My mother has a leftist friend who once remarked that she wouldn't use a gun to defend herself against criminals because she is a pacifist. I asked here how she would respond to a robber, and she said she would comply with his demands.
After skimming a collection of Mahatma Gandhi's letters, however, I think she is confused. According to Gandhi, a pacifist is someone who responds to injustice via peaceful civil disobedience. That might be someone who refused not only to harm the robber but, ready to die for the sake of principle, also refused to give in to the robber's demands regardless
of his threats.
This is in contrast to the coward, whom Gandhi described as one who freely chooses to submit to injustice upon receiving a threat of violence, even when he could successfully resist. In a letter to his son, Gandhi said that he believed that peaceful civil disobedience was the most moral position, but that use of force in self-defence was preferable to cowardice.
I guess another form of cowardice is when one freely chooses to comply with the criminal's demands at first, only to call for the use of force against him by others (i.e. the police) after the immediate danger has passed. That such people can consider themselves morally superior to those who defend themselves is true chutzpah, in my opinion.
- Frank Silbermann
The original message is archived at http://groups.yahoo.com/group/indians4guns/message/35