This is part one of a two-part post. Part II is here.
Recently, a friend of mine contacted me and asked me an intriguing question. He said he wanted to get a gun, and asked for my advice. This guy is a fellow Christian, a husband and father, and is also a small business owner. Before I could answer his question, I needed more information. I answered his question by asking a question: Why do you want to get a gun?
People who know I’m a firearms instructor often approach me about and ask this question. In today’s world, it’s unfortunately becoming more common for American’s to own and carry firearms for self-defense. I say “unfortunately” not because I’m against firearms ownership or against using a firearm for self-defense. I’m actually a very strong supporter of the Second Amendment. I say “unfortunately” because I don’t like to see violence perpetrated against innocent people. In a defensive firearm use, the criminal’s intended victim can also be hurt. Hurt physically, emotionally, financially, or spiritually. That bothers me. I don’t have much compassion for the criminal who caused the incident that got him arrested, shot, or even killed. But it does bother me in a sense that a life cut short, even one who was bent on harming others, is a life that may never had the chance to know Christ and will spend eternity separated from God. But I digress.
My friend answered the question very much like I expected. He said he wanted a gun for self-defense. To protect his family and his business.
We had an interesting, but short, conversation about choosing your first handgun, and I wanted to put my own thoughts down about this subject.
There are several factors in making a decision about purchasing a firearm. Typical online discussions deal with type, price, caliber, and other characteristics of the gun itself. But with all the debates abounding on the Internet, most gun-experts fail to address the first, most important question one must answer: Are you mentally, emotionally, and spiritually willing to take the life of another human being?
This is a question that I always ask anyone who tells me they want to get a gun for self-protection. I ask this question in a very serious and sober manner because it is a very serious and sober question. If you cannot immediately and unequivocally answer “Yes” then when faced with the immediate life-or-death decision of “do I shoot?” you will hesitate. And if you hesitate, it is very likely you will get hurt or killed.
Think about the situation where you’re asleep in your bed, you’re startled awake by the dreaded “bump in the night.” You quickly get up, grab your handgun, and proceed down the hallway to investigate. You round the corner into your living room, and discover a pair of burglars attempting to remove your big-screen TV from the wall. Startled, one of them turns toward you and you see a large, black pistol in his hand. You have your own pistol, drawn, and ready to go.
The adrenaline dump into your body causes your hands to shake. Your vison sharply focuses down to the gun he is holding. Thoughts go racing through your mind. Should I shoot? Is this guy a threat? Is the TV worth it? Will he really shoot me? What if the gun isn’t loaded? Is that a fake gun or a real one? Will they just run away? What would God think? Is this a sin/murder?
In the split second it takes for you to process this information, you could be shot. And that would certainly be a life-changing event for you, your family, and your friends. Now please understand, I’m not advocating a “shoot and ask questions later” mentality. But legally and morally, if someone breaks into your house while you are home, by any reasonable standard you have the right (and I would argue duty) to defend yourself. That being said, if you have not come to terms with this prior to encountering the situation, in all likelihood you will hesitate. And it bears repeating, if you hesitate there is a high probability you will be shot or killed.
The topic of self-defense by Christians is one that is also hotly debated. Some advocate for pacifism or a “turn-the-other-cheek” approach. They argue that firearm use by Christians is immoral. And, like many Christians, they quote scripture to justify their views. My short answer here is, this is wrong-headed and misguided thinking. It misunderstands scripture and Christ’s words. Frank Turek summed this up in an excellent blog post a few years ago, when he wrote:
With regard to self-defense, not only does the Old Testament affirm the right to self-defense (Ex. 22:2), Jesus himself told his disciples to sell their cloak and buy a sword (Luke 22:36). Jesus later told Peter “put your sword away” so Christ’s sacrifice would go forward and the scriptures would be fulfilled (Mt. 26:54). But the very fact that Jesus told Peter and the other disciples to buy a sword shows that its use for personal protection is appropriate.”
As a husband and father, I have a moral obligation to protect my family from evil. If someone is bent on harming my family, it is my responsibly to do something about it. Those with opposing views can come up with dozens of arguments for why I shouldn’t shoot in the scenario I described above. “No TV is worth someone’s life” they argue. What if the gun is unloaded? What if it’s just a couple of teenagers who are looking for some quick cash? What if it’s just a toy gun? Does that justify me shooting one (or both) of them in my living room? My answer: Yes!
This is an awful, tragic situation, but I did not put myself in it. I didn’t initiate the encounter. The criminal who broke into my house did. I have no way of knowing his intentions. Does the opponent of self-defense expect me to sit there and wait and see what the guy with the gun standing in my living room at 3:00 AM is going to do? Wait for him to drop the gun and run? Back away slowly, pointing his gun at me saying, “Man I don’t wanna shoot you, I just want your TV.” Immediately drop to the ground and surrender, crying, “Please don’t shoot me!” All those are certainly possibilities; but the guy could also be a career criminal, serial rapist, and have no hesitation with blowing a large, .45 caliber hole in my chest. I simply don’t know. Therefore, I have the legal, moral, and biblical mandate to defend myself and my family.
But, I have to have come to all these decisions up front. I must have concluded in my own mind that I am willing to take another human being’s life. This is a complex and serious debate. I cannot have the debate standing in my living room at 3:00 AM with two burglars in front of me.
So, the first question I ask anyone who is contemplating purchasing a gun for personal protection is: Are you willing to take the life of another human being? Until you can answer that question in the affirmative, you should stick to target shooting only and not carry a gun for self-defense.