Surely a morbid title, but a terrible thing happened a few minutes away from me. A County cop found his 27-year old son stabbing his wife, the son's mother. The officer drew his gun and shot the son dead trying to save his wife. The wife died eventually anyway from her stab wounds. This has sparked debate between me and a few of my friends(most of whom are single with no children) as to whether they could make that kind of a decision.
Now, no man can claim to know what they'll do in this type of situation unless the day comes when he must face it. However, when I saw this story, I immediately thought to myself, "OF COURSE I WOULD!!!". When my wife was pregnant with our first, we agreed and resigned ourselves to the fact that we would still always put each other first over anything, including our children. That's how I thought it was supposed to be.
I've attached the full article here.
Any thoughts or doubts from anyone as to how they would handle this in the heat of the moment?
"Not to mention, as a police officer, the shooter in this story is authorized to use Deadly Force to defend himself or others from Deadly Force."
This is a tangent, but: Huh? In the US, at least, cops legally have no more, or less, authority to use deadly force than anyone else. A non-cop who came home to the same scenario would have been just as justified in using deadly force.
You beat me to it.
No, in the heat of the moment (as OP said), I absolutely would not. And I hope nobody else would either.
So you shoot and kill the son, and the wife says, "My God, what have you done? And where's the man who stabbed me? Son was examining the wound ---" thud.
Or you shoot him in the head, and a day later wonder why you couldn't have conked him in the head instead. Or shot something painful but less vital.
Or you shoot, and you miss, and she's the one who's dead.
Or you shoot, and you hit him... and the bullet goes through him and right into her. She's dead.
Does she come first? Sure. But everybody comes way before me being so certain I understand a situation well enough to start killing family. I'm not commenting on this man's situation, which I won't ruin my day by reading; my heart goes out to him. But I think, in case we're ever faced by a shocking scene like this, we should have in our heads "Save everybody you can till you know the score" rather than "Make an immediate call, decide who to shoot, and hope it turns out well."
In the heat of the moment, OP said. If there's time to fully analyze the situation, that's another matter.
I think our laws about cops using deadly force are helpful for addressing Will's points. Because this shooter was a cop, we hope he was trained to assess whether there's an active assault, or someone rendering aid, etc. My understanding is only law enforcement specialists are trained to shoot other than to kill, for example. But people without a police officer's training are going to have Will's concerns.
Personally, I know the law, but a gun in the hands of a full-grown man never seems a proportionate response to a knife in the hands of a full-grown man (or someone less strong) when I read about such things.
EDIT: I think the fact that this was a cop addresses some of Will's concerns, and I think our laws about cops give us a framework for thinking about the situation.
A couple points:
1. Most shooters, either law enforcement or ordinary Joe, train to shoot to stop the threat, which means shooting center mass until the target is incapacitated/flees/surrenders. It's not really about shooting to kill vs shooting to wound, because handgun power and accuracy (plus the variety of the human body that is the target) simply doesn't allow for that sort of precision. Shooting to wound is only practical in the movies. For example, even if someone is a good enough shot to take out an assailant's kneecap, it is no guarantee that the assailant will stop the assault (if he had a gun he could keep shooting, if he had a knife he could keep stabbing anyone in reach).
2. Knives have been killing people far longer than guns have, and if someone attacks you with a knife, you will get cut. Furthermore, proportionate be damned--there's no reason to provide a sporting chance to a murderer (or a would-be murderer).
I don't actually understand double effect reasoning that way. At the best talk I've attended on double effect, it was fascinating how firearms adjust the philosophy. While I'm sure just war theory deals with disproportionate capacities for violence (a much larger nation defending itself against a smaller nation), firearms raise concerns of both proportion and timing, bows not being sufficiently accurate in Europe in the Middle Ages.
I tend to avoid double-effect reasoning in most cases, and I think Aquinas is simply wrong in his application of it to lethal force.
The question of proportion here is, I suppose, the effectiveness of the method of lethal force, not the potential amount of the force.
Both a knife and a gun are potentially lethal weapons, and neither is precise enough, (except perhaps in the hands of an expert) for the amount of injury to be calculated in advance. Most modern firearms, however, are easier to use and more effective in quickly inflicting injury (possibly terminal) than a knife. I see no problem is using this advantage to protect myself or others.
I don't have a son, but to bring this back to OP's question a bit, if my wife were attacked by someone with a knife, I don't see why I should have any qualms about using a gun against her attacker--except the obvious concern about accidentally shooting her or another bystander. That the gun is a more effective tool of lethal force than the knife is to the good, as it gives me a better chance of stopping the attack before my wife is killed or seriously injured.
Im bigger and meaner then my son, and always will be. If there was no other option, and the situation were what this one is described as... Yes. But to do it out of straight up reaction? No. Im better trained and that, and any cop should be also.
As for your point of wife comes before kids, that line of thinking is alot of whats wrong with families today.
Your wife had a choice to be with you or not... then also had the choice to get pregnant or not... then (as fucked up as it is) had the choice to have an abortion or not.
What choice do your kids have? None. They didnt decide to make you their father, or her their mother. They're just fucked. Unlike you and your wife, they cant just leave.... unless youre abusing them. Theyre just fucked.
If anyone or anything comes before your children.... please do your sperm, the world, and the court system a favor. Castrate yourself.
Just for sake of Devil's advocacy let me present a slightly different case. A real story but sadly I do not have have the link:
A woman, Her husband and their two year old daughter are enjoying a afternoon at lake. The husband goes in for swim, he gets a cramp and starts to flounder. The wife, who was still on the shore, see this and start's running out to help until she realizes her daughter is following her into the water.
She now has a choice go to her husband and risk the toddler drowning.
or go back to the child and watch her husband drown.
So does the spouse still trump husband?
In this case she chose the to save the child