Why I Am Unarmed

gun

An excerpt from my article on guns in the February edition of The Banner:

Why I Am Unarmed

by Bryan Berghoef

My neighbors were recently mugged at gunpoint not far from where I live in Washington, D.C. A nice evening out for dinner with another couple quickly went awry as two young men pulled a gun on them and demanded their wallets and phones. The four of them hit the ground and did as they were asked. After being accosted in this way, my friends felt rattled. Unsafe. Sad.

Some might say: “If only they’d been carrying a weapon of their own, they might have been able to turn the tables, or at least hold onto their wallets.” A good thought. After all, they say the best defense is a good offense, so why not be ready to take charge in such a situation? An argument could be made that a gun might have helped. The instigators could have been forced to flee out of fear. The potential firepower might have caused panic, and my friends might have been able to take control of the situation.

But it’s also true that bringing a second gun into the picture might have escalated the situation. It is likely that the perpetrators did not plan to use the gun. There’s a good chance that these two young men found themselves in a desperate situation requiring desperate action.

I’m pretty sure this situation would not have been improved by issuing a threat of violence in response to the initial threat of violence. A response in kind, even in self-defense, is exactly what it sounds like: a response in kind.

With these types of incidents happening close to where I live—in an urban setting—some might recommend that I own a weapon. That I protect my family. That I prepare for the worst.

Yet I remain unarmed.

Read the rest of this article—and a counterpoint—at The Banner. Would love to get your thoughts there or here.

9 Comments

Filed under Culture, Politics

9 responses to “Why I Am Unarmed

  1. A couple of points you might not have considered.

    After all, they say the best defense is a good offense, so why not be ready to take charge in such a situation? An argument could be made that a gun might have helped.

    Ever see a cop on the road and slow down thinking there may be another one just over the hill or around the curve?
    That is the idea behind Concealed Carry — something D.C. is lacking. Criminals never know who might be carrying a firearm and therefore are less likely to target people in these types of crimes.

    Given the fact that criminals know few people are likely to be carrying in D.C.; they have a target rich environment.

    But it’s also true that bringing a second gun into the picture might have escalated the situation.
    Or a third or 4th or 5th gun. Think of the scenario where the 2 thugs pull firearms and all the victims respond in kind. Most criminals despite your claim aren’t desperate for money. They see people as a resource that they can fleece at their convenience. I recommend reading Rory Miller’s Facing Violence; Preparing for the Unexpected. A good look into the mindset of those willing to use violence to achieve their goals.

    From the other website:
    How can I think of carrying a weapon designed solely to kill efficiently if I’m seeking to follow a God who instructs us, “Do not kill”? How can I think of owning a gun when Jesus tells us to turn the other cheek, to love our enemies, and to pray for those who hurt us? How can I stock up on ammunition when Romans 12 clearly instructs us to “not repay evil for evil” and to “live at peace with everyone” (vv. 17-18)?

    First God does not instruct us not to Kill — the word is ratsch — the most accurate translation is “murder”. Isn’t it a little hard to believe that God who instructs us to kill children who back talk parents also instructs us not to kill?

    Next, in the sermon on the mount Jesus discusses turning the other cheek, going an extra mile, or if a person takes your cloak give him your robe. All of those situations are legal and at the time socially acceptable forms of either insults or legal requirements. NOT Criminal actions.

    http://3bxsofbs.infamousanime.net/?p=204 I’ve addressed these in detail at my blog.

    The argument that we need more guns, and more people trained to use them, boils down to “we can kill before we get killed.”

    I disagree. The argument boils down to 2 elements; some people only respect violence as an answer and actually being ready to respond can reduce violence not escalate it. A great example of this can be seen in the Rodney King Riots in L.A. The Koreatown merchant did shoot back but in doing so kept more people from being attacked, kept more property from being destroyed and lives lost. Being armed stops violence in many cases. The National Crime Victim Survey estimates as few as 108,000 Defensive Gun Uses per year while Kleck and Gertz found as many as 2,500,000 Defensive Gun Uses.

    Because my desire to follow Jesus exceeds my desire to defend myself. And because responding to a threat upon my life with an act of love, even if it costs me my life, might be one small piece of God’s kingdom being realized here and now.

    Ever consider that stopping a person from murdering you, raping someone, robbing your house may be God’s plan for that person?
    That it might be a wake up call for someone to change their lives?

