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I'm amazed sometimes at the direction that our gun control debate on here  has taken.   Take guns.   Don't take guns.  Self defense.  Personal defense.   But I don't want to talk about any of that.   I want to talk about humanity.  

Tonight in my normal facebook feed, the typical crime reports from our local news station, followed by jabs "If only he had a gun, he could have shot those people!".

Judge, Jury, Executioner.   Maybe he could have.  Maybe self defense with a weapon would have helped him.   But can we be serious and talk about the realities of taking someone's life?

No matter how much we talk, humans have an inbuilt guide that makes taking a life difficult.

“We do recognize that people who are killed may very well deserve that,” Stehouwer said. “But they’re still people. They have families and they have people who love them. On TV shows, it’s over and done with. In real life, there are funerals for these people. There are families, there are friends – there are loved ones.

People simply aren't wired to deal with that the act of killing someone, even in self defense is something they easily "get over".   The profound impact of it is such that psychologist prep police departments to deal with remorse, self-doubt, anxiety, depression.  

It is the human reaction.   It doesn't make you a bad person - it in fact, ensures your humanity.   What I've seen in the last few weeks however is twisting that.  It twists it by making the assertion that not only is killing someone the right solution for every crime, but that you should feel good about it.   When I read about a mugging or a beating and someone says "If I had a gun..." they make taking of a life easy.  The death penalty dished out on a sidewalk.  And even in cases of justifiable self defense it diminishes what really happens if someone is shot and dies.

It's a difficult and personal matter.   It's a moral and ethical matter that stretches far beyond guns.  The place and time a citizen to act as judge, jury, executioner with justifiable force.  And we discuss it without ever thinking about how it will change them and the families it touches.

17. The option of talking to peers who have had a similar experience can be quite helpful to personnel at the scene. Peer support personnel may also be an asset participating in group interventions in conjunction with a mental health professional, and can be an asset in providing follow-up support. Family members may also greatly benefit from the peer support of family members or other officers who have been involved in shooting incidents. The formation and administrative backing of peer support and outreach teams for officers and family members may prove to be a wise investment after a shooting incident. However, peer support should never take the place of an intervention by a mental health professional.

Police officers are keenly aware of this, knowing that post a shooting, they will need support, mental help.   These are people who are paid to protect others for a living.

I respect those who have made the decision that they feel as though they could defend themselves.   But we need to get rid of the rambo language "Oh, I could stop them" that I keep seeing in all of my feeds.   Taking a life has serious consequences, even if justified.   You will spend time asking yourself: was killing them the only option?  What kind of person am I now that I have killed someone?

That's not just me talking, that's every psychologist who has dealt with the issue.  How would I tell my children or family I took someone's life.   If they praise me for defending myself, will I feel more or less OK with it?  

These are very complex issues that go far beyond gun control.   It's an issue of our humanity.   In so many comments over so many days I have seen people bring up "self defense".  

Self defense doesn't change how you feel about yourself or the event.   Yesterday was an important anniversary for me I blogged about here.   There were 3 criminals involved in my mugging.  Today, two of them (to my knowledge) reformed their life and turned things around.   That's rehabilitation, the ability to reform.   I think about them everytime I am asked "if you had a gun..".   Seeing them now, I understand how people feel.  Could I have been the person that ended their life?  

I've thought about this a lot.  I don't keep a gun in my house, though I have been certified and taken courses.   I've been hunting and I get it.

But even in the best case of self defense, could I draw a gun and kill someone?   And.. I can't do it.  I can't imagine a situation where I could do it.   It doesn't mean that I don't understand those who can.  It just means that I have thought seriously about the consequences and I know my self doubt and moral qualms would mean I would end up to escalate the situation and increase my chance of dying.  More importantly for me, while friends and family would miss me, I cannot imagine a life where that was part of it.

When we debate gun control, we have to get a lot more honest about the realities of guns in all forms.  Self defense.  Fun.  Home.  Hunting.  However.  It's not as easy as those on the sides make it.  

Maybe you can take another person's right in self defense.  And I believe you are legally entitled to do so.   But don't think it's movie easy and you do it and walk away.  It's not a simple one sentence response "yeah, I could take those three guys out if they tried to mug me." that I see.

That decision changes you.  And if it doesn't humble you a bit, then you aren't being honest with yourself.

Every time you post or respond to people here or elsewhere on guns, realize that the issue is much more complex then just you have guns, you shouldn't have guns, a criminal kills you kill the criminal.  It's not gun control.   It's holding in your hands the ability to control the outcome of two lives.  It's determining in a split instant that a robber can never be rehabilitated.  It's about living with the consequences you have killed someone.  It's about cheapening life by cheering on those who are trapped into self defense killings.

Those people who do so are not necessarily heroes.  They are average people who were put into a terrible situation and made a terrible choice where there is absolutely no right answer.  

I want a society where people don't praise and aspire to the day where they can take someone's life.  I want us say to people who defended themselves that it's OK and like every police officer they should see someone to talk about it.  I want to talk to gun fans and tell them: don't cheapen life.  Embrace your right to defend yourself, but stop making it sound over the top heroic/valiant or use phrases like "Hell Ya!" "Awesome".  Pre-planning the best way to make sure you kill your target.   Maybe we should spend equal time thinking about how you will feel afterward.

 If we want a real discussion about gun control, we have to talk about the consequences.   Because in the end, whether it's a "good guy" or a "bad guy" someone ends up dead.   Some family ends up burying someone.   And whether you are the one killed, or the one who killed someone else, being good or bad doesn't change the ripples that it causes.  

There is no going to prison to be rehabilitated from death by gunshot.  It's over.  There are no second chances.  And no matter how just your self defense is - and I believe many are just - it will not instantly cure you from feeling guilt over that conclusion, even if you know you were just.

That's the reality we all just avoid.  

So, I've made my choice.  And in a choice between dying at the hands of a gunman should it come to that, and taking a life.. I can't do it.   Oh,  I will try my best to live you can bet that.   But no matter how terrible that other person is, how much I would love to say I'm tough and could do it... I couldn't.   To me, my death would be a terrible outcome.   But living knowing I had taken a life, any life.. I couldn't deal with it.   So before you answer the gun control question really ask yourself the deeper question, not about guns.. but about who you are.    I welcome everyone to decide as they see fit, I can't answer that question for anyone.   People can easily answer "I'm going to conceal carry", but it takes a lot of real introspection to say: "I'm OK taking another person's life".   And it requires a bit more reflection than soundbytes provide us.

2:02 PM PT: I want to thank everyone on both sides of this issue in the comments for maintaining one of the most interesting, thoughtful discussions about morality and the difficulty of these choices.     Seriously, thank you for a discussion that has really been thoughtful.

Thu Jan 24, 2013 at 6:06 AM PT: Final update.   I want to say, 24 hours later, this has been one of the most civil, thoughtful discussions on this topic I have been a part of.   Really, thank you to everyone who has been involved for keeping this as great as it has been.

Originally posted to tmservo433 on Wed Jan 23, 2013 at 08:25 AM PST.

Also republished by Repeal or Amend the Second Amendment (RASA), Shut Down the NRA, and Community Spotlight.

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