Meditations on Deadly Force

Deadly Force — the taking of a life — is one of the most profound actions one human being can undertake; not only for the recipient, but for the person who wielded it.

To use Deadly Force against another — to kill some mother’s son — is to take away everything that person was, everything he is, and everything he could be.

Once deployed, Deadly Force can not be called back, there are no ‘Do Overs’ and no matter how hard one might wish it, a killing can never be reversed.

I have a very poetic soliloquy concerning loss of innocence, predawn ghosts, and how dark tiny little blots on your conscience can be, but that is for another time.

Today, I want to ask if you — as an adult — have sat down and truly pondered Deadly Force? Have you, as an adult, made the conscious choice to decide when, where, and under what circumstances you will use Deadly Force, and when you will not?

And more importantly, as an adult, have you drawn a firm, bright line between I will and I will not?

I ask this because there are people — purportedly adults — who have stated to me that they do not know under what circumstances they would attempt to take the life of another, and that they don’t wish to think about such things until the moment that it becomes necessary.

This is complete, total, and utter bushwa.

Make your decision now. If the time comes, trust me, a violent face-to-face social negotiation with a critter is neither the time, nor the place for an inner debate vis a vis morality and philosophy.

Get the debate done now, so that it will be one less thing to worry about when the time comes.

Would you kill a man for trying to kill you? For trying to injure you?

Would you kill some mothers son if he attempted to kill your children? If he was attempting to kill a stranger?

Would you shoot someone for stealing your car? Your house? Your 79-cent garden gnome?

Where do you draw the line? Decide now.

And I say this thing to everyone, not just those who have taken classes in the use of firearms, knives, fists and feet.

Would you drive your SUV over a critter who was attempting to kidnap your child? Would you push a critter attempting to rape you down a flight of stairs?

On Monday morning, should you come face-to-face with a critter attempting to take hostages at your local school, would you — could you — beat his sociopathic arse to death with a computer power strip?

Everyone should know — right now — where their bright line is drawn.

It is one of the obligations and responsibilities that come with being an adult.


What, again?

32 thoughts on “Meditations on Deadly Force”

  1. Good post. It amazes me how many people but a gun thinking it’s a magic wand and will keep the bad guys away.
    It takes more than the space availible here to explainmy personal lines in the sand involving deadly force.

  2. Agreed, grunt.

    I guess I did all my figuring many decades back. I review it from time to time–but, basically, the decisions were made long ago.

    I’ll skip a bunch of “stuff” and just say that my concern has been more over legal interpretations after the fact than my own decision-making process. Sad, that.


  3. This is reminding me some of my own thoughts as opposed to a couple of people I’m somewhat aquainted with… One seems kinda put out that I won’t just out-of-hand shoot a burglar who’s just carrying off *his* tv. (Hint: Homeowner’s insurance will cover the tv.) At the same time, another guy brought it up about if his kid were being abducted and, knowing how abductions go, that one goes without saying. It’s a question of whether or not someone is threatened in the gravest extreme.

    Personally, I think I’m like a good many others in that I’d rather talk with you and than talk about you. That demands that, should we be faced with a deadly encounter, we must survive it. And I figure our lives are gifts from God. If we don’t make our best effort to survive an attempt on our lives, it’s a dishonor to God and His gift to us.

    I recall two things Jesus said… 1) “he who has no sword, let him sell his coat and buy one”, and 2) “he who lives by the sword dies by the sword”. I believe Jesus was saying those who make a lifestyle of violence will die violently, but while we are being non-violet, we should be prepared to defend our lives and the lives of our family, friends, and neighbors.

    All that said, only a crazy person actually *wants* to kill someone for any reason. It’s just that because of all the crazy people in this world, us sane people have to be mindful that it may be pushed on us to do at some point. We have to hope and/or pray that we never have to use deadly force, but be prepared anyway.

    mustanger98 on THR

  4. Any serious tangible threat to me or my family wil be met with enough force to end the threat.

  5. …”my concern has been more over legal interpretations after the fact than my own decision-making process.”

    Exactly. And my decision was made decades ago also. Never lost any sleep over that, but I do wonder about the fallout that would happen now…living as I do in the Great State and Criminal Enterprise that is New Joisey.

