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And the point of that was?

Tony Martin was clearly a trailblazer:

A proposal to allow homeowners to use “any means” to defend their homes, has topped a BBC poll on the bill people would most like to see become law.

BBC Radio 4’s Today programme asked listeners to vote on suggested Private Members’ Bills, with the first choice taking 37% of the votes.

Norfolk farmer Tony Martin, whose fatal shooting of a burglar in 1999 sparked a national debate, welcomed the result.

As well he might. For him this is a vindication. For others, though, this is an embarrassment, not least of all for the Conservative MP who was supposed to be Tony Martin’s champion:

Tony Martin’s MP, Conservative Henry Bellingham said the idea went too far by suggesting homeowners should use “any means” to protect their property.

For politicians this potato is just too hot to touch. The mere mention of rights to self-defence is enough to have them scampering away whelping like whipped curs. Nor do I expect that this synthetic exercise is going to make so much as a dent in the established view that defending oneself from barbarity is morally more reprehensible than the barbarity itself:

More than 26,000 votes were registered by listeners taking part in the poll and the winning bill will now be presented to the House of Commons by Stephen Pound MP.

He will need to persuade the 20 MPs who have been chosen to put forward Private Members Bills to take up the poll winner’s suggestion.

He will have more chance trying to persuade Osama Bin Laden to book his daughters in for pole-dancing lessons. Me being cynical? No, not at all. Just hear what the same Stephen Pound has to say about the whole thing in the Guardian:

Stephen Pound, Labour MP for Ealing North, who was one of the programme’s judges, expressed surprise at the high vote for such a controversial plan among listeners to such a programme.

“My enthusiasm for direct democracy is slightly dampened,” the MP told Today. “This is a difficult result. I can’t remember who it was who said ‘The people have spoken – the bastards’.”

Hmm, colour me skeptical but I have a hunch that his heart is not really going to be behind this campaign. These people are always agitating for ‘more democracy’ until it jumps up and slaps them in the face. Democracy is only supposed to be for the compliant: no ‘bastards’ allowed.

Mr Pound, however, is one of the more sanguine respondents. Elsewhere there is enough sqwauking and clucking to drown out a poultry market. The Guardian is already denouncing the result as a fix:

The BBC was warned yesterday that it may have fallen victim to a mass lobbying campaign after a controversial plan for a “Tony Martin” law topped a Today programme poll yesterday.

Suspicions were raised when thousands of listeners voted for the mock parliamentary bill which would allow homeowners to use “any means” to defend their homes from intruders. Such a law would have protected Mr Martin, who was jailed for the manslaughter of a teenage burglar, Fred Barras, in 1999.

And from the BBC article, linked above, a dire warning of what such mad and irresponsible ideas would lead to:

But leading criminal barrister John Cooper warned that the idea was dangerously flawed.

He said: “The law as it stands at the moment, despite its critics, is functioning. If you are in your house and you are attacked by someone or threatened by someone, you can use proportionate force.

“We do not live in the wild west. This legislation that is proposed effectively may well turn us into that.”

Thus proving that it is possible to be wrong on more than one level. For a start the ‘wild west’ was nowhere near as wild as legend would have it. But I’m quibbling here because I sort of know what he is driving at. He thinks RKBA and a right to self-defence would result in a desolate landscape riven with feuds, lynchings and random acts of carnage. He is still wrong though because that is exactly the type of scenario we are heading for now. The virtually unprotected citizen is easy meat for predatory.

Having assumed a monopoly of the crime-control business, the British state has found it cannot actually do that job and, increasingly, is disinclined to even try. The only thing they can maintain is the pretence by landing like a ton of bricks on any citizen who dares to be more than a docile farm-animal.

The result of the BBC poll gives lie to the whole facade. People are losing faith in the ability (and even willingness) of the state to come to their aid in time of crisis. As the police spend more of their time collecting taxes and scoring brownie points with their political masters, this disquiet will only grow.

[This article has been cross-posted to White Rose.]

91 comments to And the point of that was?

  • Garcon

    You could always form local neighborhood collectives, purchase heavy weapons from roque states, blow up a couple shopping malls, then your government would negotiate with you, just like the IRA did.

  • Jay Gilbert

    The story in the Independent – actually it’s the headline – contains a misquote that can only be intentional.

    According to the Guardian, MP Stephen Pound said, “I can’t remember who it was who said ‘The people have spoken – the bastards’.”

    But according to the Independent, Pound said only, “The people have spoken – the bastards’.”

    That quote condensation makes quite a difference, and it’s already been replicated on the Net several times. Worthy of Maureen Dowd.

  • Most of what passes for law enforcement takes place after the fact,simply one has to become a victim to start the wheels turning.Since the state has arrogated the power of protecting the public to itself can it be held responsible if it fails.If one is murdered because one is not allowed to defend oneself is not the state denying ones right to life as enshrined in the Convention on Human rights.Can we sue?

  • No doubt someone will put it about that we all had a campaign to “manipulate” the results. Quite frankly I am not all surprised that this issue won. I think the Beeb is probably absolutely appalled though.

  • jake

    Legally, in the US you can only use deadly force if you feel your life is threatened. However, your life is considered in danger if an intruder enters your home with you in it. This is a pretty reasonable assumption.

    Our ability to defend our home with force gives the US one of the lowest burglary rates in the Western World.

  • Me

    There’s an English case that American law students are made to read, I believe it’s Bird v. Hollbrook. The gist is that a man tresspassed another’s property and was horribly wounded by a spring gun. He was there to retrieve a partridge that had escaped and was given no warning that an automatic spring gun was placed on the property. This was a case from the early 19th century that handed down an essential opinion on how to protect one’s property. It dealt with the idea of proportiante force.

    Although I agree that a man should have the right to protect his property, free from the intervention of the state (and we Americans have enshrined this idea in our second amendment), I think the law is a silly one that should not be introduced into your legislature.

    Beeb bashing aside, there are simply too many things wrong with such a vague statement as “by any means necessary” to overrule 200 years of your own common law.

  • ernest young

    So this is the meaning of ‘democracy’ – do as we, your betters, tell you – or else!

    The cry of manipulation of the result was to be expected, after all they, (the enemy) do it all the time, and we are expected to swallow their nonsense. Being so dishonest themselves they automatically suspect everyone else of being likewise corrupt.

    The divide between the populace and our ‘leaders’ grows ever larger. Just how out of touch are these fools? don’t they know how popular this Bill could be, just who are they scared of?

  • James Smith

    In the US, you cannot sue the police for failure to protect you if you are the victim of a crime. The courts have recognized that the police cannot provide complete security.
    Police work is apprehension not prevention.

  • ernest young

    For two hundred years our Common Law has allowed us to protect ourselves in our own homes, as we think fit, it is only in the last two decades or so that this right of self-protection has been eroded to the point of non-existence.

    Any measure to protect ourselves should be considered ‘proportionate’, after all, unlike the Americans, we are not allowed to own or keep firearms, so a good whacking with a baseball, or cricket bat, should not be considered extreme.

    Personally, I have always had the suspicion that the ban on firearms had more to do with pre-empting any future armed insurrection, than in protecting the general public from some deranged taxpayer going ‘postal’, and shooting up the neighbourhood.

  • Ted Schuerzinger

    The estimable David Carr quotes Steven Pound, MP:

    He said: “The law as it stands at the moment, despite its critics, is functioning.

    I should like to point out that the Nürnberg laws functioned just fine in Nazi Germany.

  • jake

    Me:
    In the US, you can only defend your life with force not your property. If you saw someone in your yard breaking into your car, you would not be allowed to use deadly force because your life would not be in danger.

    In the case that you mention, the home was empty when the spring gun fired thus the owner was found guilty. If the owner had been in the house at the time, he would have been found not guilty.

  • Jeremy

    Hmmm. I don’t see a big difference between someone saying “The people have spoken- the bastards” originally, or quoting someone who had said it, at least in this context, because he was showing is disdain for the people.

  • Jeremy

    Anyway, in a lot of the US, it’s simply not practical to not allow self defense. If you live in a rural area, it could be 20+ minutes before the police arrive.

    Still, what makes the law in England even worse, is that I believe just about all guns except shotguns are illegal. It’s kind of tricky to use proportionate force with a shotgun at close range. If you’re elderly, you certainly can’t outfight them physcally. So what’s the option? There is none.

