It was pleasant surprise when my two day defensive handgun course at the Frontsight Institute included not one but two lectures on ethics. Some people might have felt cheated by having to spend a number of hours in a classroom rather than on a gun range, but most of my fellow classmates looked enthralled — and with good reason.
The lecturer was very charismatic. He painted ethical scenarios with articulate ease. He made it clear that while it is important to know how to safely use a handgun, it is equally important to know when to safely use a handgun. One cannot plan for every possible scenario, so a person needs a set of rules to live by. These might be called ethical rules or moral rules, but they are the rules that will guide a person through stressful situations, where there is no time to think.
It was pointed out that most people already have rules that they live by. Yet, it is not necessarily these personal rules that one should think about when they come into conflict with another person. The actions taken in public will be scrutinized by the public, and different societies have their own standards and rules for behavior. They do not care much about any particular person’s opinion, especially when they are on trial.
To illustrate the point, he polled the audience on when they would use deadly force in a hypothetical scenario. The answers varied widely, and the instructor assured us that the laws in different parts of the world vary just as much. So, in my words, even if one were to take a strictly libertarian approach to fighting off an attacker and only use as much force as necessary, they might be thrown in jail anyway. It is wise to remember that we still live in a world dominated by states.
On the bright side, there are thousands of people making the trip to Frontsight every month to learn how to safely defend themselves and their family. This is not just a practical skill for fending off private criminals, but also goes a long way to diminishing governments as well. The less people feel the government is necessary for protecting them, the less power it holds over their outlook on the world. People empowered by a class at Frontsight might begin to wonder what other government monopolies might not be necessary after all.
This is not to say that police are unnecessary. Division of labor will always produce the most and best goods, even in the defense industry. The idea is not for everyone to take full responsibility for fighting crime, but rather for them to realize that their is nothing magical about guns and how they can be used to prevent crime. If anyone can be trained to use a gun safely, maybe it is not so far-fetched to let ordinary people start private police companies. Anything that moves people down that road brings the world a little closer to market anarchism. In the mean time, the well-trained people who go through the Frontsight program will make the world a little safer.