June 27, 2003

A Time to Kill, Part II

Wow. I think we just set a record for reader reaction here on The Rant. I'd first like to thank everyone for chiming in; you've all brought up a lot of good points, and I've done a lot of hard thinking about what you have all said.

Looking back at what I had written, I don't know if I dealt with the issue with the gravity it deserved. I meant what I said, but I think I addressed the topic a bit too tongue-in-cheek. It's no joke, and I probably ought have not been so sarcastic.

One thing that folks brought up was the issue not merely of self-defense, but defending one's family and children. I suppose I ought to clarify that when I wrote, I was thinking much in terms of my own self-defense. I'm a pretty big fellow -- about six-foot-four -- and I've been lucky to never have really felt physically threatened in my adult life. So I'll admit that colored my own view a bit.

If my eventual family -- my wife, my children -- was under immediate physical threat from someone who clearly had the intent to do them harm, I would not hesitate to use deadly force. I would also not hesitate to put myself at mortal risk, either, in doing so. That would be my duty as a husband and a father -- as a man. That said, I agree with Kevin White that I would also owe it to my wife and kids to do what I could to ensure I was still alive after the confrontation. Does that mean a gun would be my only option? I honestly don't know. Perhaps it would be; perhaps it would not.

I also appreciate the arguments about teaching kids gun safety: if one is to keep a gun in the house, that would seem mandatory. But I'm not so much concerned about having a gun in the home with young children as I would be with older children. That may sound odd, but hear me out. With younger children, they are far more likely to obey their parents like they ought and they are far less likely to, well, act like teenagers. What concerns me is that a teenager would somehow figure out the combination to the quick-safe, or find the keys to the trigger locks. What if -- although I believe it would be a miniscule chance -- he then went and did something awful?

Perhaps that is paranoia on my part, and perhaps it would simply be wise to ensure a weapon was very, very well hidden -- perhaps in a floor safe or other accessible yet unknown hiding place, with the ammunition somewhere else, and with all the other safety mechanisms attached. In such things I am very risk-averse, though; and I would much rather I did what was needed to avoid such risk.

SS asked if I would feel the same way if I or a loved one had been a victim of a violent crime, and also if I was a woman. To be honest, this was not something I had considered at all.

I can say I have been very fortunate that none of my family or friends have been victims of violent crime. When I lived in Los Angeles, the only crime they -- my friends -- experienced was property theft, primarily auto theft. I had a couple of close shaves -- one which could have theoretically involved a "home invasion" -- but fortunately I kept my wits about me. ("Your baby is choking? You'd like to use the phone?" I said through the closed door at 4 a.m. on Sunday. "I'll call the police for you.")

Still, I do recall one case in particular at my first job when a female acquaintance was carjacked at gunpoint in the parking garage at work. Thank God she wasn't hurt, but it was a horrible experience and the carjacker in question was a desperate criminal -- he held up a number of banks in the greater Los Angeles region. Would a gun have helped her in that situation? Perhaps, but perhaps not.

But let us not forget the case of Susanna Gratia Hupp, who watched as her own parents were gunned down in 1991 at a Luby's cafeteria in Killeen, Texas. If you don't remember that story, consider that Hupp had a weapon in her car -- but it would have been against the law at that time for her to take it into the restaurant. One could argue that had she done so, she could have saved her parents' lives and those of the 21 other people who were murdered that long-ago day.

So I do agree that there are places where the benefits can outweigh the costs, and as a man I must admit that I forgot the very real concern that many women have for their own safety. I also agree that if I had been a victim of violent crime or had known someone who was, then I might have a very different view on the matter.

Finally, Dean joked that I was "disturbed" by guns in the link via which many of you came, and I do want to defend myself here! I'm not disturbed by them, but I am reluctant to own one and I'm uncomfortable around them. I've actually never fired a weapon -- not once -- and I am concerned that I'd end up hurting myself or someone else with it. I guess a shooting course would fix that, but even still, it does concern me.

I do want to make clear that I feel my neighbors and others in our society can look out for themselves on this issue; and I can see a time may come when I have some very hard thinking to do myself on it. In the meantime, though, I'm going to hope and pray that such a time never comes to pass.

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at June 27, 2003 01:13 AM | TrackBack

As a regular reader of The Rant, I appreciate your thoughtful nature and the perspective you bring to the table. This issue is no different.

Posted by: Kevin White at June 27, 2003 05:05 PM