  • A Jackson

    used to think that the parlimentary system was superior to the U.S. system because it prevented split government and assured that the party in power could “get things done”. I now realize that a parlimentary system tends to be much less responsive than the U.S. system. If a similar poll occurred in the U.S. indicating a major dichotomy between the opinions of the voters and the elected officials on some issue of great import to the voters – it would be acted upon. Typically some politician would run on this issue and defeat an incumbant by a large majority. This would throw fear into other incumbent politicians who would then be climbing over each other to embrace the issue (which, of course, they’d announce that they supported all along). It would then become law. On the downside, this occasionally produces stupid laws (for example prohibition) – but the system tends to be self-correcting over time.

  • Sydney Carton

    A Jackson,

    You’re right. I think that the real culprit here is the parlimentary system, which tends to engender and embolden elites to disregard the people they’re supposed to represent. They know that the party stands between them and the people to protect them, and thus you get an eventual building of elitist opinion as the thoughts and opinions of the party hold sway even as large demographic changes take place in the greater populace. The US system is much better at representing mass opinion.

  • Susan

    Just when I thought the BBC couldn’t get any more sickening, it hits bottom and digs down.

    What a truly disgusting organization.

  • Ann

    There is an obvious parallel to be made between individual disarmament (like that which Europe has pursued) and national disarmament (like that which Europe has pursued).

    Earlier this week over at Sullivan, Daniel Drezner pointed out that even US allies had been sanctions busting in Iraq. The question which popped quickly to my mind was: why should being US allies matter when the issue is so-called international law from the United Nations? Shouldn’t all nations share equally in the enforcement of such international edicts? Why does the burden for enforcement seem to fall disproportionately on the US?

    I think the answer is that individual countries have forgotten that they bear some responsibility for policing the world, and that they can not, or should not, rely on the US, the Anglosphere, and like-thinking countries to do everything for them. Increasingly, the developed world is counting on the Anglosphere and its remaining allies to do all of the dirty work in the world, even as it curses the US for taking on that dirty work. It is important to remember that the relative increase in US power in the last few decades is not only do to US maintaining and renewing its military at levels much higher than other countries, but also in those other countries’ decisions to reduce their militaries to little more than ceremonial remnants.

    The same could be said domestically in many countries. Whether by the will of the people or the will of politicians acting on their own, the traditional policing powers of the citizenry–such as “hue and cry” systems or good old fashioned posses–have been stripped, and all policing powers have been handed over to permanent professional forces. Those forces, usually overworked and bureaucratic, are too thin on the ground and too tied up in paper knots to do the job adequately. People have been told that they shouldn’t worry their pretty little heads over getting robbed, raped or killed, and that the government has it all taken care of–but that is simply not true. Britain has gone so far as to treat those citizens unwilling to give up without a fight as worse than the real criminals. The eventual result of these policies is anarchy, with the strong and armed ripping apart the weak and disarmed.

    This also parallels international relations, where the US is accused of being the worst of criminals for trying to protect itself, while the real criminals have carte blanche. The disarmed world is content to respond with little more than verbal condemnations–words which cost the countries on either side absolutely nothing. The criminal element ignores the words and goes on creating anarchy at home and abroad.

    The philosophy between both forms of disarmament seems to be the same: that disarmament will magically transform the bad guys into saints. In this world view it is the rebels who refuse to disarm who are threatening universal sainthood. A realist would look at this and see disarmament philosophy as indistinguishable from one that holds: if we disarm and keep our heads down, the bad guys won’t notice us and will hopefully pick on someone else. It’s the inversion of Glenn Reynolds’ mantra of “a pack not a herd“. Too many countries treat their internal and external police work as if they lived in herds—standing by and doing nothing while allowing the weak to get picked off and while hoping that they will be among the last ones standing.

    It is heartening to note that there is a sizable portion of the UK electorate which rejects this philosophy of individual disarmament…but at the same time it is disheartening to think that the surrender has already taken place, that so many people believe it can not and should not be questioned, and that this same thinking is applied to international policing far too frequently in the UK for my comfort.

  • De jure we might have the right to use proportionate force but de facto those doing so would be charged.Even those who apprehend criminals in the commission of their crimes can end up getting charged.As it stands the law is weighted more and more towards the criminal and away from the victim.The reason for this is the belief held by our ruling elite that criminals are the victims of society and are already deprived and excluded enough without punishment.
    James Smith,The police are merely minions of the state in Britain it is the Government who should be in the dock.

  • HitNRun

    I’m laughing pretty hard at the comments, but I probably wouldn’t be if I lived in the UK. “Wild West?” Cause by a law with language specifying “in the home” and “intruders?”

    Not only was the Wild West as fictional as Middle-Earth or A Galaxy; Far, Far Away, but we’re talking about a law that cannot apply to anyone but burglars. Period.

    What the heck are they afraid will happen? I mean, you’ve already outlawed the actual weapons necessary for truly “unlimited” force, haven’t you?

  • Alene

    We do have our share of the ridiculous here in the US, though it varies from state to state. My neighbor was sued when a thief injured himself on his restaurant’s roof, which collapsed. Of course, the roof’s condition violated the building code….

    As to the spring gun, that would be considered a trap, and illegal. For good policy reasons, if you think about it.

  • Visceral

    ” Me: In the US, you can only defend your life with force not your property. If you saw someone in your yard breaking into your car, you would not be allowed to use deadly force because your life would not be in danger.”

    Not entirely true. In my home state of Texas it is perfectly legal to shoot-to-kill someone who is running away from you with your property. The trick is, you *must* know they have your goods before you try to kill them. Woe be unto to him who pulls the trigger and finds the dead person didn’t have their property.

    Frankly, I was shocked that this was even an issue. I just assumed that the right to kill someone you find breaking into you home was universal in the west. To find that England, the home of my ancestors, has taken away the right to self defense was disgusting and appalling. I’m not advocating killing someone for stealing a VCR, but that’s my own sense of personal restraint coming through. You *should* have the right to kill someone trying to break into your home or steal your goods, I just thought this was common sense. Maybe I’m just a backward ass American from Texas.

  • Julian Morrison

    Oh btw, swords are perfectly legal in the UK (so long as you don’t carry them openly outside), and they can do an awful lot more damage than a baseball bat.

  • Mike

    I live in the state of Michigan.
    In 2001 the state legislature passed a “Shall Issue” Concealed Weapons Permit law.
    Since that time, the FBI figures show that crime in Michigan has dropped more than 10%.

    In Detroit, fatal shootings have gone down. By comparison, Cincinatti, Ohio, has seen an increase in violent crime. Ohio does not have a Shall Issue law.

    It is a waste of time to try and point this out to guys like MP Pound. I wonder what a Michigan or Vermont style Concealed Weapons permit would do for the UK.

    First though, you gotta give the people all of thier guns back.

  • “Anyway, in a lot of the US, it’s simply not practical to not allow self defense. If you live in a rural area, it could be 20+ minutes before the police arrive.”

    In the UK, they usually rock up the next morning.

  • ebbe

    years ago, in Massachusetts after my building was broken into, a cop investigating the incident whispered to me: We can’t do anything but just remember that you are the judge the jury and the executioner and if you kill him, make sure you drag the body inside the building.

  • A slightly more prosaic reason for the self-defence argument winning the vote is that the other four were all statist and moronic. I remember thinking when I heard the choice that they were all overstated, and why were four so ludicrously New Labouroidal? ( i.e. just an excuse to have the cops go around pretending to enforce unenforceable laws ). And then I thought, ha, the libertarian one is bound to win. That is to say, if there had been one other libertarianish choice among the four – legalise cannabis, say – I think the libertarian vote would have been split, letting a statist suggestion through the middle. O, the joys of First Past the Post.

  • fnyser

    At least in Oregon, there is a “reasonable person” standard in judging if force was justified. Juries are asked if a reasonable person would have feared for his life or greivous bodily harm. This is a pretty low bar. If you confront someone stealing the ladder out of your back yard or breaking into your car, their reaction (just about anything other than running away or surrendering) may justify the use of force.

    yes, we’re a shall issue state too.

  • fnyser

    deadly force applies to the above, not proportionate. We are not really asked to judge what our attackers will do, just what they could possibly do. so if your attacker is 12 or an unarmed quad you are screwed, but the average adult male is fair game.

