In Part One of this two-part piece, we learned that using deadly force in defense of private property can be risky and fraught with heavy legal consequences. What was not mentioned was the fact that you can defend yourself while you are defending your property. No one is required by law to be a passive victim to crime.
Our righteous ability to defend our property has slowly been stripped away from us over time, perhaps by design. Property crime and theft is so rampant today that in large cities police don’t even respond in person to a 911 call for stolen property. “Someone” will eventually show up and write up a report. Thieves operate with near impunity in today’s world. While the dumb crooks quickly get caught, the smart ones can operate for years.
Only a few generations ago, horse thieves were executed. Oftentimes, but not always, by hanging. The punishment was not simply for the loss of the monetary value of the horse, although that could be considerable. There was more to it. Horse thieves were hung because a stolen horse could mean the loss of a man’s livelihood. Or the theft could result in the owner being stranded far from the nearest town. It could be a death sentence, for he might die of exposure. With all his gear in the saddle pack on the horse being taken as well, he would have nothing to sustain himself. The severity of the crime indeed matched the punishment
Is there no parallel to that today? Is there no theft, the prevention of which would warrant the justified use of deadly force? I believe there are such cases. Today, many states consider homicide to be justified if the slayer had reasonable fear of death or great bodily harm. I would like to see another validation added to that short list – reasonable fear of severe or irreparable harm to one’s livelihood.
While I would not advocate using deadly force against one who is caught stealing a relatively easy-to-replace personal item, I believe there are some cases where the use of deadly force might be justified. For example, in the realm of larceny, there are few crimes dirtier or more dastardly than the theft of a working man’s tools.
Imagine this scenario: A thief steals the work truck of a self-employed tradesman, a sole proprietor. In the truck are ALL the tools of his trade, including tens of thousands of dollars of store-bought and custom crafted tools, unique to his specific trade. Early in the morning, the tradesman exits the house, eager to take on the big job he just landed. To his horror, his truck is gone. Stolen, with all his tools in it. Do you think for a moment that he can simply call his insurance company and an adjuster will run over and cut him a check for his loss, wave a magic wand, and make him “whole” again?
The short, medium and long term effect on his life is devastating and overwhelming. First, since he cannot work, the job goes to someone who can. Bills, including rent, utilities, credit cards, and much more await him. Oh, and a truck payment. Did you know that you still must make your monthly car payment, even if your vehicle is stolen?
He is facing eviction. The man and his family are devastated. He has suffered severe harm to his livelihood, the recovery from which may take years. Depending on the severity of the theft and the age of the victim, he might never fully recover from the devastation. Had he caught the thief in the act, if you were in his place, would you not have at least considered used deadly force to stop the bandit? Again, if I were on the jury of such a man, I would be very sympathetic to his plight and might vote to acquit him.
Another hypothetical but possible case, one in which we all may be exposed to, in the digital era: A criminal computer hacker has gained access to your bank account in which your life savings reside. With a few keystrokes he could wipe you out and leave you utterly ruined and homeless. If you were able to physically stop him, but the only way to do so was to kill shoot him, would you not take such action? If you were on the man’s jury, would you vote to acquit him? I might very well do so.
Legal, moral, and ethical questions about the use of deadly force will always exist. Let us look at this from another angle. We property owners work hard to acquire the money in order to afford our belongings. We take on actual risk every day. We take on risk while driving on the roadways to and from our jobs. Many of us take risks on our job itself. Read for yourself the Top 10 most dangerous jobs in the United States. How is it righteous, just, or fair, then, that a thief – at virtually no risk of harm to him – can come and take our hard-earned property? He certainly should have to face equal risk! In other words, he should – at the very moment of his criminal act – be exposed to the equivalent, accumulated risk that you were exposed to, over the period of time that it took you too acquire the property. You risked your life over a period time to acquire your possessions, so why should the thief not face equivalent risk?
The discussion should not be whether a human life is more or less valuable than property. I know of no one who would shoot a thief caught stealing his Sunday paper from his front porch, for example. The argument I make is about risks and stakes. What is at risk if you shoot the bad guy stealing your property? That has been well hashed out. We know that we could face a criminal penalty. What, however, are the stakes, if you do not stop him?
Thoughts on Private Property
“All men are by Nature free and equal and have certain inalienable rights among which are those of enjoying and defending life and liberty; acquiring, possessing and protecting property and pursuing and obtaining safety and happiness. — Nevada State Constitution, Article 1, Section 1
So great moreover is the regard of the law for private property, that it will not authorize the least violation of it; no, not even for the general good of the whole community. “ — William Blackstone
“Life and liberty are secure so long as the right of property is secure.” — John Locke
People can have a long-term life plan only if they know their private property is secure. — Mencius
And it is no less true, that personal security and private property rest entirely upon the wisdom, the stability, and the integrity of the courts of justice. — Joseph Story
The theory of Communism may be summed up in one sentence: Abolish all private property. — Karl Marx
In socialism, private property is anathema…” — George Bernard Shaw
If history could teach us anything, it would be that private property is inextricably linked with civilization.– Ludwig von Mises
Protection of private property is a fundamental right protected in a strong democracy. — Jim Ryun
The fifth amendment of the U.S. Constitution guarantees that no private property shall be taken for a public use without the payment of just compensation. — Elton Gallegly
The right to private property meant at the same time the right and duty to be personally concerned about your own well-being, to be personally concerned about your family’s income, to be personally concerned about your future. This is hard work. –Mikhail Khodorkovsky
At Semper Firearms Training we encourage you to buy a good firearm, get trained in how to use it, get a Nevada CCW permit, and continue your firearms training as part of a defensive lifestyle.