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If a robber threatens me with a gun and tries to steal my money in my own shop and I retaliate with my own gun but accidentally shoot one of my customers who should be blamed?

Me or the thief?

And if the thief is to be blamed, does that imply that voters share responsibility for the crimes the people they have voted for commit?

Edited by Dániel Boros
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And the term 'accident' is a device used to evade personal responsibility for one's action. There is no justification whatsoever to not hold someone responsible for aiming and pulling the trigger on

Omniscience and omnipotence are not prerequisites for one being responsible and accountable for one's actions, including erroneous actions. Your example fails because the shooter is responsible f

The thief, as the initiator of force, is to blame for the outcome of the incident of rights violation. In a system where everyone can impact the ability to violate the rights of others, there are degrees of blame depending on the context. Whereas the thief should be harshly punished for his action, ignorant voters should not - instead, one might treat them with contempt, or even see the opportunity to educate them.

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I am not sure it's as simple as that. Does the shopowner's right to protect

his property over-ride the risk to bystanders?

To draw a weapon with people around shows little regard for the consequences of

the action - and he could legitimately be seen as the initiator of force.

Moral of the story: once drawn, don't miss.

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If a robber threatens me with a gun and tries to steal my money in my own shop and I retaliate with my own gun but accidentally shoot one of my customers who should be blamed?

Me or the thief?

The thief.

And if the thief is to be blamed, does that imply that voters share responsibility for the crimes the people they have voted for commit?

Well, no, it doesn't imply that. If someone initiates the use of force, he is responsible for the potential consequences, including the consequences of any justified retaliation.

But that doesn't mean someone is responsible for the reaction to any action. The actions has to be initiation of force. And voting is not initiation of force, so the voters are not responsible for what politicians decide to do once they're in power, just because they had help from the voters.

If the voters know ahead of time about the crimes politicians are planning to commit, then they are of course responsible. But that's not a logical consequence of the previous issue.

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I am not sure it's as simple as that. Does the shopowner's right to protect

his property over-ride the risk to bystanders?

To draw a weapon with people around shows little regard for the consequences of

the action - and he could legitimately be seen as the initiator of force.

No, someone who draws a weapon in retaliation to being threatened with a weapon could not legitimately be seen as the initiator of force.

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No, someone who draws a weapon in retaliation to being threatened with a weapon could not legitimately be seen as the initiator of force.

No, someone who draws a weapon in retaliation to being threatened with a weapon could not legitimately be seen as the initiator of force.

Retaliatory force is not a justification to do what one pleases; specially if others' lives are at any risk. Initiation of force is not carte blanche, an automatic excuse

for irresponsible response by the victim.

If I were the shopowner who reacted impulsively to protect just my money - and an innocent customer were killed in the subsequent shoot-out - the law might clear me, but I don't know if I could 'clear' my action to myself, morally.

Otherwise, NIOF becomes a rationalistic rule, as libertarianism treats it..

Edited by whYNOT
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No, but still: you shouldn't call it initiation of force, the way you did.

It was to demonstrate that the issue is not quite so cut-and-dried - and not all

about the NIOF principle.

Your bullet hits a bystander - does he view you as the initiator, or the thief,

or both of you? (Not a serious question.)

What is rational is what you know at any given time. Man with gun, customers around - uncertain outcome, it would be highly irrational to go for your gun.

Alone with a gunman is different, though obviously your chances of success in retaliation still must

be weighed carefully. Even then, you do not know that a stray bullet is not going to penetrate

a wall and hit somebody in the street. For which you may indeed blame yourself, but it would still

be a moral use of retaliation.

What one knows; what 'works'; and what one can live with afterwards - is the moral consideration.

The right to retaliatory force is a basic ground rule, and is superseded by one's rational morality.

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I am not sure it's as simple as that. Does the shopowner's right to protect

his property over-ride the risk to bystanders?

To draw a weapon with people around shows little regard for the consequences of

the action - and he could legitimately be seen as the initiator of force.