  • Verity

    Visceral – I believe it’s also legal in Texas to shoot someone who’s trying to drive away in your car. This dates back to a vast, largely unsettled Texas where, if your horse was stolen, you were as good as dead because you’d never be able to walk to the nearest settlement for human help.

  • AM Wilson

    The right to self defense in the home is a NATURAL right. If you go into a bear’s den the animal will MAUL you. I am the bear; my home is the den. No socialist wussy polititian can ever take such a right away from people. To try and do so is morally bankrupt. Indeed, have UK polititians figured out that the Criminal Demographic votes at unusually high rates? I can see it now…. “Scratchy, you’ve only voted FOUR TIMES!?! You lazy bum! Get back out that and vote for me again!” The right to self defense in the home against intruders is a right that nature has instilled in animals as well as ourselves. No candy assed polititian living in never never land can ever take that right away. At this point I wonder if I must Colonize the UK to reintroduce the SPINE back into the gene pool. Cheers from your cousins accross the pond.

  • The “any means” language is disturbing to me. I would think that this would allow for some quite horrific deaths for burglars and potentially for the occasional door-to-door salesman mistaken as a trespassing thief. Using a “reasonable person” measure seems more appropriate. This at least puts a check on the person who decides that the first couple of blows with the bat to the intruder’s head wasn’t enough.

    Under Texas law (where I’m from), if my person or property is under imminent threat, I am justified in using force and/or deadly force. Key word is imminent. But if a group of reasonable persons (i.e., a grand jury) find that other options existed such as a retreat or a call to police, I could be on my way to criminal court. The law governs my actions with reason and personal responsibility even when the criminal has made the decision to not follow those same laws.

    I had thought that the U.K. followed a similar line of reasoning, but from what I am just reading here and elsewhere, it seems that there has been a very unfortunate erosion of these basic ideas. I hope this BBC incident will bring about some positive results.

    Odd exception to the law in Texas: Deadly force against theft or criminal mischief can only be used during the nighttime. (See Subchapters C and D of Justificatoin Excluding Criminal Responsibility for specifics.)

  • Dave

    Every time this comes up it does get pointed out that the law in the US is not as black and white as people portray but varies dramatically from state to state.

    Many states use an interpretation quite similar to that in the UK.

  • John Kingston

    The phrase “The people have spoken…the bastards” comes from the lips of immortal US political trickster Dick Tuck.

  • Tony H

    “They” certainly dislike democracy when it fails to deliver their expectations: when the grotesque David Mellor lost his seat in the ’97 election, due in large part to a pro-gun candidate (Michael Yardley) standing against him in a “spoiling” tactic after Mellor’s outrageous anti-gun statements following Dunblane, he too whined pitifully about “lobbying by the gun lobby”.
    I agree with most of what Ernest Young says but it’s not just in “the last two decades” that our self-defence rights have been stripped: there were steady efforts by politicians throughout the 19th century to do so, but radical change came with the 1920 Firearms Act – a dramatic reduction in our rights to own firearms freely. Later, it was decided by administrative fiat around 1950 not to allow anyone a Firearm Certificate if the reason given was “self defence”.
    Jeremy, “20+ minutes before the police arrive” applies here too – and I live in Devon, not Nebraska… Check out the police response times for the Hungerford killings in 1987, and Dunblane in 1996: astonishingly poor.
    I suspect the BBC and Stephen Pound are in a huddle this minute, deciding how to bury the matter without trace.

  • Jeff H

    Nearly all states in the US, including even very liberal MA where I live, have something known as the “Castle Doctrine”. Basically, if an intruder enters an occupied home, that creates a fear of grievous bodily harm in a reasonable person, and justifies the use of deadly force.

    On the other hand, laws allowing the use of deadly force outside the home and in protection of property outside the home vary substantially from state to state. For example, in VA you have no duty to retreat from an attack outside your home.

  • Visceral

    Verity, yes, this is also true. It dates back to old cattle rustling laws.

  • roy

    I’ve been employed by a law enforcement agency in Calif (deadly force to be used for protection of life ONLY) for 30+ years (no, not an officer). For her 18th birthday, I gave my daughter a 12 ga pump shotgun (since changed to a 20 ga as the 12 was a bit too much recoil for her wheelchair).

    In case of a breakin (based on a local case), she was advised to: 1) call 9-1-1 and say her home is being broken into; 2) put the phone down and rack a round, loudly; 3) call out (in a wavering voice), “I’ve got a gun; I’m scared; so go away.” If, after all of that, she is in valid (provable) fear for her life (and should prevent her having to drop the hammer – which will probably ruin her sleep for months)..

    It has been pointed out to my kids that it is better to be tried by 12 than carried by 6.

    I’m sorry that the UK does not allow self-protection. You used to have a great country.

  • llamas

    Oh, not this again.

    The MP is exactly right, and the poll respondents have not thought about the implications of what they are asking for. FWIW, I strongly suspect that the poll was rigged – if it was not, it does not speak well for the British psyche.

    Absent any modifiers regarding ‘necessary’, ‘reasonable’ or ‘proportionate” use of force, the demand that people be allowed to use ‘any means’ to ‘defend’ their property amounts to a license to kill. Simple trespass would become a capital offence.

    The careless conflation of terms, where the use of force to prevent offences against property has now become ‘self-defence’, is duly noted.

    There’s a reason that the law has developed as it has – to prevent the immoral and unjustifiable use of unreasonable or disproportionate force – in simple terms, to prevent people from shooting other people dead for no good reason.

    Pass a law like this, and pretty soon, people will end up in the morgue for trying to steal a TV or a VCR. People with no ill-intent will end up in the morgue over misunderstandings. Children – who are, by definition, below the age of criminal responsibility – will end up dead. And the perpetrators will be allowed an absolute justification in law. “I thought he was a burglar”.

    Is that really what you want? If it is – well, good luck to you. Call me when you decide to adopt a more civilized standard of behaviour.

    llater,

    llamas

    who is STILL a rock-ribbed absolutist in the matter of the right to keep and bear arms for the defence of the person, but who STILL doesn’t think that shooting intruders dead is an act that should be given a blanket, statutory defence of ‘justification’.

  • Verity

    Labour MP Stephen Pound grabbed his little chance to earn a brownie point from Toneboy by noting sadly that this vote had dampened his enthusiasm for direct democracy (yeah; like he ever had any) – and thus, by implication, the notion of a referendum on the EU “constitution” (sneer quotes). They’re a slithery little bunch, aren’t they?

  • toad

    “…during the ceremony of manumision, the freed man was given a wooden knife. This was the symbol that he now had the right to defend himself.”

  • llamas

    Jeff H wrote:

    ‘Nearly all states in the US, including even very liberal MA where I live, have something known as the “Castle Doctrine”. Basically, if an intruder enters an occupied home, that creates a fear of grievous bodily harm in a reasonable person, and justifies the use of deadly force.’

    I don’t know where you got this idea from. Massachusetts law says no such thing. The use of deadly force is not justified by the mere presence of an intruder in an occupied home. The only applicable part of the ‘castle doctirne’ in MA is that a homeowner has no duty to retreat from an aggressor when inside the home.

    Don’t believe me? Here’s an example of the statement you have to sign in MA when you get a CCW.

    http://www.boltonpd.org/data/useofforce.pdf

    You’ll note that it makes quite clear that a homeowner may only use deadly force to prevent what he reasonably believes to be a threat of great bodily injury or death. That is the current state of MA law. The mere fact of an intruder’s presence does not automatically create a ‘reasonable fear’, as you suggest, nor does it creat an resulting automatic justification for the use of deadly force, as you imply.

    This is a classic example of misunderstanding of the law surrounding the use of deadly force. Becasue it can sometimes be used justifiably against an intruder, public understanding quickly morphs to this kind of thinking, where the common belief is that it is always justifiable. Such is not the case.

    llater,

    llamas

  • Blue

    Llamas, if the UK system WORKED, Tony Martin would never have been jailed. Perhaps the wording is too broad…but the fact he was sucessfully prosecuted for defending his home against miserable crims is wrong.

  • John Mendenhall

    In the US, criminal prosecution for defending one’s castle against invasion is almost unheard of. It should be noted, though, that this has not always been the case. During the heyday of Great Society liberalism, the very existence of criminality was seen as implying a sort of non-blameworthy response to oppression, and criminals who preyed on non-elites were much admired and catered to. Vestiges of such thinking remain in the US, eg Hollywood gun-control advocates who employ armed bodyguards, liberal school-choice antagonists whose children attend private schools.