    Jesus used violence to change people’s ways — the money changers at the Temple — he also avoided violence (leaving several places when the authorities sought to murder / capture him) until the time was right for him to die as the ultimate sacrifice.
    I plan to avoid violence as much as possible, to use lethal force as only the last resort. I have had two occasions where I believe my situational awareness, verbal commands and actions — BACKED up by the presence of a firearm stopped me from being mugged.

    What if we tried to enact the prophetic dream now, and gave up our obsession with violence?

    The only obsession with violence is the ones the criminals have. I am not sure where the idea of keeping oneself safe from crime is being violent came from. It doesn’t make sense to me to say “In the face of violent people, I’m going to do nothing.” Doesn’t a Christian have a responsibility to protect others, to provide for his/her family ala 1 Timothy 5:8?

  2. “I’m pretty sure this situation would not have been improved by issuing a threat of violence in response to the initial threat of violence.”

    Why issue a threat? Just shoot the son-of-a-bitch, in the head. That will drop him like a sack of potatoes.

    “A response in kind, even in self-defense, is exactly what it sounds like: a response in kind.”

    If the attacker shoots you it is “murder.”

    If you shoot him, in your scenario, that is “justified homicide.” It is _not_ a response in kind. It is a justified and moral action.

    They knew the difference between murder and justified homicide 4,000 years or so when they were writing the Torah. By the way, Jehovah did not say to Moses “Thou shalt not kill.” He said, “Thou shalt not murder.”

    lwk

  3. Yes, people with guns stop crime. Like the mall shooting in San Diego at Christmas… oh, wait. The fact is the vast majority of the mass shootings in recent years the facts have shown people with guns on site- not security or police officers, but people with concealed weapons. How many of these mass shootings were stopped by these armed citizens? One person who was not military or police trained, back in 1998.

    In my state I have heard numerous people laugh as they tell others about how the instructor gave out the answers to the concealed weapons exam to the class. None of this reassures me or makes me hope more people are carrying concealed weapons.

    I am not against guns, if you ever have to use one because someone is attacking your home, you have to do what you have to do. The problem is these arguments of justified homicide are not cut and dry- especially with legislation out there that is written by special interest and voted on blindly. Trayvon Martin, Renisha McBride, and Darius Simmons come immediately to mind as examples of abused privileged. Do you think God would consider killing someone who knocks on your door justified? Shooting deaths have risen in states that have adopted Stand Your Ground. So, killing more people is the moral solution? Do you think average Joe is going to do more damage by playing cowboy in a situation they are not trained to deal with? Unfortunately, instead of calling for reasoned discussion all I hear are barks of more violence for even considering changes to these gun laws.

    The fact is people walking with head’s up and looking aware are least likely to be attacked, period. No gun needed. Criminals- from rapists to muggers- have stated they don’t mess with people who are aware because they are not easy targets. Maybe people should start by paying attention to their surroundings. Sometimes the best solution is simple.

    • Amy,

      The reason you don’t hear about concealed carry holders stopping mass murders is simple — they stop them before the casualty count gets up to that level. Appalachia Law School, Pearl High School in Mississippi.

      Or how about Jean Assam in the New Hope Church shooting in Colorado. Murderer killed two people in another part of the city, then traveled to the church building and killed two more in the parking lot. As he entered the church he was confronted by Ms. Assam and shot. Laying on the ground wounded, he killed himself.

      None of this reassures me or makes me hope more people are carrying concealed weapons.

      I don’t know about your state but Texas keeps track of crimes and convictions of those who have a concealed carry license. The highest point (just after the law was introduced and everyone was figuring out the rules) was 0.50% of all Convictions for that year. In 2010, the conviction rate was 0.18% — less than two tenths of all convictions. Certainly doesn’t seem to be the group we really need to worry about, does it?

      Shooting deaths have risen in states that have adopted Stand Your Ground. So, killing more people is the moral solution?

      But remember, as you say, it isn’t a cut and dried issue now is it? Yes, killing have increased. People are being convicted of those crimes also. Where there is a crime, people are being convicted. I will not address the Trayvon Martin issue here, it wasn’t as the media portrayed it though.

      Do you think average Joe is going to do more damage by playing cowboy in a situation they are not trained to deal with?

      Statistics show the ‘average joe’ hits their attacker more often then the police do and hit fewer bystanders than the police do. So no, I don’t think they are going to do more damage.

      The fact is people walking with head’s up and looking aware are least likely to be attacked, period. No gun needed. Criminals- from rapists to muggers- have stated they don’t mess with people who are aware because they are not easy targets.

