Fight or Flight? Could a person be morally responsible for a criminals next victim if they had the chance to stop a criminal but choose to be safe and hide or allow the criminals to get away?

If a person had the opportunity to stop a criminal but instead let the criminal go because it was only property or because they had the opportunity to get away instead of confronting the criminal, then the criminal goes and kills a person or steals from another person. Is The first victim morally responsible for whatever the criminal does after not helping to stop or apprehend the criminal in the first place. Even in the interest of self preservation.

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Morally responsible? YES. But nothing else. You can judge yourself, nobody else should do this. You are not able to predict everything what may happen if you don’t take certain actions.

Sounds like Peter Parker’s dilemma.


You might as well say a person who is suspicious of a driver being drunk not calling it in and then later finding out they were drunk and caused an accident killing an innocent person…

You will probably feel like you are responsible for not calling it in as an officer could have stopped the person and prevented such an accident…

Hindsight is a PITA.

What is the end all cure to this, to stop another person from being a victim?

Is lethal force to be used even if the crime is little so the criminal does not have the chance to build and build till its major crimes?

We do what is needed with the circumstances of the situation.

You are not responsible for the choices of another…


Well that’s a good point but a little different. Like, say a person breaks into your house and is stealing things but you hide and call the police even though you are trained and armed to be able to stop them. Shouldn’t you!? Further more, wouldn’t you be responsible for their next crime. Knowing criminals normally learn from each crime, get better after each crime they get away with, and try for bigger and bigger scores every time.

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And even though you may be trained and armed to stop them, suppose you were killed after deciding to go out and stop it.

What does everyone who knew you say… He should have just stayed put, he should not have gotten involved, he would have been just fine if he let the police take care of it?


As usual, Jerzy is spot on. I didn’t put that together but yes, exactly that! The Spider Man and Uncle Ben dilemma. Except in real life. Why train like that? Why not train to respond to your ability? I guess it would be a liability thing. The nra or USCCA training a person to run away if you can, or let the intruder go instead of training a person to respond more aggressively if they can. In that case the moral responsibility falls on the USCCA or NRA.


I can’t take into account what others might say or think. I can only account for what I would think of myself and what God might think of my decisions. I know that may sound dumb to a lot of people but it is who I am. In that same vein, what would those people think of a guy if he let a bad guy get away to be safe, only to have the intruder run over a kid as they got away. They might say you were being selfish caring only about your own safety.

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That’d depend on whom we deem their moral authority
For probly most Judeao-Christian folks, clearly God. But we can’t leave atheists and others out.

That said, recently while in Los Angeles with my wife, in an Uber, 3 men ran past our ride like rabbits. They darted across the street, turned 180 deg., next we saw y they were running when two were physically beating one. This not a mike from Beverly Hills too . Odd.

My wife had not once in her life witnessed that sort of violence. It made me feel awful I couldn’t protect her from seeing, yet worse we were not in our home state where, had I been driving and armed as usual, I could’ve stopped and intervened, and would’ve.

Herein lies the legal question tho: would it be expected that I issue a verbal warning before firing?
I do not believe so. I’d not warn attacker, while under assault by 2 men, after drawing my gun, “hey if u stop and walk away I won’t fire.”
No sir, already not only imminent, but in process of being a threat of severe bodily harm or death, at which time firing occurs until the threat stops.

Now for this “moral” question. Mine dictate I love my fellow humans as myself, so I’m firing exactly as if it were me under attack. They’re either headed to jail or the morgue. I suppose it’s the latter wherein your question is rooted.

Morally speaking, each man/lady must examine their own conscience and decide if their Faith permits taking life for the greater good of humanity.

Final answer is a quote, “Know thine own self. Every heart vibrates to that iron string.” ~Shakespeare via Polonius in Hamlet.
Alternatively, we can consider “…have entertained angels unaware.” ~Jesus (H.oly) Christ.
Would we want another person to stop the thug? If so, IMO, if nobody else is handling it, we should, but while taking the legalities under consideration. Too many scenarios to even start on that, but training one’s mind and heart beforehand to do what you’d be morally obligated to do is the only way to prepare. The decision to act or not must be made before you walk among others.
Great question! We have a tendency to look at law first then conscience for these things. My conscience dictates my actions, then my fellow citizens decide the legalities.

There’s the last and very important issue - when deciding what the conscience dictates and mentally preparing just in case, probly better decide if those actions are within legal parameters. If not, at least in USA, then the actions break the law of the land, ergo most likely the moral law to which one subscribes. If that ain’t the case with one’s moral law, one may ought to expatriate…


We are our own moral “authority”, regardless of belief in God(s), just look at how many “believers” sin/commit crime. Obviously, God(s) has nothing to do with it; even for those that believe as they usually believe in “free will”, which also leaves God(s) out of the picture.

