Defending property with guns isn’t unreasonable

As long as we are prepared to continue living in a society that permits some degree of gun ownership, we must accept the logical corollary wherein some people use them to defend private property. Obviously there are situations where lethal force isn’t a remotely proportional response. However, in the most frequently examined case, that of trespassing, defending one’s land with a firearm shouldn’t seem unreasonable.

I should be painfully clear that the question is much more nuanced than it was made to seem just a sentence ago. To be sure, it’s ludicrous to sit on the porch with a high-powered rifle and take pot shots at the kids traipsing through the corner of a field. But with regards to break-and-enter scenarios, possessing a gun and the training to use it is simply responsible.

The most powerful argument for gun ownership doesn’t actually result from our society’s festishization of private property, but rather the principle of uncertainty. How could anyone interpret the motivation and sheer unpredictability of someone who has already had their mental faculties eroded to the point where they consider it rational to force their way into another residence? Burglars cannot be treated as rational actors, and homeowners should protect themselves and their family.

It could be countered that shooting someone simply for being unwelcome in a dwelling is a dangerous moral precedent. That’s true. I’m not arguing for shooting intruders first and asking questions later. But it seems self-evident that a decision to break-and-enter carries with it an inherent mortal risk. In almost every imaginable situation human decency would be expected to prevail – meaning of course, measured escalation. Having a gun equation is not meant to end lives, it’s meant to be used as leverage, to turn the tables in favour of the one whose home is being aggressed. 


  1. It’s great that the Gateway publishes these fringe op eds that stimulate one to think about one’s own beliefs. In this case, one of the author’s underlying assumption is incorrect. Merely owning a gun and taking some training does not make the owner safe. For example, people protecting their property often behave as irrational actors too. Throwing a gun into the mix can often be like throwing a match on the situation – inflaming rather than extinguishing. People become surprisingly ineffective with guns when the adrenaline is flowing and things are happening fast … even highly trained people like police officers. This is how people end up shooting their own kid, or their wife, or provoking the interloper even more. I’d like to see a followup article that gets deeper into “measured escalation”, whatever that is. Maybe compare and contrast with “proportional response”.

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