Was It Morally Wrong for a Man with an AR-15 to Kill Three Intruders?
“Twenty-three-year-old Zach Peters of Broken Arrow, Oklahoma, caught three masked burglars breaking into his house one night, and the end result were three shots by Peters from his AR-15, and three dead burglars. The burglars brought two weapons — brass knuckles and a knife — but neither melee weapon fared well against Peters’ rifle. . . . [O]ne of the deceased burglar’s grandfather . . . said the AR-15 made the fight unfair.”
Maybe it was “unfair,” but it was stupid and immoral for the three criminals to break into a house with the intent to do harm.
When three people break into your house at night, you don’t have time to assess whether the weapons they’ve brought are less lethal than yours. You also don’t know their intent, whether it’s robbery, rape, kidnapping, or murder. Read the book In Cold Blood and watch the film of the same title.
Self-defense is a biblical option in such cases. Consider this passage from biblical case law:
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“If the thief is caught while breaking in and is struck so that he dies, there will be no bloodguiltiness on his account” (Ex. 22:2).
The homeowner can assume in a nighttime invasion that someone breaking into his house has nothing but bad intentions. He may be armed or not. The homeowner does not have to ask any questions to find out. The homeowner can respond by striking the intruder “so that he dies.” If this happens, even if the attempt was only theft (unknown to the homeowner), the homeowner is cleared of all guilt in the thief’s death.
Daytime is a different story because the victim can make a better assessment of intent. If two people enter a building with AR-15s and/or other weapons, killing these people before they kill you and others is the right thing to do. An AR-15 is a rifle, not an automatic weapon. Being loving, peaceful, just and generous, and self-giving do not apply. To put it simply, there’s no time to negotiate with people whose obvious intent is to do harm.
The story of David and Goliath is helpful since “five smooth stones” and a “sling” are the closest equivalent to a handgun we can find in the Bible. David seems to have been armed with his weapon at all times. There was no way he could run home to get his sling when a lion or a bear was about to attack his flock (1 Sam. 17:31-37, 41-54).
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It’s possible that Jesus had the Old Testament case law in mind when He offered this injunction to His disciples:
“But be sure of this, if the head of the house had known at what time of the night the thief was coming, he would have been on the alert and would not have allowed his house to be broken into” (Matt 24:43).
How does a homeowner stop someone from breaking in? Deadly force may end up being the only option in some cases. What if someone pours gasoline on the house and intends to light it killing everyone inside? Should the homeowner lights the match and throws on the accelerant?
But, of course, you rarely know when someone is going to break into your house, therefore, you must be on guard all the time. Being on guard is not enough if you are unarmed and must face an armed intruder.
In another passage, Jesus is teaching by analogy:
“When a strong man, fully armed, guards his own homestead, his possessions are undisturbed. But when someone stronger than he attacks him and overpowers him, he takes away from him all his armor on which he had relied and distributes his plunder” (Luke 11:21).
A fully armed strong man is a deterrent to a thief. It’s the fact that the strong man is armed that protects the potential thief from being harmed since he will think twice about attacking a home where the owner is armed.
The two San Bernardino Muslims who murdered 14 and injured 17 would never have gone to the community center if they had known some of the people had been armed. Gun-free zones are like shooting ducks in a barrel. Does anyone believe that Nidal Hasan, who fatally shot 13 people and injured more than 30 others at Fort Hood, would have attempted such a thing if the soldiers had been armed? The soldiers were living in a mostly gun-free zone. But someone intent on murder does not concern himself with such a law.
Armed people save lives by making evil people think twice about attacking a person or place where there might be some armed push back. One could say that it’s loving to be armed since it might stop someone who has evil intent from not following through with an evil act.
The most famous New Testament passage is a command of Jesus for His disciples to sell their garments and buy a sword (Luke 22:36-38). Personally, I do not believe this is a good proof text for being armed, but it does show that being armed was a norm for that time, and Jesus does not object.
Peter impetuously uses his sword against a servant of the high priest (John 18:10; Matt. 26:51; Luke 22:50) who had come out with a crowd armed with clubs and swords (Luke 22:52). Under normal circumstances, swords were permissible for self-defense, otherwise, why did the “chief priests and officers of the temple and elders” have them? There is, however, something else going on here of biblical theological importance that has little to do with self-defense.
However the sword passage is interpreted, at no time did Jesus condemn anyone for having a sword. The disciples lived in dangerous times (Luke 10:29-37). Furthermore, the Romans didn’t seem to have a problem with their subjects (the Jews) owning swords.