of the advice will get him to the coordinated support he needs, knowing that he's doing everything he can do, in accordance with his own beliefs, whatever they are.
posted by anitanita at 12:20 PM on November 2, 2009 [1 favorite]


My problem is with the ONLY comment that went over the line into "People have to die."

My point is that you're misunderstanding that comment - it wasn't a call for the guy to be killed, it was a simply-expressed moral justification of killing in self-defence.
posted by Dasein at 12:21 PM on November 2, 2009 [1 favorite]


Well, yeah, but I didn't even know where to START with flagging it - obviously. It was only slightly different from the previous "get a gun, but know that guns kill people" comments - which seemed reasonable for the situation at hand. Offensive? I guess, but I generally see the "racism/sexism" part of that as putting offensive as "tasteless beyond the pale" and not well, on the offense as opposed to defense.

Honestly, just close your eyes and click at that point. Electing not to flag because you can't decide which to go with despite feeling confident that it's a problem is not a great solution, so don't overthink it so much in the future would be my advice.
posted by cortex (staff) at 12:22 PM on November 2, 2009 [4 favorites]


Ok, maybe not ad-hominem but definitely "ad trying to make people who don't want to kill other people to save their own children look like total jerks." And as one of those total jerks, I resent your a) bringing up the issue in the first place when it has only the most tenuous of links to the discussion and b) harping on it.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 12:22 PM on November 2, 2009


"I take it you don't have kids."

Neither will you if you keep killing them.
posted by klangklangston at 12:22 PM on November 2, 2009 [8 favorites]


No one in this thread, not even me, said "I would watch someone stab my kids and do nothing."

To review:

I could never, under any circumstances take a human life...

Now to be fair, sometimes people say "I could never ever" to not literally "could not" but more as an intensifier of how much they would hate it. As in "I could *never* eat a fish taco, I don't care how hungry I was". I'm not literally saying I would in reality prefer to die of actual starvation. I just mean I hate fish and the idea of fish tacos makes me (non-literally) vomit.
posted by DU at 12:23 PM on November 2, 2009


Lots of absolute pacifists have kids, and they love their kids as much as you do.

I really, truly believe that if they would rather stand by and watch a murder stab their children to death than have that murder's death on their conscience, then, no, they don't.


Quakers across the globe would disagree.
posted by Pax at 12:24 PM on November 2, 2009 [2 favorites]


And yes, good god, the pacifism vs. parenthood argument is a complete tangent here, folks. Which, I love a good tangent, but it's a brain-frying uglyfest waiting to happen too, so if there's not a really fantastic reason to go there maybe just drop it?
posted by cortex (staff) at 12:24 PM on November 2, 2009 [2 favorites]


Well, yeah, but I didn't even know where to START with flagging it

This is not a problem MeFi can solve. Flag first, angst later.

MeTa threads often turn into big fights-about-other-things and so even though we really would like people to come here if there's a community problem that needs addressing, I'm not sure this was an example of it and ... oh look now we're fighting about people murdering other people's children!
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 12:24 PM on November 2, 2009 [1 favorite]


My point is that you're misunderstanding that comment - it wasn't a call for the guy to be killed, it was a simply-expressed moral justification of killing in self-defence.

Well, ok, I guess you can then say that I'm against justifying killing then. For any reason. There was only one comment in that thread that pushed my button and it said "People have to die." I'm saying that, to me, it crossed the line into advocating for someone's death. That's how I interpreted it. Not that it was saying "Hunt this guy down" but that it was saying "Look, you might have to kill this guy" is enough for me to feel seriously uncomfortable.

don't overthink it so much in the future would be my advice.

Point taken, will do.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 12:25 PM on November 2, 2009


Can we draw the line that a "helpful answer" does not include "actively advocating for the death of another human being?"

If it's a helpful answer, it belongs. And if you're dealing with someone who is imprisoned because of the threat they posed to you, gets out of jail, and promptly starts hunting you down, then, unless they spend the rest of their lives in prison or undergo a dramatic personality shift, killing them is quite likely to be the only way to not end up dead.
posted by rodgerd at 12:26 PM on November 2, 2009 [2 favorites]


The Back Up
posted by jpdoane at 12:26 PM on November 2, 2009 [1 favorite]


Let's talk about Johnny Cash instead. RENO ROAD TRIP!
posted by Skot at 12:27 PM on November 2, 2009


If anything, refusing to kill someone is probably the morally superior position.

Refusing to take a shot at Hitler in 1941 because "I'm a pacifist" would not be a morally superior position.
posted by rodgerd at 12:27 PM on November 2, 2009


grapefruitmoon, I flagged the comment that I saw (that I don't think was the one currently being discussed, btw) as "breaks the guidelines" and it could have been flagged under "sexism" as well (it said something about the boyfriend's duty being to kill the guy, so handy two-category fail).

It seems to me that it definitely breaks MeFi guidelines to advocate murder, because there could conceivably be some legal liability for the site if things ever arrived at such a pass that the stalker was actually killed.
posted by librarylis at 12:28 PM on November 2, 2009


How's that nice afternoon off coming, mods?
posted by dirtdirt at 12:28 PM on November 2, 2009 [5 favorites]


No one said that.

You're right, pacifists and their apologists are always uncomfortable when you confront them with scenarios that require real pacifism. Like, was the Jewish resistance in the Warsaw ghetto the moral equivalent of the Nazi liquidation of it, because both involved killing people? (Note: I am not comparing pacifists to Hitler, don't even mention Godwin.) You don't need to bring it up specifically; it's enough to say that you think killing in any situation is absolutely wrong, and it's a logical corollary.

I believe that King's pacifism would have found its limit if he was defending the lives of his children. Had it not, then, sure, I would condemn him morally. He would have been complicit in their deaths. But such a thing never happened.

Pacifism is extremely admirable when employed as a method of political resistance; it's morally abhorrent when you are charged with defending the lives of innocents.
posted by Dasein at 12:28 PM on November 2, 2009 [2 favorites]


Dasein: "Defending the lives of innocents" can be achieved in more ways than just by "killing someone." Y'know, just so you know.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 12:32 PM on November 2, 2009 [5 favorites]


grapefruit, just in case you didn't read what I posted earlier or make the connection that I was the poster of the comment in question,

What you interpreted is not what I said, or what I meant.

Dasein and kingklangston have done an excellent job pointing out what I was (at least attempting to be) saying, and honestly I'm relieved that several people in here get the point of my message.

Even if Jessamyn did call the post crappy while reading it out of context.

Honestly, this is a GREAT post for askme. We've got the loonies advocating carrying pistols, the looney's advocating doing nothing, and the firm logical middlegrounders advocating a mixture of options. I'd love to see an infodump on peoples positions on this issue based on location.
posted by TomMelee at 12:33 PM on November 2, 2009 [1 favorite]


You're right, pacifists and their apologists are always uncomfortable when you confront them with scenarios that require real pacifism.

No, I'm not. I'm uncomfortable with scenarios that involve words being placed in my mouth.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 12:34 PM on November 2, 2009


How's that nice afternoon off coming, mods?

I AM HAVING A LOVELY TIME IN TAHITI
posted by cortex (staff) at 12:34 PM on November 2, 2009 [9 favorites]


For instance, did you know that Johnny Cash, when not murdering Nevada residents, appeared in "Columbo" and "Little House on the Prairie"? Thanks, Wikipedia!
posted by Skot at 12:35 PM on November 2, 2009


"Look, you might have to kill this guy" is enough for me to feel seriously uncomfortable.

I didn't read it as advocating the killing of the stalker, but as a statement of fact. The subtext of the statement is (to me) "It might come down to him breaking into your house and attacking you and if you are the sort of person for whom this mindset is possible, you might have to kill him in order to protect yourself/others."

It's an uncomfortable statement, and I don't think you're weird for feeling uncomfortable about it, but given the context (of the question, of the situation), I don't think it's delete-worthy just because it makes people uncomfortable.

And, taken entirely out of context, the statement "people have to die" is just true. We don't have a choice about it.
posted by rtha at 12:35 PM on November 2, 2009 [4 favorites]


I'd love to see an infodump on peoples positions on this issue based on location.

THEIR POSITIONS ARE COMING FROM INSIDE THE HOUSE!!!
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 12:35 PM on November 2, 2009 [5 favorites]


Aaaand there's the Godwin.
posted by EarBucket at 12:36 PM on November 2, 2009 [1 favorite]


"Defending the lives of innocents" can be achieved in more ways than just by "killing someone." Y'know, just so you know.

Damn it, you're totally missing the point. The point is that where that is not acheivable, where the situations is, factually, kill or be killed, then to choose the life of a serial killer over the life of your children, to choose the life of a Jew in the Warsaw ghetto over and SS officer, to choose the life of a Hutu militiaman over the lives of Tutsis cowering in a burning church, is wrong. It's simply wrong. If means you don't love your children as much as a parent who would kill that serial killer. It means that your moral universe is inside-out. It means that you value your own conscience above human life. I think that's wrong. And I think, to bring this back to where it all started, that trying to stop Mefites from expressing a moral justification of killing because some people don't agree with these arguments, is really dumb.
posted by Dasein at 12:37 PM on November 2, 2009 [2 favorites]


to choose the life of a Jew in the Warsaw ghetto over and SS officer

Obviously I meant that the other way around. Argh. Anyway, I'll drop this now out of deference to the mods.
posted by Dasein at 12:39 PM on November 2, 2009


Should you like to visit, the Johnny Cash Museum is located in Hendersonville, Tennessee.
posted by Skot at 12:39 PM on November 2, 2009


Refusing to take a shot at Hitler in 1941...

Like, was the Jewish resistance in the Warsaw ghetto the moral equivalent of the Nazi liquidation of it, because both involved killing people?

Get a fucking grip. If you can't make your case well an clearly without resorting to hypothetical Hitler assassinations or Holocaust analogies, you may have to face the fact that you have no case to make.
posted by dersins at 12:39 PM on November 2, 2009 [7 favorites]


Refusing to take a shot at Hitler in 1941 because "I'm a pacifist" would not be a morally superior position.

It would, however, be a position consistent with the physical laws of the universe, at least until the NRA invents the HitlerKill2000™ time machine.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 12:40 PM on November 2, 2009


"Dasein and kingklangston have done an excellent job pointing out what I was (at least attempting to be) saying, and honestly I'm relieved that several people in here get the point of my message."

Who is this King Klangston? Someone should kill him.

(And while I love havin' my head rubbed as much as the next dog, I think you're thinking of Sidhedevil, who made actual substantive comments, instead of clownin'. But obviously that clownin' was of such quality that you couldn't let it go by without plaudits.)
posted by klangklangston at 12:42 PM on November 2, 2009 [1 favorite]


Damn it, you're totally missing the point.

I think you may be missing MY point:

I think that's wrong.

The fact that YOU think it is wrong does not make it UNIVERSALLY wrong. And calling someone out on their values based on nothing but your own values is really not a good way to ensure that your position is heard. And accusing someone of not loving their kids based on your OWN values for "loving your kids" makes you look like something of a dick.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 12:43 PM on November 2, 2009 [5 favorites]


Lots of absolute pacifists have kids, and they love their kids as much as you do.

I really, truly believe that if they would rather stand by and watch a murder stab their children to death than have that murder's death on their conscience, then, no, they don't.


Gah. Do you love your kids enough to torture a few people to protect them? How about a lot of people? Enough to build up some technique, a signature style, if you will.

Obviously, you don't love your kids as much as I do.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 12:44 PM on November 2, 2009 [21 favorites]


Lol, Metafilter: Where you get called out for telling people they did a good job.

And actually, I meant both you and sidhe. Fo' sho.
posted by TomMelee at 12:48 PM on November 2, 2009


When I was in the military I enjoyed firing big guns and blowing shit up. Then the first gulf war rolled around (I didn't go) and I realized hypothetical people might quickly become real people. I spent some time coming to grips with the idea that I could actually be called upon to end a life. Then at some point it dawned on me that somewhere on the other side of the planet some other guy was thinking these same thoughts about me. This was obviously disturbing. This is when I decided to get out. I hated the idea of shooting someone, but no where near as much as I hated the idea of being shot.

This all said, even after 6 years of training and conditioning I'm not sure I'd have been able to do it. Expecting this woman to get a gun, get the required and needed training, come to a decision about whether or not she could end a life, while under the duress of being stalked, all while trying to live some semblance of a normal life, well, it's not very practical. So in my mind the advice is poor regardless.

If you've never held a gun, and are advocating for the use, then you've already lost the argument. If you are trained on the use of one and have already wrestled with the morality of ending a life and are comfortable doing so...well, I'd still argue you have no idea what you are talking about unless you have done it.

In the book "On Killing" the author goes into how the vast majority of people are not wired to even be able to kill, and statistics prove out that you or a family member are more likely to be harmed by your own gun than an intruder's.

As much as some people would have it otherwise, the person central in this story is not someone that will be helped by having a gun.
posted by cjorgensen at 12:49 PM on November 2, 2009 [16 favorites]


You're right, pacifists and their apologists are always uncomfortable when you confront them with scenarios that require real pacifism. Like, was the Jewish resistance in the Warsaw ghetto the moral equivalent of the Nazi liquidation of it, because both involved killing people?

That's a strawman argument, I don't think any many pacifists that would make the claim that any act that involves killing someone is exactly equivalent to genocide.

Some people feel that killing people for any reason is wrong. That may or may not mean that those people would never kill anyone under any circumstances. Sometimes people do things that they consider to be wrong because they don't have better options available or for other reasons, but that doesn't negate their beliefs.

The point is that where that is not acheivable, where the situations is, factually, kill or be killed, then to choose the life of a serial killer over the life of your children

I think these kill or be killed situations exist mostly in the minds of people who post these kinds of scenarios on the Internet. A given pacifist's kids are millions of times more likely to die in a random car accident than to be killed in a situation where their parents had a clear choice to either kill someone or not in protecting them. Arguing ethical dilemmas in unlikely theoretical situations is fun and all, but calling out pacifism in general because of a few extreme situations doesn't make much sense to me.
posted by burnmp3s at 12:49 PM on November 2, 2009 [4 favorites]


The necessity of killing an aggressor is a position about which reasonable minds may differ. From what I understand, the post in question was stating that killing a recidivist ex-felon stalking the GF of the OP may be necessary to protect the life of the stalked GF. Again, I didn't see the now-deleted (!) comment, but it does not appear that the poster was advising that the OP 1) kill somone who might be stalking the GF, or a creepy neighbor, 2) that the OP preemptively kill the stalker's family to deter further harassment, or 3) any number of attrocities etc. Indeed, the poster was seemingly describing a legally priviliged action: the justified killing of an aggressor who is using deadly force is not a crime under the law.

