We are developing the social individualist meta-context for the future. From the very serious to the extremely frivolous... lets see what is on the mind of the Samizdata people.

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Samizdata quote of the day

Yes, we want guns to shoot criminals who threaten us. Firearms are so readily available to them that we are really asking for nothing more than – in Guardian terms – equality and social justice between the criminal and non-criminal communities. We are not fussed how many criminals die, but that doesn’t make us uncaring because we also believe that many people would never become criminals if it could be made as risky as, say, being a victim of crime.

But we also want to deter the heavily-armed state. To break its monopoly of force. To keep it in its place as our servant by restoring its fear of us. We don’t believe there would be nearly as many smug Guardianisti telling us how to live our lives if every Englishman’s castle still had guns behind the portcullis.

– ‘Tom Paine

44 comments to Samizdata quote of the day

  • thoughtful ape

    At times like this I really wish samizdata had a facebook style LIKE function. I have little to add but thoroughly approve of the post!

  • RRS

    The post is on the mark.

    However, with respect to the “offset” to Police Powers and their exercise, the U.S. is not a good example that civil possession (and use) of weapons (while valuable and necessary) has any effective deterrence on the continuing militarization of the police and disrespect for individual liberty.

  • Paul Marks

    Many thanks to Perry for bringing “Tom Paine”‘s wise words to us.

  • john in cheshire

    Well said, this exactly reflects my views.

  • Julie near Chicago

    Oh wow, excellent! Thanks, “Tom,” and thanks to Perry also!

  • The collateral discussion raised above disturbs me. As households in the U.S. have armed themselves in greater numbers, the State (both federal and local) has responded by militarizing the police forces and the bureaucracy. (Assault rifles for the Department of Education? Seriously?) In this way the State can bypass the Posse Comitatus Act (which forbids the use of the U.S. Armed Forces against civilian populations), instead invoking the “police power” provided to the states by the Constitution.

    All this, by the way, has been facilitated by the hyperbolic War On Terror and War On Drugs, which provide a convenient excuse for all kinds of State overreach.

    All this, by the way, is so that you Brits can see that armament of the population is not without risk. Of course, your police are already militarized, so in your case, arming households is more a case of catching up. Good luck with that. The LAST thing the State wants to see is its monoopoly on deadly force challenged by an armed populace.

  • Laird

    Over here on the western side of the Atlantic “the hyperbolic War On Terror and War On Drugs”, to say nothing of the War on Poverty, haven’t been going so well, but at least the War on Civil Liberties is progressing splendidly!

  • bloke in spain

    I must say, British middle class intellectuals discussing arming themselves is one of the more amusing topics I’ve come across, this week.

  • thefrollickingmole

    Now this clip is from an old Australian movie I remembered watching years ago, but the final monologue I thought was “over the top ” then seems all too predictive now.


    Heres the 2 minute clip.

    In essence the “old lag” describes how it appears to be a deliberate attempt to make recidivism by criminals inevitable but for a surprising reason.

    To control US, not the crims. By having crime high we submit to more “protection” from the state.

    The whole movie is on Youtube and well worth a watch

  • Jamess

    bloke in spain why? Because it’s a crazy idea or because it will just be all pointless talk and no action?

  • CaptDMO

    “…by restoring its fear of us.”?
    Sorry, won’t happen if one simply waits around for ancillaries of “the state” to um…”vote” for it.

  • Roy Lofquist

    Each year some 14 million armed Americans traipse into the forest and bush to shoot something. A quick web search reveals that this number exceeds the total active military forces of most of the world. Not saying they’re of a mind to revolt but they do know which is the boom end of the boom stick.

    I live in Arizona. They don’t issue weapons permits here. None are required. Strap it on or put it in your pocket, your druthers. It’s actually pretty peaceful around here. Was it Heinlein who said “an armed society is a polite society”?

  • Firearms are so readily available to them that we are really asking for nothing more than – in Guardian terms – equality and social justice between the criminal and non-criminal communities.

    I particularly like that part.

  • Derek Buxton

    Very good post. It clearly shows the effect of a populace, unarmed, in thrall to a tyranical government.

  • bloke in spain

    These are people who quake over the possibility of getting a parking ticket.

