By Rob Morse
Southern California –-(Ammoland.com) It used to be called suicide by cop. That is when some insane guy points a toy gun at a police officer fully expecting that the officer will kill him.
It is a tragic situation at best. It is made worse when the next of kin complains about unnecessary violence.
Sadly, the next of kin also complains when an ordinary citizen faces a violent criminal and the citizen uses lethal force in self-defense. We should call it suicide by citizen. I’ll go a step further.
Citizens who use firearms to stop an immediate, severe and unavoidable threat have the same, if not stronger, moral defense as a police officer.
For the cop, it usually looks like this. A suicidal citizen threatens a law enforcement officer with a knife or a gun. The crazy person then advances toward the police officer and defies the officers’ command to drop the weapon. The sad result is inevitable. The officer thinks his life is in severe, immediate, and unavoidable danger. The police officer’s actions are unfortunate, but justified as the suicidal citizen takes his own life using the police officer as a tool.
A violent criminal presents a similar threat to the victim of the crime, and the citizen has the right of self-defense to save his life and the life of others.
That is true within limits. You and I don’t defend ourselves against the neighbor child who knocks on our door simply because she is selling cookies again. My young neighbor doesn’t put me in jeopardy of being severely hurt and she doesn’t have the ability and opportunity to hurt me.
Consider different circumstances where we have a disparity of force between the aggressor and defendant. An elderly homeowner might be outnumbered or pitted against a stronger adversary. This is where a policeman, even an elderly retired policeman, has a huge advantage over the average firearms owner. The homeowner is often less well trained in de-escalation of a conflict than are police. The homeowner is less well trained than most police in the use of non-lethal force. Citizens have fewer options and therefore place greater reliance on retreat and the use of defensive force for self-protection. Self-defense isn’t perfect. Sometimes citizens have to use lethal force and criminals die. Sometimes force is necessary.
Sometimes force is justified. Look at the differences between the criminal and the victim and see what each had to gain in this encounter. The criminal broke into a home or threatened a citizen in public, while the citizen wanted to mind his own business and peacefully go on his way. The criminal wanted to come away wealthy, while the citizen thought they could lose their life in the attack. The criminal set the time, place and manner of their crime, while the victim is happy to break even and leave the scene uninjured. The criminals were in control of their actions. The criminals were the initial aggressors and initiated a lethal threat.
Acting in self-defense, the citizen simply matched the criminal’s use of force.
Criminals have used toy guns during a robbery and hoped that their intended victim would be intimidated into surrendering. That worked for the criminal if the citizen is defenseless. That doesn’t work for the criminal now that we see more and more armed citizens who can defend themselves with lethal force. “Give me your money or I’ll kill you” is likely to get the criminal killed even if the criminal is only armed with his finger pointing forward inside his jacket pocket.
Violent criminals will meet a violent end. We can honestly wish the criminal had turned from their life of crime. We can feel the sadness of the next of kin. That does not diminish the right of honest citizens to protect their lives and their loved ones.
Understandably, the criminals’ next of kin wish for a better outcome (here and here). The way I see it, the criminals chose suicide by citizen.
What do you think?
Images use with permission of Oleg Volk.
About Rob Morse:
By day, Rob Morse works as a mild mannered engineer for a Southern California defense contractor. By night he writes about gun rights at Ammoland, at Gun Rights Magazine, Clash Daily and on his SlowFacts blog. He is an NRA pistol instructor and combat handgun competitor.