I'm surprised (although not really) that this has developed into foofaraw and that the post was deleted. You want uncomfortable, read the legendary Scarabic post about disposing of a body. The outrage over this post seems really misplaced. And this whole someone's-killing-my-kids-choose-your-own-adventure canard is not particularly helpful for either side.

There have been several frothy threads in the past week or so (Pen Nazi and Crash Exam, I'm looking at you). What gives?
posted by Admiral Haddock at 12:52 PM on November 2, 2009 [2 favorites]


Johnny Cash loved his kids, but that's not why he shot a man in Reno.
posted by Floydd at 12:52 PM on November 2, 2009 [1 favorite]


Driving directions to Hendersonville, TN: 219 mi – about 3 hours 27 mins

Sweet. I'm going this weekend.
posted by JeffK at 12:53 PM on November 2, 2009


If any comments in that thread should be deleted, it's this one, which is absolutely just as dangerous as "put a loaded gun to your head and pull the trigger." Jinx of the 2nd Law should be mortified that his asinine, moronic answer is forever linked to his name; I weep that he is not.
posted by Optimus Chyme at 12:55 PM on November 2, 2009


I AM HAVING A LOVELY TIME IN TAHITI

Makes me think of:

"Normally I wear protection, but then I thought, when am I going to make it back to Haiti?"

or the quote more germane to this thread: "Now that I have kids I feel a lot better having a gun in the house."
posted by cjorgensen at 12:56 PM on November 2, 2009 [1 favorite]


I just sent a memail to Jessamyn about that exact thing, Admiral Haddock. The OP here did NOT post the entire comment, and with its apparent deletion newcomers can't read for themselves what I actually said.

Rest assured, I did not advocate for vigilante stakeouts and slaughters.
posted by TomMelee at 12:57 PM on November 2, 2009


It would, however, be a position consistent with the physical laws of the universe, at least until the NRA invents the HitlerKill2000™ time machine.

Yeah, that won't work either.
posted by zarq at 12:57 PM on November 2, 2009 [4 favorites]


EmpressCallipygos, I'll try this one more time.

My argument: pacifism is morally abhorrent when you're charged with defending the lives of innocent people against those who would kill them.

Your response: "Defending the lives of innocents" can be achieved in more ways than just by "killing someone." Y'know, just so you know.

My point: I'm not arguing with that. I'm saying that when it is nto possible to achieve that defence by other means, then it is wrong not to kill in defence of innocent life. Your comment didn't address that.

Your response: "I think you may be missing MY point: I think that's wrong."

Okay, well, I wasn't missing your point, you just didn't make it. Now, can you tell me why it would have been wrong for a police officer to shoot the Columbine gunmen before they got to the school library? Can you explain why it would be wrong for someone to shoot a serial killer who had broken into their house and was standing over their children with a knife, about to plunge it into them? Can you tell me why it would have been wrong to kill a few thousand Hutu militiamen to prevent the muder of 800,000 Tutsis in Rwanda in 1994? I'd particularly like to know why it's invalid to make a moral judgment against someone who would let their children die to preserve the purity of their own soul.

Finally, dersins, I think you'll find plenty of non-Nazi analogies in the thread. The point is that pacifists are usually unwilling to deal with the hard cases. They usually just say things like, "well, that's what I believe." Instead of yelling Godwin, maybe they could explain why they think the moral thing to do would have been to allow the Nazis free reign of Europe.
posted by Dasein at 1:02 PM on November 2, 2009 [2 favorites]


> I really, truly believe that if they would rather stand by and watch a murder stab their children to death than have that murder's death on their conscience, then, no, they don't.

Wow, you're really being a jerk in here for no apparent reason. Read what Durn Bronzefist said and reconsider your smug assumption of macho superiority.
posted by languagehat at 1:04 PM on November 2, 2009


Do you love your kids enough to torture a few people to protect them? How about a lot of people? Enough to build up some technique, a signature style, if you will.

Yes. But I was already doing that, anyway, so maybe I'm not the best example.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 1:05 PM on November 2, 2009


calling out pacifism in general because of a few extreme situations doesn't make much sense to me.

A few extreme situations? Have you consulted a history book lately? Or a newspaper?

Moral systems are only really tested in the extreme. Of course most people will live their life without needing to get into a fight or kill someone. If that's your standard for whether a moral system is valid, then...you are entitled to your opinion.
posted by Dasein at 1:06 PM on November 2, 2009 [1 favorite]


"Look, you might have to kill this guy" is enough for me to feel seriously uncomfortable.

But that is implied, at least, in using a gun for self-defense. It's something that needs to be considered if you do plan to use a gun in self-defense. It should make you seriously uncomfortable. It makes me uncomfortable, and I've used a gun in self-defense myself. I'm grateful every day that in the times I've used it, I didn't end up killing anyone, but I had to be willing to take that chance for my own safety.
posted by me & my monkey at 1:07 PM on November 2, 2009 [2 favorites]


Read what Durn Bronzefist said

I did. And I can say that if those people were trying to kill my kid, and I somehow knew with certainty that torturing them would save the kid, then Jack Bauer would have nothing on me. Of course, such a scenario is several orders of magnitude more far-fetched than "someone breaks into my house with a knife and is making for the kid's bedroom," which is pretty unlikely as it is.
posted by Dasein at 1:09 PM on November 2, 2009


Everybody here just needs to chill the hell out and fire up some "Dirty Harry" or "The Enforcer" or "Death Wish" on the Netflix because THAT STUFF IS BADASS.
posted by jbickers at 1:10 PM on November 2, 2009 [1 favorite]


maybe they could explain why they think the moral thing to do would have been to allow the Nazis free reign of Europe

Are you surprised at their tears, sir? Strawmen also cry. Strawmen also cry.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 1:11 PM on November 2, 2009 [17 favorites]


Your response: "I think you may be missing MY point: I think that's wrong."

Okay, well, I wasn't missing your point, you just didn't make it.


I did by bolding the "i think" part of your statement. But let me be more clear.

You THINK it is wrong. The fact that you THINK it is wrong does not MAKE IT wrong for everyone in the entire world. So for you to accuse someone of "not loving their kids" for no other reason than "I think something different from what they think" makes you a dick.

THAT is my point. What that person would do if they were at Columbine/in Rwanda/on the moon watching Hutus/Hitler/a serial killer DOES NOT MATTER. It is entirely possible that under any of those situations, they would decide something differently from you -- that does not make THAT PERSON evil, and that does not make that person worthy of being accused of not loving their kids. And making that accusation, and then going on to say that "Oh, I bet you would have just let the Nazis take over the ghettos/the Hutus murder Tutsis/Dylan and Klebold kill everyone," makes you look like a serious jerk.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 1:12 PM on November 2, 2009 [3 favorites]


How's that nice afternoon off coming, mods?

HAPPYPLACEHAPPYPLACEHAPPYPLACEHAPPYPLACEHAPPYPLACEHAPPYPLACE
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 1:12 PM on November 2, 2009 [24 favorites]


Everybody here just needs to chill the hell out and fire up some "Dirty Harry" or "The Enforcer" or "Death Wish" on the Netflix because THAT STUFF IS BADASS.

NO WAY JBICKERS! WE'RE TOO BUSY FANTASIZING ABOUT KILLING SOME HORRIBLE MURDER GUY BECAUSE THAT'S EXACTLY LIKE KILLING HITLER ONLY WE'RE PROTECTING OUR BABIES INSTEAD OF THE JEWS!
posted by dersins at 1:13 PM on November 2, 2009 [5 favorites]


Barlow: Mayor Quimby, you are well known for your lenient stance on crime, but suppose for a second that your house was ransacked by thugs, your family was tied up in the basement with socks in their mouths, you try to open the door but there's too much blood on the knob--

Mayor Quimby: What is your question?

Barlow: My question is about the budget, sir.
posted by drjimmy11 at 1:14 PM on November 2, 2009 [5 favorites]


(...) which is pretty unlikely as it is.

And yet you use these extreme long-shot hypotheticals to call pacifism morally abhorrent.

I don't know what I'd do in the unlikely buy possible event I was faced with such a situation. But I know for a flat-out fact that if more people, rather fewer, would take violence and killing off the table, we would all be better off.

Yeah, yeah. And then the Humungous, the Ayatollah of Rockandrolla comes and takes our juice. I don't have an answer, but I don't think the answer is KILL
posted by dirtdirt at 1:15 PM on November 2, 2009 [2 favorites]


Anyone want to see a video of a weird death motorcycle I saw on an equatorial island?
posted by Burhanistan at 1:16 PM on November 2, 2009 [1 favorite]


DU: "I take it you don't have kids."

Parenting is tough work, but we're usually kidding when we say we want to strangle our children.
posted by The corpse in the library at 1:18 PM on November 2, 2009


Moral systems are only really tested in the extreme.

I disagree. Hypothetical, extreme examples are entertaining to contemplate, but prove little. Their incidence frequency is so low that they might as well be meaningless to the average person. And yes, saying, OMGWTFBBQ WHAT ABOUT HITLER!?! is Godwinning a fucking thread.

The proof of an individual's personal moral "system" is whether it is validated (or not,) by the choices they make each day. It's the everyday process that matters, not unrealistic speculation.
posted by zarq at 1:20 PM on November 2, 2009 [3 favorites]


Just to piss off some of the people who aren't pissed off yet: gun-schmun, I can't believe people are in that thread telling the OP to get a dog, like it's nothing more than some useful, inanimate can of mace.
posted by FelliniBlank at 1:29 PM on November 2, 2009 [6 favorites]


I'm saying that when it is not possible to achieve that defence by other means, then it is wrong not to kill in defence of innocent life. Your comment didn't address that.

Just because you can make the argument that it's not wrong to kill in the defense of others - and I'd probably agree with that - doesn't mean you can make the argument that it is clearly wrong not to kill in the defense of others.
posted by me & my monkey at 1:33 PM on November 2, 2009


I don't understand what's being accomplished by deleting this comment.

As far as I can tell, no one was encouraging a felony. The law allows citizens to take measures to protect their lives. This was just a statement of necessity - this AskMe poster is in an extreme situation and someone may have to be killed. That it makes some folk uncomfortable to hear it put like that shouldn't affect people's ability to respond. Why should another member's personal values come into play?

Is anyone served by doing this? If so, who?
posted by BigSky at 1:33 PM on November 2, 2009 [1 favorite]


I;m with FelliniBlank on the dog thing. I;d rather die than get a dog. I;m more of a cat person, but most cats would be worthless in a defense situation.

Look, I've gone way off the reservation into semicolon-nutso land!
posted by cjorgensen at 1:37 PM on November 2, 2009


I;m more of a cat person, but most cats would be worthless in a defense situation.

That's mostly a factor of the weight of the cat and your ability to swing them around really fast.
posted by Admiral Haddock at 1:39 PM on November 2, 2009 [4 favorites]


I can see why the comment came off as bloodthirsty, but I think it's a case where people become more extreme and less polite in the process of arguing with each other. Some people go 'well I'd never kill anyone even if they were trying to kill my kids' and some people go 'well I wouldn't think twice about taking them out' I don't think either side really means it. Most people accept some concept of self defense and I'm sure the original commenter would have feelings about harming someone not just pull the trigger then go eat some biscuits and watch ugly betty.
posted by Not Supplied at 1:40 PM on November 2, 2009 [2 favorites]


What the heck is a "risk specialist?"
posted by neuron at 1:42 PM on November 2, 2009 [2 favorites]


As far as I can tell, no one was encouraging a felony. The law allows citizens to take measures to protect their lives. This was just a statement of necessity - this AskMe poster is in an extreme situation and someone may have to be killed.

See that last phrase? That's where the problem lies.

Premeditated murder is a crime. Here in the US, one can legally purchase a gun for self defense. A person can legally fire a gun to defend one's self or one's home. But if a person buys a gun with the intent that they will use it to kill another human being, that's premeditation and the difference between manslaughter and murder.
posted by zarq at 1:47 PM on November 2, 2009


And yes, saying, OMGWTFBBQ WHAT ABOUT HITLER!?! is Godwinning a fucking thread.

But is it Godwinning the thread to bring up the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising? Seriously, this is not a snarky question. It's not a hypothetical "what if you have a magical flying pony that could take you back in time to Berchtesgaden and murder Hitler with just one glance from its deadly long-lashed eyes." It really happened; hundreds (possibly more than a thousand) really did decide to resist their oppressors (who, yes, happened to be Nazis, OMG) with deadly force. In a thread discussing the morality of deadly self-defense, this strikes me as being utterly relevant -- the opposite of Godwinning the thread, in fact.

On that note, I would like to observe the death of Dr. Marek Edelman, the last surviving commander of the uprising, who died last month.
posted by scody at 1:48 PM on November 2, 2009 [1 favorite]


EmpressCallipygos, while I appreciate you calling me a dick more than once and a jerk at least once (very classy, BTW; next time let's try for another bodily appendage), my point was not that someone loves their kids less because they think something different than I do. You can think whatever you want and love your kids. But when you decide to stand by while they are killed, then, if love has any meaning, you love them less than someone who would save them. You can think what you want; I'll give you a pass if you actually defend your kids when push comes to shove. If you are actually willing to let them be killed, then, no, you didn't love your kids enough. Not more than you loved yourself. Does saying that make me a dick? We'll, I'd rather be a dick than a self-righteous pacifist, I suppose.
posted by Dasein at 1:52 PM on November 2, 2009


It's a fantastic argumentative technique to restrict all examples used to evaluate your moral philosophy to ones that reflect favorably on it and just define everything outside that range to be "extremes" that don't really count. I can't believe I didn't think of this earlier.
posted by 0xFCAF at 1:52 PM on November 2, 2009 [8 favorites]


Magical ponies and Hitler aside, what's fascinating about that AskMe thread (and this one) is that it's about a big, fat hole in the US criminal justice system (or a perfect storm, or whatever metaphor you want). When someone is stalking you, and wants to do you harm, there is no official mechanism for preventing it. A restraining order is not a physical restraint: It means that the stalker can be punished after he violates the order, or if he is caught in the act of violating it. The former is more likely, since those scenes of cops staking out a house (fueled by coffee and donuts, sleeping in their clothes) to protect a witness or other innocent are pure fantasy.