    By and large, however, the federal system in the US allows states in the hinterlands to make and enforce reasonable laws. Montana has as many Senators as Massachusetts; this is a fact of political life in the US for which we should be eternally grateful.

    Sometimes homeowners are found civilly liable for injuries suffered by burglars in the US. Tort law here is completely out of whack. Your Mr Martin would be free as a bird but bankrupted by our uniquely criminal band of tort shysters.

  • George L.

    I’m afraid llamas has it wrong. If someone breaks into your home while you are inside it is not a burglary but a home invasion. The criminal is not after your VCR but is seeking to provoke a personal confrontation. (If all he wanted were property he could wait until the house were empty.) Instigating a confrontation with the homeowner is clearly a malicious threat, which the homeowner has every right to terminate, but whatever means necessary.

    If you ever find yourself facing a criminal who has just broken into your home, don’t kid yourself that he only wants the TV. Your life is in grave, immediate danger. Act accordingly, and the law be damned.

  • Garcon

    I think it’s a reasonable conclusion that the “any means” language merely represents an excessive reaction to the existing political situation and not some sort of psychological problem.

    Also, it’s possible that the poll and the language were a deliberate act of sabotage to confirm the elite’s opinions of the “masses” and provide a convenient point from which to start an heavy status quo reaffirming education campaign about how the current laws “protect you just fine and expecting anything else is just your bloodthirsty inhumane bestial selves emerging”. Similar to racist consciousness raising exercises that occur on occasion here on American campuses.

  • what????

    Golly, wouldn’t want a “wild west.” It might just turn into Texas, where people sit secure in their homes typing messages to the Internet.

    Isn’t there a roster of studies suggesting that the right to defend oneself by various means decreases crimes against person and property? I know Texas, with a right-to-carry-guns law under certain circumstances, is a much quieter and safer-feeling place than New York City was, with lots and lots of gun control. I haven’t read a single report this year about any home-dweller running disproportionately amok on a poor confused intruder.

    How attentuated does cause and effect have to get for these people? Where safeguards are written into the law, who deserves the risk of violence? The thief or the burgled home-dweller???? And when the police don’t come in time, who is supposed to suffer?

    Talk about the wild west! Invade homes and shoot-em-up at will. Then take anyone who resists to court. Could it be more perverse?

  • Reid of America

    llamas attitude of restraint is a crime producing attitude.

    The best way to reduce crime is to have lots of well publicized deaths of criminals at the hands of armed citizens. Including teenagers just going after a VCR. After a few dead “non-violent” VCR snatchers there won’t be many more. Criminals only responds to disincentives. Britain, unfortunately, has greatly increased the incentives to commit crimes.

    Here in South Florida crime has gone way down since concealed carry laws have gone into effect.

  • magnafan

    Your trespass laws might help to solve your problem.

    As I understand it, in Canada, if you witness a crime, you can arrest the perp. You must state, “You are under arrest.” Then, you can meet force with force to keep the perp in custody. If, during the arrest, you believe your life to be in danger, you can use deadly force to protect yourself.

    The problem in Canada is this: You will be tried in court. The Crown Attorney will ask what you were doing with a loaded firearm in your home. Then, of course, it gets ugly, because you cannot use deadly force to protect property, and the act of loading your gun prior to arrest will work against you. Also, if you have on your person a knife with a blade long enough to do serious damage, you are carrying a prohibited weapon. So, screw you if you defend yourself with that.

    All this being said, trespass law and arrest law might be worth investigating.

  • Carl

    If representative democracy was working in Britain, the MP’s would take the desire of the people to protect themselves and write a rational law balancing that right against the dangers of killing the neigbor kid who wanders into your yard.
    Here in California (land of nuts and fruits) we have really direct democracy and when this kind of thing happens all the “wise” men complain bitterly about the irrational initiatives that the people pass. If the legislature would pass rational laws to achieve the ends desired by the people, then perhaps the initiatives would not be necessary.
    I wonder how long Britain and Europe in general will go before a Le Pen type will be elected.

  • ed

    Hmm.

    Let’s face it. The “any means necessary” is required to avoid the inevitable debates over whether or not the response was “proportionate”. Could you imagine the kind of nonsense this would engender? Could you imagine the confusion and misunderstandings this would cause not only to the average public but to the police itself?

    What *exactly* would be a proportionate response to a paroled repeated rapist breaking into your home where you, your spouse and children live? Could you use a baseball bat? Cricket bat? Stick? Flaming torch? Sword? Ball-peen hammer? And what injuries would fall under “proportionate”? A broken leg? An arm? A head? A single fracture to the femur is ok but a double fracture is not? One broken rib is ok but two is over the bounds?

    Are you given some leeway if there’s more than one attacker? More than two? Less leeway if there are fewer than five? If one is armed with a firearm? With a cricket bat? If two are armed with cricket bats and another with a golf driver is that situations similar to one armed with two cricket bats and another with a 5 iron?

    Fact is that any time you include the phrase “proportionate response” without a completely comprehensive matrix of cause and response, which would be unwieldy at best and idiotic at worst, there will be cause for confusion. Hence even the idea of including it in a law for defending the home and family is beyond the pale of stupidity. No matter how justified the response to a home invasion it would absolutely *require* the defender(s) to be tried in a criminal court in order to determine if the specific circumstances actually met the requirement of “proportionate”.

    Hence anyone actually defending their home or their family would have to endure the whole sordid Tony Martin fiasco themselves.

  • Richard R

    Why the assumption that no one will run against the established office holders on this issue? If it got 30% nationally, there are certainly localities thatt would pole over 50%.

    I seem to remember that there’s a conservative party in England that has a few seats still. It might be an issue that would give them more.

    Just thinkin, here, whilest loadin my Colt single action and spinning the cyl for no apparent reason.

  • Dave

    I’m with Llamas on this frankly.

    Friends of mine, Brits, I was visiting in MA back in the summer were given a rather pointed lecture on this subject by their realtor on the implications for their mortgage and home insurance if they did anything untoward to protect their property.

  • Jeff

    Llamas,

    Reasonable people can certainly agree with you that killing someone for stealing a VCR is hardly a positive result for society as a whole. But the choice is rarely that clearcut.

    There’s a mistaken assumption that criminals can be divided into neat, consistent categories, outside of which they rarely tread. Burglars burgle, rapists rape, muderers murder, etc. This was wonderfully dispoven by the Guliani administration in NYC – when he targeted the so-called ‘soft crimes’ of loitering, turnstile jumping, simple robbery, etc. A remarkably large number of very violent criminals were swept up by this process. It turns out that there’s a substantial overlap between the categories of crime which make it difficult to assume the harmlessness of a given lawbreaker.

    This then makes it extremely dangerous for a homeowner to accept at face value that the thug with her VCR under his arm is not likely to hurt her. In such a confrontation, there’s little time to conduct an interview with the burglar to ascertain the true nature of his intent, which in any case cannot be assumed to be benign just on his say-so.
    Easy for us to say after the fact that she should have done this or that – but in the shock and terror of the moment, I wonder if you or I would be so clear-headed.

    Crimes are often spontaneous – the burglar may have intended only to steal the homeowner’s VCR, but he may also see the cute bird that lives there is ripe for a little more attention.

    In a confrontation with a criminal, to place the burden of both responsibility and judgement solely on the homeowner is bad enough, but to deny them even the most fundamental right of self-defense borders on the suicidal.

    And even worse, it leads to a society that is more lawless, not less. Britain’s violent crime rate is already higher than America’s, and if current trends persist, Britain’s murder rate will do likewise.

    Now is preventing that worth a VCR? Yep.

  • Tony H

    Llamas & others are disingenuous when they take issue with the wording of the BBC poll: no-one imagines, surely, that this idea would be translated into a Private Member’s Bill without careful drafting? I mean, who the hell cares about the wording at this stage – for a start, it’s not going to happen, and if by some weird improbable chance it did, then it’s the principle that counts. This being that our notional legal (& traditional, time-honoured)right to defend ourselves with deadly force if necessary has been corrupted, and has to be restored by fresh legislation. Of ocurse, my preference would be for chucking out a whole raft of pernicious legislation instead, mostly the successive Firearms Acts, and imposing some common sense on the vicious politicians, civil servants and police officers who have brought about the present state of affairs whereby people are afraid to act unilaterally against violent crime because of the persecution they invariably experience subsequently.