  6. BJ, whether you live in Corzinistan or Free Montana, there is going to be fallout. LD can tell you better than I can whether a citizen is likely to get arrested after a self-defense shooting. But, for my own part, I’ve made the decision that any animal that tries to hurt me or the ones I love is in for the worst time I can give ’em. Based on that, I’ve taken a few simple steps to come out on top of that eventuality, should it (Odin forbid) arise.

    – NF

  7. Yes to all of them. If a critter comes after me, my family, or even my garden gnome, he’s a dead critter unless he changes my mind in the time it takes to kill him.

    Even if it turns out he just really had a thing for garden gnomes, I figure a PTSD plea will get me off at least once.

    Your garden gnomes are your own problem, but pretty much any human being that can’t defend himself or herself is worth shooting a predator one over, be it four- or two-legged.

    That’s on my own time. Professionally, of course, I don’t have to make a decision since it’s all laid out on a handly 3×5 card for me.

  8. …I’ve taken a few simple steps to come out on top…

    Well, I’ve got the EBRs locked up in a Gunsafe, and most all of the pistols and revolvers locked up in a floorsafe.

    For house guns I use older classic pattern Colt and Smith revolvers loaded with standard solids and the hammers down on empty cylinders. I have Surefires (with the higher power bulbs) for a non lethal surprise. I practice several times a month with them. The above is so my deadly weapons can be shown to be more ‘classic’ than ‘gangbanger’.

    The actual requirements for self defense are legion, and different in every jurisdiction. Fortunately I live in South Jersey (below the Mason-Dixon line) and that makes a big difference…we’re red down here, big time.

    Even so, you cannot even show a weapon in the yard to frighten off anyone, and would be in trouble if I shot someone in the yard who wasn’t actively shooting at me or mine…and even then it would be problematical. A shooting in the house is only slightly easier. There is no castle doctrine in Jersey and a requirement to retreat. In Jersey you are supposed to die.

    So, any thing I missed to make my life easier in court? I’m OK with the good-citizen-never-in-trouble-veteran-nice-neighborhood-church-going-family-man stuff.

  9. Bushwa, yep, good word to describe that which needs clearing from the mind. I have never heard other than family use the word.

    One must be able to see, with sparkling clarity, the line of which you speak.

    A plan, a list, oft thought of, seriously diminishes the moments of deletorious indecision which can plague the unprepared in the midst of stressful circumstance.

  10. Did my basic consideration in 1972. On one cold dark week.

    Then I enlisted.

    Who has to modify his rules of engagement because of local law.

  11. I, too, made my decision before purchasing a firearm, for the same reasons that have been outlined in this blog: the firearm is just a tool, as is a baseball bat, a screwdriver, an SUV, or a butter knife.

    I will use deadly force to match deadly force and intent. If an adult varmint were attempting to hurt one of my children, I’d surely run him over with my truck if that was the tool I had to hand. Were I in a classroom where some freakshow was trying to take hostages, I’d surely use the power strip to stop the person.

    In California, your actions must all be described to interrupt and prevent the immediate crime. If you, at any time, admit to doing something with the purpose of killing the varmint, you have just given up evidence which can be used against you in a murder trial.

    If someone wants to steal my garden gnome, it is not legal for me to shoot them. If someone enters my house unarmed and presents no threat, I cannot use a weapon on them. Threatening deadly force on someone in my house appears to be a gray area: There is an irrational disconnect in the legislature between the fact that someone willing to perform a “hot entry” on your house and their intent to kill the occupants.

    It’s terrible in this state, and eventually I will leave when my personal situation allows it. In the mean time, I have to tread lightly, and keep my personal thoughts on whether it is better to be judged by twelve than it is to be carried by six.

  12. For me it is real simple. 20+ years ago I had drilled into the concrete that was my head several things. Two stick with me today everytime I tuck my pistol in my holster.

    1. If I observe and reasonably believe I am in immediate danger of death or serious bodily harm.

    2. If I observe and reasonably believe others are in immediate danger of death or serious bodily harm.

    Then and only then will I feel justified in the use of deadly force.

    And God forbid I have to use a firearm in defense, I’ll happily sit there in the witness stand repeating either statement #1 or statement #2 over and over.