Taken out of context, all those pro-killing-the-killer-before-he-can-kill-you answers seem kind of crazy; but in this specific situation, they're a reasonable solution to an impossible condition.
posted by turducken at 1:53 PM on November 2, 2009


> I'd rather be a dick than a self-righteous pacifist, I suppose.

You mean you'd rather be a self-righteous dick than a self-righteous pacifist. Congratulations, you get your druthers!
posted by languagehat at 1:58 PM on November 2, 2009 [2 favorites]


But if a person buys a gun with the intent that they will use it to kill another human being, that's premeditation and the difference between manslaughter and murder.

Maybe I'm missing something here, but what I'm seeing quoted in this post is not the equivalent of, "I recommend going to the gun store and buying a handgun. You need to kill this guy, it's either you or him.". I would paraphrase the intent more like, "Your environment has changed to where you are at an increased risk of being the victim in a violent crime. Consider getting a handgun. If you wind up in a situation where you need to use that gun, realize now that someone's death may be unavoidable.". There is no premeditation to kill there. Everyone who owns a firearm for the purpose of self-defense implicitly accepts that they may be in such a situation. That's why they're loaded with real bullets. If all violent crimes could be headed off without using firearms, everyone would keep theirs unloaded.
posted by BigSky at 1:59 PM on November 2, 2009 [6 favorites]


Premeditated murder is a crime. Here in the US, one can legally purchase a gun for self defense. A person can legally fire a gun to defend one's self or one's home. But if a person buys a gun with the intent that they will use it to kill another human being, that's premeditation and the difference between manslaughter and murder.

Zarq, your statements of the law are simply incorrect. Premeditated homicide may well be murder, which in most jurisdictions has more than one degree, first degree being generally reserved for murders accompanied by certain aggravated factors (e.g., killing a pregnant woman or a police officer, killing with torture, killing during a kidnapping). Reasonable (used in its legal sense) use of a gun, or other deadly force, may be priviliged as a response to deadly force, but your statement that you can "legally" fire a gun to defend yourself is too broad. In addition, in most jurisdictions (inc. NY), you cannot use a gun to defend your home (or other property). However, you can use a gun to protect the people within your home. If you are in your impenetrable safe room and see a burglar outide its steel door, you cannot release poison gas to kill him if there is no threat of deadly force.

Moreover, your statement regarding premeditation is spurious. You can not premeditate self defense. It is privileged: as a legal matter, it is not a crime. The OP made clear a litany of steps he was taking to ensure the safety of his GF. Purchasing a gun to kill the stalker in the event that the stalker is actively using deadly force on the GF is not premeditiation. Tracking down the stalker and shooting him while he is sleeping is murder, of course, but no one has advocated that, as far as I've seen.

This is not legal advice, of course. It would be nice if no one killed anybody.
posted by Admiral Haddock at 2:04 PM on November 2, 2009 [3 favorites]


It's testing my endurance, but I will stick with this thread until we finally solve one of the most fundamental problems of moral philosophy once and for all.
posted by barrett caulk at 2:04 PM on November 2, 2009 [15 favorites]


Okay, languagehat, you clearly win the name-calling side of the argument. Now, would you care to expound an actual, you know, argument?
posted by Dasein at 2:05 PM on November 2, 2009


Fine, fine. I'll post my video of a weird death cycle even if you don't want to see it.
posted by Burhanistan at 2:07 PM on November 2, 2009 [2 favorites]


Premeditated murder is a crime.

To have a gun you intend to use for self-defense and be unaware of or in denial about the possibility that using it on an attacker could kill said attacker would be stupid and dangerous. I think the comment that prompted this MeTa was a healthy antidote to some of the clueless macho "Just show him your gun, you won't even have to use it!" comments.
posted by Meg_Murry at 2:08 PM on November 2, 2009


Moreover, your statement regarding premeditation is spurious. You can not premeditate self defense.

Tell me about it. Leaving my key on the ground out front has resulted in no less than four returns by helpful neighbours. I'm trying a breadcrumb trail of home electronics next.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 2:11 PM on November 2, 2009 [4 favorites]


Magical ponies and Hitler aside, what's fascinating about that AskMe thread (and this one) is that it's about a big, fat hole in the US criminal justice system (or a perfect storm, or whatever metaphor you want). When someone is stalking you, and wants to do you harm, there is no official mechanism for preventing it. A restraining order is not a physical restraint: It means that the stalker can be punished after he violates the order, or if he is caught in the act of violating it.

The police do not have a responsibility to protect any citizen. They deter criminals by upholding the law, apprehending them after a crime has been committed, but they can not protect each and every citizen. It's an impossible task, and that is not their assigned duty. There's a book on the subject, 'Dial 911 and Die', and you can find a lot on the subject googling around. The more determined the stalker (attacker), the less utility the restraining order has.
posted by BigSky at 2:11 PM on November 2, 2009


Dasein -- for the record, I didn't say yoU WERE a dick, I was saying you were LOOKING like one. Just like people can sometimes look like things they aren't, inadvertently.

In that vein, there is a long, long jump between "not wanting to KILL someone in the interest of defending others" and "standing by and watching instead of defending others." People in here are saying "I believe killing people is wrong." that does NOT mean they'd stand there idly twiddling their thumbs while the Boston Strangler was creeping up on their dog or whatthefuckever you're implying - it only means that they would try to stop him WITHOUT killing him.

Which IS possible, you know. It's possible to try to stop the serial killer standing over your infant son by just throwing something at him. It's possible to try to stop Hitler by capturing him. It's possible to try to stop the Boston Strangler by hitting him over the head to just knock him out.

All people have said is that "I think actively trying to kill someone is wrong." That is a far, far, FAR cry from "I'd just stand by while my loved ones are being slaughtered in front of my eyes," and I wish to god I could figure out why you think it's such a short jump from one to the other.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 2:14 PM on November 2, 2009 [4 favorites]


But is it Godwinning the thread to bring up the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising?

The point of the comment was to bring up the most extreme example the commenter could think of, with the explicit intent of creating a reductio ad Hitlerum argument. He explained this in a later comment.

So, yes. It is a huge intellectual leap from killing a single person in self defense to an hypothetical scenario in which one kills in order to prevent genocide. And yes, it's very "magical flying pony." We went from "someone may be targeting me" in the original askme thread to "If he were Hitler, you should kill him!!"

Seriously, this is not a snarky question. It's not a hypothetical "what if you have a magical flying pony that could take you back in time to Berchtesgaden and murder Hitler with just one glance from its deadly long-lashed eyes." It really happened; hundreds (possibly more than a thousand) really did decide to resist their oppressors (who, yes, happened to be Nazis, OMG) with deadly force. In a thread discussing the morality of deadly self-defense, this strikes me as being utterly relevant -- the opposite of Godwinning the thread, in fact.

I'm not a pacificist. And as it happens, I have family who fought in WWII in the Army, Navy and Army Air Corps (not all of them made it home,) and the majority of my wife's mother's family was sent to a concentration camp and killed by the Nazis. If someone were to invent a time machine, send me back to 1939, hand me a gun and tell me I could shoot Hitler, I'd blow his brains out. I'm proud beyond measure of those who did resist.

But if a time machine is the best philosophical argument a person can come up with, they don't get to tell me that it's not a pipe dream unless they're a living, breathing Eloi.
posted by zarq at 2:20 PM on November 2, 2009


If someone were to invent a time machine, send me back to 1939, hand me a gun and tell me I could shoot Hitler, I'd blow his brains out.

Errrr... "his" in this case being Hitler, not the guy who invented the time machine. :P
posted by zarq at 2:21 PM on November 2, 2009


Or woman. :)
posted by zarq at 2:22 PM on November 2, 2009


I wish to god I could figure out why you think it's such a short jump from one to the other.

Short answer: because "I think actively trying to kill someone is wrong" is an absolute statement. Absent qualification, it's no leap at all from that statement to any of the scenarios above.

zarq, same applies to you. If the statements were, killing is wrong if it's avoidable, then it would be inflammatory to bring up extreme examples. But that's not what pacifists say. They say it's wrong to kill, period, in any situation. I say, really? What about X situation. Yes, X situation is going to be extreme. But it's not reductio ad anything, because the moral claim of pacifism is deliberately absolutely and explicitly includes violence as a defence to aggression against innocents.
posted by Dasein at 2:24 PM on November 2, 2009


> Now, would you care to expound an actual, you know, argument?

My argument is this: The taking of human life is one of the most basic moral quandaries there is. People have argued about it since the beginning of time. People have thought they believed one thing and then, when their beliefs were put to the test, have discovered they acted contrary to what they thought they believed. (This goes in both directions.) I respect any well-thought-out position on the issue. I do not, however, respect anyone who thinks their position is so obviously right that they get to call anyone who takes the other position names (or, in your case, tell them "you didn't love your kids enough"). This goes in both directions, but in this particular thread, you're the one being the dick.
posted by languagehat at 2:27 PM on November 2, 2009 [12 favorites]


Errrr... "his" in this case being Hitler, not the guy who invented the time machine.

Sorry, tournament rules.

Ok, you're standing in the lab with a dead scientist and a time machine you're not quite sure how to use. The lab assistant hurries in. You recognize a P1318-type Z prototype plasma rifle in his hands. He looks from you to the corpse on the floor and back. Roll initiative.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 2:28 PM on November 2, 2009 [6 favorites]


That should have been "deliberately absolute." And: don't like the Warsaw ghetto thing? (I didn't mention Hitler, BTW), pick one of the other scenarios. The point is that an innocent person who kills an agressor when (a) the agressor seeks to kill him or an innocent third party and (b) there is no other avenue of escape is morally blameless. Certainly, they are not as morally blameworthy as the aggressor. You want to say "all killing is wrong"? Then explain why it's moral to accept the deaths of innocent people at the hands of aggressors.
posted by Dasein at 2:29 PM on November 2, 2009


Short answer: because "I think actively trying to kill someone is wrong" is an absolute statement. Absent qualification, it's no leap at all from that statement to any of the scenarios above.

Okay, well, in polite society the proper response to an absolute statement which you disagree with is "well, I disagree with that." The proper response is NOT "you must not love your children, then".
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 2:30 PM on November 2, 2009 [2 favorites]


Killing Hitler would be pointless, because there's always another crazy-ass dictator to take his place. The only solution is to dial the time machine all the way back to zero and kill God day one. Kill God, end suffering. And Twitter Speak. The ultimate Twittectomy.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 2:34 PM on November 2, 2009 [4 favorites]


Well, langugagehat, I'm afraid that I wouldn't respect anyone who would let their kids be murdered, or give that decision their moral blessing, so I guess we'll just have to agree not to respect each other on this point. I feel pretty comfortable saying that in this scenario, my position is so obviously right that no amount of moral relativism is going to make me feel bad for holding it. You seem to think there is a well-thought-out position that would let the kids die. I'd love to hear it. If you can convince me, then I'll cop to having been a dick. But as it is I just think that on this narrow scenario, if you're not willing to say that love for your children requires you to kill, you're either morally confused or you don't have the courage of your convictions.
posted by Dasein at 2:37 PM on November 2, 2009


in polite society

Trust me, while the gods of etiquette may agree with you that I'm being a dick in this thread, this conversation would go differently at a dinner party at my house (or AskMe, for that matter). Sadly for the mods, I don't feel the need to pull punches in MetaTalk.
posted by Dasein at 2:39 PM on November 2, 2009


> I feel pretty comfortable saying that in this scenario, my position is so obviously right that no amount of moral relativism is going to make me feel bad for holding it. ... I just think that on this narrow scenario, if you're not willing to say that love for your children requires you to kill, you're either morally confused or you don't have the courage of your convictions.

I think I'll just let your statement speak for itself. Anyone who agrees with your opinion of the obvious rightness of your position is welcome to join you in your bunker with a supply of ammo and a flaming sense of righteousness.
posted by languagehat at 2:40 PM on November 2, 2009 [5 favorites]


(I didn't mention Hitler, BTW)

rogerd was the first to do so in this thread.

However, you mentioned him here. when you made a Nazi / Holocaust analogy and then also tried to say that you weren't pulling a Godwin because you weren't comparing pacifists to Hitler. (You said: "Like, was the Jewish resistance in the Warsaw ghetto the moral equivalent of the Nazi liquidation of it, because both involved killing people? (Note: I am not comparing pacifists to Hitler, don't even mention Godwin.)")

