The Moral Component of Deadly Force

The Question to Ask Yourself:

Anyone who has been in any of my classes knows I stress the mental and moral component of firearm ownership and self-defense, as much as the tactical or physical side. I believe it is as important to understand WHY we use deadly force, as it is to understand HOW to use deadly force.

What I mean is that I can teach marksmanship skills to anyone. But I feel I must also teach them the moral component that comes along with potentially using deadly force.

Because of this, I instruct them to seriously think about their own beliefs about the use of deadly force on an individual level. In my classes, I recommend all my students spend some alone time, or time with someone whose guidance they trust, and reflect on the following question: “Are you capable of using deadly force against another human being, and if so are you proficient enough to do it without placing others in harm's way?” This is a two part question that I believe requires an affirmative answer to both parts before someone should consider carrying a firearm for self-protection.


Let’s address the second part of the question first because this is actually the more simple component. “… are you proficient enough to do it [use deadly force] without placing others in harm's way?”

Like I mentioned earlier, you can be trained to shoot a target proficiently under stress and be tactically sound in your techniques. This is the physical component of using deadly force. This comes from seeking additional expert training or training on your own in ways that make you more proficient with your firearm.

After all, if you are not proficient with your firearm, your inability to hit your target may produce more danger to you or the surrounding public, than the original attacker did. This is obviously very important in deciding to carry a firearm for self-defense.

Time For Introspection:

The first part of the question is the piece that requires much introspection. Regardless of our religion, or level of spiritual dedication, we have probably heard the phrases “Thou Shalt Not Kill”, “… Turn The Other Cheek” or something similar.

These directives can cause much consternation for many people wanting to carry a firearm for self-defense. I am not a spiritual leader, and I do not claim to speak for any religion, but I also know that my religion, Christianity, does not direct its followers to blindly succumb to evil.

Instead, we are directed to refrain from using violence for revenge, or evil murderous intentions.

Simply put, we are using deadly force:

1) as a last resort when all other means would be unsuccessful in stopping the threat of death or serious bodily injury.

2) to stop the threat, and without specific intent to kill the attacker.

Whatever your spiritual belief may be, we have morals that govern our lives.

Understanding this distinction between killing out of spite, anger, or revenge and as a last resort to save one’s life is important. In fact, it is this understanding that changes the use of force from moral/legal to immoral/illegal.

But, even understanding this distinction is only one portion of the introspection I ask students to perform before carrying.

The morally and legally justified use of deadly force against another human is still something that will stay with you for life, and weigh on your conscience. Shooting another human is not like hunting deer or other animals. It can be a very intimate and life-altering event.

It is therefore something that we MUST come to grips with before having to make the decision to use deadly force.

I have talked to many people who have said: “I am just not sure I could shoot someone.” For these people, I usually suggest they not carry a firearm for self-defense until they can answer affirmatively.

Reason being, carrying a firearm without any intent to use it is a potentially dangerous mindset. Carrying a firearm in the hopes it will scare people away or prevent a crime from happening can produce an outcome where you fail to act decisively and the firearm is used against you or another.

We never WANT to use our firearm, but we must be PREPARED to use it if the time comes.

Your decision to carry a firearm for self-defense must be made in part, with the understanding of the moral, legal and ethical use of deadly force.

There are various opinions on this topic and I respect everyone’s opinion. However I am unwavering in my assertion that if you are of the mindset, ‘I'll kill anyone who comes in my house' not only is your moral compass off, but you are bound to find yourself in legal jeopardy if you use deadly force.

If you think the only difference between shooting to kill and shooting to stop the threat is a different choice of words, you need to re-examine why you carry a firearm, and I pray you will.

Remember to train your body and mind, so that if the time comes, you are in a harmonious balance and cannot only successfully stop the threat and survive the incident but survive the emotional aftermath that comes with the possibility of taking a human life.

Stay Safe and God Bless

About Matthew Maruster

I follow my Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ who is the eternal co-equal Son of God. I currently live in Columbus, Ohio with my wife and daughter. I served in the Marine Corps Infantry. I was a Staff Sergeant and served as a Platoon Sergeant during combat in Iraq. After I was a police officer at a municipal agency in San Diego County. I have a Bachelors's Degree in Criminal Justice from National University. MJ Maruster Defense.