  • bloke in spain

    “But we also want to deter the heavily-armed state. To break its monopoly of force. To keep it in its place as our servant by restoring its fear of us. We don’t believe there would be nearly as many smug Guardianisti telling us how to live our lives if every Englishman’s castle still had guns behind the portcullis”

    OK. You’ve the e-mail address. I’ll put you in the way of a helpful E.European who’ll let you have a Bulgarian AK74 pattern with folding stock. Chambered for NATO rather than 7.62 so you can use captured ammo. But he’ll no doubt throw in a hundred or so to get you started. Cost you about the same as a high end laptop. Punch a hole through police tactical armour like it wasn’t there. Or for something a little less pretentious? Try buying a few drinks in a pub, the wrong end of town.
    There is absolutely no problem getting your hands on firearms in the UK. Go buy yourself one. Are you expecting your State to provide the service along with refuse collection?

  • Thon Brocket

    “The Founding Fathers did not enshrine the right to bear arms so that we could shoot burglars. They did so so that we could shoot policemen.”

    – can’t remember the originator of that aphorism, but he hit the nail on the head, whoever he was.

  • george

    it’s not just guns though is it.

    in the UK we are not allowed to own any weapon with the intention of using it for self defense.

    if you intend to defend yourself with any item that is not part of your body you are already committing a crime.

    If some rangy 17 year old high on cocaine and cider broke into my house I do not want to be rolling around with him on the landing floor at a disadvantage to his youth, perhaps greater strength than mine and probable greater viciousness.

    self defense is the most basic human right there is and all should be allowed weapons that will put the odds in their favor against stronger and more vicious opponents unless they are convicted predators.

  • Bloke in Spain: “There is absolutely no problem getting your hands on firearms in the UK. Go buy yourself one.”

    Sound great, but I am more afraid of policemen than I am of violent criminals. Which is to say that I am far more likely to be randomly searched by the former than attacked by the latter.

  • george

    can we not refer to Guardian readers as intellectuals

    maybe “articulate stupid people”

  • Tedd

    “articulate stupid people”

    Good one. Or, as O’Rourke put it, “Earnestness is just stupidity sent to college.”

  • george

    or how about

    “establishment constructed reality transmission nodes”

  • bloke in spain

    I can only refer you to my preceding comment.

  • John K

    in the UK we are not allowed to own any weapon with the intention of using it for self defense.


    Not quite. We are allowed to keep weapons on our own property for self defence. I keep a baseball bat and sword handy, just in case.

    If we dare to leave our property, we run up against the “offensive weapons” nonsense instituted by the hilariously titled Prevention of Crime Act 1953. This Act asserted that all weapons were deemed to be offensive unless they were carried with “lawful authority or reasonable excuse”. The “reasonable excuse” bit covers the likes of carpet fitters having Stanley knives about their persons whilst at work. The “lawful authority” part is more interesting, because that is the defence the police have for waddling around with side handled batons, tasers, tear gas and Glocks, namely, the “preservation of the Queen’s Peace”. Now, tasers, tear gas and Glocks all come under the Firearms Acts as well, just to complicate matters, but if you carry your baton with the intention of preserving the Queen’s peace, which is the Common Law right, indeed obligation, of us all, then you are complying with the Act. If you are a Teddy Boy carrying an open razor with the intention of slashing cinema seats during a screening of “Rock Around the Clock”, then you are not. I hope this helps.

  • I must say, British middle class intellectuals discussing arming themselves is one of the more amusing topics I’ve come across, this week.

    As I don’t know you, BiS, I cannot be sure… but odds are unless you have a very interesting background, I probably have a great deal more hand-on experience in that field than you do 😉

  • bloke in spain


  • Laird

    I wouldn’t get my hopes up too much that the average Brit is warming up to the “right to bear arms.” Not when I see stories like this one, where the future of the country is terrified by some old bullets. Oooh, “one of our cats could have got hold of one – it doesn’t bear thinking about.” Somehow, I don’t believe that “thinking” is his strong suit at all.

  • John K


    The “2.2mm” ammunition in this story sounds particularly dangerous. However, to be fair to the wuss who found them, if you have no exposure to firearms in your life, and are taught to fear them, then his reaction is what you would expect. He is still a gutless sissy mind you. The Daily Mail.com has a large American readership, and judging from the comments, they are laughing at us, not with us.

  • Laird

    That was basically my point, John K: several generations of Brits have grown up without exposure to guns and consequently have been inculcated with an irrational fear of them. It’s going to take a very long time to change that mindset, the rantings of a few bloggers notwithstanding. But don’t feel too bad about it; the same is true for certain parts of the US, notably in the northeast.

