Thursday, October 18, 2018

Killing thieves

Is theft worth a death penalty?

I bring this up because it's related to my newspaper column from yesterday.

The only legitimate death penalty is carried out at the scene of the attack by the victim or a rescuer. Anything later-- including anything done by government employees-- is revenge. And murder.

Back in the old days, horse theft was a capital offense. However, unless they shot the guy in the act, it was murder (ethically, if not "legally"). For example, if they "strung him up" later.

The reason horse theft was treated so seriously was that horses were essential. Horses were a matter of life and death. You lose your horse and you may die because of it. Today cars take the place of horses for most Americans.

I think you are completely within your rights to shoot a car thief to stop your car from being stolen, even if "the law" disagrees. Probably not right to chase down a guy you know to be a car thief and hang him.

If it's a kid stealing candy from a store, then I wouldn't be in favor of shooting him. Same with a starving man in the wilderness stealing food from a cabin-- as long as he doesn't do unnecessary damage and tries to pay restitution.

But then, I'll never grieve a dead thief no matter what he steals, and not even if I consider his death to have been murder. I can separate my feelings from what I think is right.

I've said it before and I'll say it again-- I don't really believe in proportionality very strongly. I'll say more about that in tomorrow's post.

But maybe I'm just overly emotional about thieves at the moment.

Just a few weeks ago my mom's last remaining uncle-- the last of that generation of the family, at 94 years old-- had everything stolen from his house. Everything. Inside and outside. He has been living with his daughter since his wife died and only going out to his house once a week or so to check on things. Someone knew and used the opportunity to clean him out. Would I have shot the thief had I caught him in the act?

Fortunately for my mom's uncle, upon finding out about the theft, his granddaughter decided to cruise through a trashy part of town along the main road from his house. Over a fence as she drove along, she recognized her grandfather's pickup. Looking over the fence, she also saw his lawnmower and other stuff. She called the cops and they all went inside and found all his possessions (along with a lot of other people's stuff, too). They didn't find anyone there, but they took all the surveillance cameras (he had many of them watching every bit of his property) and got video of the thief bringing the stolen items to the house (not the sharpest guy, apparently). The cops know who the guy is, and said he's on probation. Do you think I would be sad if someone killed this guy, whether or not it was defense? As long as he lives, he's going to be a thief. He needs to be dead.

But, would it be right to kill him? Not unless he's caught in the act, and some would say, not for "only stealing". I suppose there's room for debate.

Reminder: I could sure use some help.

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YOU get to decide if I get paid.