      Absolutely agree. You’ll find that most gun owners, especially those who carry concealed advocate the same thing. Situational awareness, avoiding problem areas/times, using verbal commands. All great tools which people can use. Having a firearm provides that one extra tool that many people lack.
      A survey commissioned by the Clinton Administration (National Crime Victim Survey) found at least 108,000 defensive gun uses per year. Other surveys (16 in total) like the Kleck and Gertz survey found up to 2,500,000 defensive gun uses per year. Hardly a case of people with guns simply shooting up the place but definitely a strong point in favor of armed citizens — they reduce crime and violence.

      Unfortunately, instead of calling for reasoned discussion all I hear are barks of more violence for even considering changes to these gun laws.

      I want to end on this point because this is a mis-standing that I hear all so often. People aren’t upset over ‘gun laws’ — we have thousands of those. Laws going back to 1930s — with the National Firearms Act. What upsets people is the impact additional laws — we are told to ‘compromise’ again. Decade after decade, law after law, infringement after infringement on a deeply held Constitutionally protected right — and all we ever hear is “it isn’t enough” or “We need another law”.

      The CDC reviewed the issue back in 2002, they found insufficient evidence that any ‘gun control’ law or combination of them reduced violent crime.

      Yet, just one more law.
      What we hear is “just one more piece of your freedom” — in a time where we have so much governmental intrusion and lack of liberty. Try flying lately? Heard of the NSA spying issue? How about Indefinite Detentions of American citizens authorized in the NDAA?

      Where does the chipping away at our liberty stop?

      • I know that what follows will be decried as foolish idealism, and I am okay with that. I am wrestling through the implications of carrying a concealed weapon and if my ideals don’t play a part, what does?

        To carry a concealed weapon implies that I have the right, the responsibility and the capability to decide when someone needs to die. That is a mighty responsibility for any human being to employ. You can run through all of the reductionistic “what-if” scenarios you want, but at the end of the day, a concealed carry permit is a license to kill. Not to kill indiscriminately, nor in a premeditated way, but the state confers authority upon concealed carriers which allows them to use their weapon (in a responsible way) to potentially end someone’s life. Whether or not that should be legal is up for discussion.

        Theologically, however, I am pretty firm on the implications of the image of God and ethics. I read the taunt of Lamech, “I killed a man for wounding me” (The Genesis version of “They send one of yours to the hospital, you send one of theirs to the morgue!”), and do not look upon it as heroic. I simply can’t justify it. Self-defense options that wound, stun, and/or incapacitate are all on the table. But I can’t personally reconcile my anthropology, theology or ethics to the equation of self-defense and killing.

      • Andrew Bossardet wrote:

        “To carry a concealed weapon implies that I have the right, the responsibility and the capability to decide when someone needs to die.”

        No, that is not strictly true. I will use as an example the law in Texas where I live and have a concealed carry permit.

        That permit does _not_ give me the right to kill anyone, or the right to decide when someone dies. What it does give me the right to do is to use deadly force to defend myself and others until a person stops being a threat. So for example if I shoot someone who is threatening me or others with deadly force or serious bodily injury, and he falls down and stops threatening me it would be a crime for me to continue shooting him, or to kill him (assuming my previous legal shots do not kill him).

        Is that sort of clear? This was an important point in the class I took. You have the right to use deadly force to stop someone’s actions that threaten your life or threaten serious bodily injury (to you, or others). You have absolutely no right to use force beyond that point. If the person does die because you used force that is their fault because of their actions.

        “That is a mighty responsibility for any human being to employ.”

        Life is itself a “mighty responsibility” and when some people use violence and deadly force against others who do you suppose is supposed to deal with that? I would really recommend you read this classic article by Jeffrey Snyder:

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

        “…at the end of the day, a concealed carry permit is a license to kill.”

        Not in Texas (and probably many other states). It is a license to carry the means to use deadly force to protect yourself and others. It gives you no intrinsic right to kill. Again, if a person is killed who is illegally using violence and deadly force against law abiding citizens it is the moral responsibility of that person for their death.

        “Whether or not that should be legal is up for discussion.”

        It shouldn’t be up for discussion. The right to self defense is a basic human right.

        “I can’t personally reconcile my anthropology, theology or ethics to the equation of self-defense and killing.”

        Personally, I can love a person as myself, and kill them if necessary. I don’t think Jesus would object to that in the case of self defense. I actually wrote something on that on this blog:

        Was Jesus a Pacifist?
        http://thenewagesite.wordpress.com/2014/01/22/test-post/

        Jesus wasn’t a pacifist. He was offended by the moneychangers in the Temple. He went out and braided a whip out of rope and came back in and beat them and overturned their tables.

        regards,

        lwk

  4. Andrew,

    I am wrestling through the implications of carrying a concealed weapon and if my ideals don’t play a part, what does?