  • Dave

    Britain’s violent crime rate is already higher than America’s, and if current trends persist, Britain’s murder rate will do likewise.

    Could you publish your reasoning behind this one, because if you are looking to make a wager I’d like some of the action.

    It might be also worth looking at some of the sampling methods for crime stats while your at it, as there are some oranges and apples comparisons in there.

  • Guy Herbert

    To add more confusion to an already pretty confused discussion, John Cooper is probably wrong–or perhaps misquoted. The law allows reasonable force, which is not the same thing as proportionate force.

    (Perhaps the learned counsel is implying that the Human Rights Act has introduced an overriding civil law concept of proportionality to this area of the criminal law. But if so it’s the first time I’ve heard it suggested.)

  • fnyser

    Oregon also has the duty to flee provision, but that is pretty much null and void if you are on your own property. There is also the 21 foot rule working opposite the duty to flee. If you have doubts about outrunning your attacker, you want to shoot them before they break the 21 foot barrier.

    It is really really hard to be prosecuted for defending yourself. The DA has to decide he wants to prosecute, which he will rarely do. If he does, it must go before a grand jury which will cut you loose 99% of the time. Bullets are not whizzing about all the time.

    All these predictions of mayhem and it becoming the Wild West just goes to show what your garden variety lefty thinks of the masses. Old women and children will die in the streets if the selfish masses are not forced to provide for them, the masses will just kill willy-nilly if they are allowed to have weapons.

    You’d think that having each person responsible for his own safety as well as the saftey of those around him would be the perfect expression of the lefty collectivist dream. This issue above all others should decide whether a leftist is actually a communist/socialist or a much harsher term.

  • fnyser

    Just needed to add this bit from Federalist 46:

    Notwithstanding the military establishments in the several kingdoms of Europe, which are carried as far as the public resources will bear, the governments are afraid to trust the people with arms. And it is not certain, that with this aid alone they would not be able to shake off their yokes. But were the people to possess the additional advantages of local governments chosen by themselves, who could collect the national will and direct the national force, and of officers appointed out of the militia, by these governments, and attached both to them and to the militia, it may be affirmed with the greatest assurance, that the throne of every tyranny in Europe would be speedily overturned in spite of the legions which surround it. Let us not insult the free and gallant citizens of America with the suspicion, that they would be less able to defend the rights of which they would be in actual possession, than the debased subjects of arbitrary power would be to rescue theirs from the hands of their oppressors. Let us rather no longer insult them with the supposition that they can ever reduce themselves to the necessity of making the experiment, by a blind and tame submission to the long train of insidious measures which must precede and produce it.

  • Julian Morrison

    To heck with it, taking a VCR is grounds for getting shot. Property is meaningless if you can’t defend it. Likewise, the right to defend self and property is meaningless if you have to put yourself into unnecessary risk to enforce it. Faced with a stranger whose propensities and armament are unknown, the minimum risk option is: shoot first (or at least, take aim, and instruct them to surrender). That’s pragmatic self defense, none of this Marquis of Queensberry rules stuff. Fair fights are for the boxing ring.

  • George R

    I was once told by a barrister that Tony Martin was arrested for manslaughter because he made no attempt to call the police or ambulance services to help the slaughtered intruder. He added that if you do make these calls the police will accept that you acted in self-defence, even if you place a theatrical knife in the dead man’s hand to prove your point.

  • Rae

    The one time I thought I might actually have to used my 38 S&W against an intruder I was so nervous I had to rest the weapon on the newel post of the entry hall of my home. Thanks to proper training, I knew what to do to protect myself and had the nerve to do it.

    I called the police when I heard the intruder trying to get into my home and they arrived before he got all the way inside. I would have hated to pull the trigger, but would have done it. The man sounded insane and there was no doubt he wanted to harm to me, although he was a complete stranger.

    What people who craft laws denying others self defense most likly lack is experience of personal danger. They live in safe places, the police always come to them right away.

    To believe anybody defending their home is cool and calm and can think as a reasonable person is unrealistic. What you feel when your home is invaded and the person is potentially after you, is fear.

    I am glad I don’t have to live with the image of what a bullet from my gun would do to another human being. But likewise, I am glad I don’t have to live with whatever the intruder had planned for me.

    Possibly lawmakers who write laws prohibiting self defense to homeowners don’t realize is the many of us are women, alone and no match for even a teenaged boy.

  • smilink

    As ‘llamas’ puts it, oh no not this again.

    The reason it keeps coming up, llamas, is that the position you take is wrong, despite your world-weary ‘thought that was all settled’ stance. Harsh reality does tend to intrude at times.

    Using your reasoning, Hitler should have been allowed to invade, since all he wanted was ‘property’. Raping the women would have been ok, too, as long as the Hun’s ‘essential human value’ was never threatened. Bit of a drag, but what can you do?

    Sitting in my local pub, I met a fine citizen of Great Britain who argued your position quite volubly. The starting salvo was a condemnation of murder in the defense of property. As other respondents detail above, that position implies an automatic assumption on the part of the victim of the motives of the criminal. What a bitch if you guess wrong.

    You subtly (or not so) move the goalposts — talking about shooting people in your yard, etc. The topic was someone BREAKING INTO your home. At that point, I neither wish to deduce the CRIMINAL’S intent/motives, nor do I wish to consider his ‘essential human value’ since, in my opinion, he has abandoned all such value by doing something ILLEGAL that requires pre-meditation and considerable effort.

    I do have a question for you, though. How many times has your home been invaded? Was there more than one perp? Were they armed?

    Suppose the perp wants more than just ‘property’?
    What price do you put on your own personal, bodily safety?

    I met an avowed pacifist once who said he would not resort to violence in any situation. Great fun was had trying to construct a scenario in which this spineless wimp would even attempt to act like a man — you know, wife and daughter raped and murdered in front of him, etc. No go.

    I won’t bother going down that road with you. I do idly wonder if there’s ANYTHING you feel is worth fighting for. That’s a more useful question.

    Great Britain was great once. As your army has ably demonstrated, the spine and will is still there, should the public ever be allowed to defend itself, ever again.

    It’s really sad to see.

  • Mashiki

    magnafan:
    Not really, you have no right to defend yourself what so ever. Your more then likely to be picked up by the police for defending yourself, the rule is and this is by the police here ‘surrender or flee’. I used to know a couple of people who were police officers here, one for the OPP(that would be Ontario Provincial Police) and the RCMP(Royal Canadian Mounted Police). Both gave the same answers. Now I’m quite sure if you got a lawyer they’d give a different answer then what I’m giving you. But no, they want you to run away, not do defend yourself or anything else.

    Attempting to arrest the person under a citizens arrest is a good enough way to turn around and get yourself thrown in jail, and yourself sued into the ground by the criminal who broke in. Or if you see them commiting an act, or something else It should be noted that the criminals here have more rights then the victims do. Unless the police order you to help, in which case not helping will get you thrown in jail, and on and on. Bah. Taking the law into your hands up here is also a very good way of getting yourself charged up here, and the police don’t take kindly to it either.

    I’m not even sure if I want to get into the firearm bit, having a loaded firearm when the police show up is going to get you nailed with a felony first right off. Regardless of the circumstances here, and then they’ll start piling the charges on.

    We also used to have protection under common law, that went the way of all good things around the time Trudeau came to power. Well it’s all bullshit here anymore, don’t think don’t breath and hope someone doesn’t break in. And if they do, pray that they do anything to you. Since they have more rights of protection in your home then you do.

  • sauer38h

    Re llamas – Sheer fabrication. Fact – In MA, the various licenses to carry are regulated by state law, but they are issued and administered by the local (town) police. The local CLEO can restrict the licenses in just about any way he sees fit. Some police chiefs are downright obstructionist, others are not. I have had a MA Class 1 LTC for years, and have never been presented with any documents such as the linked Bolton one. Note further that the document doesn’t say what llamas claims it says. The last time I heard a MA town police officer speak on the subject, he used the very phrase “castle doctrine” to describe his department’s interpretation of MA law. He said further that the simple fact that an intruder was unlawfully in your home was itself considered reasonable cause for the belief that you were in danger of great bodily injury or death; and in that case, application of deadly force was a reasonable means to defend yourself. So, clauses (a), (b), and (c) of section (C) of the Bolton document would be satisfied.

