View Full Version : Moral obligation vs. tactical venerability

06-27-2004, 07:57 PM
The office shooting scenario discussed this to some degree - lets discuss it directly:

If you come upon a situation in which you see someone helplessly under attack and being injured, and you can help, but helping MAY make you a victim too, do you do it? For example, you see a woman being attacked by a couple of armed street thugs, do you come to her aide? How about an elderly person? Or a child, or an adult male??? When and how do you decide?

Do you help only if you think you can win, or is it our moral obligation to help even if you will face overwhelming odds? If helping is the right thing to do, then you should help, no matter how much you have to give up from a tactical perspective, right? Or, do you believe your obligation is to your own safety so you see your wife and kids again, and screw everyone else?

Taking the correct moral path should be important to us all. What is your moral obligation to unknown fellow citizens?

06-27-2004, 09:57 PM
tb1911, Thanks for sharing your story in the "Lessons from 9-11" thread. I was the one that posted the "Have you ever turned your back on an innocent" thread.

I missed that thread and see the similarity. If I saw it, I might have just posted there.

The subway incident bothered me for a long time because lack of willingness to take action to help others despite the fact it might have been suicide. I am older and perhaps wiser now, and my priorities are more about surviving and raising my family rather than proving my manhood to myself. In this incident nor any I have been in did I considered myself a victim or potential victim. I was scared, but I believed if it came to it, I would win. I have to think like that. I lost sleep over my decision not to help others.

I was raised in New York, and being armed (legally) was just not an option and thus, I have had several incidents in which my confidence in success were in question, so this is a big issue for me.
In an incident that went the other way, I witnessed a guy being beaten into unconsciousness by a gang of many. I won't go into the details of the brutality of what I witnesses, but it was terrible, bloody and savage. I knew he was an innocent and was just in the wrong place at the wrong time. I was so completely outraged that, without much thought, launching myself in there - much as you described. In this case I was disturbed about my lack of thought, or common sense, in walking in to a situation where I could have been seriously hurt to help a stranger. My emotions didn't let me see potential danger, while in the Subway, I did. This time I was disturbed because I thought I was an ass for acting like a hero, while in the first, I thought I was a coward.

In the future, I want to be guided by what is the right thing to do and attempt to be consistent rather than be driven by the emotions of the moment.

Thanks for your input.

combat effective
06-28-2004, 02:11 AM
My instinct is always to act; however, I am a peace officer, which does play into the matter somewhat. I feel obligated to act.

06-28-2004, 06:17 AM
we all share some moral obligation to help anyone that is in that kind of trouble.

I do believe though that you must maintain a tactical advantage when doing so, this would mean being totally aware of who are really the BG's and if there are any lurkers with them.

This could end in a couple of ways, you diffuse the situation with whatever force you deem appropriate and come out OK (alive), you have to worry about the legalities after it all shakes out.

This would be a plus since it would also make others understand that concealed carry is a good thing, and there are many responsible and well trained citizens out there.

You lose your life and others will decide how to look at the out come, including our Liberal Media.

Tough call that would have to be made at the time of the situation, but yes I am the kind of person that could not turn my back on the victim no matter who they are.

I would hope that if my wife was the victim (even though she does carry) that someone else would do the same thing.

Lou Costello
06-28-2004, 07:14 AM
I think I have a moral and religious obligation to help an innocent person who is in trouble. That said, does that help require a .357 magnum round or a cell phone call to the cops?

We've got a serious problem here in the 'hood'. Seems that gangs of 3 - 5 young black men are jumping and beating single Hispanic men. There have been 25 attacks in the last few weeks and some of the victims are in the hospital, near death. Hispanic males are selected because (1) they are usually illegals (2) they work in jobs that pay cash (3) they don't have social security cards and thus can't open bank accounts (4) they live in a home where they can't lock up their earnings so they always carry it with them (5) they are generally slight in stature.

At my age, I am not going to take on 3-5 steroid bulked up felons in hand to hand combat. I may be retired but I am not yet senile. My buddies, Mr. Smith and Mr. Wesson, might even the odds but once the noise dies down the papers will print "Paterson paisan shoots 5 disadvantaged urban yutes!"

The cops are having a tough time with these cases. The victims don't want to report the attacks, fearing that they will be thrown out of the country. The cops warn Hispanic males not to go out alone, especially at night. Just great!

I was talking to one cop yesterday. He is from the DR via Brooklyn. He hopes to run into some of these yutes with the complex haircuts. He has a surprise for them.

Sacrifice my life for a stranger in a known lost battle? Maybe if I were a cop, fireman or soldier. Other than that, dial 911, act as a witness from a safe place, and be ready to provide first aid.

