Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Pulling the Trigger


There is a man lying on the floor of your home. Blood pools around his body, his flesh is visible through the hole in his clothing. His breathing is shallow and then it ceases.

You've just killed a man.

Another human being is dead by your hand.

Most of us will never know what it feels like to kill someone. Our lives have become so civilized that violent death is no longer a regular part of it.

Sure we listen to the news reports about anonymous black men in the ghetto killing and dying, but rarely do we know them. We cannot escape the reports of fresh-faced soldiers in distant lands taking and giving life, but that's not real for many of us. Despite the violence beamed into our homes and brains, most Americans have very little experience with killing.

But, for some folks, that's not the case. Check out this article.

The piece discusses the aftermath of death. The reporter spoke to several business owners who have killed someone in defense of their businesses. From what I read, it appeared that very few people are happy about the price they paid to protect their livelihood.

I've often thought about having to kill someone. I keep a weapon in my home to protect myself, my family and my things. I have no problem with killing to protect the first two items on that list, but the last item, my possessions, well sometimes I wonder about that one.

Would I feel comfortable shooting someone I saw trying to climb out of my window with a television or radio? Would I think that was a fair trade? How would that person's family view me? Would they want revenge?

I remember reading a story once about this guy who shot a man trying to steal the chrome rims from his car. Apparently the man heard his alarm go off, went to the balcony of his apartment, and saw the thief working. The guy yelled for the thief to stop, but the man kept right on stealing the rims. Finally, the man got his handgun and fired several shots killing the thief.

Was it worth it?

Part of me thinks that if a man is brazen enough to take your possessions from you, it's not long before he'll be brazen enough to take your family or your life. Y'all know the old saying "If you lie, you'll steal. And if you steal, you'll kill."

Yet, there is another part of me that knows that rarely do the people who commit property crimes become violent. Most burglars stay burglars their entire career, they don't randomly become armed robbers and rapists unless something drastic happens.

I have sympathy for these shop owners made the choice to defend their businesses and must now live with killing someone. It must be terrible to see the face of the man you killed in your dreams, particularly if you know that that same man would still be alive if he had chosen another path.

Some would say that these business owners brought their misery upon themselves by keeping weapons in their stores, but I can't endorse that worldview. It seems logical that if you're a target for robberies you would take steps to protect yourself and your things. After all, no matter how altruistic you may be, nobody wants to finance the crack and heroin habits of the neighborhood hoodlums. It makes sense that people who service tough neighborhoods would keep weapons and use them.

Still, I'm not totally sure how I would react in the moment of truth.

Recently, I walked through my home, searching for the source of a strange noise during the middle of the night. I carried my weapon with me.

My city is dangerous, and I knew that I might stumble upon someone in my house. Yet, as I crept from room to room, I found myself wondering if I would really have the ability to shoot someone if my life wasn't threatened.

Would I really be able to kill for my ipod?

Would you?



macon d said...

Would I really be able to kill for my ipod?

Would you?

Hell no. I'd only kill in defense of myself or loved ones.

This was a thought-provoking meditation, thank you for posting it. I don't have a gun. I did recently have an intruder (who didn't take anything, and in fact tried to clean up the place), so I may reconsider. But then, guns seem as likely, or even more likely, to bring about an accident as the chance that they'd save me from anything. Also, if I'm not home and another intruder comes, that's just one more thing that could fall into the wrong hands.

LisaMJ said...