You do know what Godwin's Law is, yes?
posted by zarq at 2:40 PM on November 2, 2009


There is a body of evidence that suggests that keeping a firearm for protection incurs several risks to personal safety. Further the notion that a gun provides ready protection is a popular myth, in that the protective effect may be marginal or statistically insignificant. Here are a few cites:

To study the epidemiology of deaths involving firearms kept in the home, we reviewed all the gunshot deaths that occurred in King County, Washington (population 1,270,000), from 1978 through 1983. The medical examiner's case files were supplemented by police records or interviews with investigating officers or both, to obtain specific information about the circumstances, the scene of the incident, the type of firearm involved, and the relationship of the suspect to the victim. A total of 743 firearm-related deaths occurred during this six-year period, 398 of which (54 percent) occurred in the residence where the firearm was kept. Only 2 of these 398 deaths (0.5 percent) involved an intruder shot during attempted entry. Seven persons (1.8 percent) were killed in self-defense. For every case of self-protection homicide involving a firearm kept in the home, there were 1.3 accidental deaths, 4.6 criminal homicides, and 37 suicides involving firearms. Hand-guns were used in 70.5 percent of these deaths. The advisability of keeping firearms in the home for protection must be questioned. - "Protection or peril? An analysis of firearm-related deaths in the home", Kellermann and Reay

With all of that said, ignoring the relationship between firearms and the death rate from suicide was a mistake from the beginning. The changing circumstances of American suicide make this omission a far more egregious error in the 1990s than it was in the 1960s. As household ownership of guns increased through the 1960s and 1970 so too did the proportion of all suicides committed with firearms, from 47 percent of all suicides in 1960 to 56 percent of all suicides in 1977.8 Although the rate of suicide remains highest among older white males, rates of suicide have grown disproportionately in groups that were traditionally at low risk, and increasing rates of firearm suicide appear to be a striking part of this dynamic transformation. Between 1960 and 1980 the total number of females committing suicide by all means other than firearms increased 16 percent, while the number of females committing suicide using firearms more than doubled. Suicides of young persons ages five to nineteen by all means other than firearms increased 175 percent between 1960 and 1980; over the same period the percentage increase of suicide by firearms among this age group was 299 percent. Nonwhites, typically a low-risk group for suicide, experienced an 88 percent increase in nonfirearm suicide between 1960 and 1980, compared with a 160 percent increase in the volume of firearm suicide. - "Policy Research on Firearms and Violence", F. Zimring

After controlling for these characteristics, we found that keeping a gun in the home was strongly and independently associated with an increased risk of homicide (adjusted odds ratio, 2.7; 95 percent confidence interval, 1.6 to 4.4). Virtually all of this risk involved homicide by a family member or intimate acquaintance... Despite the widely held belief that guns are effective for protection, our results suggest that they actually pose a substantial threat to members of the household. People who keep guns in their homes appear to be at greater risk of homicide in the home than people who do not. Most of this risk is due to a substantially greater risk of homicide at the hands of a family member or intimate acquaintance. We did not find evidence of a protective effect of keeping a gun in the home, even in the small subgroup of cases that involved forced entry. - "Gun Ownership as a Risk Factor for Homicide in the Home", A. Kellermann

All that said and done, at this point in time there is a 0.000000% (+/- 0.00000000000000e-inf) chance of killing Hitler to save Europe.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 2:42 PM on November 2, 2009 [4 favorites]


I'm getting confused. Why are Nazi's trying to kill my kids, again? Do I have to save all of my kids, or just my favorites?
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 2:54 PM on November 2, 2009 [3 favorites]


Short answer: because "I think actively trying to kill someone is wrong" is an absolute statement. Absent qualification, it's no leap at all from that statement to any of the scenarios above.

zarq, same applies to you. If the statements were, killing is wrong if it's avoidable, then it would be inflammatory to bring up extreme examples. But that's not what pacifists say. They say it's wrong to kill, period, in any situation. I say, really? What about X situation. Yes, X situation is going to be extreme. But it's not reductio ad anything, because the moral claim of pacifism is deliberately absolutely and explicitly includes violence as a defence to aggression against innocents.


With my deepest respect to grapefruitmoon, I think pacifism is an evolutionary dead end. That's my opinion. I wouldn't dream of telling her that my opinion is better than hers, nor judge her for her desire to form her own ethical position on killing another human being.

The point I have tried to make to you here is not that absolute pacifism is morally superior or inferior. It's that your argument: "her position is extreme, so my example has to be, too!" is ridiculous, whether your intention was honorable or not. What you did was most certainly reductio ad Hitlerum.
posted by zarq at 2:55 PM on November 2, 2009 [2 favorites]


But what if getting Hitler high could have prevented the Holocaust? Then I bet you'd feel pretty bad about killing him, wouldn't you?
posted by klangklangston at 2:55 PM on November 2, 2009 [1 favorite]


Blazecock Pileon, I don't doubt those studies (I'm an arugula-eating left winger living in Boston who thinks that the Second Amendment is a horrible idea (though I'd pounce like a rabid lemur on those attacking my make-believe children)). But I think there is a palpable difference between keeping a gun for "protection" against an amorphous threat and against a specific ex-convict who is actively stalking you. It's not clear to me what were the "various reasons" for excluding certain of the households; do you know whether they included households where there was an active third-party threat?
posted by Admiral Haddock at 2:57 PM on November 2, 2009


Can we draw the line that a "helpful answer" does not include "actively advocating for the death of another human being?"

Given the facts presented to us, I'd have to disagree.

The OP's GF is dealing with a criminal convicted of trying to kill her and her family. He's out of jail and stalking them again as well as threatening to kill them. The criminal justice system seems powerless to stop him.

I have no argument with people who abhor violence. However, your way isn't the only way. And if a family, already chased out of one state, decides not to give up everything they've built up and flee again, decides to stay and fight, that's their choice and I respect that. And if they stay, they may well need to kill this person in self defense. As such, guns, and the proper care and maintenance of, as well as PI's, threat deterrence or whatever else will work should be considered reasonable answers.

You're free to suggest your non-violent approach. I'm free to suggest mine. And, unfortunately, there are some people that will only be stopped by violence or incarceration. And incarceration didn't stop this guy.

If this person were threatening my family, I'd never feel safe until he was dead because he has already shown that incarceration is not a deterrent, nor can they keep him locked up forever (unless he actually kills a member of my family).

I have my own experiences with this type of situation. I was once attacked by a meth addict bum in my own backyard. He tried to kill me with a broken bottle. I fought him off and called the cops. He was arrested, convicted and sent to jail.

Before he was arrested, I asked the cops (I have two small children who were in the house at the time) what I should do if he came back. The cop didn't hesitate in telling me to use deadly force if I needed to protect my family. As it turns out, the guy was so fucked up, he couldn't remember anything about me or where I lived which was a major relief.

But I still ended up buying mace and tasers to make me more comfortable. I would have bought a gun but for my kids. But if I had someone like this after me? I think I would buy a gun for the short term, as well as hire a PI or other threat deterrence for the duration.
posted by cjets at 2:58 PM on November 2, 2009 [4 favorites]


Can we just pause for a second to admire this impeccably constructed doublespeak?

my point was not that someone loves their kids less because they think something different than I do. You can think whatever you want and love your kids. But when you decide to stand by while they are killed, then, if love has any meaning, you love them less than someone who would save them.

So, you're not here to tell people they love their kids less than you do just because they think differently than you do, except that when they think differently than you do that means they love their kids less than you do?

I mean, come on, that's so brazen it's awesome.
posted by turaho at 3:05 PM on November 2, 2009 [2 favorites]


Next up on MetaTalk: If you would not kill for your country, can you ever really be patriotic?
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 3:08 PM on November 2, 2009 [3 favorites]


But I think there is a palpable difference between keeping a gun for "protection" against an amorphous threat and against a specific ex-convict who is actively stalking you.

I think the point is that carrying a weapon incurs its own intrinsic risks, separate from those external to its user. The simplistic association that "Gun => protection, QED." is mostly mythic in basis. It's important to have a basic understanding of the associated risks before bringing such a dangerous object into one's home, especially given organized opposition to the implementation of most gun safety measures.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 3:09 PM on November 2, 2009 [1 favorite]


But zarq, there would be little point in choosing a scenario which could be resolved peacefully. Any scenario capable of testing her convictions has to involve: (1) the imminent death of innocent people (2) at the hands of an unprovoked aggressor (3) that can only be avoided by killing the aggressor. You don't like my examples? Fine! Make up another one. You can state this in the abstract. My point is that, first, I haven't seen pacifism defended yet in the above abstract scenario. I think that's because it's indefensible, but someone can try to prove me wrong.

Second, regarding the now-infamous kid-killing scenario: top decide not to save your kid's life by killing the agressor in that particular scenario means that you value something more. Maybe it's a shot at heaven. Maybe it's the principle of non-violence. Whatever. I'm saying that in that situation, people who would not kill the aggressor are valuing something else higher than the life of their child. I suppose that you could say, well, their absolute quotient of love for their child is the same to someone who would kill the baddie, it's just their relative quotient of love that is lower. But I think that the idea that you don't, in some important way, love the life of your kid less is evidently true. And I think the fact that people are taking such offense at this is simply emotion trying to bludgeon away that truth.
posted by Dasein at 3:11 PM on November 2, 2009


If I agree to a little playful tickling, do I get to keep my passport?
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 3:14 PM on November 2, 2009


But what if getting Hitler high could have prevented the Holocaust? Then I bet you'd feel pretty bad about killing him, wouldn't you?

Not if I was straightedge. I mean, I love my hypothetical kids as much as I love getting to travel back in time and stop the Holocaust, but I'm not going to advocate getting Hitler high. There has to be a better way. Oooooh, what if I start a band with Hitler? Can I do that to prevent the Holocaust?
posted by 23skidoo at 3:14 PM on November 2, 2009


What if the serial killer's mom shoots you before you get a chance to shoot him?

What if the nazis were pacifists? What if on top of time travelling your unicorn-steed also contained a pacifier ray and all human war could be ended, but you couldn't travel forward in time and save your children from cancer because you wasted all your grant money on the time travelling, pacifier ray unicorn steed instead of finding out what your children would actually die of like a real loving parent would.

What if you miss the stalker and shoot your girlfriend instead (the bullet passing through her head and into your nearby children...)

What if you mistake the lethal intention of the stalker and kill him despite the fact that he had changed his mind and just wanted to talk, but you never knew that because you blew his brains out?

What if it was impossible to be sure that killing the other person was the right thing to do, but once they are dead there's nothing you can do to change it?
posted by ServSci at 3:14 PM on November 2, 2009


Maybe there's a distinction between loving your kid and loving their being alive. Like, I love my kid so much that I'll let them die to ensure they go to heaven (because I love both their material life and their soul). But I don't think that's applicable here.
posted by Dasein at 3:15 PM on November 2, 2009


Zarq, your statements of the law are simply incorrect. Premeditated homicide may well be murder, which in most jurisdictions has more than one degree, first degree being generally reserved for murders accompanied by certain aggravated factors (e.g., killing a pregnant woman or a police officer, killing with torture, killing during a kidnapping).

Perhaps I'm not caffeinated enough, but I must admit I'm having trouble parsing this. Are you saying that premeditation may or may not be a factor in whether one has committed murder, depending on the case? Or are you taking issue with my (mis)use of the legal definitions of murder and homicide?

Someone purchases a gun because they "might need to kill somebody." Does that not signify intent?

Reasonable (used in its legal sense) use of a gun, or other deadly force, may be priviliged as a response to deadly force, but your statement that you can "legally" fire a gun to defend yourself is too broad.

Yes. I was trying to keep things simple. But I do concede your more accurate point. :)

In addition, in most jurisdictions (inc. NY), you cannot use a gun to defend your home (or other property).

I wasn't aware of this. Where is it legally allowed?

Moreover, your statement regarding premeditation is spurious. You can not premeditate self defense. It is privileged: as a legal matter, it is not a crime. The OP made clear a litany of steps he was taking to ensure the safety of his GF. Purchasing a gun to kill the stalker in the event that the stalker is actively using deadly force on the GF is not premeditiation.

Self defense needs to be legally determined before premeditation can be ruled out, yes?

The deleted comment(s) were of the "some people need killin' so you should get a gun" variety.
posted by zarq at 3:18 PM on November 2, 2009


The deleted comment(s) were of the "some people need killin' so you should get a gun" variety.

The comment was misunderstood. It was a comment that tried to point out that sometimes there was no alternative to killing, and that it was therefore morally defensible. It may not have been well fleshed-out, but TomMelee wasn't advocating capping the guy.
posted by Dasein at 3:21 PM on November 2, 2009


Welcome to the Internet. People will make many suggestions. It is your job to make appropriate decisions.

Poster already tried to get a gun permit, with the explicit goal of protecting self and gf. It's my understanding that gun training teaches you to shoot for the biggest target - the body. Poster is way ahead of this thread. I do not advocate violence. Getting a gun to protect yourself and your gf from a serious threat is not an extreme idea.
posted by theora55 at 3:27 PM on November 2, 2009 [1 favorite]


The real question here is whether or not you would put a bullet in a child's brain if it meant keeping your own children safe.

I mean, frankly, once you've admitted to yourself that you'll do absolutely anything to protect your loved ones there is no limit to the amount of heinous evil that you can be coaxed into.
posted by Avenger at 3:35 PM on November 2, 2009 [1 favorite]


I'm unfollowing this thread. If anyone needs me you know how to get ahold of me.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 3:36 PM on November 2, 2009 [3 favorites]


But zarq, there would be little point in choosing a scenario which could be resolved peacefully.

I can imagine several dozen scenarios which fit that description, yet do not use genocide as an example.

Any scenario capable of testing her convictions has to involve: (1) the imminent death of innocent people (2) at the hands of an unprovoked aggressor (3) that can only be avoided by killing the aggressor.

Her comment above seems pretty clear. Why do you need to prove whether she would be capable of standing by her convictions in a given hypothetical scenario, especially since she's already stated that she's not sure herself?
posted by zarq at 3:39 PM on November 2, 2009


The real question here is whether or not you would put a bullet in a child's brain if it meant keeping your own children safe.

Sadly, this is not exactly novel, or even far-fetched in some part of the world. It's certainly not "extreme." See: Child Soldiers. They aren't evil, but neither is doing what's necessary to keep your family alive.
posted by Dasein at 3:40 PM on November 2, 2009


They [child soldiers] aren't evil, but neither is doing what's necessary to keep your family alive.

If you really believe that "doing what's necessary to keep your family alive" isn't potentially evil, then......well, I'm not even sure how to respond to that. Yours is a very natural, human sentiment that is responsible for a great deal of misery in our species.
posted by Avenger at 3:43 PM on November 2, 2009 [3 favorites]


Sorry, "her convictions" should have been "pacficist convictions," since this argument evolved beyond what grapefruitmoon was asserting. I was responding more to this comment that seemed to want to avoid dealing with the question by changing the scenario. That comment was a while ago, and my point is, no one has responded yet to any sort of scenario that has the elements here.
posted by Dasein at 3:48 PM on November 2, 2009


>There is a body of evidence that suggests that keeping a firearm for protection incurs several risks to personal safety....Kellerman...Kellerman

Please see this earlier comment. One can make a credible argument against keeping a gun for personal protection, but I can't say strongly enough how exceptionally bad the Kellerman/NEJM articles are. They would be lucky to earn a C in a graduate level research-methods class. If you're interested in the scholarly literature on guns and violence, the book linked in that link is remarkably even-handed, thorough, and accessible to the non-specialist (and free).
posted by K.P. at 3:50 PM on November 2, 2009


If you really believe that "doing what's necessary to keep your family alive" isn't potentially evil, then......well, I'm not even sure how to respond to that.