Moral of the story: once drawn, don't miss.

Remember the context of the story is that the shop owner is already being threatened with a gun.

If the shop owner had not been really threatened and chose to come out shooting perhaps they could be blamed, but that is not the scenario the OP put forth.

The person who began the threat of gunfire is wholly responsible.

That is not to say that I, if I were in the situation and retaliated with deadly force and an innocent got caught in the crossfire, wouldn't feel badly about it. But legally I should not be held responsible.

Also, good to note that different guns behave in different ways. While I am competent with a variety of weapons my wife is not.

So for her use in home defence we have a short barrel, pistol grip shotgun. Shotguns are good in that you won't get the wall penentration of a handgun, less risk to potential neighbors, however within the room where the gun is being shot there is more chance of collateral damage.

For concealed carry though, you're going to have a handgun. And with bullets you have more potential for wall penetration.

As to saying that with an uncertain outcome with customers around it is irrational to go for your gun I have to strongly disagree.

The situation has a million complexities. You could be completely compliant with the crimiinal and still have them decide to harm you.

The criminal's demeanor would have a big say in whether I chose to shoot first in this situation.

Many years ago a friend of mine was killed in a corner store robbery where he was behind the counter. He complied with all requests, offered no resistance and the junky killed him anyway.

No telling if pulling a gun would have saved him. He had a bat beneath the counter but didn't go for it. It seemed he hedged his bets and decided the best chance of making it through was by doing nothing.

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Remember the context of the story is that the shop owner is already being threatened with a gun.

If the shop owner had not been really threatened and chose to come out shooting perhaps they could be blamed, but that is not the scenario the OP put forth.

The person who began the threat of gunfire is wholly responsible.

This can't be true, can it?

Imagine that someone threatens me with a gun, or whatever. We're in a crowded situation, etc. I take out a machine gun and start firing indiscriminately, or I launch a grenade, and kill a dozen people (including my attacker). The person who began the threat of gunfire is wholly responsible?

On the one hand, it's well to say that I'm justified in taking those actions I need to take for my safety. And perhaps it's the case that if I have no reasonable recourse to protect myself other than the grenade, then I'm justified in launching it, regardless of the consequences to bystanders.

But should there exist reasonable alternatives, oughtn't I be considered responsible for the one I select, and especially if it should it result in harm to more than my assailant? Perhaps, apart from simply defending myself, I also have a penchant for violence, or want to play out scenes from Scarface...

That "violence has been initiated against me" cannot be carte blanche for any subsequent action, whether reasonable or required to secure my safety, and regardless of collateral damage.

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I take out a machine gun and start firing indiscriminately

With this you invalidate your entire argument.

Reread the original post.

It specifies:

robber using a gun threatens life

you have a gun

in the course of defending yourself you accidentally shoot an innocent bystander.

Let's not insult each by getting absurd, ok?

To start shooting a machine gun indiscriminately into a crowd is not an accident.

Not to mention the extreme unlikeliness that the weapon you are defending your shop with would be a machine gun.

I am led to believe that maybe you have little to no experience with firearms and that may be why your reponse is so far outside the realm of reality?

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With this you invalidate your entire argument.

Reread the original post.

It specifies:

robber using a gun threatens life

you have a gun

in the course of defending yourself you accidentally shoot an innocent bystander.

Great. And the wider subject is response to the initiation of force. Consider when Nicky said this:

"No, someone who draws a weapon in retaliation to being threatened with a weapon could not legitimately be seen as the initiator of force."

And whYNOT's reply here:

"Retaliatory force is not a justification to do what one pleases; specially if others' lives are at any risk. Initiation of force is not carte blanche, an automatic excuse for irresponsible response by the victim."

So the context doesn't just include the OP, but also the conversation as it proceeded from there.