    (And yes, we are indeed laughing at you, not with you!)

  • John K


    I am not proposing that the current mainstream British mindset about guns can be changed. When you have had the forces of the state pushing civilian disarmament since 1920, it is bound to have an effect. My grandfather may have grown up in a country where you could buy anything from a pistol to a Maxim gun, but that sort of memory does not mean much nowadays.

  • the other rob

    bloke in spain: It does happen, however. I was born British, made my way into the middle classes and have a post-graduate degree, which appears to pass for intellectualism these days.

    I also own many firearms, from Webleys and Enfields, through an L1A1 (the British Army SLR of yesteryear) to modern handguns, shotguns, rifles and carbines. It’s a very rare day that I leave the house without at least one concealed handgun on my person (though never the crappy yet fascinating Russian M1895 Nagant that I mentioned elsewhere on here).

    Admittedly, I had to move to Texas to achieve that and am now an American (where my current restoration project, an 1877 Martini Henry doesn’t even count as a firearm in law) but it does happen. 🙂

  • RogerC

    John K wrote:

    “the hilariously titled Prevention of Crime Act 1953”

    Possibly the most pernicious piece of legislation passed in this country. The arguments about firearms legislation are almost a sideshow compared to this monstrosity. Passed smack in the middle of Churchill’s post-war term as Prime Minister under a Conservative government.

    He also wrote:

    “carry … with the intention of preserving the Queen’s peace, which is the Common Law right, indeed obligation, of us all, then you are complying with the Act”

    Good luck arguing that one with the police. Until I’ve seen a test case where that argument is used successfully as a defence, I don’t think it’s worth the paper it’s printed on. I’ll put my money where my mouth is though. If anyone reading this does manage a successful defence in court using that argument, I’ll happily buy them a bottle of the beverage of their choice.

  • John K

    Roger C:

    At least one person I know of, Mick Burke, has made a point of writing to his local chief constable to tell him he will be carrying a baton to preserve the Queen’s peace. The police simply will not get into a correspondence over the matter. They know what the law is, but will never admit it to the peons. The key is not to claim you are carrying a weapon for self defence, because then you will certainly fall foul of the offensive weapons nonsense. I quite agree with you about the Prevention of Crime Act, I can only conclude that Churchill was gaga when that legislative piece of shit was passed.

  • RogerC

    Do you know if such a letter has ever got him (or anyone else for that matter) out of trouble if challenged by an officer?

    If this tactic actually works, it makes me wonder what would happen if it took place on a more organised basis. Would they simply alter the legislation to remove the loophole?

    If your friend’s letter ever has served to get him out of trouble, I’d say that’s close enough to the terms of the bet for him to claim. Is he a drinker, do you know?

  • bloke in spain

    @ the other rob
    About the only thing I’ll reluctantly admit to is Brit. But I do live in a country where I can legally purchase any firearm bar fully automatic weapons & artillery, on obtaining an easily available permit. That’s handguns of all regular calibres, pump action & reduced barrel length/pistol gripped shotguns & weapons with ammunition capacity of any number. Strangely, I believe we’re not allowed punt guns. Shame. Personally, I am of course persil in every way, but living in the preferred location for the sunshine villas of the Russian mafia does have its advantages.

  • Bloke in Spain…As a resident of the Costa del Crime (Marbella) I reckon it would take me a week to get my hands on any grade of artillary I wanted. We have plenty of gangsters here and many are quite charming and accomodating, and I bump into them in various bars here-abouts.

    Not that I need to, I’ve jumped through the various Guardia Civil hoops and have a fine selection of perfectly legal artillary pieces in a safe 2 metres from my bed. All for “sporting” purposes of course, but a Mossburg 500 pump-action can have multiple uses, duck hunting being just one.

    Lets just say that I don’t worry about burglers.

    This is quite a common attitude here in Andalucia.

  • bloke in spain

    See you in Sinatra’s:)

  • John K

    Roger C:

    As far as I know, Mick Burke has never had any trouble with the police, but they refuse to engage him on this issue, all they will do is acknowledge receipt of his letters, but will not offer any opinion.

    I do not feel the obligation upon us all to uphold the Queen’s peace is in any way a loophole, it is a basis of the Common Law. The 1953 Act was carefully written to accommodate it, just as the 1920 Firearms Act was carefully written so as not to clash with the Bill of Rights. The fact that administrative weaselry has served over the decades to deprive the British people of their rights de facto does not mean that these rights have been extinguished de jure, it is just that the overlords would prefer you did not know about them.

