The cost of killing

‘too bad they didn’t kill him’

‘needs to get more practice at the range so they have better aim [to kill him]’

–Internet common-taters

Often when a story surfaces in which an armed citizen wounds but doesn’t kill an attacking criminal, statements such as that will quickly show up in the comments section on the Internet. Persons who make such comments have no clue about the cost of killing someone. Even when there are no legal and financial costs, the emotional, psychological, and social costs will be considerable.

As in every class I attend or teach, I learn something from the students. Yesterday was no exception. I attended, as a student, the Proactive Mindset class taught by The Complete Combatant. The trainers graciously allowed me to give a short presentation at the end. One of the things I mentioned was the psychological cost of killing. The incident I cited was that of the citizen near Chattanooga who shot an old man with Alzheimer’s. The killing was ruled justifiable and he was not prosecuted. Coincidentally, someone who knows him was in the class. When the class was over, she came up and filled me in on how things developed after the incident. Suffice it to say that the emotional costs to him were enormous and continue to this day.

The cost is not only borne by the individual who does the shooting but also by their family. At some point their children are going to go to school and one of their classmates is going to taunt them with ‘my daddy says your daddy is a murderer!’ No matter how justifiable the shooting may be, someone in the community who feels that self-defense is an unacceptable concept will express their feelings to their children and the children will pass it on to your children.

Even one of the great police gunfighters of our time, the late great Jim Cirillo, bore the cost. Despite the fact that all his shootings were eminently justifiable and he didn’t suffer psychologically, he still had to pay the social cost. When his superiors recognized his bravery and devotion to duty, they recommended him for promotion. The promotion was turned down in the upper echelons of the NYPD because they said it would send the wrong message to the department and the public. ‘We don’t promote people for killing.’ This is one example of what Massad Ayoob calls the ‘Mark of Cain syndrome.’

Now imagine what it’s like for people who unintentionally kill a member of their own family. A parent who kills their child or someone who kills their spouse will probably never get another good night’s sleep as long as they live. The saddest part of these incidents is how avoidable they are. A flashlight and the ability to verbalize ‘who’s there?’ would have prevented almost all of them. A small flashlight was included in the goodie bag given out for Proactive Mindset. Great idea; everyone should have a couple of flashlights. Good ones are very inexpensive now.

That’s why our priorities should always be:

  1. Avoid,
  2. Escape,
  3. Confront,
  4. Resist

When we jump to Confront and Resist before we absolutely need to, we’re being emotionally hijacked by the situation, our pasts, our current influences, and our egos. Allowing an emotional hijacking is no more a recipe for success than going along with any other kidnapping attempt. There’s always going to be a very high cost.

Internet common-taters take note; you’re not the ones who will pay the cost.

20 responses

  1. Amen, Professor. Amen. Sometimes I’m not sure which is scarier: the fact that so many people are so eager to inflict death, or the fact that they think it’s cool to appear that way in public forums.


  2. Reblogged this on Growing Up Guns and commented:
    There’s the gun fight, the legal fight, and the emotional fight. Even if you survive the gunfight, that doesn’t mean you are out of the woods emotionally or financially.

  3. I am amazed at all the internet bravado regarding what “they” would have done in a violent encou term. Most are laughable. Most would get them charged and convicted. If they are so brave, well the Marines are always looming for good brave people.

  4. I consider that the difference between a murderer and a killer is ethics. Murderers enjoy controlling victims and enjoy the power rush of killing them. Killers are cut from the same cloth. But, are guided by ethics. Everyone else is mentally unfit to have a person they have just initiated lethal force against, sobbing, moaning, and/or choking on their own blood while dying in front of them. So, the skittish, squeamish, and the sensitive, should be graphically made to understand the ramifications of applying deadly force. After all ‘deadly’ implies actual death. Otherwise, it might be called ‘annoying force’. Advocates of ‘annoying force’ would do well be be ‘armed’ with AirSoft Pistols. Leave real guns to real killers, or deal with the emotional consequences.

  5. It has been 45 years since I left Viet Nam. I still pay the emotional toll.

  6. Reblogged this on RealDefense and commented:
    This is a must-read.

  7. Thanks 

    Sent via the Samsung GALAXY S®4, an AT&T 4G LTE smartphone

  8. I carry but have no enthusiasm for what might happen and I sincerely hope there is a way-out instead of being forced into a situation of extreme violence – if I can help it.
    I really don’t like to be forced into anything, particularly a bad-bad situation.
    If I can NOT help it and options have run out to the point of #4. “Resist,” then God help us all.