  • ernest young

    Consider this for a moment – you find an intruder in your home and you flee, (where to is a moot point).

    Now, anyone who has had the misfortune to be burgled in absentia, knows of the horrible feelings you have after the event. Some people can hardly bear to return to their home, let alone spend time there. All very unpleasant.

    Back to the flee option, you flee, damage is done, family may be injured. Just how badly do you think you would feel, knowing that you had done nothing in your own, or your family’s defense?

    For a man, the feeling of cowardice, would be overwhelming, and just how would the deserted family regard you thereafter? What an intolerable situation. For any women involved their feelings of insecurity could last a lifetime.

    There comes a time in everyone’s life when you have to stand up to the bullies of this world, and make no mistake, burglars are bullies, relying on your fear to stay quiet and do nothing.

    In this ‘pissy-pants’ matriarchal society that we live in, to do anything so masculine as to defend or retaliate against the invasive scum, is unfortunatley, considered inappropiate and ‘unfair’, to these victims of society.

    If more people stood their ground in these situations, (I know, it’s contrary to the advice offerd by the politically correct, but utterly useless constablulary), then burglary may not seem to be such an easy option for the scum.

  • Wild Pegasus

    Several points from the thread:

    Bird v. Holbrooke is from the 1950s, not the 19th century.

    No one was found “guilty” in Bird v. Holbrooke because it was a civil, not a criminal, case. The jury found for Bird, which the appellate court upheld. Holbrooke was found liable, not guilty.

    Ohio not only has no Shall Issue Concealed Carry law, Concealed Carry is actually illegal in Ohio. However, the Ohio Supreme Court has just declared the ban on concealed carry to be unconstitutional under both the Ohio Constitution and the US Constitution. The governor and the legislature are freaking out trying to figure out how to pass a law that rectifies this without actually giving anyone concealed carry permits.

    – Josh

  • fnyser

    Sauer38h

    You’re somewhat correct, the county CLEO does administer the process, but in at least this shall issue state he has next to no power in accepting or refusing an application. This was done because of knucklehead CLEO’s who were personally opposed would find everyone to be a risk somehow. Now there are clear guidlines each much follow – limited and explicit reasons for denial. All the CLEO can do is sort of pocket veto your app by blowing the 45 days he has to grant you your license in at which point you must go to an appeals process and get it that way. It will be granted and just be a large expense for the courts and the sheriff’s office so they do not do it.

    I don’t know how many people have a CCW in OR, but my permit is recent and well over the 300,000th issued. They must be renewed every 4 years, and have been issued since 1989. I don’t think many people let theirs lapse and I’d guess there’s at least 150,000 people with a CCW for a pop of 3 million. 80 to 90 percent of holders carry consistantly (I think that was the last poll I saw).
    So I’d estimate that at least 1 of 20 adults over 21 is packing (legally).

    Here’s a bit of evil NRA Propoganda for all those predicting gloom and doom if citizens are armed.

  • Dan McWiggins

    I can’t stand seeing damned cowards talk about the problems a person who defends himself will have from police, prosecutors, etc. Tony Martin was a miscarriage of justice, but that miscarriage happened in the UK, where they’ve abandoned their rights to self-defense. Here in the US, you’d look a long, long way before you would find a jury that would convict ANYONE for defending themself inside their home.

    The answer for any perp breaking into a home is bullets to center of mass until they no longer pose a threat. Shoot them in the back if you get the drop on them inside the house (That’s Massad Ayoob’s advice, by the way).

    You’ll be doing the rest of us a favor. The statistics show that the average criminal has been in front of a judge 16 times before he ever saw the inside of a prison. Nothing will deter them except the threat of death or serious injury because the criminal justice system holds no fear for them. The young thugs see it as a revolving door, which it is.

    The reality is that no police agency in the US has a legal obligation to protect the citizenry. We do have the right to protect ourselves. If anyone lets the cowards and naysayers emasculate them to the point where they forgo that right because they are too afraid to protect their home, they–and their family–will be the ones to pay the price.

    If anybody doubts what that price might be, check Matt Drudge’s archives about a set of brothers named Carr in Wichita, Kansas. Their five victims thought it would be better to peacefully submit. What their submission got them was multiple rape, sexual mutilation, robbery, and bullets to the head, KGB style, while kneeling naked on a snowy soccer field in the middle of the night.

    Don’t like the sound of that? Then prepare to defend yourself because no one else is going to do it for you. And if you live in the damned UK, emigrate to America where, if the government won’t protect you, it will at least refrain from tying your hands behind your back while the predators circle ever closer.

  • Yup. The older of the two burglars who broke into Martin’s home had 36 convictions for breaking and entering before one of Tony Martin’s bullets unfortunately failed to find him. Now he he’s all the way up to 38 and counting. These are convictions, not charges. The younger one, aged 16, whose criminal career, and coincidentally life, Martin terminated, had several convictions of his own.

    I can’t remember who wrote it above, but the reason for Martin’s conviction wasn’t that he failed to call the police or an ambulance after dealing with these two. In fact, after having called the police dozens of times over the months previously and received no help, Martin’s call to tell the police he’d shot a burglar was the first time he had ever managed to get their attention.

    By the way, I think the BBC quiz was rigged in a way that hasn’t been mentioned above. It strikes me that the term – I think it was something like – “by any means necessary” was manufactured to make people voting Yes look like raving loonies. They could have worded it to say: ‘Do you think a householder has a right to use force to defend his family and his property in the event of an intrusion?’ But in that case, a Yes vote, which they knew they would get, would have looked too rational.

    Never underestimate the high-handed socialist engineering at the BBC.

  • Julian Morrison

    i am amused by the latest BBCness. The usual parliamentary no-men are shaking their heads – but the MP who won the ballot to present a “private member’s bill” has been inspired… to produce a bill tightening burglar-proofing red tape requirements.

    Ya couldn’t make it up.

  • Verity

    I went to the link and yes, a Lib Dem is to force taxpayers to spend vast amounts of money making their homes “burlgarproof”. (No doubt an army of government inspectors will be hired to so deem them.) So if a burglar gets in, rapes a family member and makes off with some rings you inherited from your mother, it’s all your fault.

    It’s hard to describe how untethered to reality Britain has become. Why did the British allow this to happen to them? When did MPs become their boss? I ask out of genuine interest.

  • Verity,

    I can see the day coming when someone will get robbed and beaten in their home and when they report it to the police they will get arrested and charged with ‘facilitating a crime’.

  • Dave F

    The term “proportionate force” is completely inadequate as a means of defining the right to self-defence in one’s own home.

    If an elderly person’s home is invaded by two young but unarmed men, what force is proportionate, considering that they have the power to beat him/her to death if so minded? I would say proportionate force in such a case would therefore involve shooting them if possible.

    Here in S Africa, burglars often casually kill off the home owner unfortunate enough to surprise them (get rid of the witness). The commonest method is strangulation by clothing or belt, and suffocation by plastic bag tied over head is also popular.

    No actual weapons are being used here. So how does the home owner protect his/her life by deciding what will represent proportionate force BEFORE the event.

    It is a subjective test and a bad one.

    Home owners here are routinely charged with murder for the successful defence of their property against invaders, since we have gone the same way as Britain. The difference seems to be that the public prosecutor generally decides not to proceed.

  • As the founder of the first Tony Martin support site I can say there was no vote-rigging. I’m afraid we’re not organised enough ! But there’s an awful lot of support for TM among ordinary people.

    2 years ago thge Sun newspaper had a phone poll in which 300,000 people asked for Martin’s release.

    The BBC poll had 26,000 votes.

  • llamas

    Good Lord. I would not have thought that it was possible to pack so many misrepresentations, false analogies, strawmen ASF regarding what I wrote in so small a space, but apparently, I was wrong.

    Rather than try and correct each misunderstanding (kindest term I can think of) individually, or try and state this in terms of what I don’t belive, perhaps it would be easier for the large number of unthinking but bloodthirsty participants if I were to state what I do believe.

    If a person offers a credible threat to life or limb (and giving the fullest possible allowance for what is ‘credible’ in the particular circumstances of the case) then I believe the use of force, up to and including deadly force, to terminate that threat is justified, warranted and (in a larger, societal sense) meritorious.

    In other words, if someone offers you, or any other person, violence or even a mere (but credible) threat of violence – shoot them. Shoot them dead, if you can.

