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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. 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. Because 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

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5 Responses to The Moral Component of Deadly Force

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

    Nicely said.

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

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

  3. Don 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 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 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.

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