The one question that the rabbi asks before he gives any of his students instruction: could you kill another human being? I know that some members of TTAG’s Armed Intelligentsia have been there, done that. And I have little doubt that most of our readers don’t find that moral hurdle particularly high. If someone was threatening your life or the life of your loved ones, and imminence was imminent (imminence front), I’m quietly confident that you would do what needs doing. The question is: what then? Are you mentally strong enough to deal with the psychological after-shocks? Over at usacarry.com, William Nosek has penned a post on Post-Tramatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Would that be you, then? Maybe . . .

There is no such thing as a one size fits all solution to the mental aspect of having to defend yourself. No matter how prepared your mind may be before it happens, everyone feels the same immediate after effects . . .

After the event is over, there is always panic, disorientation, hyper vigilance, and eventually a sense of complete calm about the situation. Those things are common in everyone who is forced to defend themselves, no matter the outcome of the situation . . .

This does not mean that everyone who is forced to defend themselves will end up with PTSD or that they will be out in the woods setting traps to take out as many people as they can.

Whoa! Where’s that come from? Did I miss a Stallone movie or sometin’? Anyway, despite his protestations, I reckon Nosek reckons no one gets out alive—I mean, no self-defense shooter can avoid PTSD. Which is great for the social services department, but lousy for you.

In some cases other symptoms like intrusive thoughts or dreams about the situation, a heightened startle response, constant hyper vigilance, lack of interest in activities, separation from family and friends, and being uncomfortable in crowds or public places can come about and hit you when you least expect it. These things will seem to have little to no cause, and will really shake you up. The onset of these symptoms can be delayed in some cases for years after the event.

As part of the PSD package, you get a gift card for Self-Recriminations R Us. In his attempts to help you make those bad feelings go away—in advance—Nosek gets all zen.

“What could I have done better?”
The simple answer is nothing. Training and practice are the key elements in everything that leads up to that split second decision. Your mind and body are actually running at peak performance when you are in a life or death situation. Your brain will naturally stop your conscious mind from interfering in what needs to get done, and in effect “You” are taken out of the equation. What you do is based on trained physical reaction, nothing more, and nothing less. So there is nothing that you can do better or worse in any given situation.

Huh? If humans didn’t Monday morning quarterback, we would have never had Howard Cosell to complain about. And for those of you who missed his broadcasts (and Rowdy Roddy Piper’s cocaine-fueled rants as color commentator for WTBS wrestling), take it from me: the world would have been a poorer place. As it is now, what with a federal deficit the size of the Death Star and only slightly less ominous.

Where was I? Oh yes. Could you deal with shooting and killing another human being, without descending into madness? Obviously there’s no way to know for sure until and unless your gun’s hot and the perp’s not. And I hope you never go there. But whaddya think? Would you seek counseling after the event as a matter of course? How would you cope?

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24 Responses to Question of the Day: Could You Handle Shooting Another Human Being?

  1. I’d be most afraid of having a situation like that happen again. Killing the guy wouldn’t haunt me as much as the events that led up to that point that I could have avoided. I would generally be more paranoid and defensive… and high-strung.

  2. Yes, I could shoot another human being in self-defense and sleep soundly at night. No, I would not seek or need counseling.

    • With due respect, many of the comments are Monday morning quarterbacking. Let’s not forget that even in a lawful shoot, the shooter must contend with police and a DA and ,how they interpret a SD shooting. Some jurisdictions are not friendly, others more so to a SD shooting. Then there is the matter of legal expenses. It gets costly, complicated, and can be at times convoluted. Best advice I read is to avoid getting into a situation which demands you use a firearm in the first place. But we all know that is not always possible when evil people seek you out. Have your attorney’s # in your cell. The law of unintended consequences sometimes runs interference in even the best of circumstances. Stay safe.

  3. I would never shoot anyone who didn’t deserve to get shot. I pretty much get along with everyone, but if you attempt to harm or kill myself or my family your going to have a really bad day.

  4. Haven’t men been killing other men since Cain and Abel? Were there social service types back then? Don’t think so. There’s a great many men who can kill with no issue. Good and bad. I shudder at what our forefathers must think of our namby-pamby generation with all these “feelings” people talk about endlessly.

    I understand that people sometimes must deal with severe stress and the aftermath of deadly situations. Extreme events, such as war, can trigger genuine shell-shock reactions. However we need to realize that violence is often a part of life and prepare mentally to deal with it.

    • Haven’t men been killing other men since Cain and Abel? Were there social service types back then? Don’t think so. There’s a great many men who can kill with no issue. Good and bad.

      People have been doing terrible things to each other for the longest time, but it does tend to leave them messed up in the head if they weren’t already there to start with. There aren’t that many who can kill without suffering consequences. If you haven’t read David Grossman’s books I highly recommend them.

  5. Ask yourself this question: Could you withdraw life-support from a loved one when doctors said they had zero chance of recovery?

    I argue that it can be more difficult to do that than defend your life or loved ones. I had to do this recently with my mother. It’s the hardest decision to make, but easier if you know their wishes. My mom was very explicit about not wanting to live on machines without ever waking up… so we carried through with her wishes. This is a deliberate act and not at all a reaction. It’s not easy and you can end up with doubt about whether they might have recovered.