  1. Thomas on June 19, 2016 at 8:43 am

    Nicely said.

    • Ed on October 16, 2019 at 5:11 pm

      The traditional interpretation is that killing in self-defense does NOT violate the Fifth Commandment. Love toward oneself remains a fundamental principle of morality. Therefore it is legitimate to insist on respect for one’s own right to life. Someone who defends his life is not guilty of murder even if he is forced to deal his aggressor a lethal blow.

  2. Matthew on June 19, 2016 at 11:26 am

    I appreciate the feedback Thomas! Glad you liked the focus of the article.

  3. Don on June 23, 2016 at 10:28 am

    Good article. Now, as for thou shalt not kill. Actually it is from Exodus 20:13…”Thou shalt not commit Murder”!…big difference. So, as we are in the defense of Family, or others, Murder is not the issue. So, carry and be prepared. and to echo, Stay safe!

    • Matthew Maruster on June 23, 2016 at 10:45 am

      Don, Thanks for the response. Totally Agree with your statement about the difference between murder and self protection. I am glad you picked up a huge point I was trying to convey in the article about the distinction between killing based on revenge, evil or murderous intent, as opposed to as a last resort in self-defense. Thanks for the feedback and stay safe!!

  4. Rob on June 1, 2019 at 11:03 am

    Great article to make people think about what they are doing before they carry their gun. They should have thought through everything before hand or else their hesitation could get someone hurt.

  5. N. Buford on October 11, 2019 at 5:26 pm

    An article well stated Matthew, I have discussed this with several individuals including the point you brought out Don. Almost every instance under the law of the Old Testament that mentions “kill”, the actual Hebrew word means to murder or take a life for no reason.

  6. doug.wiers on October 11, 2019 at 8:11 pm

    Great article, very well written! As for myself I am fully prepared to do whatever needs to be done to either protect my family or get home to them. My gun is my last resort. After listening to the podcast and others like it I have begun carrying several different items for personal protection and I have begun teaching my kids situational awareness by playing games. Whenever we go to a store I ask them how many exit signs they see or how many people are on their phones.

  7. pharmdtlc on October 12, 2019 at 6:38 am

    Live in OH as well. Well said.

  8. Steven on October 12, 2019 at 7:48 am

    I don’t think any higher power would disagree with defending your self or just turn another cheek and get shot duh!!

  9. Luke R on October 12, 2019 at 3:30 pm

    I love reading your articles, Matthew. You bring a wise perspective to these topics, and I can tell you think long and hard about these difficult issues. I used to believe that “thou shalt not kill” meant just that – killing is always wrong no matter what. Upon reflecting in recent years, I have arrived at the same place as you, “a time to kill” rings true for me, and I believe any God would prefer I defend His people than let them be harmed.

    Thank you for sharing your thoughts.

    • Matthew Maruster on October 21, 2019 at 9:39 am

      Thank you so much Luke. Truly appreciate the kind words. God bless

  10. scottm1 on October 13, 2019 at 9:43 pm

    Fantastic article Matthew. Well presented – this is exactly what I needed. Thanks for all you do for our cc community!

  11. John Decker on October 20, 2021 at 11:05 pm

    My training is a bit different. If you are attacked and find yourself in fear of imminent grievous bodily injury or death, you have the right to legally defend yourself. If you decide a gun is necessary, you may use it. You do not shoot to kill, you do not shoot to wound, you do not shoot to frighten your attacker. You shoot to make him STOP the actions endangering you. You fire two rounds to center mass. If he goes down, your job is done. If he is still attacking, fire one round to the head. Repeat as necessary until the threat is ended. At that point, when the threat is over, call the police and request assistance and an ambulance for the wounded assailant. You can expect to be disarmed by the police for their own safety, and possibly handcuffed while they sort things out. BE POLITE TO THE POLICE. You will be emotionally upset, but try to act as calmly as possible. Tell the police “This man was attacking me, and I defended myself”. Then be quiet and inform the police you will speak to them when you have representation from a lawyer. There is a chance you may be arrested, but stay calm until you are provided the advice of a lawyer. The lawyer will help you explain the events, point out any witnesses to to the event to your lawyer, then do as he recommends. You will get through this event and go on to live your life normally.

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