Okay, fair point. I'm not thinking here of a scenario where some guy takes my family hostage and says, "kill that kid or I kill your family." I would not kill that kid. He has done nothing to deserve it. I was responding, I guess, to the idea that I can imagine a scenario, however horrible, in which it would not be evil to kill even a child in self-defence. Unspeakable, horrendous, haunting, yes. But evil, no.
posted by Dasein at 3:52 PM on November 2, 2009


Well, then thank goodness that in this case the problem to be solved isn't "someone is actively trying to kill me." It's "Someone is actively threatening to kill me."

It saddens (but, unfortunately, doesn't surprise) me that there are people who apparently don't understand that there is a difference between these two things.


Uhh, read the question again:

He want [sic] to jail for trying to kill her,

He's already actively tired to kill her, and he's trying to do it again. "Kill him first" is a totally rational, if not universally applicable, answer to this problem.
posted by spaltavian at 3:58 PM on November 2, 2009


I'm getting confused. Why are Nazi's trying to kill my kids, again? Do I have to save all of my kids, or just my favorites?

For November we're calling those kids faves.
posted by cjorgensen at 4:15 PM on November 2, 2009 [5 favorites]


The basic point here is that some people think that it's wrong to kill another human being in any situation. That's fine. Some people don't think it's okay to eat meat. Here on Metafilter, we have vegetarians and pacifists of varying degrees, but I think it's still okay to feature advice on lethal self defense, just as we have threads on how to cook steak.

I draw the line at advice on how to kill NOT in self defense, or threads that advocate killing above non-lethal practical solutions. The ideal way to resolve a conflict with a killer, IMHO, is to incapacitate him and put him in the custody of the police so that society can mete an appropriate punishment based on law. (I don't believe in the death penalty, FWIW. I consider killing an intruder the final acceptable option for self defense. I'm also not a gun owner, and I'm torn on whether or not handguns should be legal.)

Answers and posts should be written with care to make it clear that if they are advocating a lethal solution, it is meant as last resort self defense when your life is at stake, and is not for everybody. Anything else is just plain psychopathic.

Also, I get totally grossed out by the gun nuts who own a gun and talk almost like they're looking forward to getting burgled so that they can scare off or shoot a burglar with their gun. That's not what I want to encourage on Mefi at all.
posted by mccarty.tim at 4:15 PM on November 2, 2009 [2 favorites]


But when you decide to stand by while they are killed, then, if love has any meaning, you love them less than someone who would save them. You can think what you want; I'll give you a pass if you actually defend your kids when push comes to shove. If you are actually willing to let them be killed, then, no, you didn't love your kids enough. Not more than you loved yourself. Does saying that make me a dick? We'll, I'd rather be a dick than a self-righteous pacifist, I suppose.

WHO is saying this? Who in this thread has said "In a situation wherein my kids were in harm's way, I would just sit there."

Eff that. I would never, ever take another human's life, but I would 100% throw myself into the gaping jaws of death if it meant saving a loved one. Perhaps this makes me a self-righteous pacifist, and I'm totally fine with that, but please don't imply that I wouldn't *do anything* in an extreme situation that I hope to Dog on High that none of us ever have to be in.

All people have said is that "I think actively trying to kill someone is wrong." That is a far, far, FAR cry from "I'd just stand by while my loved ones are being slaughtered in front of my eyes," and I wish to god I could figure out why you think it's such a short jump from one to the other.

Or, y'know, this.

Short answer: because "I think actively trying to kill someone is wrong" is an absolute statement. Absent qualification, it's no leap at all from that statement to any of the scenarios above.

Yeah, actually, it is. It's a big leap to imagine that someone who doesn't want to kill someone else wouldn't do ANYTHING in self-defense.

Any scenario capable of testing her convictions has to involve: (1) the imminent death of innocent people (2) at the hands of an unprovoked aggressor (3) that can only be avoided by killing the aggressor.

Good Lord, why do we NEED to test my convictions? Is that really necessary? I can get with you (sort of) on the "Crazy person is trying to stab your children" thought experiment, but that's about it. And I've said - yeah, I would do anything in my power to defend myself/my family, but I would not *actively try* to kill someone else. (I.E., I would aim a gun if I had one, but not at anyone's *head.*) Beyond that? Does it matter? If I say to you "Yes, ok, I would kill Hitler" - will that give you some kind of sense of accomplishment? Because really, what are you trying to accomplish? Testing my beliefs? For what purpose? If I changed my mind, would that enhance your life in some way?

Second, regarding the now-infamous kid-killing scenario: top decide not to save your kid's life by killing the agressor in that particular scenario means that you value something more. Maybe it's a shot at heaven. Maybe it's the principle of non-violence.

No. It's valuing the life of another fellow human being. Everyone is someone else's child. Yes, I would try to protect my own children - of course I would - but I could never kill someone else's child.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 4:18 PM on November 2, 2009 [2 favorites]


Now that I've responded - Dasein, can we make an agreement for everyone's sanity to drop this? You are free to have your position, and I'm free to have mine and honestly, it doesn't really matter to me if you approve of my position or not. I'm totally comfortable with that. I'm sorry I was busy at work (tending children, ironically) and this spun out of control while you were waiting for a response and building up this craziness.

The mods are having a tough day - jessamyn has already quit the thread. Perhaps I made a mistake in making this post, I don't know. I will say that I've said all that I can possibly say to you and I would like to make a good faith agreement to just let things lie for the sake of everybody because this belief-testing is going really, really far.

If nothing else, please test my beliefs via MeMail.

I think that there was some initial value to discussing the original AskMe thread and the various nuances that come up in trying to discuss gun safety and self-defense, but this - if it's really about having an argument about pacifism - isn't doing the community any good, and if you want to hash it out with me, I'm open to that - but let's take it out of the thread.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 4:23 PM on November 2, 2009


YOU KNOW WHO ELSE WAS SOMEONE ELSE'S CHILD?!! THAT'S RIGHT: ELSE!
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 4:24 PM on November 2, 2009


I'm unfollowing this thread. If anyone needs me you know how to get ahold of me.

Great guys, now you made it so she can't read every comment.

This said, this thread took a left turn at weird, so I'm ducking out as well.

And grapefruitmoon says: (I.E., I would aim a gun if I had one, but not at anyone's *head.*)

See, this is why training is essential. Always aim center mass.
posted by cjorgensen at 4:24 PM on November 2, 2009


"Not if I was straightedge. I mean, I love my hypothetical kids as much as I love getting to travel back in time and stop the Holocaust, but I'm not going to advocate getting Hitler high. There has to be a better way. Oooooh, what if I start a band with Hitler? Can I do that to prevent the Holocaust?"

If the choice was between killing Hitler and being in a band with Hitler, y'know, I'd probably just go ahead and shoot him. I hate that oompah Ach Du Lieber Augustine shit.
posted by klangklangston at 4:25 PM on November 2, 2009 [3 favorites]


The best part is - Tom's original comment was nuked, and this little cherry picked excerpt gets to hang around on into infinity and make him look like a gun totting nut job.

Hooray!
posted by kbanas at 4:29 PM on November 2, 2009 [3 favorites]


Argh, I care not about this. I just want the damn back story!
posted by geoff. at 4:34 PM on November 2, 2009


Trust me, while the gods of etiquette may agree with you that I'm being a dick in this thread, this conversation would go differently at a dinner party at my house (or AskMe, for that matter).

So, essentially, you're admitting that if you can get away with acting like a cad, you will.

...Fair enough, then.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 4:40 PM on November 2, 2009


> I think the fact that people are taking such offense at this is simply emotion trying to bludgeon away that truth.

And I think you don't understand the first thing about morality.

> I'm not thinking here of a scenario where some guy takes my family hostage and says, "kill that kid or I kill your family." I would not kill that kid. He has done nothing to deserve it.

So by your own standards, you don't love your family enough. Thanks for clearing that up.
posted by languagehat at 4:52 PM on November 2, 2009


We're losing track of the original point of this metatalk. Some people on metafilter find killing in self defense acceptable and some don't. I don't see why we should delete comments from people who find killing in self defense acceptable. It's not an extreme position.
posted by rdr at 5:02 PM on November 2, 2009


Is this the thread where we talk about killing people who are trying to circumcise our vegan cats? Because those people need to die.
posted by elizardbits at 5:07 PM on November 2, 2009



Some of you seriously need to get lives. And check your creepy obsessions with your hypothetical kids. And I love LH as much as I ever have, squee.

Yeah that's it. To quote ms. jessamyn, I'm outta here.
posted by ifjuly at 5:17 PM on November 2, 2009 [1 favorite]


I find myself brainstorming something that probably already exists: a Moral Dilemma website thing that superficially presents two distinct morally-charged actions and makes you pick one.

But with a hot-or-not kind of aesthetic, you know. "Shoot Hitler In The Back" vs "Drown A Starving Kitten", etc. Nice iconic graphics, rapid-fire play.
posted by cortex (staff) at 5:17 PM on November 2, 2009 [14 favorites]


I think we need to bring this to MetaTalk.

Oh, wait.

head asplodes
posted by davejay at 5:19 PM on November 2, 2009 [1 favorite]


Dude, you should totally outsource that one.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 5:20 PM on November 2, 2009


If you break into my house and try to kill me, I'm going to shoot you right in the fucking face. I have premeditated this. Shoot you. IN THE FACE.
posted by Grlnxtdr at 5:25 PM on November 2, 2009


What, you mean like Pick One?

I always get hung up on stuff like Cancer vs. George W. Bush.
posted by elizardbits at 5:26 PM on November 2, 2009


Agree with Blazecock about the Internet Tough Guys. There is some awful advice in the Ask post, notably the suggestion to wave a firearm around. In fact, that comment was probably made by a 14 year old. The whole "My local Police love me!" is so awkward and tone deaf it makes me cringe.

w/r/t the scenarios presenting children in danger to justify killing people please read what ryanrs had to say over the weekend:

You people should keep your vengeance fantasies to yourselves. This weird dynamic of punishment one-upmanship is how groups of otherwise decent people talk themselves into committing acts of cruelty. Don't flaunt your vengeance. Be distrustful of those impulses.
posted by mlis at 5:26 PM on November 2, 2009 [3 favorites]


Pacifism is nothing to hide behind.
posted by clockzero at 5:26 PM on November 2, 2009


But with a hot-or-not kind of aesthetic, you know. "Shoot Hitler In The Back" vs "Drown A Starving Kitten", etc. Nice iconic graphics, rapid-fire play.

Back in the days of my marriage with Kattullus, we developed this thought experiment to an absurd point and it became a kind of running joke: "Would you kill a puppy who would grow up to be Hitler?"
posted by grapefruitmoon at 5:29 PM on November 2, 2009 [2 favorites]


Would you kill a puppy who would grow up to be Hitler?

Because I am an Internet tough guy, I can say without hesitation that puppy Hitler is a good boy. Yes, he is! He's a goooood boy!

*BLAM*
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 5:36 PM on November 2, 2009


What, you mean like Pick One?

Exactly, but with the tight topical focus. Create a grand topography of moral relativity via internet boredom.
posted by cortex (staff) at 5:37 PM on November 2, 2009


I might, through lack of action, allow the puppy who would grow up to be Hitler to come to harm.
posted by fleacircus at 5:38 PM on November 2, 2009


But that's not what pacifists say. They say it's wrong to kill, period, in any situation.

*sigh* It is so pointless to jump in here. Why am I doing it?

I am a Quaker. We are one of the historic peace churches. You would not believe how complicated and variable our pacifism is. How we wrestle with it. How different our individual approaches and beliefs are from each other. How they change over time. How unsure we are. How many times we come back to the question. How supportive we are of the hard decisions people make in hard situations. How we wrestle with how to implement pacifism in the world, as individuals and as a society. How we question the limits of pacifism while wishing it didn't have any.

Oh, oops. I mean, we all stand united, with the Mennonites and the Brethren and various religious and Buddists and random people who have chosen pacifism for their own reasons, and we say in one voice: It is wrong to kill, period, in any situation. That's what I meant.
posted by not that girl at 5:45 PM on November 2, 2009 [21 favorites]


Can I just jump in and point out that "murder" and "kill" are two different things?

I'm with TomMelee on this one. Here is the crux of the scenario:

1- This guy is making her feel threatened.
2- That "fuzzy" threat may well turn into a real threat, ie, he is at her house saying he is going to kill her and trying to break in.
3- There *may* come a point where between calling the cops and when they arrive, the hypothetical kill or be killed moment happens.
4- A valid solution in that case is using a gun. Not one moment before, not shakily pointing the gun at the guy while he inches closer. Simply pulling the trigger at the moment when you feel the "holy shit, this guy is GOING TO KILL ME."

There is a big, giant, cavernous gulf of difference between planning to murder someone, and planning to have to defend oneself. Even if one murders reluctantly, and delights in killing in self defense, it is still a whole different thing. You didn't start it, the other guy did.

Dipping my toes into the moral dilemma, I wonder: if all other things are equal, and you choose not to kill someone in self defense, how is that the moral choice? You are allowing a bad person to do a bad act and remain in society, while depriving society of a non-bad person.
posted by gjc at 5:49 PM on November 2, 2009 [2 favorites]


I wonder: if all other things are equal, and you choose not to kill someone in self defense, how is that the moral choice? You are allowing a bad person to do a bad act and remain in society, while depriving society of a non-bad person.

Well, for me, it comes down to my own view that I am not the judge of what is and is not bad. Who the hell am I to say that the non-bad person wouldn't have elected to let that puppy grow up and become Hitler?

I'm a Buddhist and a great believer in karma. That is, karma as a philosophy and not the sort of short-hand "you get what you deserve" kind of nonsense that's associated with the word "karma" these days. Anyhow. If there's one thing I've discovered about karma in my own life it's that it sure as hell isn't asking ME for my opinions of how things should work out. Why do bad things happen to awesome people? Why do good things happen to "bad" people? Hell if I know.

So, hell if I know whether that "bad" person is really "bad" or that "good" person is really "good" or if those kind of judgements can be made at all.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 5:55 PM on November 2, 2009


I am not the judge of what is and is not bad

An argument could be made that you wouldn't have to judge. That a man who decides to kill a defenseless person has already judged himself.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 6:03 PM on November 2, 2009


Oh, crap! I promised myself I wouldn't say anything serious in this thread. Shit. Goodnight.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 6:04 PM on November 2, 2009


If the situation is as the asker described, it sounds like it's very likely a kill-or-be-killed situation. Better the bad guy get killed than the girl or her family. Not everything has a happy ending.
posted by Jacqueline at 6:07 PM on November 2, 2009


I'm a Buddhist and a great believer in karma

Bwahahahahahahaha.
posted by kbanas at 6:08 PM on November 2, 2009


Jesus P. Christ, people. Making fun of Buddhists for no reason is pretty much as low as you can get. Bad guys, indeed.
posted by muddgirl at 6:12 PM on November 2, 2009


Bwahahahahahahaha.