  • Mr Ed

    The Prevention of Crime Act 1953: The question of what is a ‘reasonable excuse’ for carrying an offensive weapon is not one for the police, but the court hearing a case. The onus of proving a ‘reasonable excuse’ is on the defendant, so the police will always be likely to have grounds for arrest and to test the issue of the excuse in court, there is violence to the Common Law in reversing the burden of proof in respect of the mens rea.

    Here is part of the original Act:

    Prohibition of the carrying of offensive weapons without lawful authority or reasonable excuse.

    (1)Any person who without lawful authority or reasonable excuse, the proof whereof shall lie on him, has with him in any public place any offensive weapon shall be guilty of an offence, and shall be liable—
    (a)on summary conviction, to imprisonment for a term not exceeding [F2six months] or a fine not exceeding [F3£200], or both;
    (b)on conviction on indictment, to imprisonment for a term not exceeding [F4four] years or a fine not exceeding one hundred pounds, or both.

  • John K

    Mr Ed:

    The point is not to argue that you have a “reasonable excuse”, but that you have the “lawful authority” incumbent upon all the Queen’s subjects, of upholding the Queen’s peace. This is the very same “lawful authority” which the police rely on to walk around armed, they do not have any special legal status, and the 1953 Act subtly acknowledges this in language which 99% of people will miss. Under no circumstances try and claim the “reasonable excuse” of self defence, because then you will find you are guilty of carrying an offensive weapon. Black is white here people, and the state, need I remind anyone here, is not your friend.

  • Mr Ed

    John K: the lawful authority for a Police Officer consists of the status of Constable, a sworn public office, and the duty to uphold the law, and the right to use reasonable force to do so. Similarly, HM Armed Forces are entitled to bear arms at common law. To say that the police do not have any special legal status is incorrect, and they operate under the Common Law subject to criminal sanction for misconduct in public office, unlike members of the public, by way of illustration that they have a status in law. Statutes abound giving police officers powers that the public do not have.

    If I understand the argument, nevertheless, I fail to see how one gets to a duty on persons living under the Queen’s Peace having a duty to enforce it, as opposed to a duty to keep it, thereby granting lawful authority to bear a weapon, and the 1361 Justices of the Peace Act imposes the duty to uphold the Queen’s Peace on Magistrates, and it later devolved to Constables to make the arrest when necessary. If the duty was common law, the Act might be superfluous. Whilst any person may make an arrest for a breach of the peace when it is being committed, it would be, I fear, an impermissible leap to say that you are carrying a weapon with lawful authority in case there happens to be a breach of the peace, and with the burden of proof under the Act being on the person claiming either legal authority or reasonable excuse, you may find yourself on a very sticky wicket indeed. Unless there is some case law otherwise, I fear that that argument is simply ‘Folk Law’.

  • John K

    Mr Ed:

    These are very interesting points, but the fact is that the police refuse to use them in correspondence on this subject. Their answer to Mick Burke has been silence, and I think if his arguments were so easily dismissed, they would have done so, and possibly arrested him at the same time.

    Police constables are indeed upholding the Queen’s peace, but they do not get any special baton carrying certificate, they carry batons by virtue of upholding the Queen’s peace. The drafters of the 1953 Act were careful not to go into detail on this, because the act of upholding the Queen’s peace is by no means confined to the police. I grant you that a sworn constable has a duty to do so, whereas an ordinary citizen might not, but that does not mean that a public spirited citizen is prohibited from so doing.

  • Mr Ed

    John K: the police are not in a position to make any statement about the state or meaning of the common law or the meaning of a statute, and if they did, it would not bind the Crown in deciding whether or not to charge or prosecute, nor would it have the remotest influence on the Courts.

    I would be speculating if I thought that Mr Burke’s letters to the police are filed with correspondence about UFOs and the Protocols of the Elders of Zion. It is reassuring that they appear not to be spoiling for a fight with him, but perhaps they cannot be bothered, as they have some targets to meet for something else.

  • John K

    Mr Ed:

    No you would be doing Mick Burke a disservice if you did that, and I also think that the police would waste no time advising and/or arresting someone who wrote to them saying he intended to break the law. The fact is that we have both rights to self defence and to uphold the Queen’s peace, they have been sidelined but not abolished by statute, indeed, as I have said, when you read the statutes with this in mind, it is clear they were drafted so as not to negate these rights, but certainly to obfuscate them.