    That aside, I would say that anyone who carries a gun or has one accessible in their house for the purpose of self-defense has already answered ‘yes’ to your question. If they haven’t, they need to leave the gun at home or lock it up.

    • Agree with Eric S. Been there done that. Only it was my spouse. Harder than could be imagined. The defense part would be easier.

  6. I pray to God that I never have to, Robert. And that if I do, that my resolve and skill are swift and true, and I ask for forgiveness in advance.

    Killing another human being, even justified, is the heaviest sh*t in the world. And if anyone who owns a gun hasn’t thought about it, do so now. Seriously and honestly.

  7. Along with the Killing of another human and dealing with all that, by definition you have had a Near-Death experience, or worse, witnessed someone you care about be killed or nearly killed. I would venture to say that is what weighs on people’s hearts and minds as much, or more, than the killing.

  8. I would feel bad after shooting another human being, regardless of whether or not it was justified. It means that I’m a normal human being. I would be concerned if I didn’t feel bad. That said, if it was necessary to preserve my life or the lives of other innocent people, then I would do what was required.

    I doubt I’d seek counseling afterwards.

  9. I would feel bad about harming another human being in any way. Shooting someone and having them die would be a life changing event make no mistake. For me, as some others have pointed out, the choice is out of my hands and all we would have to get through it would be knowing that you were put in the situation and had little choice.

    I would seek help afterward because I frankly have never deathly harmed anyone before then and wouldn’t know whether or not I needed the help anyway. So, I would, just in case.

    Would I feel bad? Yes. Could I handle it? Yes.

  10. One of the last things I’d ever want to do is shoot someone in my own home. But the very last thing I’d ever want to do is wish I had.

  11. But whaddya think? Would you seek counseling after the event as a matter of course? How would you cope?

    Impossible to predict, especially since it would depend on the situation. If I shot a home invader who pointed a gun at me I think it would affect me differently if I shot once and killed him immediately and it turned out that he was a vicious thug with a long history of violent crimes than if I shot once and he died slowly and painfully and it turned out he was a foolish teenager with an airsoft pistol.

    For counseling, I think I’d try a stiff drink.

  12. Looking into the crystal ball, the natural assumption is that we have performed a true-blue, righteous shoot, which is the easiest to justify and rationalize. However, many shootings end in ambiguous results with plenty of room for doubt. So you can mentally handle a fatal shooting when you know you were in the right. Can you handle one in the gray area?

    Worse yet, there are cases in which the shooter appears to be totally justified in the heat of the moment, but when the deed is done and the fog has cleared, it turns out he was acting on faulty or incomplete info or was simply processing it incorrectly. Now that he has the big picture, he’s learned that he’s just another killer with a gun. Don’t think it can happen to you? It’s happened to the most capable and conscientious cops out there. Everyone makes mistakes and that’s a fact. However, this one is not reversible. There’s no way to fix it or have the moment back. Can you live with that? And can you and your family live with the fact that you might be going away for a while, like ten years?

    • So what was your answer, Magoo? You seem to have all the questions and scenarios down pat. But what do you think. Can you handle it, Magoo?

        • If you say so but here’s how I look at it: Shooting someone on the street, whether justified or not, or in my opinion or that of a court, is not something I have to worry about, because I don’t carry. I’ve examined all the pros and cons and decided not to carry. I have no need to carry anyway. Why take on the potential negative consequences of something I don’t need or want to do in the first place? That makes no sense. It’s not like anyone is paying me to carry. Make me an offer and I’ll think about it.

    • I sure wish Jade would stop by and give us his opinion on this matter. But since he got banned, he would probably have to create some sort of sock puppet account. Funny that his ego hasn’t led him to do this yet.

  13. It’s happened to the most capable and conscientious cops out there.

    The most capable? I don’t know about that.

    However, many shootings end in ambiguous results with plenty of room for doubt.

    Almost all shootings I read either immediately result in charges filed or no charges filed. I can’t recall the last ambiguous shooting I read of, except for those by the police.

  14. I like to think I could shoot and kill someone if needs be, and if I honestly felt that to be the only real option. I am not a violent person but I have thought about how it would feel to shoot someone and the way I see it if I had to shoot them they would have pushed me to that point; I wouldn’t worry to heavy about it afterword but I would try harder to avoid similar situations.

    Of course I can’t actually know for sure without being put into a situation that I don’t want to be put in; I just want to be prepared on the slim chance I am.

  15. For the longest time I did not own a gun because I did not think I could end another person’s life and the gun would be turned on me instead. I recently changed my mind though and now own a 9mm handgun. What made me change my mind was that I felt that I needed the option to be there if I needed it. My neighborhood has taken a turn for the worse with the mortgage crisis and the wrong element has started to move in. I do not carry outside of the house because my job does not permit me to have a gun at work and because I have not spent sufficient time training with it to feel safe enough to do so.

    As for how it would affect me, well I am sure that taking another life would haunt me for the rest of my days. However, I could learn to live with it if it happened. After all, if I find myself in a situation where it is necessary for me to shoot someone then it is likely they would kill me if I did not kill them. I would rather live with the questions than die a defenseless victim.

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