  13. I agree with many of the comments here, however, it is merely an intelectual exercise until actually faced with that eventuality.
    And, in my experience, when the eventuality does inevitably come it will bear no resemblence to the one that we anticipate, prepare and practice for.

  14. Excellent post. Good for thinking on, too…especially women. And for the record, you bet I would use deadly force in a situation where the lives of me or my family were at stake.

  15. There was a fairly dark night last year when I learned that yes, I would fire a weapon on an advancing critter.

    I was lucky in that the critters, upon realizing that there were a few of us armed to the teeth and willing to use them, made a quick U-turn and headed back to some other street in a God-forsaken land.

    It was something that scared me to death, but also made me realize what was important to me, and what I was willing to kill to defend.

  16. Good post Dawg. I’ve thought long about such a topic. I’ve made my decisions, drawn my lines in the sand…

    You ever see that film clip of the grizzly sow whuppin’ ass on a big boar in defense of her little cubs? He outweighed her by at least 50%. He lost.

    ‘Nuff said.

  17. I try not to complicate things.

    If the situation is something I could read about in the paper the next day and then go on with my life, I pass.

    If its something that, were I to read about it in the paper, would set me back because the victim or situation was near and dear to me, I’d be breaking out the power-stip’foo.

  18. bj, just in case you get this:

    1. Read up on The Law of Self Defense (eponymous book) or take Ayoob’s LFI-1 course. Ayoob is better, IMHO. He will tell you not only about the run-of-the-mill self-defense laws in the US, but also what you have to do to stay within the law. And it’s basically all common sense, anyway.

    2. Leave the coordinates of an excellent lawyer with your loved ones. (In the event you have to resort to deadly force, you want to call them, not the lawyer.) Hint for PRNJ inmates: E.N. has too spotted a success record for my liking. PM me through the major gunnie boards for more info.

    3. Plan on spending a minimum of $25,000 to extricate yourself if you have to use deadly force. No, it ain’t fair. It’s life.

    4. (Optional) I carry the NRA self-defense insurance. For about $400 a year, they agree (through Lloyd’s of London) to reimburse you up to half a million for self-defense related civil and criminal trials. It’s expensive, but it’s hopefully for a good cause.

    Join me on NJCSD and I’d be glad to swap ideas, FWIW.

    – NF

  19. My bright line is drawn as a circle 3 feet outside my person, my residence and those I care about. I will easily risk going back to prison for applying justice, not as a vigalante, but as a fighting victim or as a self-involving by-stander.

    Years ago, I made a mistake, an error in judgement. This error landed me as a ward of the Oklahoma Department of Corrections. No matter what I do, that stain will foreve follow me.

    Due to this error in judgement, as a naive American, barely 20, I was introduced to some of the worst of th inhuman kind. People who killed for no reason or to make an example and demonstrate their willingness to carry out a threat.

    With this knowledge of who (or what) it may be trying to carry off my $0.79 yard gnome, YES, I will apply deadly force. Not with relish, but with the fear and the knowledge that I am taking the correct action.

  20. I drew my line in the sand many years ago. Any that cross it will die if I’m able.

    I do not live by the sword but I will survive by the sword.

  21. The decision was made last century. And considered almost daily. It doesn’t seem to be getting any better.

  22. This is a very exciting question. I think back to the movie “Cobra” when the reporter asked him if he used excessive force? he replied, “Lady, i used everything i had”. My line is drawn in the sand. Everyone who knows me, knows where my line is. As a Veteran and a civilian i beleive in being prepared and decisive. I have reviewed it in my head a thousand times and when confronted with this situation i know i will act. As for the legality of using Deadly Force, remember two (2) things. First, shoot to kill. Don’t stop shooting until the threat is gone. That means the critter is no longer breathing. Second, i was in fear of my life. He said he would kill me. All Stop. End of story.

  23. Seanholio – I suggest you read and make yourself familiar with California Penal Code Section 198.5:

    198.5. Any person using force intended or likely to cause death or great bodily injury within his or her residence shall be presumed to have held a reasonable fear of imminent peril of death or great bodily injury to self, family, or a member of the household when that force is used against another person, not a member of the family or household, who unlawfully and forcibly enters or has unlawfully and forcibly entered the residence and the person using the force knew or had reason to believe that an unlawful and forcible entry occurred.

    As used in this section, great bodily injury means a significant
    or substantial physical injury.

