Why Vigilantes Shouldn’t Kill The Bad Guys

Okay, first off, people shouldn’t be killing other people in general, obviously. But it is a common theme in all of your various media about masked vigilantes, that we mostly consider it pretty important to NOT kill our foes. And while many characters and stories will indicate that it’s about an enlightened consideration for the sanctity of life, or so we don’t ‘lower ourselves down to their level,’ … that really misses the far more important and valid reason for that attitude.

It’s not even for legal reasons, either. I’ve spoken already about the importance of maintaining caution and vigilance regarding masked and career vigilantes such as myself, and if I ended a battle by killing Dr. Midnight I would absolutely expect that death to be investigated, and for me to be wanted by the police for questioning or arrest. And again, that’s exactly as it should be, but it’s still not the most compelling reason to avoid killing.

It has to do with knowledge of the situation.

Now, there are occasions wherein I am absolutely confident that some villian has proven him(or her)self heinously evil enough to quite properly deserve to be removed from the gene pool. But there’s context to it. Of course, there’s no context which excuses poisoning a city’s water supply, killing hundreds, or opening fire in a crowded movie theatre killing and/or wounding dozens; I would fully support any self-styled hero taking out the offender to stop and minimize the assault on innocent people.

But say there is a masked criminal who has perpetrated some assault or murder previously, who makes an appearance on one of my patrols. First of all, do I KNOW that the person in that mask/costume is the same one who has worn the mask/costume before? What if I witness a straight-up murder? Clearly, the perp needs to be stopped, but are they heinously evil enough to kill? Was their target possibly the Bad Guy in the situation? What of your typical mook you might see in any James Bond film, the hordes of faceless guards stationed about the volcano lair or giant blimp? Are they truly aligned with the philosophy of the Master Villain, or did they just answer an ad on Craigslist because they needed the work?

I have a lot of instincts and assumptions about the situations above (and a thousand more), but I am not qualified to make he call. Best let the police and/or other investigators find out the truth before any punishment is determined. Any situation can and probably does have factors and details about it that I’m not going to know, even if I’ve been following the trail of Johnny Murder for weeks. Sure, USUALLY if it looks evil, it’s evil; but on occasion it’s not. And how am I to know when and where the exceptions might show up? A policy against killing not only prevents your best intentions from potentially becoming unjustified murder, but also better allows for somebody to discover what the truth of the situation really is. And the truth leads to better justice.

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