?
posted by cortex (staff) at 6:14 PM on November 2, 2009


He's just building up some nasty speech karmas as an object lesson.
posted by Burhanistan at 6:16 PM on November 2, 2009


> Pacifism is ... morally abhorrent when you are charged with defending the lives of innocents.
So, f'rinstance, Levi Coffin, Oskar Schindler and Nicholas Winton were reprehensible for not breaking out the firearms?
(sorry, I'm not quite sure of the rules of this game, which I think is being called "American" ...)
posted by scruss at 6:23 PM on November 2, 2009


"The police do not have a responsibility to protect any citizen."

LAPD: To protect and to serve
posted by mr_crash_davis mark II: Jazz Odyssey at 6:24 PM on November 2, 2009


Jeebus H. Facking Christo. I'm officially allowed to be irritated as hell at this point, because this thread is all about how I'm a giant fucking whackjob who advocated the tracking down and murdering of the convict.

Someone said: "The deleted comment(s) were of the "some people need killin' so you should get a gun" variety."

THIS IS NOT WHAT I SAID. DO NOT SAY THAT THIS IS WHAT I SAID, BECAUSE IT IS NOT WHAT I SAID. I CAPSLOCK YOU BECAUSE THIS IS NOT WHAT I SAID.

Please stop saying it's what I said. Please.

For the love of all things non-hitler and the innocent children, please read my comment in that thread that's still there. It was my original comment. My comment about being prepared to kill in the right context was based ENTIRELY on someone's statement that "the best case scenario is that YOU KILL A HUMAN BEING", my intent was and still remains, as I've said clearly several times but several people are too busy screaming at Dasein to notice, was that this is a privileged position to take and that there are times in this world where, due entirely to NOTHING you did, you are put into a position to take a life or have yours taken from you.

We are talking about a person who has attacked once, gone to prison, been released, skipped parole, and followed this family to a new state. This is a person who, most likely, has 0 intention of returning to prison. This is a person focused, with the scary-ass eye of homicidal sociopath, on causing damage to an individual. I feel that taking an entirely passive approach to dealing with the imminent threat is inviting disaster. I also supplied several other resources for dealing with the threat outside of a gun. I simply pointed out that by failing to pursue other avenues, they were neutering their ability to respond appropriately.

I wouldn't say that you don't love your children because you wouldn't stab the molester in the eye with an icepick. I DO believe that any parent would do what was required at the time to protect his or her offspring, whether it was a bone marrow transplant or body slamming someone intending to cause harm. That argument is entirely outside of the initial debate, and everyone should ignore it.

I absolutely believe that in every circumstance ending in violence that other decisions could have been made to prevent the violence. Ideally, the resolution here is that dude leaves them the fuck alone and moves on down the road. Ideally, chica has an AmEx Black card and goes to live in Bonaire for a few months while they track the dude down. Reality, however, is that Joe Blow and Suzy Puckerstring can't just uproot their lives and keep running, always keep running because confrontation is the devil and dude will escalate.

I'm not saying that violence always escalates. I'm not saying that we will all someday be forced to kill or be killed. I'm simply saying that advocating a 0 violence stance regarding continued protection and longevity IN THIS PARTICULAR CASE is short sighted.

Jessamyn offered to give me the text of the deleted post, but recommended that I not go there, so I won't because I respect her wishes.

I want the fucking record clear as crystal pepsi that I DID NOT SAY, NOR DID I ADVOCATE, the appropriation of a gun, of violence, of murder, or of doing anything other than making a choice.

It's also incorrect that "in most jurisdictions" you can't defend yourself with a gun. What is correct is that "in most jurisdictions" you cannot defend YOUR PROPERTY with a gun. States where you can defend your property with firearms are called "Castle States." Very few states regulate defensive life taking, assuming a string of criteria are met. Specifically imminent threat. Ergo, shooting someone in the back as they run away...not legal. Shooting them in the chest as they come through your barricaded bedroom door, entirely legal. This is the condition I was speaking of.

Please stop putting words in my mouth.
posted by TomMelee at 6:38 PM on November 2, 2009 [10 favorites]


I wonder: if all other things are equal, and you choose not to kill someone in self defense, how is that the moral choice? You are allowing a bad person to do a bad act and remain in society, while depriving society of a non-bad person.

Um....lifetime imprisonment does the same thing, without anyone being killed.

Also: the person who murdered doctor George Tiller no doubt thought she was acting to defend helpless lives. Do you agree she should have had that right to make that call? Do you think she loves her fellow man more for it?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:39 PM on November 2, 2009 [1 favorite]


Johnny Cash never served time in prison, and in real life he was somewhat a pacifist.

Just saying.
posted by fourcheesemac at 6:44 PM on November 2, 2009


Tiller was killed by a man, not a woman.
posted by effluvia at 6:57 PM on November 2, 2009


This thread is absolutely hilarious. Well done everybody.
posted by ob at 6:59 PM on November 2, 2009


1. Dogs: not a good short-term or cheap solution. Also if you use a dog for self-defense keep in mind that the dog may be harmed or killed in the defense of your life. Also the dog may be a passive reason for someone to think the situation's escalated high enough that they're justified in taking additional lives. Be aware of a dog's potential to be perceived as aggressive just by being there.

2. There is no such thing as good or bad karma. There is no such thing as serious (or unserious) karma. There is just karma. You summon karma by being, by doing, but having opinions, by taking part in life. It does not accumulate. Karma is. Sometimes you make karma. Somtimes karma makes you.

3. I am not primarily a Buddhist, but I do actually know what the fuck I am talking about.
posted by kalessin at 7:16 PM on November 2, 2009 [1 favorite]


Bullet point three is so LOLertastic that it's almost off the charts.
posted by Burhanistan at 7:22 PM on November 2, 2009 [1 favorite]


Jeez, TomMelee, I can't believe that you'd say that you need a gun to enjoy Crystal Pepsi or you're not a real mother.
posted by klangklangston at 7:31 PM on November 2, 2009 [3 favorites]


Ok instead of tweaking favorites I'm guessing what we need here on Mefi is on of these.

Problems solved. Just mail me the check.
posted by nola at 7:38 PM on November 2, 2009


To study the epidemiology of deaths involving firearms kept in the home, we reviewed all the gunshot deaths that occurred in King County, Washington (population 1,270,000), from 1978 through 1983.

The problem I have with this study, and others like it, is that they study deaths.

Handguns are not especially deadly, given modern medical treatment. A quick search for "handgun gunshot mortality" shows something like 20% for abdominal shots (which are the most likely, as they're where you're trained to shoot). This roughly squares with the numbers I've heard before. It also squares with anecdotal evidence from my friends and family in the medical field.

Nobody is trained to "shoot to kill". (Except maybe the military.) They're trained to shoot to neutralize or incapacitate. This involves shooting at the center of mass of the target, where you have the greatest chance of hitting something that will render the attacker no longer a threat. That sometimes results in the death of the target, regrettably. But 4 out of 5 times, it results in grievous but non-lethal bodily injury.

In my opinion, a "successful" resolution to an intruder does not end in my attacker dying. Rather, it ends with my attacker no longer being a threat to me... whether because he was killed, grievously wounded (requiring medical attention), mildly wounded but fled, or was simply scared and fled. A study comparing firearms use by homeowners against accidental or suicidal death must include all "successful" firearms uses, not merely ones in which the assailant died from his injuries. If you include those numbers, I suspect that the imbalance of "successful" to "negative" uses changes.

Also, the suicide numbers always seem irrelevant to me. While it may be true that you're more likely to kill yourself with a gun if you own a gun, that doesn't mean you're more likely to kill yourself if you own a gun than if you didn't. It merely points to preferred method, not tendency toward suicide. And you can be damn sure that if I were going to kill myself, I'd use my gun... it's one of the few quick and easy methods available to me.
posted by Netzapper at 8:15 PM on November 2, 2009



If the choice was between killing Hitler and being in a band with Hitler, y'know, I'd probably just go ahead and shoot him. I hate that oompah Ach Du Lieber Augustine shit.


Klang, did you say this because of Mr. Willets? Because I can't even imagine that song without thinking of him singing it.
posted by orville sash at 8:33 PM on November 2, 2009


Well, at least this thread gave us the phrase "I CAPSLOCK YOU."
posted by lore at 8:36 PM on November 2, 2009 [3 favorites]


Hasn't "Cape Fear" taught you people anything?
posted by KokuRyu at 8:37 PM on November 2, 2009


"Klang, did you say this because of Mr. Willets? Because I can't even imagine that song without thinking of him singing it."

Oh man, I was just thinking about him and his Halloween "vampire" costume. Cape, body stocking, lipstick? I can't believe it took me so long to figure out he was gay.
posted by klangklangston at 8:44 PM on November 2, 2009


While it may be true that you're more likely to kill yourself with a gun if you own a gun, that doesn't mean you're more likely to kill yourself if you own a gun than if you didn't.

Actually, it does. Guns account for over 50% of suicides.
posted by dersins at 8:45 PM on November 2, 2009


You can talk about guns all you want, but nothing will match the stopping power of an overthought plate of beans.
posted by dr_dank at 8:47 PM on November 2, 2009


While it may be true that you're more likely to kill yourself with a gun if you own a gun, that doesn't mean you're more likely to kill yourself if you own a gun than if you didn't.

Actually, it does. Guns account for over 50% of suicides.


I think you misunderstood me.

The proportion of gun suicides versus other methods of suicide is immaterial. If someone is going to kill themselves, what does it matter what method they choose?

However, to advance an argument that guns increase the rate of suicide, you need evidence showing that people with guns attempt to kill themselves at a higher rate than people without guns--and you must discount people who bought guns for the sole purpose of killing themselves. That is, gun owners must show a higher suicide rate than the general population. This is something I have never seen shown in a statistic. They only show that gun owners, when they choose to kill themselves, use a gun.

What your statistic (and Blazecock's) discuss is what portion of the suicide-attempt pie chart should be gun-colored. I'm saying that's not particularly interesting, and doesn't do anything to advance an anti-gun position. To advance an anti-gun position based on suicide rates, you must show that people with guns attempt suicide at a higher rate than people who do not own guns. All your stats show is that people who kill themselves prefer to use a gun. Disappear the guns, and I would bet that the total number of suicide attempts probably stays relatively similar, and that the gun-colored part of the pie chart is redistributed to wrist-slitting, bridge-jumping, and poisoning.

[This is ignoring the rate at which attempted suicides succeed. I will grant that a gun is probably a more efficient means of killing yourself than many of the alternatives. But that doesn't really interest me; I believe suicide, while a tragedy, is a right.]

An analogy: Let's say 54% of eggs are scrambled with a whisk, and the remaining 46% are scrambled with a fork. Clearly, people who like scrambled eggs tend to use a whisk. Whisk owners, when they choose to scramble an egg, use a whisk. However, it doesn't say anything about how many people who have whisks eat scrambled eggs. It also doesn't show that not having a whisk decreases the probability that someone will eat scrambled eggs.

I own a kitchen whisk. If I were going to make scrambled eggs, I would definitely use that whisk to scramble them. But I don't like scrambled eggs, so having a whisk doesn't make me any more likely to scramble eggs.
posted by Netzapper at 9:33 PM on November 2, 2009


"People who keep guns in their homes appear to be at greater risk of homicide in the home than people who do not."

Maybe people who already have good reason to believe that they are likely to be murdered are more likely to buy guns.
posted by Jacqueline at 9:38 PM on November 2, 2009 [1 favorite]


The proportion of gun suicides versus other methods of suicide is immaterial. If someone is going to kill themselves, what does it matter what method they choose?

A significant portion of suicides are impulsive. Some survivors report intending to commit suicide for as little as five minutes before the act. Taking away a means of suicide, such as closing off a famous suicide bridge or removing gas stoves, has been shown to drastically decrease the number of suicides. Because some people are going to kill themselves no matter what, but others just need to get through those five minutes, and if they can, they'll go on to live long happy lives.

Women are more likely to attempt suicide than men, but men are more likely to commit suicide. Why? Because men are more likely to use guns. And guns, unlike overdoses, don't allow for you to change your mind.

This is a really thoughtful, compelling article on the issue. I highly recommend it.
posted by shaun uh at 10:28 PM on November 2, 2009 [3 favorites]


[klangklangston:] "If the choice was between killing Hitler and being in a band with Hitler, y'know, I'd probably just go ahead and shoot him. I hate that oompah Ach Du Lieber Augustine shit."

Actually, I have it on good authority that Hitler was more of a Kenny G kind of guy.
posted by koeselitz at 4:48 AM on November 3, 2009


[Netzapper:] "However, to advance an argument that guns increase the rate of suicide, you need evidence showing that people with guns attempt to kill themselves at a higher rate than people without guns--and you must discount people who bought guns for the sole purpose of killing themselves. That is, gun owners must show a higher suicide rate than the general population. This is something I have never seen shown in a statistic. They only show that gun owners, when they choose to kill themselves, use a gun."

That seems kind of weird, doesn't it? I know if I were a suicidal gun owner and cared about making sure the statistics reflected that guns are safe and all, I'd probably try to kill myself with something I didn't like and wanted the federal government to regulate. Like maybe smooth jazz.
posted by koeselitz at 5:03 AM on November 3, 2009 [2 favorites]


Also: the person who murdered doctor George Tiller no doubt thought she was acting to defend helpless lives. Do you agree she should have had that right to make that call? Do you think she loves her fellow man more for it?

That is not any kind of self- or other-defense. Even if we pretend that abortion is murder for a moment, shooting a guy who isn't murdering anyone, who isn't carrying a tool of murder and has made no threat of murder is not defense. It is offense, and that is always illegal and immoral.

