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ETpro's avatar

What would it take to make you feel justified in killing someone?

Asked by ETpro (34428points) June 29th, 2012

I suspect everyone has their threshold. Some are as pugnacious as a peevish polecat and would shoot someone over a disputed parking spot. Others are such pacifists they would let a burglar kill them and their entire family before they would take the murderer’s life. But when we start ratcheting up the potential mayhem, most of us hit our take-a-life threshold.

If a crazed terrorist were about to detonate a hydrogen bomb and kill everyone in New York City, and you had him in the cross hairs of a sniper rifle, would you take the shot? Bear in mind he’s about to kill himself in the attack, so it isn’t as if you would be preserving his life by refusing to fire. By not shooting, you’d just be ensuring that 10 million innocent people died with him.

If 10 million lives isn’t enough incentive, how about a crazed scientist who has rigged the entire planet to explode killing himself and every other living thing on Earth? Would that be enough to shake the pacifism? What sense would it be to spare the life of a man who’s going to blow himself up if you do not act?

Where’s your kill threshold? What, in your mind, justifies taking the life of another human being?

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37 Answers

wundayatta's avatar

I don’t know if I could give you a general principle. I think that in war, it is easier to feel justified in killing someone. After all, they are tying to kill you. Maybe there is a general principle there. To the degree the person is trying to kill you, and won’t stop unless they are killed, that is the degree to which I would feel justified in killing them.

Sunny2's avatar

Terror. Fear. Adrenalin. I hope I wouldn’t freeze and not pull the trigger, but I’ll actually never know until I’m in that situation.

Lightlyseared's avatar

Money and the knowledge I’d get away with it.

WillWorkForChocolate's avatar

To feel justified in doing so, I would have to be protecting someone. Any killing that occurs during the protection of at least one other person is a justified killing, IMHO.

If I were actually in the position of killing a bomber/terrorist, it would be in the defense of a lot of other people. I’d take him out in a heartbeat, and feel completely justified in doing so.

But I would also feel totally justified in slowly killing anyone who touches my children inappropriately, so perhaps I am not the best person to answer this question to your satisfaction.

Blu's avatar

I’ll let you know if I ever end up in a situation that demands the death of someone.

WestRiverrat's avatar

Enter my house uninvited in the dark and I will likely show you.

josie's avatar

Too easy. As a soldier because I am told to. As a civilian if they are trying to kill me first.

ragingloli's avatar

I do not think such a situation exists.

tinyfaery's avatar

Protecting myself and those I loved from someone who was an immediate threat to our safety. Even then I’d be horrified and probably need a lot of therapy.

woodcutter's avatar

Self defense would be my first guess. Until a situation like that presents itself it’s just a guess. Anything else could be construed as premeditation.

janbb's avatar

I don’t know if I could kill, but I imagine I would give it my best shot if someone were attacking my kids or theirs.

athenasgriffin's avatar

It would be easy, I think, to kill someone who was trying to kill me or my loved ones. But that is immediate danger, most wouldn’t fault me that. I don’t know if I could kill someone in cold blood, as you stated in your scenario. But I think I could kill someone in retribution for truly breaking my spirit or the spirit of someone I loved with violence. I don’t know. I hope it never comes up.

If I thought someone was truly evil and was intent on harming children or other helpless beings, I would hope I could kill them. For instance, if someone had killed Hitler before he had committed his atrocities, most would have labeled that person a murderer, and we never would have believed it if that person had said, “I killed him to prevent this.” But I would say they did right.

SpatzieLover's avatar

Clear immeditate life-threatening danger. If possible I would injure, not kill.

Coloma's avatar

If I did kill someone it would be “justified.” They’d have to be threatening my life or my home.
I don’t think anyone can plot out a scenario for potential killing.
Most likely the incident would be so surprising that you would simply react without any predictability.