06-28-2004, 09:48 AM
As we train, we come to exercise and develop a set of instincts that will guide us in these situations. Those who have been there and have witnessed violent situations unfold and either called the police and protected themselves and been a good witness, OR got involved and did what they could to help the victims have experienced the decision making that told them to do what they did at the time, perhaps without them even realizing they made that decision. Those who have stepped in sometimes report that "I just knew what I had to do", be it call the authorities and be a good witness and get out of there, or step in and act.

All of us have at one time or another stopped and helped someone on the side of the road, or just kept on going, calling authorities if we thought they needed assistance. What drives us to make those decisions? Am I in a well populated area? On a highway? 3pm? 3am? Is it an elderly lady? 6 guys in a van with blacked out windows?

The same kind of thing applies when we witness a violent act. Can we respond? Can we protect ourselves? Would we be putting our family in danger? Does our skill allow us to prevail in this situation? Believe it or not, the more you train and visualize, the more you are able to make those decisions on the fly when and where it happens. And that decision can be different for all of us. If I were out with my wife and 8 month old daughter, I would be a lot less apt to get involved than I would if I were out with one of you fine folks, say at a Home Depot at o'dark-thirty, picking up some last minute ceiling tiles or whatever, just as an example.

The more we talk about it and argue it and beat it up here in words, the more viewpoints we can add to our collective pool and draw on them when we need them. As they say, "The more you bleed in training, the less you bleed in combat."

To answer the question as honestly as possible, I believe it is my duty first and foremost as a father to get home alive and see my daughter grow up and be a good husband and love my wife. I am not associated with law enforcement and do not possess substantial experience in the arena of combat. If the situation unfolded and saw someone getting victimized, I would call the police on my cel phone. If I believed in my heart that I was 100% correct that innocent defenseless people would die and that I had a very good chance of coming out alive, I -might- step in. Recall the example from Ayoob where you help the woman screaming rape by drawing down on a man who turns out to be an undercover police officer trying to arrest a prostiture, leading to her escape and your conviction. I am not expected nor equipped as a civilian to wade into violent confrontations and get into my high-speed low-drag ready position, target identification via hand-held light, double-tapping, shove-shooting, extreme CQB-ing people left and right. I draw a straight line between myself and safety and follow it post-haste. Any action I take is in fear of my life, not because I, in the midst of stepping into a conflict that I have no idea what the context is, was afraid of what third parties might do to one another -IF- I didn't act. As an armed civilian with the training I have received thus far, that is as honest a reply as I can give.

06-29-2004, 04:41 AM
I expect my comments will not be well received by some... but hopefully they will cause some people to think. This is a question that has been discussed at great length over the years... and it is a difficult question at best.

All of us have been trained in the "knight on a white horse" tradtion. Unfortunately, that is probably not operative in our society today... it is a very risky thing indeed.

Those of us who have chosen to be armed, need to reflect on this question. Where is our personal line in the sand so to speak? This is of course a personal issue... and it behooves each of us to think it through throughly... when the stuff is hitting the fan, it is way to late to sort out your personal rules of engagement.

I have gone to most of the major shooting schools over the past few years. I have posed this question to the head guy at each one. Each of they has said the best rule is "mind your own business when it comes to lethal force (my summary of their responses.) I believe they are right.

Be a good witness... call the cops, etc. but don't draw. You can't be a good witness dead...and you sure can't support your family if you are dead.

So what are my rules of engagement? Engage when I am in danger of great bodily harm or death, or my family is in that situation. A few close friends are also included in the same category as family. All others get phone support.

It sound rather harsh... but given the laws today and the political situation that is the way it has to be.

Bottom line? Everyone needs to decide in advace what their rules of engagement will be.



06-29-2004, 07:47 AM
I don't think there can be any useful discussion of this question until two other questions are resolved:

1. What is the good or the right?
2. How do we know one from the other?

Until those questions are resolved, any assertion that there is or is not a moral duty to rescue others is arbitrary.


06-29-2004, 08:03 AM
hahahaha holy shit, are we gonna get into a discussion of nietzsche vs. kant, the ubermann, who obeys no laws, vs. the categorical imperative? ugh, i hated philosophy 101!!! :D :D :D

06-29-2004, 12:36 PM
I don't think there can be any useful discussion of this question until two other questions are resolved:

1. What is the good or the right?
2. How do we know one from the other?

Until those questions are resolved, any assertion that there is or is not a moral duty to rescue others is arbitrary.


Of course this is an individual decision. In reading through these posts, one sees everything from (Not quoted, but interpretation): I look out for myself only.. to I will always help.... to Sometimes I will help if the risk isn't too great.

Those that made definitive decision already on what they will do, have a higher likelihood of surviving. Whenever Gabe make a post, you can see the decisiveness in what he says. If one isn't absolutely sure what the correct moral thing to do is, they will hesitate, and hesitation may get you killed.