Now, if you give a fetus a gun and it shoots him when it sees the abortion wand coming at him, THAT is self-defense and would be justified.
posted by gjc at 5:07 AM on November 3, 2009


koeselitz- You bring up an interesting point. We can't prove that soprano saxamaphone music didn't kill Hitler! The whole cyanide pill thing was just a cover up, perpetrated by the musical-industrial complex! Somebody call Glen Beck!
posted by gjc at 5:10 AM on November 3, 2009


Wow long thread already.

I just popped in to say that I stand by exactly what I suggested to the OP in that thread. If I was in his shoes - knowing what I do about his situation - that is what I would do. My hope would not be to kill the perpetrator but I would be very prepared for the very real and immediate possibility that I may have to.

And thanks to being an American, if someone on the internet doesn't like that, well, they are free to write to their elected officials about their feelings.
posted by allkindsoftime at 5:14 AM on November 3, 2009


(... or at least Glenn Miller.)
posted by koeselitz at 5:22 AM on November 3, 2009


>Also: the person who murdered doctor George Tiller no doubt thought she was acting to defend helpless lives. Do you agree she should have had that right to make that call? Do you think she loves her fellow man more for it?

That is not any kind of self- or other-defense. Even if we pretend that abortion is murder for a moment, shooting a guy who isn't murdering anyone, who isn't carrying a tool of murder and has made no threat of murder is not defense. It is offense, and that is always illegal and immoral.


In your eyes, and my eyes, it is murder. In the eyes of someone who is that rabidly anti-abortion, it is not murder -- it is just as much of a defensive act as any of these "if you went back in time and saw Hitler and knew you could prevent genocide" thought experiments. In the mind of the person who killed Dr. Tiller, his daily business was perpetuating an act of genocide against innocents, and therefore it was morally acceptable to kill him.

I bring up that example not to justify Dr. Tiller's murderer. I bring it up to point out that these kinds of "but if you could prevent genocide by killing person X" thought experiments are really kind of silly, and I also bring it up to point out that sometimes just because a person thinks a thing is so, that doesn't make it universally so.

Killing someone is a last resort. The people who seek to actively avoid that last resort to the greatest extent of their ability are not morally deficient by doing so. And the implication that they are, backed up by silly thought experiments like this, has been bugging the snot out of me. That's all.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 5:25 AM on November 3, 2009 [2 favorites]


I thought you made a good point, Netzapper, on the possibility that successful uses of guns against intruders are undercounted if only deaths are counted, but you lost me when you implied that an unsuccessful suicide isn't also a win. In addition to the one linked by shawn uh, you might look at this well-known one, too.
posted by palliser at 6:10 AM on November 3, 2009


Zarq, just to close the loop on your post above, the issue with your statement of criminal law was that it begs the question. A premeditated homicide is generally murder, but that assumes that you have premeditation. "Premeditation" as a legal concept is generally synonymous with the hoary old "malice aforethought"--in lay terms, an intent to take the life of another human, without justification, before the act is achieved. It does not require planning, or much thought--it can be made in an instant, without reflection. It's sort of a moving target and many a court case has hinged on this issue.

The "without justification" is the important concept here. If I know Mr. Stalker is coming to my house on Thursday and I buy a gun on Wednesday with the intent to kill Mr. Stalker when he breaks into my house to kill me (threat of deadly force), this is not premeditation, because my killing of Mr. Stalker will be justified. If I buy the gun on Wednesday with the intent to kill Mr. Stalker while he sleeps that night, that is not justified, because there is no threat of deadly force, and ergo murder (likely). Again, to be clear, to the extent TomMelee's deleted post contemplated a death, it was in self-defense in the event the ex-convict actually was threatening the GF.

States where you can defend your home (as opposed to the people in the home) are listed in the squib on the castle doctrine on Wikipedia.

Again, not legal advice, and IANYL, don't kill people, please.
posted by Admiral Haddock at 7:14 AM on November 3, 2009 [1 favorite]


"(... or at least Glenn Miller.)"

Nah, he hated jazz. Didn't you ever try to get with a girl in high school who loved Swing Kids?
posted by klangklangston at 8:20 AM on November 3, 2009


To be clear, by "actually was threatening the GF" I mean "actually threatening the GF with imminent use of deadly force"--I'm taking a couple of liberties with what would be the real legal standard (which, of course, can vary by jurisdiction). Clearly, the bad guy in the post is threatening the GF, and I wouldn't blame the OP or her for being scared--I'd be scared too. But the use of force would be privileged only when you actually believe it is necessary to prevent imminent use of deadly force and that belief is reasonable (from a legal perspective). Not legal advice, IANYL, etc.
posted by Admiral Haddock at 8:28 AM on November 3, 2009


I would never capslock someone, even if they were about to capslock my own children.
posted by the bricabrac man at 9:34 AM on November 3, 2009 [3 favorites]


Admiral Haddock, thank you for clarifying, and for the correction! :)
posted by zarq at 9:58 AM on November 3, 2009


I thought you made a good point, Netzapper, on the possibility that successful uses of guns against intruders are undercounted if only deaths are counted, but you lost me when you implied that an unsuccessful suicide isn't also a win. In addition to the one linked by shawn uh, you might look at this well-known one, too.

One point has nothing to do with the other.

And the only point I made about unsuccessful suicides is that the rate of successful attempts versus unsuccessful attempts doesn't interest me in a gun-control debate. The fact that somebody succeeds or doesn't is a matter of chance, not of volition.

The tragedy comes when somebody runs out of coping skills and decides they must end their life, not when they actually die from the attempt. So if they succeed or not, the tragedy is about equal for me.

I did say that people have the right to kill themselves. Having the right doesn't make it any less a tragedy that they were forced to exercise it.
posted by Netzapper at 12:19 PM on November 3, 2009


I own a kitchen whisk. If I were going to make scrambled eggs, I would definitely use that whisk to scramble them. But I don't like scrambled eggs, so having a whisk doesn't make me any more likely to scramble eggs.

Comparing a gun to a kitchen wisk here is a flawed analogy unless maybe you've heard of someone accidentally making breakfast while organizing a drawer.
posted by applemeat at 12:31 PM on November 3, 2009


The tragedy comes when somebody runs out of coping skills and decides they must end their life, not when they actually die from the attempt. So if they succeed or not, the tragedy is about equal for me.

That's very nice for you. I doubt the tragedy is equal for the person who makes the attempt, or for their friends and family.

I'm not arguing that people don't have a right to die, or that the increased risk of successful suicide when guns are used should be a slam dunk argument for gun control. But to pretend that guns don't increase the likelihood of a person in crisis ending their lives - when people in crisis who survive it frequently go on to recover partially or fully - seems a little cold-hearted to me.

And yes, this is totally a tangent but what in this thread isn't a tangent? And I like to call out misstatements about suicide when I see them, since it's such a stigmatized, misunderstood topic.
posted by shaun uh at 12:48 PM on November 3, 2009


Don't kill Hitler. It never helps.
posted by darksasami at 4:13 PM on November 3, 2009


I don't know who is more pathetic.

Somebody who is at real risk of physical violence asking for advice from a public internet forum of which 99% of anonymous posters know nothing about real word self defense. Or. The People actually giving that person advice on a public forum.

My advice: I do think those axes looks pretty well ground down now and will be useless against Hitler.
posted by tkchrist at 5:35 PM on November 3, 2009 [2 favorites]


MetaFilter: those axes looks pretty well ground down now and will be useless against Hitler.

Sorry. Couldn't help myself. Well, maybe I could have, but discretion and valor lost out to "ha! axe-grinding Hitler!"
posted by grapefruitmoon at 5:50 PM on November 3, 2009


*kills everyone in thread*

what a senseless waste of human life.
and ammunition.
posted by jonmc at 6:07 PM on November 3, 2009 [1 favorite]


I could never, under any circumstances take a human life and I'd never advocate that anyone else knowingly do so.

I'd like to believe that. That there really are people out there who would never under any circumstances, kill another human being. If history is any guide humans seem to find them selves in circumstances they could never foresee.

Certainly there a vast array of common circumstances in which other people have killed where I and you would not. Out of spite or over ego? Doubtful. I would never kill a child under any rational circumstances I can foresee. Even with a gun to my head. I could concoct a few scenarios in which I'm certain I'd much rather die than kill.

I doubt I could premeditatedly kill another person wantonly or with relish. Maybe there are dire circumstances, like being trapped in the Jewish Ghetto is Warsaw in 1942, where I could see premeditated killing.

That dude who shot guy for snoring? I wouldn't do that.

However. I'm troubled by these assumptions. For one reason. I've known killers. People just like you and me. No different than anybody here. I'm not talking serial killers. Or people made psychotic (though perhaps all killing is temporary psychosis). I have met people who found them selves in desperate circumstances they never thought would happen to them. And nearly every one of them ever thought of themselves as a killer. Or gave it much thought at all because the thought was outlandish. Absurd.

I've known cops who have killed.

Some of these people were soldiers. Perhaps extremely naive in thinking soldering wouldn't lead to killing. Though most soldiers never fire a gun.

My father, a soldier, has killed.

I even met a middle class educated woman who had the misfortune to be in Rawanda at the wrong time. She participated in killing to survive. Though to what extent I do not know.

This has lead to me to review my assumptions. To think about this topic and not merely knee jerk. That humans, like all animals, have a survival instinct. An instinct to fight or flight. Armored with that knowledge it might be useful to ponder on on the subject every once in a while.
posted by tkchrist at 6:14 PM on November 3, 2009


In your eyes, and my eyes, it is murder. In the eyes of someone who is that rabidly anti-abortion, it is not murder -- it is just as much of a defensive act as any of these "if you went back in time and saw Hitler and knew you could prevent genocide" thought experiments. In the mind of the person who killed Dr. Tiller, his daily business was perpetuating an act of genocide against innocents, and therefore it was morally acceptable to kill him.

I bring up that example not to justify Dr. Tiller's murderer. I bring it up to point out that these kinds of "but if you could prevent genocide by killing person X" thought experiments are really kind of silly, and I also bring it up to point out that sometimes just because a person thinks a thing is so, that doesn't make it universally so.

Killing someone is a last resort. The people who seek to actively avoid that last resort to the greatest extent of their ability are not morally deficient by doing so. And the implication that they are, backed up by silly thought experiments like this, has been bugging the snot out of me. That's all.


Agree completely that it's a last resort. I guess I assumed that was the assumption everyone was working under.

But just to be clear- to defensively kill someone, that person must be in the act of threatening someone's life. Even if someone were to kill Hitler while he was browsing light jazz one Sunday afternoon, that would still be murder. Justified, perhaps, but murder.

So the person who shot the doctor may well have believed what he was doing was justified, but he was wrong. Just like the people who kill strangers because the aliens told them to. But if you are in your house and someone breaks in and starts menacing, it is reasonable to believe you are in danger.
posted by gjc at 6:45 PM on November 3, 2009


What is necessary, is not always right. And what is right is not always expedient. We should be careful in our terms.
posted by muddgirl at 6:55 PM on November 3, 2009 [1 favorite]


I hope that most mefites would willingly make the decision to kill someone to protect their families.

Hell, I'd willingly make the decision to kill someone to protect my beer.

Don't touch my beer.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 7:24 PM on November 3, 2009


The problem here is that people are confusing moral ambiguities with a moral irregularity. Happens all the time. Try to watch out for that.
posted by Burhanistan at 7:34 PM on November 3, 2009


Comparing a gun to a kitchen wisk here is a flawed analogy unless maybe you've heard of someone accidentally making breakfast while organizing a drawer.

Some people around here have a seriously broken understanding of rhetoric. It drives me fucking crazy. You're not the only one, though... you just happened to poke your head up here.

I compared proportions of suicide by gun to proportions of scrambled eggs by whisk. I did not say that guns were like whisks. I said that proportions were like proportions.

I was showing that percentage, proportionate statistics (54% of suicides are by gun) do not show that owning a gun increases the statistical probability of suicide. All it says are that, of the people who kill themselves, many choose guns. The exact same statistic says that other people choose poison, exsanguination, and jumping from tall shit.

What's more, you're arguing by non-sequitur. We were discussing suicide by gun, not all gun injuries. Suicide is by definition a voluntary, intentional action--otherwise it's merely a fatal accident. Bringing up accidental self-inflicted gun injuries has nothing at all to do with intentional self-inflicted gun injuries. I think it's quite reasonable to compare one voluntary action to another.

Even more aggravating is that people around here (and you've proven yourself part of that crowd) seem to think that an analogy means two items are alike in all ways. Shall I compare thee to a summer's day? After all, the sun shines longer in you than in people whom I compare to winter days; the beavers and the squirrels aren't hibernating in you; you have stronger tides; your, uh, hemisphere is tipped closer to the sun; you're physically warmer.

An analogy need only be "correct" in the aspects mentioned. And only in kind, not magnitude.

God, and people fucking accuse me of being literal minded.

That's very nice for you. I doubt the tragedy is equal for the person who makes the attempt, or for their friends and family.

No, of course it's not equal. Because people are selfish. The tragedy, for them, is that they lost somebody they cared about. The loss is what sparks the tragedy. No loss, no tragedy.

I've had friends attempt suicide. I have an acquaintance who succeeded. I feel equally bad for all of them (which is very). We (as my community of friends) failed to provide sufficient support for these persons, to the point that they felt they needed to die. That's the tragedy. Our failure is no less tragic simply because the person lived.

And please note, I'm not saying that someone who kills themselves has no responsibility in the matter. It's a more complex issue than that. And unlike some people upthread, I'm not arguing that my moral and emotional stance on this issue is or should be universal. It's just that I, personally, see suicide as a perfectly acceptable solution for some people. It's tragic that they were unable to find something better. But I don't think it's tragic that somebody's pain ended.

But to pretend that guns don't increase the likelihood of a person in crisis ending their lives - when people in crisis who survive it frequently go on to recover partially or fully - seems a little cold-hearted to me.

I'm not pretending anything of the sort. I think you're probably right. When I was on the verge of suicide, I sat in the bathtub with my pistol. I wouldn't have been nearly so close to successful suicide without a gun. (On the other hand, I might have been more likely to actually hurt myself by cutting or overdosing in a "cry for help"--you can't cry for help with a pistol.)

The only point I made about gun-facilitated suicides is that the statistics cited do not support the hypothesis.
posted by Netzapper at 8:13 PM on November 3, 2009


Agree completely that it's a last resort. I guess I assumed that was the assumption everyone was working under.