And it's all well and good to say that you've accidentally shot an innocent bystander in any situation. But does it matter if you're in a crowded area or not? Or if you've had proper training in the firearm or not? There's a wider issue here of whether you're morally responsible for your actions -- and their results -- when you're responding to a situation in self-defense. Or whether any action taken in self-defense is thereby justified.

My examples probe these principled ideas. And if that takes us beyond the concrete bounds of the OP, then so be it. I trust we can all keep our wits about us and discuss more than one example of a kind.

Let's not insult each by getting absurd, ok?

I have not yet insulted you, though I'm feeling closer to it by the moment. Trust me -- when I've insulted you? You'll know.

To start shooting a machine gun indiscriminately into a crowd is not an accident.

Not to mention the extreme unlikeliness that the weapon you are defending your shop with would be a machine gun.

Well, you could also just start firing a gun in self-defense, but without a great degree of control. What would it matter if a person *did* choose to use a machine gun, or a shotgun, or etc? Do you just find those "unlikely" scenarios? Or do you think that they are different in some fundamental sense with regards to the principles under discussion? Should a shopkeeper not be allowed to use a weapon like that for his self-defense?

I am led to believe that maybe you have little to no experience with firearms and that may be why your reponse is so far outside the realm of reality?

I am led to believe that your speculations about my personal life have nothing to do with anything, and possibly indicate that your logical and rhetorical skills aren't sufficient to convey your points. Or perhaps you're just wrong and need to cover for it, because your ego can't handle the possibility of being shown mistaken. Would you like me to start making guesses about what kind of person you are, or your personal history based on what I believe to be the weaknesses in your various "arguments"? I'll be happy to tell you what I think.

Or maybe you can just stick to the subject.

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DonAthos, the guiding principle is that of self-defense. The person acting in self defense has the right to place his own life above those of bystanders, and the moral responsibility for the consequences lies with the attacker.

To answer your machine gun question, no, that doesn't mean that the victim is free to do anything, including deliberately mow down bystanders. Firing up a machine gun and mowing down a crowd would not be an act of self defense, when someone's trying to rob you. The very fact that the victim had a machine gun installed in his store, instead of something more suited for self defense against a robber, is proof that his intention, all along, was to use the machine gun rather than defend himself.

Just to make sure everyone is clear on what I'm talking about, I'll illustrate.

This is NOT a machine gun:

ar15Tapco.jpg

This is a machine gun:

M2_machine_gun.jpg

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DonAthos, the guiding principle is that of self-defense. The person acting in self defense has the right to place his own life above those of bystanders, and the moral responsibility for the consequences lies with the attacker.

That is quite a statement. It certainly pushes the right to self-defence toward its extreme.

But morally? are you able to place your own life "above those of bystanders"- which eventuates in someone's death -

and live comfortably with the consequences on your mind?

(Ah, but that guy started it, my hands are clean.)

Rights rights rights.

I expanded on the OP's original scenario, and derailed things somewhat.

His scenario was a fait accomplit, I admit: this happens, who's to blame?

Open and shut case: blame is with the initiator of force, as was the reply.

However, I had to embellish a little further.

What I wanted to know is this - what is this maniac shop-keeper doing in the first place,

trying to defend his money, at gunpoint, in the presence of bystanders - and pulling his gun?

Any of whom could be used as a human shield, or taken hostage by the gunman?!

Forget rights, this is irrational.

A thinking shopowner has played this out in his mind 100's of times: what do I do

in such-and-such a situation? when do I use my firearm, when not?

At least Nicky gets closer with "self-defence" (rather than "retaliatory force", as we

mistakenly called it at first). I submit, though, that it is not even that.

Initially, it is defense of property. When a would-be armed robber enters your shop, he is

very rarely looking to kill anyone, especially with people around - he wants the money. So play the odds, calmly give it to him.

What is the monetary worth of anybody's life?

All this is purely to give context to something I am often bemused by, which is the apparent

conviction within Objectivism that individual rights determine (and often even, dictate)

one's actions. Rights aren't guides to action, essentially they simply limit your action.

