10 V O L . 7 9 P A R T 1 J A N U A R Y 2 0 2 1 THE ADVOCATE
Maybe most of us would be safe from bodily injury next time if Gangster
A were in some way scrupulous (at least to avoid bystanders), smart (so as
to be able to figure out a way to do so) and skillful (in order to be able to
implement that plan). It seems unlikely that any of those adjectives would
apply to Gangster A:
• We have no good reason to think Gangster A cares much about the
well-being of bystanders. Gangster A is a criminal who has already
proven willing to take Gangster B’s life directly through a violent
act. More than likely, Gangster A has also been unperturbed over
the longer term by taking or ruining many lives indirectly, through
the trade in illicit drugs or trafficked persons over which Gangsters
A and B may have been fighting.
• Even if Gangster A were nonetheless interested in public welfare
in principle, the ability to reason out how to protect it may well be
lacking. The intellectual mastermind potentially behind a criminal
operation is unlikely to be the actual shooter. Far more likely
tasked with the dirty work is someone who lacks the imagination
and intelligence to realize the jeopardy into which they thereby
put themselves, whether because a target shoots back, they end up
in prison or they come to have pangs of conscience, with which
they will need to try to cope, at some point in the future. Why
would we rely on Gangster A to tell apart the target from someone
with a similar build or similar vehicle, or to realize that bystanders
could be injured, even if not hit by gunfire, when a punctured gas
tank explodes or when a wounded target who happens to be driving
a vehicle loses control?
• Gangster A is unlikely to be a biathlete or action hero. Individuals
in those categories may be able to react coolly to pressure and keep
their weapons steady when excited or in motion, but why would
we assume that Gangster A is an Olympic hero or James Bond?
Presumably, if Gangster A had those skills and traits, another calling
might have beckoned.
Perhaps we are tempted to give Gangster A unwarranted positive attributes—
including perspicacity and a cool head and hand—when told (as we
often are) that the victim was “known to police”. Some of us may subconsciously
elevate our view of Gangster A because that person has meted out
a punishment we think Gangster B may have deserved.
But even for those of us who might not go as far as regarding Gangster A
as a hero or instrument of justice, we should feel some moral qualms about