Wow, someone broke into your house and tried to clean? WEIRD! I really hope I would never be in that position. Fortunately I have no weapons in my house, guns scare me. I used to work for the Marine Corp as a civilian and we had "Marine Day" where we took employees of public official to a Marine Base and let them get a sense of what the Marines really do, ride in a tank, helicopter, fire weapons and they allowed us "Civillian Marines" to tag along. I was ok with the machine gun, sort of, but when they handed me the pistol to fire it really freaked me out and I handed it back to the Marine who was showing me how to to do it and let him fire the rest of the cartridge. It was scary just to shoot the thing. I do worry about possibly getting into an altercation and hitting the person on the head and then they die. My Mom put that thought in my head when I told her the next time someone messed with me I was going to hit them and she pointed out that the person could fall and hit their head and die and then it would be fault. I also worry about going to prison, a lot for a law-abiding person, and just the idea of doing something that would send me there for a long, long time makes me fear the possibility of killing someone. Plus I've always said I'd kill myself before I'd go to jail if I had the opportunity. I think as long as they didn't try to hurt me, my loved ones (and scarily enough that includes my cat which would be a bad defense) I hope I wouldn't kill someone. Then again, I made a ref stop a soccer game once after I knocked another girl down so I'm pretty peaceful and I haven't hit another person since I was 8 so hopefully the chances are slim of me actually physically hurting someone, outside of my mind. I am silly though b/c I used to worry I'd see Bush somewhere in DC one day and wouldn't be able to refrain myself from lunging at him and then I'd get shot so... I think I have issues :-) Ok enough rambling silliness for me.

NoNay said...

As the human race now stands, we're not Highly Evolved Beings (HEB's).

You can tell Highly Evolved Beings in our universe from the Lowly Evolved Beings (LEB's): HEBs don't compete one with the other. The notion of competition is foreign: To seek entertainment by making someone less than (losers), has never set well with them, and is counter to who they wish to be.

Violence is equally repugnant to HEBs. A HEB wouldn't even stop you from killing him, if, a LEB believed that in some sick way he would gain by it.

The HEB knows that life has no end, but exists as a eternal spiral, leading to greater and greater experiences.

Now, I'm sure you think I made this all up, since you've never met a HEB.

But don't measure all stories from a myopic reference point. Many here on earth have met them, and continue to meet them.

I worked with juveniles years ago in an incarcerated setting. One of these young men was convicted of breaking into homes, and stealing.

I asked him once: "Why do you do this?"

His answer: "Because it's easy."

He died several months after making that statement. A little old lady shot him dead as he attempted to break through her bedroom window.

Moral of the story: Easy can be deadly. It's better to die from hard work, and live long, than it is to live a short life on easy street.

Big Man said...


Your last few graphs seem to contradict your earlier statement about the eternal nature of life and relatively unimportance of death.

Anonymous said...

Nope, I couldn't kill anyone over any of my junk or my few valuables. It's just not worth it to take someone's life over something that I can just work hard for and get again.

NoNay said...

"Your last few graphs seem to contradict your earlier statement about the eternal nature of life and relatively unimportance of death."

No contradiction. I'm not a HEB. I wish I were so evolved, but, alas, I struggle, just as you do, with the dilemma: to pull the trigger or not to pull the trigger.

Do not take from this that life in the realm of the relative is fruitless. It is not. Life here affords us opportunities unique to this sphere, opportunities that can only be found here.

Robert Frost states it best in his poem, Birches:

I'd like to get away from earth awhile
And then come back to it and begin over.
May no fate willfully misunderstand me
And half grant what I wish and snatch me away
Not to return. Earth's the right place for love:
I don't know where it's likely to go better.

Under no circumstances would I kill to protect property, only the life of another: In that, I've evolved somewhat, as well as some others here.

For a HEB no dilemma exists. It's not that HEBs don't value life, but that they value something more important: The eternal validity of the soul. HEBs see no difference between themselves, and he that would wish to take their life. To kill him is to kill the self.

When, not even the protection of life becomes a consideration (for the reasons I've mentioned), I will have joined the ranks of those who see violence of any kind as needless and senseless.

Until that day, I persevere.

I fully expected you and others here to attack my assertion that HEBs exist.

But then not everyone has weighed in.

BrendaKay said...


I agree with your views about HEB's.

And I too strive to persevere...

Shady_Grady said...

