In the acknowledgements [to Empire of Guns], the author, who’s a history professor at Stanford University writes, “Like everything I write, this book is for my children. In 2010 when Amman was four, she asked a Policeman who was sitting at our local taqueria why he had a gun. The policeman explained he had it to protect everyone from bad guys. And Amman bravely replied, ‘But if you have a gun, then you are a bad guy.'”
Now, I don’t know this author. I don’t now what she would actually do if her four-year-old was attacked and needed to be defended immediately. But I know that my own conversion to gun ownership was driven in large part by a felt need to protect my children.
I had a life-altering realization that if I needed to immediately protect my children or myself, that I would not be able to outsource that violence to somebody else. That I would need to handle it immediately by myself and for myself.
As firefighters know, sometimes you have to fight fire with fire. So in that sense, violence can be a positive force by which we counter negative violence. Violence, in that sense, can be virtuous.
Many people not only think of all violence as being bad, but academics who study violence oftentimes only focus on “bad violence” as Fiske and Rai observe in their book, Virtuous Violence.
They write, “Yet most theories of violence exclude or merely ignore defense or punishment, providing no explanation for them, or not integrating the account of them into the overall theory of violence, which is, ‘a priori,’ defined to exclude them.
“However most people recognize some rights in their persons and property. Rights that entitle a person to protect what is theirs. Hence, threats or harm to herself, her person or her property are transgressions against the victim, and defensive violence is virtuous.
“Thus when humans violently defend their children, spouses, family, buddies, allies or family, this defense is virtuous violence. It is virtuous because defending partners is the core of the relationship. It is a moral obligation to protect one’s partners, and throughout history, humans have accorded great honor to heroes who aggressively defend themselves, their families or their communities.”
In other words, as this t-shirt puts it, violence can be virtuous.
— Professor David Yamane in Can Violence be Virtuous?