    I have never had to face such a decision in my home, and I hope I never have to. But I keep and bear arms for the protection of myself and my loved ones. And I will use them, if I have to, to protect life and limb.

    But my VCR? No. Call me all the names you like, but it’s still not going to make me believe that it’s OK to shoot someone dead because he took my VCR. He’d better be running away with it, but as long as he is – he gets to leave, alive.

    Various posters have thoughtfully described the issues of proportionate response, credible threat, and various real-life scenarios, and those fall much more in line with my thinking although I suspect that was not the intent of some of them. The use of force, up to and including deadly force, must always be judged in the light of all the circumstances of the case in which it is used. An 86-year-old woman who confronts two strapping football-playing teenagers in her home? (a recent case in my locality). She fired shots at them with her deceased husband’s pistol. She was not charged – proabably rightly so, in my opinion. A fit and healthy 40-year-old man who found a drunk teenager trying to break into his garage and shot him dead? (another recent case) Manslaughter, and rightly so, in my opinion.

    There are degrees and judgements in the use of force, but those baying for the law to be changed as this opinion poll describes want to be free of those judgements. They want blanket immunity for their actions. Prattle on all you like about individual cases where the use of force was fully justified, (and, nota bene, I never said it was not) but what you really want is to be held free of any responsibility for the judgements you make. You want a ‘one-size-fits-all’ judgement, and one which always holds you in the right. All I’m saying is that the law, and society, should hold you accountable for what you do.

    Now, if you think that your VCR is worth more than a human life – and some people here quite obviously do think that – then go ahead and shoot that intruder, but I think you will find that society, generally, does not share that opinion. We left that sort of thinking behind several centuries ago, in most civilized places. But please don’t ask that your opinion – property is worth more than life – be enshrined in the law.

    Once again – and it seems I have to say this repeatedly for it to sink in – I am all for the use of force, up to and including deadly force, to prevent threats to life and limb. I’m fully conversant with the statistics that show that the availability of arms and the threat of their use are a great deterrent to crimes against both property and the person. I think it’s appallling that the law-abiding citizens of the UK have been deprived of this effective deterrent to crimes against both themselves and their property. But that is a far cry from demanding, as this opinion poll demands, that citizens should not only have those means available, but should not be held to account when they use them. Not every shooting of an intruder is justified, or justifiable. Persons should have the right to the means to defend themselves, but should also have the responsibility to use those means only proportionately and justifiably, and the means should be there to hold them to account when they do not. Put bluntly, the respondents to this poll want all of the rights, but none of the responsibilities.

    llater,

    llamas

  • Julian Morrison

    llamas: if someone steals from me, their life is no longer a priority. If they get a katana through the guts, that’s their problem. I have no moral that requires me to allow thieves, assailants or threats to live at my expense.

  • Verity

    Llamas – your llogic is faulty. If I encounter someone in my home, not being psychic, I have no idea what he intends — but we both know that he is in my home illegally. I have a right to assume the worst, because I may not get a second chance.

    Maybe he only came for the VCR. Maybe he came to see if I had any jewellery or silver or anything else worth nicking. Maybe, now that I’ve seen and can identify him, he will kill me before leaving.

    The onus is not on the householder to guess the intentions of the intruder.

    And I agree with Julian above: it is not up to me to provide intruders with VCRs and other luxury items either for their personal use or for sale. Is it worth him dying for a VCR? Well, it was he who made that choice by breaking in and taking his chances.

  • Dave O'Neill

    The onus is not on the householder to guess the intentions of the intruder.

    With all due respect, that isn’t what Llamas is saying. He seems to me, and I may be incorrect, to be pointing out that the problem with blanket laws like this you create nightmare scenarios around the edges.

    His point seems to be is if you are offered no threat then you can’t shoot. Which seems sensible to me.

    However, suppose you get up on hearing a noise and turn on a light, make some noise and the person runs. Do you still have the right to shoot? If the person is in your garden trying to get into your shed, do you have the right to shoot? Garage?

    What if they are drunk and lost and falling around in your dustbins?

    How about somebody pissed trying to open your front door by mistake – its happened to me, and its happened to people I work with, so it can’t be that rare. Do you have the right to shoot them through the door?

  • Tony H

    Good grief Dave, I suggest that – contrary to Llamas’s skewed trans-Atlantic interpretation – all people want is to restore, in some measure, a more traditional interpretation of the natural right to self-defence of one’s life, home and property. Together with redressing the balance of armament in favour of the householder, the question of “reasonable force” needs to be addressed. The idea that defensive violence should be proportionate to the nature of the likely threat – that it should seem “reasonable” subsequently – goes back a long way; but many commentators have observed that it is wholly unreasonable to expect anyone to assess on the spot exactly what degree of force is reasonable, when confronted by criminal intruders who are younger, stronger, and possibly armed. As someone wrote above, if my home is invaded by two young men, what force might be “reasonable”, considering that they can beat one to death if they choose? A worst-case proportionate response might involve having to shoot them. But increasingly, anyone who fights back, especially with a weapon and most especially with a gun, risks prosecution and imprisonment – as well as the degree of public excoriation experienced by Tony Martin. This is what needs to be changed. Personally, I’m happy that the overwhelming majority of my fellow citizens can exercise judgement and not shoot others at random – unlike the collectivists, who distrust the citizenry. Llamas appears to know bugger-all about the situation here: “baying” for the law to be changed? Just a trifle tendentious.

  • Dave

    Tony,

    When debated like this its really easy to make sweeping statements about what is common sense and what is “reasonable”.

    But that doesn’t alter the fact that at some point you have to codify how you are going to apply that and how you are going to present it to a judge and jury to determine the difficult cases – like Mr Martin.

    It sounds really resonable to say that people should be able to defend their own property. But that is not the case I read people putting here and seeing phrases used like “by whatever means possible” is not something I want to see enshrined in a law.

  • Julian Morrison

    Dave O’Neill: suppose I’m burgling, with a pistol in my pocket, and you surprise me. I may well “run” a few steps, to get out of kitchen-knife reach, then turn and blast you. Or I may run away and slip back later, with backup, to remove witnesses.

    The burglar has already declared in a no-nonsense fashion that he doesn’t respect your rights. There is no logical reason to expect him to grow a conscience after being “scared off”.

    An escaping enemy is a problem deferred, and a tactical advantage thrown away.

  • Dave O'Neill

    Julian,

    There is no logical reason to expect him to grow a conscience after being “scared off”.

    Well, actually, yes, there is. They are a burglar. They are not mugging people at gun point in the street, they’re not, usually, breaking down doors in the early evening to catch you at home. They are breaking in late at night, trying to grab some stuff and go. Reprehensible, in my opinion, and I’d happily beat the crap out of the bastard who took my VCR a few years ago, but hardly the profile you are suggesting.

    A psycopath burglar who routinely kills and carries a gun on burglaries? I’m sure there must be some, but I can’t recall the last time I heard of one in the UK that wasn’t a murder disguised as a robbery. I’m sure there are exceptions of course, but I’m betting my life on them being rare.

    It has nothing to do with conscience.

    The problem with the Martin case and the highly emotional rhetoric which comes with it, is it completely ignores the other cases. And I’m willing to bet there are a lot of them, where people have defended themselves in life threatening situations and the police have said good on ‘em.

    That still happens, Martin is a bad bad example to use.

  • llamas

    Broadly speaking, what Dave O’Neill said.

    I guess I have no cogent comment to make to a poster who speaks casually of running ‘a katana through the guts’ of someone who’s stealing a VCR. If that’s the way you want to look at life – that theft deserves death – there’s nothing much I can say to change your worldview. Obviously.

    Pardon me, Verity, but my logic is not faulty. Where we differ is that you want to have the right to ‘assume the worst’, and to be held harmless for the consequences of your assumptions. There is such a thing as the concept of ‘prior restraint’. We judge people – in a civilized society, at least – based upon what they have done or what they may reasonably be expected to do. To kill a burglar because you ‘assumed the worst’ is actually another expression of a horribly statist worldview – the very wordview that caused the Brits to be disarmed in the first place. Their weapons were taken away from them because the state ‘assumed the worst’ – based on a tiny handful of highly-unusual cases. The assumption that any and every burglar, for example, is de facto a real and imminent threat to life and limb, and may therefore be shot dead, is just as unrealistic as the assumption that any and every law-abiding gun owner was a real and imminent threat to the public good, and that their weapons must therefore be taken from them.