I can't tell ahead of time what someone's intentions are but if they break into my house and are armed then I'm going to defend myself.
The chances of this happening are low but I don't think I'd feel too down about it..

Anonymous said...

Having had my house burglarized years ago when I was still living in Chicago, I have to say its horrible. I actually never thought my belongings were special until someone decided to break in my house and take my stuff (books, electronics, sentinmental jewelry, etc) and it felt like a huge invasion.

In that case, I wasn't home but it still hurt. If someone entered my home while my family was present, I would assume that they were willing to hurt me. (we had a case last year in Maine where some young punks broke into a house at night, stole valuables from the family and beat the father and young daughter with bats) After all if you break in at night, you can generally tell the house is occupied.

So I would use force because no shooting a man over a Ipod may seem crazy but what if that person was intent on harming you or your family? You just don't know...

Deacon Blue said...

I wouldn't kill to protect my possessions, but I would seek to incapacitate anyone who enters my home, and if they end up dead in that process, since I'm not about to hold back, so be it.

But if someone were coming out my window with my TV when I got home? Nah. I might chase them down, but trying to maim or kill them? No.

Business owners with guns sometimes makes sense, as people who come to rob your store may be willing to rob you of your life, too. You just can't read a mind...and if someone brings a weapon and points it at you, the only sensible thing to do is assume it will be used on you.

Defense is one thing. Punishment or retribution is quite another.

Big Man said...


I'm sure we differ on our views of the world but your idea of HEBs is not foreign to me. It's a concept contained in nearly every religion known to man. So it would be silly to argue about it.

Tit for Tat said...

Well hand guns are made for killin'
They ain't no good for nothin' else
And if you like to drink your whiskey
You might even shoot yourself
So why don't we dump 'em people
To the bottom of the sea
Before some ole fool come around here
Wanna shoot either you or me

Mr.Saturday night special
Got a barrel that's blue and cold
Ain't no good for nothin'
But put a man six feet in a hole

Ooooh it's a Saturday night special
And I'd like to tell you what you can do with it too...

Shady_Grady said...

So speaks Ronnie Van Zant... =)

Gye Greene said...

Interesting post (as always).

Isn't shooting in "self-defense" more legally defensible than shooting (killing) to prevent theft? (e.g. if the guy's is walking away, it's no longer "self-defense".) Seems like you'd risk going to prison for a bit, for manslaughter.

Which ought to weigh in to your cost-benefit of whether it's worth killing someone to protect your posessions.


Gye Greene said...

Reading Macon D's comment about "guns leading to an accident vs. home protection" -- I've tried to find empirical research on the risk or odds of using a gun for home defense, versus accidentally shooting a family member, versus kids getting in to a gun at home and injuring themselves. But, couldn't find anything that wasn't obviously biased by the supporting group (e.g. the NRA; "Ban All Guns, Inc.").

As a journalist, maybe you have the resources to find the answer to this? (Or, toss us in the right direction?)


hundefuhrer99 said...


I must say that, as a 15-year law enforcement officer, you cannot tell what someone is thinking or divine their intentions at a glance. You have to -- have to --assume that if someone enters your home, that they are capable of and willing to do anything to see it through.

Is property worth another's life? Unequivocally, no; but, that doesn't mean that an intruder in your home reasons the same way . . .

Jennifer Singleton said...

When I'm driving and I see all of the aggressive and impatient drivers endangering everybody's life, I often wonder if their behavior will be someone's last straw. Something as simple as riding the wrong person's bumper could get them killed, because they are being disrespectful and to someone who's just been fired. That's all it takes. The store owners are protecting their property, yes, but they react in fear of their life, then in anger to the disrespect for all they've worked for. I think you could definitely kill over your Ipod for a variety of reasons ranging from "kill you before you kill me" instinct, anger that they want to steal something that you worked hard to buy, and frustration that they aren't the least bit frightened by you. You were disrespected. Sometimes that's all it takes, depending on what else you've gone through up to that point.

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