I don’t know this for a fact, because it’s not the sort of information I’d expect people to volunteer, but I’m guessing that at least some homeowners shoot to kill when a houseburglar breaks into their home. If they did, it’s not the sort of thing they’d be apt to admit, since they’d be prosecuted for murder if they said so.
No doubt many a Christian ethicist would denounce that as immoral. Force should be proportional to the provocation or the threat. To deliberately kill the burglar unless you know he poses a mortal threat to you or your family is immoral. So goes the argument.
But I’m guessing that some homeowners shoot to kill that because they don’t trust the judicial system to protect them. They’re afraid that if they merely disable the perp, and he recovers, he will come back to avenge himself on the homeowner and his family.
If so, that’s a reasonable fear. There are many ways in which the judicial system can, and often does, let us down. The case might well be tossed on a technicality. Suppose the cops fail to Mirandize the perp. Or suppose the chain-of-custody is broken in the collection of evidence. Or suppose the judge refuses to admit “prejudicial” evidence. Because the jury doesn’t know the perp’s priors, they acquit. Or suppose, during the sentencing phase, a bleeding-heart judge gives the perp a slap on the wrist. Or maybe he’s 17, and goes to juvie until he’s 21.
Or the authorities may be less interested in prosecuting the perp than prosecuting the homeowner on a weapons violation. Indeed, that happens with some frequency. Ignore the actual assailant and focus on a technical violation, viz. the homeowner had an unregistered gun, or he flouted the local gun ban. The homeowner, who was defending himself and his family, is jailed while the perp is released.
At taxpayer’s expense, the perp was lovingly nursed back to health. Having recovered from the injuries he sustained in the prosecution of the crime, he now harbors a grudge against the homeowner who shot him. He’s spoiling for a chance to settle the score once he’s released. And it won’t be limited to hurting the man who shot him. Indeed, the best vengeance may be hurting the man’s wife or kids.
I’m using the example of a houseburglar, but I could just as well use the example of a neighborhood mugger.
As I say, there are no doubt some Christian ethicists who would deplore the preemptive actions of the homeowner, but the homeowner is in a genuine bind. Should he gamble on the judicial system doing the right thing, or should he put his family first? He has a right to protect himself as well as a duty to protect his kin. Should he risk the safety of his wife and kids by giving the judicial system the benefit of the doubt? Or should he eliminate the threat once-and-for-all?