  24. Been there already, in east NY State, of all places.

    Goblin walked up to me while I was digging in the back of my BMW and attempted a robbery and carjack.

    I pulled a 3/4″ flex-handle out of the trunk and fell into Kendo mode, moving through him, striking his arm, head, and gut. A witness said I was just a blur …

    The perp died as the police arrived. I told them he had tried to rob and carjack me, pointed out where his pistol lie, and then proceeded to STFU.

    The witnesses corroberated that I was the victim. After a few days, the DA’s office decided I could leave the state.

    Afyter all was said and done, I pretty much felt sick and stupid about the whiole thing … as well as angry at the perp. He could have easily found a form of suicide that didn’t stress me out and get me investigated afterwards.

  25. You can choose to be a victim, or choose not to be a victim. Just as you must make the choice of when deadly force is appropriate.

    I choose to not be a victim. I decided long ago that if my life, or the lives of those I hold dear to me were threatened, that I would take action, including deadly force. I will take another human life.

    Karma wills whether any action that I take was for good or evil and how it will be weighed against my progress on the spiral, and I will accept that judgement, knowing that I followed my path appropriately, made my choices, and that I will knock someone all the way back down the food chain to the level of pond scum, should it ever become necessary.

    I will grieve the person that they could have been, and will hope that as they climb the spiral of reincarnation that they will choose a more appropriate path.

    However, I will not kill to protect valuables, or for the safety of garden gnomes (most of them can protect themselves). Things are ephemeral and can be replaced by other things.

  26. Stuff, no. When a goblin broke in and I thought he’d (presumably) stolen my wedding rings I was upset, but not to the line. (Turns out it was a stupid goblin and missed them – yeah!!! But stole my asthma medicine WTF???)

    Rape or assult with intent – if I can damage him to the point of escape, I will/have. If he dies of those injuries, so be it (he didn’t, but I know more vulnerable places now than I did then).

    Go after my child (back in the day – now the Marine!Goth would be in front of me LOL) you will stop breathing if I have anything to say about it.

  27. I found out many years ago what my response would be, and it frightened me.

    Short version: I had a kid pull a switchblade on me because he thought I insulted him (I hadn’t).

    As I stood there, staring at the knife in his hand, one single thought was running through my head: When he strikes, sweep the hand with the knif away from you, then break his neck.

    Not punch him in the nose.

    Not push him away.

    Break his neck.

    And I don’t mean “break his neck” like your mom would say “If you don’t stop jumping off the couch you’ll break your neck.”

    I mean it as in, grab the head and yank quickly and violently with the intent of severing the spinal cord.

    Since I outweighed the kid at least 2:1 and (at the time) was lifting weights daily, he wisely decided that he had heard incorrectly and opted to move on.

    Later, when I got back to the dorms (it was in college), I closed the door to my room and just laid on the bed, frightened by my thoughts…

  28. Hi Lawdog;

    I finally got around to finishing the post I started in response to yours on “Meditations on Deadly Force.” Apologies for my tardiness, but I was busy getting the Majic Elf Box fixed and applying to grad schools.

    Also, the top trackback link is a mistake because I’m new to this blogging thing and was confused by Blogger. You understand, I’m sure.


    (Legman688 at

  29. Don't know how you feel about comments years after the post, but if you object you can tell me.

    I do know where my lines are. I've known since my second year of law school, when a critter broke into my apartment. The breaking lock woke me, and my first thought was "he can have any *thing* in the front room. Stereo, tv, jewelry – I could replace those.

    I couldn't replace myself. So I stood in the shadow with the only thing I had handy, a 6 foot hard rock maple quarterstaff. He came through the door and got swatted across the back of the skull with all the force I could bring to bear. That was a fair bit – I pulled a 60 lb longbow back in the day, and I was terrified. Cracked his skull, didn't kill him – but I had already decided I didn't care if it did.

    Amusing ending – when the local garda arrived, he decided he didn't want me to have problems with questions of necessity, etc. (Doubt it would have been a problem – my front door was broken, I was a 120 lb, 21 year old female and the critter was about 6'3", 200 lbs), but anyhow. So there is a report, probably on microfilm by now, that reads "Intruder rendered unconscious by collision with a tree branch while on the premises."

Comments are closed.