  9. […] Claude Werner once again nails it. There’s a cost involved in killing someone – and it goes far deeper than you may have ever considered. […]

  10. One of the best friends I ever had, a deputy, was forced to shoot a young hell-raiser who tried to kill him with a knife and almost succeeded. My friend did everything he could to avoid it, but had absolutely no choice except shoot or die. It was such a clear-cut case of self-defense that everyone, including the man’s prominent family, accepted it as totally justified. But a few nights after the funeral, two city cops on patrol found my friend kneeling by the grave of the young man who tried to kill him, sobbing uncontrollably. He eventually recovered, thanks to his personal character and one of the strongest family/friend support networks you could ask for. But it was a long, hard struggle. Thanks for bringing this up. People need to understand that killing can leave deep, emotional scars, even when it’s justified in every way. And that the most important aspect of self-defense is avoiding the need for it in the first place.

  11. there are people out there that are crazy. there are people out there that are opportunists. both are extremely dangerous. i have had people say don’t go into bad neighborhoods. well unfortunately i live in one. in the last 3 years i have been harassed by a gang of coke dealers. 4 to 10 pounds of coke go through the street a week. the police will not help and everything i tell the police gets back to the street. i know the supply line and i guess i sound like some crazy paranoid idiot. the harassment went from throwing rocks at my dogs, 2 rotties and my cars setting off the alarms at all hours. they threatened to kill me. shortly after that they kill my dogs. i will not be chased away and i am to old to run. they have lined the street with the dealers because the main supplier lives on the street. i am surrounded. i know the 2 people above them that supply. a lot of money involved. i have had many different realtors send cards to buy my house lately. they really want me out. i will not let them push me out and i will not be intimidated. i have never backed down from a bully in my life and i will not start now. i certainly do not want to kill anyone, but i will fight to the death to stay a live. what ever it takes. it is not hard to kill someone if the street is on your side. coming home or leaving, i am a target. it is an easy job. since i moved in maybe 40 years ago 2 people have been killed on the street. i have been threatened by over a 1/2 a dozen different gangs since i moved in with death. i got my carry permit before shall issue in 1990. they can kill me but they cannot scare me. if hillawitch666 gets in and destroys the second amendment the government will have to kill me to take my guns. the police have no responsibility to protect any individual that is your job. i have always been able to take care of my self physically. but stage 3 cancer took a lot of that away. i have a pigs aortic valve in my chest. i will not be bullied by anyone. as my dad taught me it does not matter whether you win or lose against a bully, if you hurt them they will never bother you again. this is different, coke makes people crazy, or any speed. they lose touch with reality. some of the street injects it like the main supplier on the street and the woman that supplies them. this situation worries me more then any of the gang bangers in the past. they can not scare me and they know that now. i heard one say to the guy behind me while i was weeding. the grapes and hops cover the fence and they could not see me. we fucked up when we killed his dogs. i am not crazy and i do not hear things. the police are useless and have a paid informant in their midst. i can watch the street go quite when they are being watch and know when they are not. i live and work on the street so i am hear most of the time.

    i do not know what emotional factors i will have to go through if i should have to kill someone but i certainly will go through them. i still want to live and it is a better choice. the police are useless, nothing but glorified janitors that come in and clean up the mess and try to find out who did it. they harass citizen for minor offenses to get the money to pay their wages and as all government businesses, they are the most inefficient form of business. in other words they waste a lot of money for the little they do do. there are not friendly neighborhood policeman any more, they are there to try and charge you with something if they can. my how the world has changed since i was young and no one seems to mind.

    we have and are giving up our rights thinking the government will take care of you. they can’t and never could. they never will be able to. it is a ploy to take your rights, that is all. when you hear a war on anything watch your rights being taken and they use patriotism to do it. no knock search warrants for drugs, of course it goes into main stream. take your money lately, and make you prove it is yours, guilty until proven innocent. torture prisoners, and kill americans over seas without due process. these are all small steps to take your freedom. once used it will expand. the government only gets bigger and wastes more money. it wants servants and of course the elite, well they are above the law. the problem with both right and left is they want to tell everyone how to live. take their freedom.

    you see freedom can only be had with tolerance. you have to tolerate people that live in a manor that you or your church don’t like. freedom to be an individual. progress comes from individuals not conformity. that is what made america great. we are now losing it.

    if you have to fight do not stop until the threat is gone or you are dead. that is survival. do what ever it takes to survive. there are no rules in a fight for your life. if you die you won’t care, if you survive deal with the consequences after. in a fight what ever type it is your only thought should be winning.