Rational egoism is the foundation of rights, and one's only guide.

(Nice props, btw Nicky.)

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That is quite a statement. It certainly pushes the right to self-defence toward its extreme.

But morally? are you able to place your own life "above those of bystanders"- which eventuates in someone's death -

and live comfortably with the consequences on your mind?

I don't know. But if the scenario ever comes up, I plan on giving it a shot, no pun intended. Then I'll be able to let you know.

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I don't know. But if the scenario ever comes up, I plan on giving it a shot, no pun intended. Then I'll be able to let you know.

How can you stand not knowing - now?

If we had to wait and see with every eventuality, there'd hardly be any use

for morality, not so?

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In the described situation the robber is using a gun as a threat. Therefore the use of the gun against him is a retaliation, self-defense. An accident could happen anywhere anytime and the shop-owner definitely couldn't be blamed for it.

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What I wanted to know is this - what is this maniac shop-keeper doing in the first place,

trying to defend his money, at gunpoint, in the presence of bystanders - and pulling his gun?

Any of whom could be used as a human shield, or taken hostage by the gunman?!

Forget rights, this is irrational.

At least Nicky gets closer with "self-defence" (rather than "retaliatory force", as we

mistakenly called it at first). I submit, though, that it is not even that.

Initially, it is defense of property. When a would-be armed robber enters your shop, he is

very rarely looking to kill anyone, especially with people around - he wants the money. So play the odds, calmly give it to him.

What is the monetary worth of anybody's life?

The big assumption here is that the robber is going to let everyone (or anyone) live.

The big assumption here is that someone who is pointing a gun at you with the intention to at the very least rob you is so full of nobility and honor that they wouldn't go back on their word to not hurt you if you hand them your money.

The biggest assumption of all perhaps is that someone so craven and depraved as to have let their life come to this is even capable of making the rational choice to let you live once they have what they want. That they will not panic, or freak out, that they aren't on drugs, that they aren't mentally unhinged, that they are paranoid, they aren't delusional......

A lot of assumptions......

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Whoever claims that he knows the robber's intention claims omniscience or clairvoyance.

My point exactly.

The idea that you should just cooperate and you'll be fine is based on something on find perplexing:

that the person who has chosen to come into your business and point a gun at you while threatening your life is a rational being that really doesn't want to hurt you.

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How can you stand not knowing - now?

If we had to wait and see with every eventuality, there'd hardly be any use

for morality, not so?

You're right about the first question, I was being facetious to make a point (that point being that having a hard time handling something emotionally beats being dead).

I actually have a pretty good idea what effects accidentally shooting and killing a good person would have on me. It would make me quite sad, depressed even (because I would be intimately connected to the death of someone I would inevitably get to know after their death). But sad things happened to me before (as they have to most people over the age of 25 or so), so I'm confident I would be able to cope with this too.

As for your question about what morality is for, it's not for establishing how your mind would handle various unpleasant things (and fear of the psychological effects of those things isn't the rational basis of Ethics). If I really did have no idea about that, it still wouldn't mean that I'm somehow amoral. It would only mean that I'm inexperienced and don't quite have a grasp on my own psychology.

Edited by Nicky
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I know something about being held up - over an hour under two guns five years ago

made me realise how truly powerless one is, then. When gunmen have the drop on you,

the element of surprise, you play it very cool,and don't get smart. That's what a hold-up is.

You need space and time to arm yourself and prepare an effective defence, and outside of

movies that just will not happen.

Anyway, a hold-up, real or imagined, contains too many contexts to debate.

What you are all consistently missing is this point: it is not about the practical -

only - I'm questioning the rationalization that one's individual rights

entitle one to defend one's property at all costs, including the high possibility of

an innocent's injury or death. It's the principle only I'm interested in, of which

takes precedence -your right, or your rational morality.

(And I concede once more that this is a departure from Daniel's inquiry.)

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