I recall reading numerous crime stories in the past (several decades ago) where citizens shot fleeing thieves. Good, bad, or otherwise, our society has changed. As to the question of trying to stop the perp or not, that again comes down to your character (what you believe is right/just) and what the law provides.

Why could you not do something to change the life of the criminal? Why not try to reach out to them for assistance in helping them and changing their lives? Criminals have needs! They have wants! They need help! Their actions are crying for help!

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People are responsible for their own actions, not you or me.


I believe it was the Concealed Nation web site who did an article about a guy who was awakened in the middle of the night with a man standing over him… he got his pistol and ordered the man out… who went down the street broke in and raped a young lady…

I really wouldn’t want that on my conscience…


What if this was your criminals first crime and he was desperately breaking into your house to find some money to pay for a life saving surgery for one of his six kids? Not a smart move on his part but desperate people do stupid things.

What if it was a career criminal who next week is going to run into someone who changes his life and goes on to positively change the lives of hundreds of other people?

I don’t want to put my life and my family’s financial future in jeopardy by playing hero trying to do the job that government and LEOs should be doing when someone isn’t in imminent danger. And I don’t believe I have the right to be judge, jury and executioner without a life being clearly in imminent danger.


What a great answer! Not too often you find people these days who might answer a question with the truth! Most will go back to the “get away and call authorities”. They do this because they’ve been trained to fear legal consequences over moral consequences! Really good stuff up there!

Their actions are taking my life and property. Wait, maybe your being sarcastic?

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Sounds like you didn’t see the start of the altercation. What if the two guys were beating one guy who just attacked one of their daughters? You might even be legally justified in shooting them thinking you were saving the “victim’s” life. But would you be morally justified?


Damned if you do, damned if you don’t. I am not responsible for the criminal choices of others, period. I am also not a LEO, sworn to serve and protect the public and charged with the official power to do so., and would most likely face serious consequences if I chose to act as one. This kind of “moral accountability” thinking is what can lead to suing Jack Daniels and Ford for drunk drivers.

Talk about your “Majority Report”: I better shoot this guy now 'cause he might hurt someone tomorrow.

I have armed and trained in order to protect myself, my loved ones. and possibly, in certain extreme situations, strangers, from imminent threat of great bodily harm or death. I do not have the legal, moral, or civil authority or responsibility to protect hypothetical victims from hypothetical criminals in some hypothetical future situation. Under your proposed scenario, my duty is to report the incident to the appropriate LE agency; in other words, be a good witness.


It’s more of a question of why do we train to get away or give away rather then train to stand your ground and protect your property. If the thief drops the thing and runs that’s fine, go. But we are being trained to not even demand that the stuff be dropped. To run to a safe room and call police. I’m not sure if that’s productive training. It emboldens criminals and sends the wrong message in general. I get why it’s trained like it is. It’s safer. If I demand an item be dropped or chase after my wallet I’m not being aggressive, I’m being defensive. If I demand that two guys stop beating on a third guy, no matter what the situation is, I feel like that would be the smart thing to do in the grand scheme of things. If everyone trained like this, criminals in general could begin to expect that kind of response and avoid the crime all together. Basically what I’m saying is, if everyone starts to stand their ground, crime will go down, I think.

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If somebody breaks into my home my first actions are to gather up my family and get them to our defensible space. If I then leave that space to protect my stuff and the criminal(s) gets lucky and take me out then I can no longer protect anyone. My stuff is not worth risking my family’s safety.

Now if the criminal gets in the way of getting my family to the safe area, thus presenting an imminent threat to them, then I will be using all my training and ability to completely remove the threat.


So, everyone with a bit if training is now a de facto LEO?

If you look at the laws in almost every state, the use of deadly force to prevent simple loss of property is prohibited unless the actions of the taker put those present in mortal danger. Shooting someone in order to prevent them stealing tools out of your shed is hard to sell as justified self-defense, as is shooting someone fleeing the scene.

That being said, just as it is impossible to know what someone may do tomorrow, it is just as impossible to make a single hard-and-fast rule to govern all possible situations. Judgement must enter into any situational assessment in order to act accordingly. But, any judgement which leads me to act as some kind of self-styled vigilante protector of everyone inside my sphere of influence is wrong.

My firearms are tools to be used as a last resort in defense of life, entirely at my discretion. In the event I must use my tools, I believe that my training and knowledge and judgement will allow me to act appropriately, effectively, and legally.

Really? Maybe those two guys are acting on their “moral imperative” to protect the innocent from a predator. Maybe that third guy is a rapist or pedophile and really deserves a beat down; you don’t know.