Is it moral to kill an innocent person who is actively threatening you?


So for example, suppose someone who is delusional threatens you with a gun because they believe you’re an imposter out to kill them. Is it morally licit to kill them because they are threatening you?


Must do so only as a last result after exhausting alternatives. There is an obligation to preserve yourself.


2264 Love toward oneself remains a fundamental principle of morality. Therefore it is legitimate to insist on respect for one’s own right to life. Someone who defends his life is not guilty of murder even if he is forced to deal his aggressor a lethal blow:

If a man in self-defense uses more than necessary violence, it will be unlawful: whereas if he repels force with moderation, his defense will be lawful. . . . Nor is it necessary for salvation that a man omit the act of moderate self-defense to avoid killing the other man, since one is bound to take more care of one’s own life than of another’s.66

2265 Legitimate defense can be not only a right but a grave duty for one who is responsible for the lives of others. The defense of the common good requires that an unjust aggressor be rendered unable to cause harm. For this reason, those who legitimately hold authority also have the right to use arms to repel aggressors against the civil community entrusted to their responsibility.


It would be morally wrong to have the intention to take away their life. But you may certainly act to protect your own, seeking to do as little harm as possible in the process. The actions available to you and chosen by you might be such that the other person’s life is lost as a consequence of acting to save your own.


How can someone be both “innocent” and “actively threatening you”—with a gun no less?


If they are actively threatening you, they may be morally innocent, but the right to self defend remains.


The idea is that they’re innocent because of a mental disorder. They don’t understand what they’re doing due to delusion or hallucination - they think they’re defending themselves against a threat that does not exist.


Okay. But the threat against you does exist. If someone was coming at me with a gun, I don’t think I’d stop to ascertain their state of mind. :wink:

Of course, I don’t own a gun nor any other weapons, so my response would be to run away. :stuck_out_tongue:


I’d answer relatively the same as the above posters. I’d just add, the Catholic thought is a person defending themselves should have no intent to kill, regardless of the mental state of the aggressor; they should have the intent to stop the aggressor. A firearm is a legitimate form of defense. If in stopping the aggression a life is lost – it’s undesirable but a risk of the human condition.




Kill them to act as judge, jury and executioner, no.

Kill them because it’s the only way to defend yourself, yes.


One of my friends is driver for an armored car company.

His orders, in case of attack, is to shoot ONLY to incapacitate the attacker … to prevent the attacker from moving.

Never, never, never shoot to kill.

ONLY to shoot to stop the attacker.


That is an impossible order.
You have been misinformed.


subscribing. :popcorn:


Your right, and sometimes duty, to defend your life isn’t contingent on the knowledge or culpability of a person who is threatening your life. It is the reality of the threat itself that justifies using self defense.

I don’t think you have an obligation to try any alternatives. If someone is pointing gun at you it is moral to defend your life, which they threaten. You don’t need to first talk to them or run down some checklist. Of course I don’t mean any threat justifies killing someone. You have to face death or serious harm. A threat such as this might occur suddenly.

I can’t say no one has been told this but it sounds improbable. Even a decently trained person is not likely to be able to successfully target a person in a way to merely incapacitate them. This is difficult under any circumstances but particularly one where you are under the severe stress of fearing for your life.



One should never use a firearm, unless one is prepared to kill. Full stop.

That is why I choose not to carry a firearm, as I would never fire first and second is too late.



It may be in thought.


You may NOT … ***INTEND ***… to kill someone.

While defending yourself, the attacker MAY, indeed, die … but that must not be your INTENT.

If the attacker refuses to stop moving, you MAY continue to shoot until he or she stops moving … but your INTENT cannot and must not be to KILL the attacker.

If the attacker stops moving, then YOU must stop shooting. Civilians have been prosecuted for murder and sentenced to prison for continuing to shoot after the situation has been stabilized.

[A soldier in combat is in a totally different situation.]


Less different than you suspect actually.


No. You are wrong here. When one draws a lethal weapon, it is used lethally. Anyone with training knows what you claimed the armored car company said was Wrong. For starters the employees of most armored car companies are only required to have taken a BASIC arms training class. The skills do not exist even at the highest levels of training to not intend lethal shots fired. You may have misunderstood. The company may indeed have been pointing out that ronce a threat is stopped you may NOT continue to attempt further lethal action.
These are basic moral principles that are taught in any self defense class.

When you fire you fire at center mass. These are lethal intent areas. If you cannot morally do that, a gun should never be in your hand.

Technically you are right. Your moral goal or intent is not to kill someone. You must take steps to stop a threat even if those steps are lethal. But your first shot is to be a lethal one if you can. You may not get another.


Were one **intending **(as in the font of morality called “Intention”) the death of another, and then acting (say, with a gun) then that act is immoral. This is Catholic Moral Theology 101. But this is different from recognising that using a gun is (in the circumstances) reasonably necessary to save my life though very likely to cause the death of the other. To pull a gun with a view that no one is going to die is just poor judgement.

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