    Tony H wrote:

    ‘But increasingly, anyone who fights back, especially with a weapon and most especially with a gun, risks prosecution and imprisonment – as well as the degree of public excoriation experienced by Tony Martin. This is what needs to be changed. ‘ and for what it’s worth, I agree. Everyone has the right to self defence and to have the means for it at their disposal. I think I’ve made it quite plain how I feel about that, but just in case it was not clear . . . But it’s a long way from saying to that to saying that people should be let off scot-free after using ‘any means necessary’ to resist any intruder.

    Tendentious? Moi? To be sure. But after reading some of the material posted, and in other media reporting and comment here, I don’t think ‘baying for the law to be changed’ is putting it too strongly.

    I agree that Tony Martin is a very poor example to use to support the case that people should have the right to self-defence and should be handled much better by the law when they exercise that right. Manslaughter is what he did (taking the life of another by his express act although not with malicious intent) and manslaughter is what he was convicted of. Contrary to the heated rhetroic which surrounds his case, he would likely have been charged with the same crime (in one of its various degrees) if he had done what he did in most states in the US. Those who campaign for a better approach to the question of self-defence would do well to find a better poster-boy than him.

    llater,

    llamas

  • Julian Morrison

    “To kill a burglar because you ‘assumed the worst’ is actually another expression of a horribly statist worldview”

    One assumes a stranger is safe; one assumes an assailant is dangerous.

  • Dan McWiggins

    Llamas,

    I think I see your argument, and it isn’t a bad one. I agree that the right to self-defense should not be carried over to justify the use of deadly force to stop one’s property from being stolen. That said, I am in favor of laws which allow for the use of deadly force to prevent the commission of a felony. In most states breaking and entering is a felony crime. It should not be a homeowner’s responsibility to make an instantaneous decision about an intruder’s intent. The intruder already has enough advantages.

    Dave’s argument about a stumbling drunk mistakenly fumbling at one’s door
    is, IMO, a straw man. Someone that drunk probably wouldn’t have the necessary strength and coordination to break down a door. That said, if the law justifies deadly force to prevent breaking and entering, it permits the homeowner the option of its use without having to worry about proving intent. This is a good thing, both for homeowners and society in general.

    Criminals SHOULD have to assume that kicking in someone’s door could earn them a bullet. That should make them think very seriously about what they risk by doing so. The fact that criminals do have to worry about that in many states in the U.S. almost certainly accounts for the much higher numbers of “hot” (residence occupied) burglaries in Europe relative to the U.S. Hot burglaries are quite common in Europe but fairly rare in the U.S.

    U.S. burglars are very well aware that the most dangerous circumstance they face in their “profession” is encountering an armed homeowner. Said homeowner can, in most states, summarily inflict the death penalty on them without consequence, and they know it. They resent it, too, since the state, for the same crime, would only give them jail time.

    Another comment: I seriously doubt most people, and particularly most Samisdatistas, have much real desire to shoot someone. The level of discourse on this site is almost invariably conducted on a high intellectual level. That level presupposes sufficient intelligence to understand the unpleasant consequences of killing another human, no matter how justified the circumstances.
    I think we all know it isn’t a matter of saying “good guys 1, scumbags 0,” wiping your hands, and forgetting the matter. Police have psychological problems dealing with such things; the average citizen generally has worse ones. That I would shoot someone who broke into my house is without question. That I most sincerely hope I never face such a necessity also goes without question. It’s just a matter of personal responsibility and picking the lesser of two very bad evils.

    Two closing thoughts: Utah, in the U.S., has a very low crime rate. Their criminal code not only justifies deadly force to prevent the commission of a felony crime, it specifies that a criminal injured in the commission of such a crime has no recourse at civil law. Home invasions out there are extremely uncommon and I suspect the aforementioned combination of laws is a major factor in keeping that statistic low.

    Last, Massad Ayoob, who is probably the best known handgun self-defense instructor in the U.S., has written a book entitled “In the Gravest Extreme: The Role of the Firearm in Personal Protection. This is a truly excellent book and I, as an NRA-certified rifle and pistol instructor, highly recommend it to anyone who has the intent to defend their home with a firearm. Ayoob, who is also a serving police officer in New Hampshire, writes from an extremely pragmatic point of view. I suspect his opinions on this matter would satisfy both sides of this debate.

    I apologize for being so long-winded but this is a matter about which I obviously have very strong feelings.

  • ernest young

    Dan,

    Excellent piece, thank you, puts everything into the correct perspective.

  • Dave

    Dan, I used the drunk example for good reason. It has happened before, and the defense used was the person was in fear of their life, firing their gun at the person through the door.

    The problem remains not the examples of a dead guy in the hall holding a pistol where the result was clear cut, or a bruised but shaken homeowner holding a knife or poker (as is much more likely in the UK given that the numbers of armed burglaries is virtually zero), but the edges where cases like the Martin one lurk.

    There were a lot of reasons why Tony Martin ended up in jail, and they have frankly little to do with his defending his property.

  • Tony H

    Leaving aside the finer points of the law, Dave, Tony Martin landed in jail as an example to others not to take such a robust approach as his to home defence. He made the mistake of broadcasting his intention to shoot intruders in advance, using an off-ticket gun, and refusing (rightly in my view) to repent for his actions. Assailed at night by home intruders, in the depths of the countryside with no help at hand? Feel inclined to take pre-emptive action rather than trust to the invaders’ benevolence? Forget it – the authorities don’t want to see us acting like that. But we’ve been here before…

  • llamas

    Dan McWiggins – very well said.

    As a sometime sheriff’s deputy who has seen first-hand the psychological effect that killing someone can have on the individual, your observation in that area has an especial resonance. I have seen a long-serving, highly-regarded officer for whom I have great personal respect literally come apart at the rivets after having had to shoot and kill an armed assailant – and he was completely justified in doing what he did, there were no shades of grey. Even in these enlightened days, where he got counselling and therapy and didn’t have to resolve his issues with a bourbon bottle, he was psychologically shattered by the event and remains in many ways a profoundly changed man. I suspect that those who boldly boast, here and elsewhere, of their intention to kill any intruder and walk away feeling completely justified, have never actually seen the results of such acts or considered what the impact might be on themselves and their lives. Only a sociopath kills without compunction or remorse. As Massad Ayoob has written, the mark of Cain is real.

    I have had the pleasure to meet with Massad Ayoob and to shoot with him, at Second Chance. His book ‘In The Gravest Extreme’ is indeed an excellent guide in these matters and should be required reading for anyone who plans to keep and bear arms for self-defence. The only issue I have is that it is becoming dated and he should really do a new edition. His message in person is exactly the same as his message in the book.

    The latest NRA guide to self-defence is also an excellent text – it is the issue textbook for CCW certification here in Michigan.

    Once again – very well said.

    llater,

    llamas

  • Dave O'Neill

    Tony Martin landed in jail as an example to others not to take such a robust approach as his to home defence.

    Repetition of this does not make it any more true Tony.

    He made the mistake of broadcasting his intention to shoot intruders in advance, using an off-ticket gun, and refusing (rightly in my view) to repent for his actions.

    I can’t put this any more eliquontly than Plastic Gangster.

    Tony Martin’s defense was riven with problems that did not stem from his desire to protect himself, but stemed from his very real personal problems which pre-dated the shooting.

    He’s a poor poster boy for a campaign. The problem is there are few better ones because lots of people every year defend themselves. The week after Tony Martin was sent down a sub-postmaster in the countryside grabbed a robbers shot gun and killed him. No action.

  • Guy Herbert

    Interesting that this week’s Time Out [for US readers: a notoriously right-on publication, think Village Voice] carries a comment piece from Andrew Mueller that’s broadly favourable to the idea:–

    “I was burgled while at home and, and didn’t notice anything amiss until after he’d gone. However, had I walked from the office to the kitchen and passed by my bathroom window as the burglar was entering, my instinctive calculation would have been that I’d much prefer him out than in. I might have clouted him with the nearest available blunt instrument and shoved him back through the window, which would have caused him to fall 20 feet on to concrete. I put this scenario to one of the police officers who attended. ‘You’d have got into more trouble than he would,’ he shrugged. [...] We may be bastards out here, but Mr Pound could do worse than reflect upon what’s turning us into bastards.”