Well, not everyone, if you include the "so, I guess you wouldn't even kill someone if THAT PERSON WAS HITLER????" crowd in with your definition of "everyone."

But just to be clear- to defensively kill someone, that person must be in the act of threatening someone's life. Even if someone were to kill Hitler while he was browsing light jazz one Sunday afternoon, that would still be murder. Justified, perhaps, but murder. So the person who shot the doctor may well have believed what he was doing was justified, but he was wrong. Just like the people who kill strangers because the aliens told them to. But if you are in your house and someone breaks in and starts menacing, it is reasonable to believe you are in danger.

Right. Which is precisely why bringing the "so I guess you wouldn't even kill someone if THAT PERSON WAS HITLER?????" issue into it was a profoundly lame argument for these purposes.

And, therefore, to base an accusation of "I guess you don't like your kids" on "YOU WOULDN'T EVEN KILL HITLER?????" was really, really a dickish thing to do.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:44 PM on November 3, 2009


The only point I made about gun-facilitated suicides is that the statistics cited do not support the hypothesis.

I think we're a lot closer to agreement on this particular point than I thought we were. Sorry if I got a little indignant there.

I'd still say that:
-- while guns do not increase the likelihood of a suicide attempt
-- guns increase the likelihood of a suicide attempt being successful
therefore guns increase the number of suicides.

But I'm content to leave the argument there.
posted by shaun uh at 9:16 PM on November 3, 2009


The only point I made about gun-facilitated suicides is that the statistics cited do not support the hypothesis.

Except they do:

More than 50% of suicides are by gun.

33% of households contain guns. [click the "overview" arrow]


If 1/3 of households are contributing more than 1/2 of suicides, it is reasonable to infer that people who live in gun-owning households are more likely to commit suicide than those who don't.
posted by dersins at 11:23 PM on November 3, 2009


dersins, now you've at least composed two statistics. You're starting to make some sense.

Except, what we need to look at are suicide attempt rates. The statistics you give are for deaths by suicide.

I'll willingly grant you that a person who uses a gun is more likely to succeed in their suicide attempt than somebody who uses a different method. But that doesn't mean that a person who owns a gun is more likely to attempt suicide.

The inference I draw from the same statistics you're citing is that people with access to a gun succeed in killing themselves at a higher rate than people who choose a different means. That's it.

(As an aside, note your suicide statistics: 25,000 males to 6,000 females. You really think a man is five times as likely to attempt to kill himself than a woman? Scroll on down to about the middle of this set of statistics. Women poison themselves at roughly three times the rate of men. Modern medicine is a helluva lot better at treating an overdose than it is putting a brain back together. Your statistics are not telling the whole story.)

From this site:
# No annual national data on attempted suicide are available; reliable scientific research, however, has found that:

* There are an estimated 8-25 attempted suicides to one completion; the ratio is higher in women and youth and lower in men and the elderly
We can't start making concrete inferences on liklihood of suicide attempt based on gun availability until we find out how the other 200,00 to 600,000 suicide attempts were made.

In fact, based on how efficient a gun is as a means of suicide, I'd bet that the suicide death rates include nearly all suicides attempted with a gun--as nearly all of them complete. Meanwhile, the other 200,000 to 600,000 attempts are more likely to be something other than a gunshot. The stats say 16,000 completed suicides by firearms... 16,000 is 8% of 200,000 (the most conservative attempt estimate). So, assuming that very few people survive suicide by gunshot, you're talking about 8% of attempts.

If 33% of households (those with guns) are only contributing 8% of suicide attempts (assuming everybody with access to a gun uses it), then that's hardly evidence that guns increase the likelihood of suicide attempt. In my opinion, it's evidence of no correlation.
posted by Netzapper at 12:32 AM on November 4, 2009


gjc: "But just to be clear- to defensively kill someone, that person must be in the act of threatening someone's life. Even if someone were to kill Hitler while he was browsing light jazz one Sunday afternoon, that would still be murder. Justified, perhaps, but murder."

Look, I know we're in the habit here of using lighthearted, outlandish examples to make out points here because it makes us seem wittier and more urbane. Really, I do it too; read through all of my comments in the thread-which-shall-not-be-named, and you'll see I do it all the time. What's more, I know that it's very, very tempting to make light of things that we all know deep down are really tragic, serious things, things that probably shouldn't be joked with but which still, generations after they actually happened, make us so uncomfortable that we can't help but want to giggle a little at them. And I have to say, gjc, that I'm sure you didn't intend to offend anybody or to compromise the seriousness of things that I think we owe it to ourselves to tread lightly around, but you have; and, again, this is something many of us have done at one time or another, but I really feel the need to tell you, you need to keep in mind just how serious, how tragic, how destructive some of the things you're talking about are; just mentioning certain words and phrases nonchalantly, as a loose example in an analogy on your way to a point you're trying to make, betrays the important meanings surrounding them and detracts from historical lessons that a lot of us go out of our ways to emphasize.

What I'm trying to say, gjc, is this: Hitler browsing light jazz on a Sunday afternoon? Good god, man. I mean, Adolph Hitler was a murderous monster and I hope he rots in the lowest pit of hell for eternity, but even he can't have been that bad.
posted by koeselitz at 3:29 AM on November 4, 2009


What I'm trying to say, gjc, is this: Hitler browsing light jazz on a Sunday afternoon? Good god, man. I mean, Adolph Hitler was a murderous monster and I hope he rots in the lowest pit of hell for eternity, but even he can't have been that bad.

Agreed. So maybe we all (even you) can agree to lay off the Hitler/Holocaust metaphors. No matter what Hannah Arendt says.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 4:03 AM on November 4, 2009 [1 favorite]


Netzapper, unless I am grossly misunderstanding something, dersins' point stands up to, and is perhaps somewhat strengthened by, the assumption that suicide attempts are roughly the same between households with and without guns. The two statistics as cited show that if you live in a household with a gun, you are more likely to successfully commit suicide with a gun: the presence of a gun makes it more likely you will die in that particular manner. Given that you claim not to draw a distinction between death by suicide and the desire to commit suicide (a stance I find rather puzzling), perhaps this is of no interest to you. But nevertheless, when you say:

In fact, based on how efficient a gun is as a means of suicide, I'd bet that the suicide death rates include nearly all suicides attempted with a gun--as nearly all of them complete.

you are arguing against yourself.
posted by Commander Rachek at 5:40 AM on November 4, 2009


keoselitz- Ha! You got me. Well done!
posted by gjc at 6:02 AM on November 4, 2009


If 33% of households (those with guns) are only contributing 8% of suicide attempts (assuming everybody with access to a gun uses it), then that's hardly evidence that guns increase the likelihood of suicide attempt.

Well, in order to care about your statistics, rather than dersins's, I'd have to agree with you that it's not suicide deaths, but suicide attempts, that matter. But I don't agree, and I think your opinion is based on a common but false view of suicide: that suicide attempts always come after a long history of painful depression, and that they are a reasoned decision to end seemingly unending pain.

To the contrary, suicide attempts are often a hastily made decision -- an impulse decision, often made by a particularly impulsive type, such as adolescents and young adults. People who survive them are often intensely grateful to have done so, and never attempt suicide again.

That's why it matters a great deal that suicide-by-gun is so effective. If you have a teenager in your house who makes a rash decision to kill himself, you'd much rather he take all the pills in the cabinet and then, 10 minutes later, when the impulse subsides, call 911.
posted by palliser at 6:42 AM on November 4, 2009 [1 favorite]


A gun seems like a good solution, but it's seldom of any use at all if your attacker gets the drop on you. Trained specialists (cops, bodyguards, special forces soldiers) can sometimes get their weapon out, aimed and fired in time to protect themselves and the people they're around... but it takes intensive and expensive training.

There's an interesting training video on knife violence from Australia... an officer has his hand on his holstered pistol, and asks a suspect more than fifteen feet away to turn around. The suspect spins, lunges, and gets in a good whack with a machete he was holding. Then the suspect does it again with a pocket knife. Then again from further away. Each time, the officer was unable to unholster, raise and aim his weapon. The point of the video was to unholster your weapon if you're expecting trouble, or the suspect looks like he's got a knife. The lesson the non-specialist can take away is that a gun is not a magic shield. It's dead easy to attack someone with it, but incredibly difficult to defend yourself with it.

You get your beloved a handgun, and she keeps it in her purse. She's dead if he grabs her by surprise, as she'll never get the gun out in time. OK, she keeps it in a special purse that has a built-in holster. She's still dead if the purse is knocked away, or he sees her trying to pull the gun... he's stronger and will take it from her. What if he knocks on the door, and her purse is in the kitchen?

If the stalker is the sort to tell you he's going to attack you from a dozen yards off in clear lighting and good weather, in an open area, yeah, you'll totally kill him. Anything else is a crapshoot.

Let the cops know you got a violent stalker, get a restraining order, and a barky dog. Much cheaper and safer than a gun, which isn't as good at protecting you from harm as being alert to your surroundings, and handy with a cell phone - say loudly into it, "Hello, 911? I'm being attacked, please get the location from my cell phone's GPS, and my attacker's cell phone will be the one right next to me."

That is scarier than a pistol - realizing the cops know who you are and what you tried to do, and they're coming for you now.
posted by Slap*Happy at 7:27 AM on November 4, 2009


"Hello, 911? I'm being attacked, please get the location from my cell phone's GPS, and my attacker's cell phone will be the one right next to me."

Kind of a derail, but cell phone GPS doesn't work that way. Unless the person turns on the GPS function to be on all the time, it's only turned on for 911 calls. So they could find your location from the GPS (although you would probably be better off just telling them where you are) but they wouldn't be able to locate the other phone. Also, the GPS lookup works by finding the location of the device given the phone number, so 911 operators can't just type in a location and find the nearest cell phones being used there, even if they have GPS enabled.
posted by burnmp3s at 9:16 AM on November 4, 2009


Except, what we need to look at are suicide attempt rates.

No we do not.

The hypothesis was: having a gun in the home makes you more likely to commit suicide (and the statistics I quoted above appear to bear this out).

An unsuccessful suicide attempt is very, very, very far from being the same thing as committing suicide. It strikes me as extremely bizarre that you would even try to make the argument that they're the same thing.

I can't find the cite right now, but I remember reading an article which cited a study demonstrating that survivors of suicide attempts actually see their lifetime earning potential rise after the attempt. In other words, an unsuccessful suicide attempt can often be a catalyst for someone to turn his or her life around.

A successful suicide attempt? Let's just say... not so much.

I can hardly believe we're even having this discussion.
posted by dersins at 9:25 AM on November 4, 2009


There's an interesting training video on knife violence from Australia... an officer has his hand on his holstered pistol, and asks a suspect more than fifteen feet away to turn around. The suspect spins, lunges, and gets in a good whack with a machete he was holding. Then the suspect does it again with a pocket knife. Then again from further away. Each time, the officer was unable to unholster, raise and aim his weapon. The point of the video was to unholster your weapon if you're expecting trouble, or the suspect looks like he's got a knife.


Just FYI. The point of training video like that is less about the lack of efficacy of guns and more about the efficacy of blades in short range and the limitations of police officers in self defense scenarios. An LEO's overriding concern, ideally, is to arrest somebody. It is a very different set of tactics and responses than say a civilian might require.

And. Also. There is a solution to the tactical draw dilemma. It called the Tueller drill. And one such response in the drill, LSS, is once you see the opponent rushing you you fall back on to your back as you draw, which gains you (depending on your height) so space and an angle of attack that your attacker has to adjust to. Certainly not ideal. But there are answers to the situation.

However. People should not own dangerous tools without training properly in the use of those dangerous tools. I don't see this as a revolutionary idea.
posted by tkchrist at 10:41 AM on November 4, 2009


The point at which someone should contemplate whether or not they are capable of killing someone is when they are considering buying a gun for self defense. If they absolutely know they would not be able to take another human life under any circumstances, even if it meant their own life or the life of a loved one would be lost, then they should not buy a gun. This is really the point in the gun-owning decision process that most people don't take enough time to consider whether or not they could "kill or be killed" in a crisis situation. Too many people just buy the gun, even if they aren't 100% certain that taking a life is something they could do. If someone can't imagine themselves killing another human, then they should not own a gun.

By the time someone has the need to draw a firearm and point it at another human, they need to know --without a doubt or moment's hesitation-- they are prepared to kill whoever it is they are aiming at. No one should ever draw a firearm and point it at another human being unless they are ready to kill that person and then are capable of proceeding to do so. If someone can't develop the mindset and conditioning needed to understand that to draw a gun means to pull the trigger and kill another human, they had best leave it in its safe location and never attempt to use it. Or sell it. This isn't a decision to be made while staring down the barrel at another person. That decision has to be made long before that moment ever comes along. Though someone may get lucky and merely drawing the weapon might scare the attacker away, that isn't what guns are designed to do. They are also not designed to break legs or arms or in any other way merely maim someone enough to stop them from attacking. They are lethal weapons designed to kill and function best in a crisis situation when used in that manner.

I understand being horrified about the thought of killing someone. I'm horrified about it myself and am a non-aggressive, find-another-way sort of person, and yet, I own a gun. Should I find myself in a situation where someone who has attacked me in the past is stalking me, threatening me, and then attempts to attack me, horrified as I may be about taking someone's life, I wouldn't have to think twice about drawing the firearm and pulling the trigger. I already made the decision to do so long before I purchased the gun and found myself in need of lethal force to protect myself. By the time my hand would be on the gun, I would already know it was a "him or me" situation and understand the consequences that will shortly follow.

As far as suggesting to others to buy a gun for self defense, it is inherent in owning a gun for self defense that killing someone may happen at some time in the future. If people are offended by the suggestion that a gun be used, then they should be equally offended by the suggestion to purchase a gun in the first place. Guns are not talismans. They are not lucky rabbit's feet. They are not useful for scaring away attackers. They are intended for killing, so the suggestion that someone buy a gun for self defense inherently contains within it the implication that if it is bought and ever used, it will kill someone. It seems a little odd to be so vehemently against stating that a gun might need to be used to kill someone in self defense and not equally aghast at the suggestion that someone buy a gun in the first place.

Sorry for being long-winded, but I don't have the time to respond to the comments I wanted to respond to directly, so I decided to just put this out there instead.
posted by Orb at 11:36 AM on November 5, 2009 [1 favorite]


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