I would like to be in the camp of always taking action to protect an innocent, but I think I will always be more pragmatic about my own personal safety, and if someone I could have helped got killed or seriously hurt because I didn't intervene, I would (and have) beat myself up over it, even if I knew taking action would mean my own defeat. Why? Because I believe I should live by my moral beliefs even if the cost is my own demise and basically, my personal fear stopped me from doing what is right.

Its a goal I'm not sure I will ever acheive.

07-05-2004, 06:06 PM
I don't think it is merely an individual choice. If choosing a moral principle validates the principle, then all moral choices are equally valid. If that's the case, then choosing to rescue a drowning child is the moral equivalent of throwing stones at the child as you watch him drown.

I think there are correct answers to ethical questions. Moral principles are real, and answers that correspond most closely to reality should be preferred.

Why should you look out for yourself only? Why should you always help others in danger? Why should you help others only if the risk isn't too great?

I don't think anyone should make a definitive decision about any of those principles unless they at least have a rudimentary understanding of why they think the principle corresponds to reality (or if it's reality they think it corresponds to).


07-09-2004, 07:33 AM
Admittedly, this is a pretty complex topic to discuss in this medium. I guess I'll just share the conclusions I've come to:

Good and evil, right and wrong, are not definable in terms of anything else. The good is the good. Evil is evil. Right is right, and wrong is wrong.

As for the prescriptive nature of ethics: We do right simply because it is right. We avoid doing wrong simply because it is wrong.

How do we know right from wrong? I believe that the only actual source of moral knowledge is the fallen and imperfect conscience, perfected and given an objective point of reference in the Bible, and informed by the Holy Spirit. Sort of a "trinity" of moral epistemology.

When moral duties conflict, I believe the higher moral duty controls. God's moral law is hierarchical. There are greater and lesser laws.

I believe there is a moral duty to rescue others who are in danger. Prov. 24:11. Whether that duty applies when it is obvious that you will not succeed and that the rescue attempt will result in your death is a difficult question that I have not resolved.


07-09-2004, 10:11 AM
Proverbs 24:10
If you falter in times of trouble,
how small is your strength!

Pale Horse
07-09-2004, 01:37 PM
For me it is fairly cut and dry. I dont have a wife and kids nor do I really have anything holding me on this earth with the exception of the Lord. I dont fear the loss of my life. If someone is in trouble I go to help them.

Some time ago a gal who works for a good friend of mine was being stalked by 2 guys at the local Air Force Base. He asked me if I would show her a thing or two with a knife. I showed her and she was very greatful. I said I was going to help her more, but she did not want to take the steps to insure these guys would not come back and cause trouble. I had the XO, CO, sergants names and know some of the instructors and at any time could have ended these guys career in the military, but she was not willing to talk with anyone. So I backed off and gave her a police officers number and let him handle it.

The point is if someone does not have the desire to fight for themselves then I generally wont help. I dont want get calls from someone who I have helped before facing the same problem they had a month ago. However, if I am walking along and someone is getting the tar kicked out of them and cant help themselves due to sheer numbers or they are no longer conscience then I will protect them with all I have. That is what the Lord has called me to do.

Those of you who are married have obligations to stay around and take care of your wives and children. Being single I dont have those obligations so I dont worry about it. As far as whats right and wrong The Bible tells me what is right and wrong.


Mike Chilton
07-12-2004, 08:14 PM
A man or moral character, who has a strong belief in right and wrong, will not think about this situation he will react to it and do the right thing. Unfortunately today a lot of people don't! Hero's most generally are men who have been so enraged at an incident or enemy that nothing will stop them form making things right or getting that son of a bitch.

For me this is a situation without thought, but one of action! I may get my ass kicked, but I'm taking out some SOB's with me!

07-13-2004, 07:11 AM
Mike Chilton:

We are on the same page. I've jumped into problems without thinking when another has been being beaten, etc. on the streets.

Been injured, have given some back, all in the name of "whats right" for me.

I'm married, no kids, if I buy the farm, my wife will live happily ever after on the insurance and all the more power to her I guess. She's seen me jump into others crap at times, she knows to back away from the situation far enough to observe, call the locals on the cell, and under no circumstances is she to approach me if I go down, even if I've been shot or worse until the cops get there and secure the area.

I've also witnessed several incidents where I walked across the street and watched the action go down, smiling the whole time. Didn't call the cops, yell for someone to help, nada. Why? I felt I was doing the world a service by letting them go at it, perhaps one less ganger on the streets and if we get lucky, they take themselves out.

This is while I'm in my own state where I'm licensed and carry a firearm of sufficent power 24/7 while out of the house. Out of state? Only if I believe I can stop the problem without a firearm if it might come to that.



07-13-2004, 10:30 AM
I agree with Mike and Brownie. I will and have acted both when I was an LEO and since leaving the PD. It is our moral and ethical responsiblity to fight evil wherever we find it and I will always do so. However, if the wife and kids are with me, my #1 priority is assuring their safety before I act. They also know what to do should I become involved and to stay far away and dial 911.