I’d try to disable them but, if it’s a fight for your life situation anything goes.
Scissors, fire pokers, knives, canned goods lobbed at their head, lamps, Lysol in the face. lol

LittleLemon's avatar

When questions like these come up, I get nervous. While I’ve never killed anyone, and have no idea what I’d do when actually faced with the situation, I tend to think a lot about the people who deserve some killin’. It’s very likely I have some pent-up issues, however. I’m working on it.

augustlan's avatar

If they were trying to kill me or someone else. As @tinyfaery says, though, it would be awful, and I’m sure I’d need therapy. In the situations you propose, I’d say the killing is justified, but I’m not sure I could be the one to do it. I hope I could, but I don’t know.

digitalimpression's avatar

To survive, mankind can (and has done) horrific things.

If it is warranted, I won’t hesitate. What makes it warranted has been listed already many times over.

bewailknot's avatar

I don’t know that I would kill to save myself, but I would to save others, even if they were strangers.

TexasDude's avatar

If my life or the life of friends, family, or innocent people were in immediate and grave

Blueroses's avatar

I could act in times of danger without the need for therapy afterward. In the world-ending scenario, I would probably act.

If I were reasonably sure that somebody had gotten away with a heinous crime, I don’t think I could plot his/her demise, but I certainly wouldn’t cry at the funeral.

lillycoyote's avatar

I would kill someone in self-defense or defense of another.

Other than that, just for suburban lawn care crimes. The guy who does one one my across the street neighbors’ lawn has a leave blower than runs at a pitch whatever you would call it that absolutely gets on my last nerve. It sometimes takes every ounce of strength have not to march across the street and beat him to death with the damn thing or at least shove it down his throat. One of my other across the street neighbors has a week wacker that really gets on my nerves. I wanted to kill him too but he has children and it was Father’s Day, so spared him.

Blueroses's avatar

@lillycoyote at 2 am, I would happily dispatch the neighbor with the car alarm that goes off whenever a leaf falls in a 2 block radius

Berserker's avatar

Well if someone is trying to kill me or severely hurt me, I think I’d be justified in killing them out of self defense.

ETpro's avatar

@wundayatta In war we have two things going on. As a member of the military, you take a solemn oath to defend your country. When you are in war and kill, you are doing your duty—acting on that oath—following lawful orders. So it’s easy to push the responsibility for pulling the trigger off onto others. And on top of that, there is the very real truth that the guy in your cross-hairs would smoke you in a heartbeat if he had a bead on you first. It really is kill or be killed, and killing is your job.

@Sunny2 I came withing a hair’s breath of killing a young man who forced my door open while there was a disturbance going on out in the street. There were a bunch of teens and young adults hollering, throwing rocks to break out street lights, and generally destroying property in the street outside my place. I lived in a duplex that generally had the front door open till late at night. This was in the 1960s, and life seemed much safer then.

When I heard the ruckus arise, I pulled out my M1 Carbine, put in a full clip, and chambered a round. I sat back down in the living room with the rifle across my lap, hoping there would be no need to use it. Then I heard the front door to the duplex open. I swiveled the weapon toward the door, and in a moment, a young man perhaps 22 pushed the door open. I leveled the rifle at his head. Before I had to fire, he has to presence of mind to say, “Oops. wrong apartment. Sorry! He quickly exited and the commotion in the street almost immediately came to a halt.

I am grateful it worked out as it did. But if he had taken any menacing movement toward me and my family, I’d have unloaded a full clip into him just to be sure. I don’t “like” killing. I disapprove of the death penalty. But when it comes to protecting innocent people from monsters, the monsters die.

@Lightlyseared You realize that’s an admission you would commit premeditated murder for profit. The Koch Brothers might be happy to find a job for you.

@WillWorkForChocolate I can follow and agree with both those sentiments.

@Blu Welcome to Fluther. Thanks for an honest answer. I know what I’m capable of only because I’ve been in the position. We really act without much conscious thought. You’re quite right that if you have never been there, you probably don’t know what you would do.

@WestRiverrat Same here. Unless they manage to get off the first shot, they are dead.

