Making a nation democratic (was: Why Do They Hate Us?)

Russell Turpin
Wed, 31 Oct 2001 14:12:57 +0000

Gary Lawrence Murphy writes:
>I've been wondering: Say there's a foiled bank robbery, the police arrive 
>and surround the bank, and the robber grabs a teller as a hostage.  Under 
>these new rules of police action, when they step out on to the street, do 
>we now just shoot the hostage along with the robber? ..

If the robber continues to present a danger to others
who are not hostage, then current law justifies doing
so. Defensive action is allowed even when it involves
harming the innocent, for example, in the case of human
shields. As a legal principle, this goes back centuries.

Two important points. (1) It matters whether the hostages
are the only people endangered. Obviously, you don't
shoot the kidnapper and hostage for the sake of the
hostage. But you might, for the sake of others who are
not being held hostage. (2) This second case is old.
In terms of the legal and ethical issues, nothing new
presents itself by the current situation. If I recall
correctly, Aquinas wrote something on it. You may dissent
from the principle. But I think you're factually mistaken
to suggest that these are "new rules."


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