    Please understand I absolutely agree that “ideals” play a part in the decision to carry or not. It does have to be balanced against the fact the world isn’t God’s Ideal, doesn’t it?

    To carry a concealed weapon implies that I have the right, the responsibility and the capability to decide when someone needs to die.
    It is a responsibility that we each have. But we have that also if we carry or not, right? We can kill with a baseball bat, a punch, running over someone with a car.

    More importantly we have the responsibility to PROTECT and firearms can do that more effectively than any other tool. Do we not have a responsibility to keep our spouses and children safe. Shouldn’t we take every step we can to come home safely to our family at the end of each day?

    Don’t forget the criminal has a large role in what happens. Most Defensive gun uses never involve pulling the firearm; the criminal is warned off (either by actions or words) and leaves. Few result in the firearm being drawn and pointed at the criminal. Again — a reduction in violence and few end up with a shot being fired.
    Out of the ones where shots have been fired; few criminals are killed.

    But how many lives are saved by those actions? How many rapes prevented?
    I looked at the ethical, moral and legal implications of carrying. I also studied scripture as best as I could and sought other opinions on the subject. I have to believe scripture means what it says when it talks about in and self defense — if a thief breaks in at night and is killed there shall be no blood guilt assigned.

    Self-defense options that wound, stun, and/or incapacitate are all on the table.

    Name a self defense option that only wounds, stuns or incapacitates without the risk of a fatality please. Pepper spray — people have died. And for me not an option — a have Asthma that would not react well.
    Tasers — ineffective in many situations, limited to one attacker mostly, and definitely have caused fatalities.

    I am all for people making decision and acting on their beliefs. I would never interfere with those personal decisions. I just wish the gun control advocates would give me the same choice.

    • Thank you for the quick and understanding response. I was sharing with Brian that I shared my belief once on a blog and met the response of: “If you are single, stay away from my daughter. You don’t deserve a daughter like mine if you think her life is as valuable as a criminal’s.” Fun stuff, for sure. That being said, here is where I will continue to articulate a different vision of concealed carry.

      Your first point is that we do not live in a world of God’s ideal. True. But the Church is a community called to live into that ideal, and so I can’t allow the world’s brokenness to override Christ’s call.

      Your second point seems to be that we can equally kill with punches, baseball bats and other items. That may very well be the case, but even as you noted, guns are far better at that than the other cases (even cars). With a gun, I am far more likely to kill my target than pepper spray, even ceding that my asthmatic attacker would be in far worse shape. But every human being is vulnerable to bullets, and a gun user knows that when attacking someone (even in defense). Similarly, I cannot follow that a criminal is at fault for me raising a gun and pulling the trigger. That is my call, and my call completely.

      The second half of that point is that it saves lives. It also takes lives. If you truly believe that most of the time the trigger doesn’t need to be pulled, then don’t load the gun. But the fact is that killing a criminal doesn’t mean that all the lives were saved. All lives were saved minus one. While that may not make me guilty of blood, there is still a human being who died. And I still find that hard to reconcile.

      • Andrew,

        I’m glad you mentioned the line about the criminal and the daughter. God’s greatest command is “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind'; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.'”

        So why do you rate the life of a criminal as more valuable than your own? Doesn’t God expect us to care for ourselves so we can carry out His work.

        The criminal decides to risk his/her life every time they commit a crime. They accept the consequences including the fact their actions may result in their deaths. Scripture doesn’t tell us to not defend ourselves. It gives us the guidelines when to use lethal force or not. But the use of lethal force against criminals is authorized by God, right?

        While that may not make me guilty of blood, there is still a human being who died.

        Absolutely true in the vary rare cases where a fatality occurs. So the question becomes if a life has to be risked or taken; should it be someone who has violated social prohibitions, laws and God’s Commandments or yourself, your spouse, family member or some other person you may not even know?

        Most murderers have felony arrests and/or convictions on their record prior to the homicide. Shouldn’t we do what we can to stop crime, protect the innocent?

        Your second point seems to be that we can equally kill with punches, baseball bats and other items.

        That isn’t my point. My point is either violence is wrong – PERIOD, End of Story. OR that carrying a firearm is no different from using another tool to defend yourself. If you use any ‘non-lethal’ means of violence, you are accepting that a person can die as a result of your actions. Just as the use of a firearm can result in the death of another person as a result of your actions.

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