@josie I’d see yours and raise you one. If they are trying to kill me, my loved ones, or a bunch of innocent people I’d feel no reservation in taking them out.

@ragingloli Could you explain that. Are you saying that nobody ever breaks into a house armed and willing to kill the occupants to steal what they can find there. Clearly, that is not true. And while the exact terrorist scenarios I detailed as hypothetical have not happened yet, plenty of situations have occurred where the carnage was less, but the basic premise was the same.

@tinyfaery The only qualm I might have is if I found the intruder was unarmed and probably posed no threat to the life and limb of my family. So long as I knew they were armed and dangerous, I would waste them in a heartbeat, and never look back.

@woodcutter You have the right to use deadly force in self defense and also in defense of other human beings. In some states, it’s even legal in defense of your property. Personally, I’d not kill to stop a thief I knew posed no threat to me or others.

@janbb Me too.

@athenasgriffin If you would kill in self defense, then in both of my mad bomber scenarios, you could use that to justify pulling the trigger. If you had a mad bomber in your sights, you would be withing his kill radius. But I’m a bit surprised by the idea you would kill to protect yourself, but let a madman kill millions including himself rather than have his blood on your hands.

@SpatzieLover Unless you are an incredibly skilled marksman, you had best take a kill shot if someone is armed and ready to use deadly force against you. No point in you both dying.

@Coloma In the instance I related above when I was almost required to use deadly force, it was pure reaction. I hadn’t thought through a bit of it. I’m just glad I didn’t blast away before giving the kid a chance to back off.

@LittleLemon Thanks for an honest, soul-searching answer.

@augustlan From past experience, I absolutely know I could and would.

@digitalimpression Thanks.

@bewailknot Thanks.

@Fiddle_Playing_Creole_Bastard My take, exactly.

@Blueroses Again, My take exactly.

@lillycoyote & @Blueroses I live on a very crowded street in downtown Boston. Don’t even get me started on rouge car alarms! :=)

@Symbeline If you couldn’t do it, I’d do it for you.

Berserker's avatar

Thanks bro. :D

Lightlyseared's avatar

@ETpro I know. I’m a bad person

ETpro's avatar

@Lightlyseared At least an honest one.

Response moderated (Writing Standards)
mattbrowne's avatar

As a last resort, if there really was no other way. Like Claus von Stauffenberg who saw no alternative to ending Hitler’s terror. I would also have shot Osama bin Laden if he really hadn’t appeared fully cooperative during his apprehension.

flutherother's avatar

A war
Self defence
A psychotic breakdown.

ucme's avatar

If my kids are put in peril by any piece of shit, walking, talking scumbucket, then i’m immediately going to stop their clock in the most savage way imaginable.

ragingloli's avatar

What I mean by that is that I do not think that any situation could make me feel justified, as there is always that thought in the back of my head that I could have incapacitated the attacker without killing.

SpatzieLover's avatar

^we think alike

ETpro's avatar

@mattbrowne Same here.

@flutherother All valid. I hadn’t thought of psychotic breaks, but they do happen.

@ucme As a dad, granddad and great granddad, I can fully appreciate that.

@ragingloli & @SpatzieLover In some instances, that’s not a safe strategy. If you tried to use a sniper rifle to stop a terrorist from detonating a massive bomb, and only winged them, you’d have done no good whatsoever. The blood of all those innocent people would be on your hands for hesitating to take the kill shot. That’s why police and military personnel shoot to kill when facing deadly force.

Berserker's avatar

@ETpro Better safe than sorry I guess. I certainly hope I never find myself in a situation where several lives all depend on my actions, or lack thereof. I’d probably fuck up. XD

ETpro's avatar

@Symbeline With my eyesight, I certainly hope my skill with a sniper rifle never is the key to saving 10 million lives. But if they did, I would sure as Hell squeeze off a shot and try.

Berserker's avatar

Well yeah, I didn’t say I wouldn’t try. XD

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