    doing drugs, well they should all be legal, is your right. how has the war done. a grade school kid can get heroin. prohibition has never worked in the history of the world, EVER. we are suppose to learn from history, but i guess that is impossible. you see the war has only caused more crime and put money in the pockets of the worst people in the world and i am dealing with it.

    things are going to get much worse, through the fiscal irresponsibility of our governments and the central banks we will be in the worst depression this world has ever seen. there will be a lot of people starving to death. i know it sounds crazy. i warn you be prepared. when the system crashes everything will be interrupted. those that have will be targets for those that don’t. they have tried to keep the small adjustments to the economy from happening, which will make this adjustment coming up huge. you can call me paranoid along with crazy if you want. it does not bother me. banks will fold so you can ‘t get money out of them and a lot more. i hope i am wrong, i want to be wrong, i have no problems being wrong, it is a far better choice then what i am seeing. SO HERE IS TO ME BEING WRONG.

  12. […] the dust” and seemingly wishing for the chance to send someone to their death themselves. As Claude Werner points out in this superb essay, the death of another person has long-lasting effects on you and the people around you. It’s a […]

  13. […] Claude Werner writes about “The Cost of Killing”. […]

  14. Can we share this article in our newsletter? Texas Concealed Handgun Association.

  15. I know full well that if I ever do have to use a gun to stop someone doing something very bad I will probably have some serious physical reactions to same and likely be hospitalized.

  16. […] and whether they win or lose in court, they’ll most likely be broke for the rest of their lives. The Cost of a Killing is always high, whether it is righteous or […]

  17. Anytime I read something and I’m making facial expression like, ‘hmmm’, rubbing my chin, shaking my head in the affirmative, or the negative due to my disbelief at the unindoctrinated’s CONTINUED stupidity, I know I’m reading a REALLY GOOD ARTICLE… as was the case here!

    “When we jump to Confront and Resist before we absolutely need to, we’re being emotionally hijacked by the situation, our pasts, our current influences, and our egos.”

    Having a firearm on me at all times outside the house (with light, Trauma Kit, Cell Phone, et al) requires me to be MUCH more self-aware than when I wasn’t carrying. Having a Gun on my person changes who I am (vs. no gun present)… I don’t care what anyone says.
    However, NOW I’m aware of this fact-for-me so that my ‘solutions’ are less ‘monkey-brained’ and more ‘When/If’ (Rory Miller’s “Conflict Communication” book). There was a time when I was carrying and I was a liability as I’d NEVER-EVER-NEVER done ANY Scenario Training. NONE! Yeh, I was a YahooCowboy danger to others and myself.

    In fact, my first 3 Gun Scenarios involved undercover LEO for me,
    Mr. No Experience but I gotta gun, right!!!
    1st time I shot the Cop,
    2nd was a stand-off (noob trying to out-yell/Contact&Control Mr. LEO),
    and 3rd he shot me (no cover… DUH!).
    So I learned.
    I learned no matter what ‘attack scenario’ I see, I know N-O-T-H-I-N-G until I find out more.

    But, and MUCH MORE IMPORTANT TO ME, I became aware of my
    Unconscious Incompetence… I didn’t even know what I didn’t know.
    Now, many’d ask me to ‘jump in their Stack’.
    But it was a very, Very, VERY long time Training, and Training some more, then dreaming (sweating) about it to only get up early and Train some more.
    After that, guess what I did.
    I trained some more.

    I can’t say enough about Scenario Training (Force on Target/RolePlayer/Force… all are a must) to ensure that I don’t EVER have to ‘live with having taken a life’ for the rest o’ my life.
    I now Train to Avoid/Escape FIRST (‘wasn’t always that way when I first started Tactical Training). And I’ve taken our TCCC Class now like 7 times??? Can’t get enough of that! Then I go ahead and work through the Scenario to ‘learn what it wants me to know’. But most Scenarios put to me now having me silently saying something to the affect of “This is not my fight and I’m… going back in the store, not going to my car for now, calling LEO, or just observing for a bit more time. Then I choose for the exercise and go through the Scenario.

    What miniscule information I know about ‘living with having taken a life’ has me VERY encouraged to not have to do so! But, I’m still Training!!!

    Avoiding Stupid People, Stupid Things, & Stupid Places helps a lot!!!

    Thanks for the insight!

  18. […] and whether they win or lose in court, they’ll most likely be broke for the rest of their lives. The Cost of a Killing is always high, whether it is righteous or […]

%d bloggers like this: