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January 12, 2005

Why parliament will not restore the householders' right to self-defence

Posted by Joyce Lee Malcolm

Patrick Mercer MP is today introducing a bill in the House of Commons to restore the householders' right to self-defence. This bill has overwhelming public support. The current law is ineffective in reducing crime. But the bill will not become law; the government has today announced that there is no need for a change to the law. Joyce Lee Malcolm - Professor of History at Bentley College and author of Guns and Violence: The English Experience - explains why both the government and the legal establishment are happy with the status quo.

There is an old Navajo saying,

"If you find you are riding a dead horse, dismount".
But public outrage over the prosecution of householders who injure burglars and one of the highest levels of violent crime of any industrial country, don't seem to have convinced Tony Blair's "tough on crime" government to switch horses. They find dismounting unnecessary and risky; the horse is fine, the spectators are over-reacting. All that is needed is a slight shifting of the saddle bags, clearer signals to the horse, a check-up by its chief veterinarian, and the public will find they were mistaken. Unfortunately, this blinkered approach will not bring the horse back to life, or, more importantly, protect law-abiding people.

At the risk of beating a dead horse myself, it is worth asking whether the overwhelming majority of Britons are simply over-reacting? What is the state of the horse, the alternate mount, and the government's view of its present steed?

First, the horse. Until recently householders were permitted to use whatever force was required to resist a burglar, but present law only permits the use of "reasonable" force to defend home and family. Regrettably no officials are prepared to define "reasonable". But not to worry, that is for a judge and jury to decide. David Bentley, a long-time criminal barrister, ventures this guidance:

"if a burglar sits down and begs forgiveness and you still hit him with a baseball bat, that is unreasonable".
On the other hand, he explains, if you confront a burglar climbing the stairs in your home and strike one blow on his head with a crowbar:
"that is reasonable, even if you kill him".
Your jury, Bentley adds:
"is allowed to decide that in your fear and panic the force was disproportionate but reasonable".
Note, the jury "is allowed to decide" you acted reasonably even though your single blow to prevent a thug who broke into your home from reaching the bedrooms was "disproportionate".

Behind this policy lies a distrust of average citizens and the view of Attorney-General Lord Goldsmith and government lawyers that criminals:

"don't lose all rights because they're engaged in criminal conduct".
Apparently the Attorney-General sworn to protect the public sees little moral distinction between victim and criminal, or any problem with a policy that abruptly turns victim into criminal the moment he harms a burglar. The intruder might merely plan to rummage through our home and remove a few possessions. Although he might also decide to beat us to a pulp, we must give him the benefit of the doubt. He who harms a burglar will be arrested — householders are so easy to catch — and charged with assault, intent to murder, or murder. Even if eventually found innocent, he will suffer considerable, often permanent, trauma. But hey, criminals have rights too.

The word missing from the present policy's vocabulary is "deterrence". Certainly the householder is deterred. But the criminal isn't, nor should he be. In 2003-2004 only 13 percent of burglaries were solved. Even a burglar who is one of the hapless few harmed by his victim has the comfort of knowing that, if convicted of using unreasonable force, his victim will serve a longer sentence than he will. A conviction for burglary, even for someone with a long string of offences, is generally three years, of which typically half will be served. Then back on the street to try his hand again. Not a bad deal.

Is current policy effective in reducing crime and protecting the public? Burglars realize current law leaves householders at a grave disadvantage and have acted accordingly. In 2003-2004 51 percent of the 402,333 domestic burglaries recorded in England and Wales took place while someone was home. In some 48,000 of these break-ins the intruder used or threatened violence. By contrast, in America where burglars rightly fear armed homeowners, only 13% of break-ins occur while someone is home and the level of burglary is less than half the English rate. What movable is worth dying for? Still the government insists that things are getting better, that "recorded burglary" in London, despite public perceptions, is at a 29 year-low. Never mind that levels of violent crime throughout England and Wales soared by 11 per cent in the second quarter of 2004, and gun crime by 3 percent.

Happily, the law-abiding now have their own champions for change. The solution endorsed by Sir John Stevens, the outgoing Metropolitan Police Commissioner and proposed by the Tory party is a Householder Protection Bill which would restore the former standards, and make it legal for people to use any degree of force not "grossly disproportionate" against a burglar. Only in "extreme circumstances" would anyone who attacked a burglar face prosecution. The fear of criminals that they might get hurt should restore some semblance of deterrence to a legal system that can't apprehend 87 percent of offenders and is reluctant to give those few it convicts serious sentences.

At first the government seemed prepared to change horses. Blair was said to have "made a U-turn" and was about to jump on the bandwagon. Instead the government have attempted a "bait and switch" tactic to convince the public no greater right of self-defence is needed, then to lay on more of the usual disarmament. First came the reassuring comments. The Lord Chancellor, Charles Falconer, declared current law adequate, although a Blair spokesman told reporters,

"We concede that there is confusion in terms of the issue of reasonable force and that does need to be considered".
The prime minister spoke of considering. He "will consider" extra protection for householders he told the Commons, will consider sending
"a very, very clear signal that we are on the side of the victim not the offender",
and planned to ask the Attorney General whether the law needs to be changed. Of course Lord Goldsmith has always made it quite clear to anyone who asked that, the "ultimate prosecutor" sees nothing wrong with the present law. The problem has been exaggerated, he knows of only one case besides Tony Martin's where someone was jailed for harming a burglar:
"Police and prosecutors have been very understanding of people who act to protect themselves and their property…The actions you take commensurate with reasonable [belief] will be justifiable, even if, in hindsight, you were wrong".
The proposed change would be harmful, and might work against the rights of burglars. Still, he is prepared
"to look at this. That's what the PM has asked, and that is what we shall do".
The Observer's interviewer concluded,
"This apparent endorsement of the status quo appears to answer whatever questions Blair may have".
This has indeed happened; Home Secretary Charles Clarke has announced that the government's review has been concluded and there is no need for a change to the law. Blair accepts this conclusion, whilst sending "a clear signal" that he is on the side of the victim. He will keep riding.

Now for the switch. Government is kicking that dead horse harder with more of the disarmament policies that have failed so markedly in the past. Added to tighter controls on airguns and replica guns, knives will now be kept off the streets — never mind it is already illegal to carry them there. Those under 18 will not be permitted to purchase a knife, though presumably they have access to their family cutlery. Trouble spots and schools may have weapons scanners. And Commander Simon Foy, leader of this new offensive, announced police would focus on educating teenagers on the dangers of carrying knives. That will be a great relief to homeowners cowering in their bathrooms. Within five years of the celebrated ban on handguns, the rate of handgun crime doubled. Increasing restrictions on every conceivable weapon has not worked.

The government is happy with the status quo. The legal establishment is happy. But the public knows a dead horse when it sees one.

To read more on why Joyce Lee Malcolm believes the common law right of self-defence should be restored, see the earlier article Bashing Burglars: Why the English common law right of self-defence should be restored.

Joyce Lee Malcolm is Professor of History at Bentley College and author of Guns and Violence: The English Experience.

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Joyce Lee Malcolm definately makes some interesting arguments - but the question remains why is "liberal" opinion so opposed to protecting the rights of homeowners. I think there are a two main reasons for this.

One, it is simply supporting those they see as the underdog. Burglars are poor, socially disadvantaged tec. So we must stick up for them - the weak - against home owners - the strong.

More important, I think, is the fact that those who oppose the home owners right to self-defence simply object to those who support home owners rights. They regard them as unsophisticated, vulgar - the British equivalent of red necks.

Posted by: Jane at January 12, 2005 05:28 PM

I am usually in agreement with the spirit of these articles but should we allow homeowners the use of unreasonable force? Will a change in the wording allowing a greater use of force really deter these crimes? It seems to me that we give the role of government greater sanction by soliciting their aid to ameliorate what are really social/cultural problems like this.

Posted by: Jonathan at January 13, 2005 07:45 AM

The fact that very few homeowners will ever be jailed is trotted out by the Law's opponents. The economist even said the same thing.

It is largely irrelevant. The stress of appearing in court charged with assault is a terrible situation for the average decent person to find themselves. In addition to possible revenge from the theif's friends and family. It is a punishment in itself.

The other thing is that a typical middle class man knows very little about how to protct himself,compared to his likely adversary. He needs every advantage he can get. The real statistic of interest is how many innocents have been injured or killed, because the law does not permit them to keep a Cricket bat by the bed.

Posted by: Jon at January 13, 2005 11:09 AM

This has got to be the height of lunacy, a burglar, a criminal can break into your house steal your possesion and if you stop him using force of any kind your prosecuted? Thank God I live in Texas, I have the right to protect my home from invasion by anyone, I have the legal right to use force up to and including deadly force, you crawl through my window or force my door and your next resting place will be the county morgue. I find it the most corrupt of governments that prohibit their citizens from the basic right to be secure in their homes from criminal attack, no government can protect it's citizens 100% of the time, only the citizen can do that, and for that he must be armed!

Posted by: arlie at January 13, 2005 02:35 PM

The current English bias against homeowners is an assault upon the very foundation of Western civilization, and does violence to the essential principles of a free society.

It was the English who gave the world the salubrious notion that a man's home is his castle. The English taught us that regardless of how humble one's home--be it a thatched hut with a dirt floor-- the King himself may not cross the threshold without the owner's consent.

Free people have an absolute right to the integrity of their own bodies, and the homes which protect and shelter them. By delivering its citizens to the wolves, the English government has sadly betrayed the people it is alleged to represent.

Posted by: Joaquin Fernandez at January 13, 2005 03:28 PM

I believe, there will NEVER be enough money or resources for civil authorities to 'take care...defend' the public, therefore, if one (person) does not have the means to deter...defend or protect themselves from the criminal will increase. Speak with any hard core criminal..the one common denominator all share it the (love) fact..that folks who do not have the means to protect themselves...are first on the list to be the vistoms.
You want to (remove self defense) and prevent the comman man/woman from self defense....well, stand by for an increasing surge and upswing in crime of all sorts.
Thanks for your time.

Posted by: Jim Webb at January 13, 2005 07:04 PM

It seems to me that losing the right of self defense is a high price for the people of Britain to pay for continuing the Left's culture war.

In their zeal to destroy all that is militaristic, capitalistic, traditional or Christian the Labour Left has used up all the practical and useful measures they could think of. Baning sports like shooting and fox hunting is an act of revenge upon the upper classes, but not of much impact upon the majority of citizens.

However they are not satisfied, they now propose to curtail self defense. The wish to scrutinise and regulate the actions of people faced with robbery and possibly death.

In doing so they have far exceeded the best interests of the country and are barging ahead into the territory of Stalin, regulation for its own sake.

In truth they do not care if robbers are killed, as can be seen in the arming of British police with MP5 machine guns. Their concern is that the average citizen is not AUTHORIZED to kill robbers. This is clearly madness, but it is the logical extension of the culture war. Average citizens are not authorized to use deadly force because they are insufficiently thoughtful, have not been trained in the proper sensitivity to various issues, and may indeed be prone to act out of emotion rather than disspassionate professionalism.

In other words, the average dork can't be trusted. Period. Not a free country, ladies and gentlemen.

Posted by: The Phantom at January 13, 2005 07:08 PM

Are we sure Hitler didnt survive and take control of England.

Posted by: Ace at January 13, 2005 09:34 PM

We here in the US are mising a wonderful opportunity to completely reduce burglary to 0. What we need to do is have an advertising campaign to let all the burglers in the US know how good the burglars in GB have it. B/4 you can say God Bless Lord Goldsmith all the burglars would move to GB. of course GB wouldn't stop them from Immagrating as they have every right to pursue thier lawfull choice of employment. Cheeri'O Old Chap.

Posted by: Peter Courtenay Stephens at January 13, 2005 10:49 PM

Fear is the only thing that can contol the majority of any group. Fear of death or great harm can stop crime. Arm everyone over 21 years of age and you will find that everyone will be kinder and respectful of everyone else. Would you want to prevoke someone that is armed? Sam Colt made everyone equal.

Posted by: Jack at January 13, 2005 11:52 PM

This all sounds like the advent to the One World Government!
If crime rises to the degree that is rampant, then they can declare martial law and there goes all freedoms. Resist now, recall your elected officials and replace them with people who beleive the same as the general public, not the elite.

Posted by: Tony at January 14, 2005 12:57 AM

Just what were the current "Members of P", "Home Sect.","Prime Minister doing during the time period that the "colonies" sent riflers and pistols to England for their defence? These have now been outlawed; does the present government think (?) that their citizens will be any LESS DEAD from a housebreaker that from an invading army.
If they do; how did they get to the offices they now inhabit. they certainly are not thinking. But then they don't have to, do they?
Should Number 10 Downing Street be broken into I wager there would be all sorts of protection available almost immediately. Pity the common man, woman and child does not rate this protection.
A previous post mentioned athat a housebreaker would end up on a "slab" in the morgue if he attempted harm or damage to the writer's property. LET ME SECOND THAT STATEMENT.
Now, go ahead and censor the above, you have deprived the people of their arms, why not their tongues as well?

Posted by: C. Cooper at January 14, 2005 01:33 AM

British Government Officials and Attorney-General Lord Goldsmith, repeat after me: "Criminals lose all rights if they're engaged in criminal conduct within my home."

It is not my responsibility to determine the extent of a criminal's potentialy deadly motives or actions by letting him have a go at me first. If he has taken the risk of breaking into my house, I can only reasonably assume his intentions are deadly and therefore he must be dealt with matching force. Yes, if possible, I will announce that I have a weapon or even give him the courtsey of a warning shot, but if he still insists on approaching me or my family, I will not hesitate to do what a Belfast policeman taught to do at my local firing range: two in the chest, one in the head. Thank God I have an American 2nd amendment right to keep and bear arms.

Posted by: Roger Conard at January 14, 2005 01:41 AM

It is painfully obvious that the average British citizen truly is a "subject" rather than a free person with inalienable rights, as bestowed upon them by their Creator. I pity them, as their governmental "keepers" decide what is best for these poor "subjects" as if the whole of the people are incompetent. This, instead of allowing them to determine what is in their best interests for themselves and their families, is an outrage. I thank God that I live in the USA, where we can keep and bear arms in defense of hearth and home, family and lives. I say to our English cousins, “Wake up, demand your God-given rights before it is too late!”

Posted by: Rick Stevens at January 14, 2005 02:25 AM

The British people, with a proud heritage of common law affirming lawful violence as a means to defend one's self and home, have squandered generations of freedom by allowing government to in essence condemn them to the will of the criminal element.
I would no sooner allow my government to prohibit my means and abilities to protect my life, or the lives of my loved ones or neighbors, than I would jump off of a bridge. As the British discovered in the late 18th century in America, an armed populace is a worthy adversary, yes, but more so a just populace. I'd be willing to gamble that the majority of the British people are hungering for a mere morsel of the freedom we in America enjoy. Do we have violent crime here? Of course, but in most cases, we also enjoy the ability to thwart it, without fear of retribution by government for the criminal. Here, if you threaten me or mine, at the least you get your ass kicked - at the worst, you get to explain yourself to the Good Lord, in person, immediately.
People of England, it is with your Right and ablility to undo the unjustice set forth upon you by Parliment. If you have any resolve left in you, revolt, and end the madness.
Bruce A. Beatty, Technical Sergeant, U.S. Air Force (Retired)

Posted by: gunfighter1 at January 14, 2005 02:41 AM

The British government has to be the most ignorant insipid group of individuals ever. To punish a victim for defending himself, his home or his family against a person with criminal intent is asinine and stupid. To say that a person commiting a crime against anyone has any rights at all is the very height of stupidity. The law-abiding citizen doesn't have a chance.

Posted by: Larry Hood at January 14, 2005 02:54 AM

It is the height of class warfare for barristers, high-minded politicos, and similar well-protected residents of society's upper echelons to mandate that the "peasants" are not at liberty to protect themselves in their own homes.

Crime rates in America, the beautiful and thankfully gun-ridden, keep going down. In 46 of 50 states, law-abiding citizens have the right to carry concealed weapons. That number has continued to increase because the results are crystal clear: armed, law-abiding citizens help combat crime. By definition, they do not cause it.

Whither the UK?

Posted by: directorblue at January 14, 2005 03:01 AM

maybe a vigilanty type action is the answer, locate burglers.
go to their home, break in and kill them, as burgler killers you will
have rights and the government will protect you.

Posted by: ken nelson at January 14, 2005 03:42 AM

I am an American. I can see why my relatives left your sorry assed criminal friendly type of government. Have you Britts ever heard of our second ammendment to our constitution? At the beginning of the second world war you had no weapons. we had to arm you so you could defend yourselves. Do tou think the Bobbies can hold off the Muslims invading your country? Do you know why the Japs did not invade our west coast after Pearl harber? then we were armed to the teeth. Your anti self defense attitude toward your law abiding citizens is the stupidist thing ever Look at history Read Read. sincerely Richard Jones Hennigh

Posted by: richard hennigh at January 14, 2005 04:00 AM

Why is the generally peaceful nature of life in the UK such a threat to some portions of US opiinion?

The "high rate of violence" quoted is overwhelmingly drunken yobs attacking each other in pedestrianised town and city centres. It's quite worrying - but it bears no concievable relationship to the ownership of guns, or carrying weapons generally. The quickest solution would be to let the cars back into towns, forcing drunken revellers (and their often cheering audiences) to disperse from open spaces.

We suffer an increasing rate of violence in society generally, higher than in most parts of Europe (though a fraction of what it is in the US). But, while the number of murders (including gun-killings) has increased, the proportion of gun-killings is falling slightly.

The absolute number of gun-killings has now risen beyond the 1993 peak, but the current peak probably comes about for the same reason as the last - increased immigration and guns brought in from war-torn societies. Gun-crime had been falling, particularily after Dunblane but *before* the hand-gun ban. Gun-owners are members of society too, even they were shocked and mended their ways for a while. But if you compare the situation now with what it was at the bottom of the dip (1996/97), of course it looks as if it's risen greatly!

I must be careful not to blame everything on paranoid outsiders, there are some very red-blooded Brits around as well, itching to commit mayhem legally on "intruders". But we know that they're part of exactly the same problem. There are no cases of genuinally "peaceful/law-abiding" people being dragged through the courts for "self-defense" and preciious few fascists suffering it either.

The UK already has the highest proportion of imprisoned people in Europe - does anyone seriously believe we should be copying the US? Introducing attitudes and policies that would bring us up to a "civiliised rate" 7 times higher? Of course not!

Still, what am I doing writing to a US moderated site - since when did the target audience ever listen to iggerant furriners, even when we're describing things in our own society?


Posted by: Tom Rawlinson at January 14, 2005 04:22 AM

While I am cynical towards the continued efforts to take violence and place it fully under the control of the government through laws and a standing police force; leaving citizens with only civil lawsuits as a recourse.
I am glad that at least for now my country, the United States, still has many areas where a person can defend themselves. I comment only because my 74 year old mother recently defended herself with a legal concealed pistol from being attacked by a group of 3 teenagers armed with two knives and a pistol as she unlocked her car.
They were arrested and are now serving decades of prision time for their crimes. I wonder what would have happened under the laws under discussionin the article?

Posted by: Mark N. at January 14, 2005 04:26 AM

I guess that's the difference between being a subject and being a citizen; though the USA is getting to the point of subjects, we're not quite there yet. If Britons are willing to accept this trash they unfortunately deserve what they get.

Posted by: kyle at January 14, 2005 04:39 AM

I have worked in the court system for 15 years and I have learned that those who make the laws disarming the citizenry have their own pretorian guard to protect them. I have also studied disarmament laws in the US and found that they are stricter and more numerous the more Black people are in a particular jurisdiction. Once again, this is a lack of trust by the socialists who really won the cold war by embedding themselves in municipal governments. It is a concerted effort by these fascists, which is not too strong a term, to make the working man feel their whip. When he knows beyond the shadow of a doubt that he cannot defend his family or property, he must turn to the government, for what it's worth. As a matter of fact, our ranges here in Westchester County were getting full of law abiding NYC residents coming up here to shoot, so NYC raised the minimum age to 21. The peasants are rising, and as soon as they see that their mandatory representatives are not doing their job, they will vote with their feet, move out of NYC and a new wave of suckers will be brought in to replace them. No citizen can grow up outside NYC and fail to see how our cities deprive their residents of their God given rights. It's too bad I cannot fathom moving back, the food is so good, but I love having my carry permit and my freedom. January 13, 2005 White Plains

Posted by: ERIC MURRAY SANDERS at January 14, 2005 04:42 AM

What it all boils down to is subjugation of a population. Governments fear armed citizens. When a populace is disarmed, the government may impose itself upon its subjects with impunity.

Posted by: John McGrew at January 14, 2005 05:05 AM

About your housebreakers: Out here in the American West, we have a saying about "endangered species" encountered on one's own land. "Shoot, Shovel, and Shut Up!" These house breaking miscreants appear to be one of Britain's "Endangered Species" from the way the Courts and the Law protect them.

Posted by: Jerome C. Borden at January 14, 2005 05:50 AM

This issue seems to justify the war for American Independence , because obviously the " upper class" cannot see beyond their nose. It also emphasizes the reason the 2nd Amendment in the Bill of Rights was written.

Long Live the King(not)

Posted by: Ronald Howell at January 14, 2005 06:20 AM

I live in Oklahoma, U.S.A. and we have a very sound solution to burglars, thieves, and other criminal types: We kill them. Oklahoma isn't the only state with this method of crime control and it cuts the overall crime rate by quite a bit, since the criminal knows he'll be shot dead if he cares to ply his trade. Admittingly, there are a few places, like Washington D.C. that prohibit citizens from owning firearms and therefore claim the nation's murder capitol and, Chicago which has an illegal ban on handguns. But, on the whole, most of the non-Yankee states adhere to the rights of the victim and accordingly dump the last shovel of dirt on the stupid schmuck who decided to commit a crime.

Why a country like England continues to profess being a First World Nation and still demands it's citizens be cowarded into being victimized, is beyond comprehension. The government excuses are NO excuse!

Australia has become the poster child for giving in. Once a rugged, "fend for yourself" land, like America, she has become a disarmed, typical colony. Whatever Britain does, so goes her colonies.

Not meaning to bring up past differences but, we had a war with Britain over just these type of grievences and thank God we won! You'd think the English people would rise up, as we did, and demand, "NO MORE! GIVE US OUR FREEDOM!"

Posted by: Richard Brashear at January 14, 2005 06:57 AM

in TEXAS, if you break into a man's house, while he is home,there is going to be a shooting. The right of armed home owners to self defense,and defense of a third party,is rights given by GOD to TEXANS, that can only be taken away,when you pry our cold dead fingers, off of our guns,or shoot us dead, while we are reloading.

Posted by: floyd arrington at January 14, 2005 07:05 AM

WOW...I didint know Hitler Survived and took over England...

Posted by: ACe at January 14, 2005 08:11 AM

It appears to me that the government is more afraid of the comman man than they are of the criminal. This belief is not unfounded. Criminals do not overthrow governments, armed common people can and have done so. Armed citizens can and have come to the aid of their country, state or village. This beggs the following questions: "Why is the government afraid of the common man?", "What are they doing to cause the common man to want to overthrow them?"

Posted by: Stefan Smith at January 14, 2005 10:30 AM

Dear Unfortunate British Cousins:

Hate to say...We told you so.

W. Smith

Posted by: W. Smith at January 14, 2005 01:48 PM

I know that guns and self defense seem to work pretty well over here in the US for deterring crime. Here in S. Georgia, criminals know that everyone has a gun and will shot if they break in, so it helps to scare away crime. Living here for 11 years, never had an attempted break in on my vehicle, house, and have never been held up or robbed. Crooks are scared over here because we are allowed to protect ourselves without worrying about being put on trial for protecting ourselves. We are also allowed to carry a concealed weapon, with a permit, and that helps prevent robberies and crime too. A friend of mine who is ex-GBI, had 2 people break in his house the other day, and he shot and killed one and critically wounded the other. I hope you get some of those rights back over there. Good luck.

Posted by: Chris Jones at January 14, 2005 03:15 PM

Free men own guns. Slaves do not.
Someone in England keeps re-electing slavemasters to Parliament, otherwise the Labour Party would not still be in power.
The worst thing about this tyranny is that it is self-inflicted.

Posted by: Dr. Bruce Steigner at January 14, 2005 04:54 PM

Living in the US I taught my daughter to shoot at the age of 12 and because I trust her she has ready access to our guns. If such an event ever arises I think it is far better for a criminal to have to depend on the mercy of my daughter than the other way around.
Better wake up... the government is not your friend. The government will not protect you from criminals. At best the police will sweep up afterwards. You may have noticed that dialing 911 does not stop the crime in progress. To avoid being a victim you have to defend yourself.
Worse yet a government may decide to indulge itself in a genocide and figure you belong to the wrong group. Millions have died in the last century at the hands of their own governments.
We do not live in a perfect world. Liberal attempts to legislate a perfect world will fail. The problem of course is that you will pay the price. I would really recommend you start voting for a different breed of politician.

Posted by: Steve Shaw at January 14, 2005 05:13 PM

Oh my Gawd!!!
Sure glad I live in a land that DOES NOT impair its citizens from self defense...I guess all I can"...Good luck, you're on your own...fend for yourselves...your government won't..."
God Bless America and the 2nd Amendment!

Posted by: Jim at January 14, 2005 07:06 PM

All of us need to consider one fundamental fact. In theory, the weaker the public becomes the stronger the government becomes, as the protector of the masses. This mind-set seems to be the motivation of the ruling elite in Great Britain.

Posted by: William Thomas at January 14, 2005 08:33 PM

I do thank God that I live in the state of Missouri, USA.

We can protect our families from criminals that break into our homes.

Posted by: G Rainey at January 14, 2005 10:17 PM

Seems that the British cannot see further than their nose. It ain'
t the perp who suffers. The populace suffers cause the system allows anti-liberty!

All the folks injured in Britian are honest folk suffering at the hands of the criminals.

The folks injured in the USA by gunfire are predominantly drug dealers doing business. Honest folk can defend themselves in the USA cause they're free!

Posted by: Skip at January 14, 2005 10:33 PM

There is a direct correlation here in the US between the jurisdictions which allow the citizen to carry concealed weapons and lower on-person crime rates. British-style places like New York City, Washington, DC and Baltimore have correspondingly higher rates of on-person crime. Only a fool or someone with a nefarious agenda would say that there is no causation as well.
The British people should rise up and, oh, forgot, they're disarmed. Well, have fun trying to reason with the burglars. We can't do that in Nevada, since the burglar is dead before the conversation starts.
By the way, armed deterrence doesn't apply only in the home; I personally broke up an armed robbery at gunpoint (the point of my gun) while I was working nights in a convenience store. I worked there for a year afterward and was never bothered again. Guess the word got around the none-too-nice neighborhood.
Charles Knapp
Carson City, NV

Posted by: Charles Knapp at January 14, 2005 11:19 PM

CCRKBA ALERT - HR 47 "Citizens' Self-Defense Act"
ALERT: The new US Congress has just started warming their seats filled with more pro-gun members, and we're already getting the chance to show our unified support for some great legislation -- starting with a bill that strongly supports our Second Amendment rights.

Rep. Roscoe Bartlett (R-MD) has introduced a bill protecting the right of law-abiding Americans to use guns in self-defense.

HR 47, the "Citizens' Self-Defense Act", would specifically protect the right of law-abiding citizens to use handguns, rifles and shotguns in defending themselves, their families or their homes. It would also allow people whose self-defense rights have been violated by any government entity to bring legal action in federal court.

Remember the news stories over the last couple of years, about husbands, wives, fathers and mothers who were arrested after shooting home-invaders, because the "homeowner" possessed a firearm for protecting their family? This bill could put an END to that kind of nonsense.

Let's join together to push through this common-sense gun rights legislation NOW!

TAKE ACTION: Tens of millions of law-abiding, gun-owning Americans voted in November to protect and restore our gun rights.

Now is the time to really sock it to the anti-gun media, entertainment personalities, and the political lapdogs who try to work their wretched will to destroy our Second Amendment."

HR 47 has been referred to the House Committee on the Judiciary. We must NOT let it get stuck there -- we need to let Congress know that we want SWIFT consideration of this bill! Call, email and write to your Representative, asking him or her to support HR 47, the "Citizens' Self-Defense Act" today.

You can use the following link to find out who your member of Congress is and write or call them.

Posted by: Jim Norris at January 14, 2005 11:30 PM

This is a sad discussion and misses the main deficiency in the current criminal justice system, which is the manifest inability of the State to enforce most of the law that already exists. This has arisen by default on the part of successive governments to support policing; even worse, the deliberate sabotage of the police function through a series of atrocious changes in the law and police regulations. And of course, the formation of the Crown Prosecution Service, the most impractical and damaging innovation since modern professional policing commenced back in the mid-nineteenth century As a result the law-abiding public no longer has faith in the police and the criminal fraternity no longer fears the police. What is even worse, the public fears that in any confrontation with violent criminals the police may care more about the ‘human rights’ of the criminal than those of the victim. In fact case law has for many decades been quite clear about self defence or defence of your person or others, or your or their property during an attack. Everyone is entitled to defend his/herself or anyone else against assault or criminal damage ‘using no more force than is necessary.’ And the law accepts that homicide may be justifiable if it is perpetrated in self-defence when the people under attack fear for their own life. But many people would not be capable, for a variety of understandable reasons, of defending themselves or others, nor preventing criminal damage. In those cases if attacked they need a prompt and effective response from the police. If that were forthcoming the public would be happier and the criminals less aggressive and successful. In a nutshell we need better policing rather than more law or tinkering with the legislation that already exists in abundance. The Tony Martin case was an aberration and should not be used as a yardstick for anything

Posted by: Frank Pulley at January 15, 2005 02:03 AM

I am thankful I am not in a country that prevents self defense.
What is next for our Brit. friends? Perhaps a few over on the isle will come to their senses..and get the laws changed. In the meantime....
God Bless America..and the 2nd amendment!!

Posted by: Jim Webb at January 15, 2005 03:08 AM

My father and uncles sent many of our family rifles to you in the 40's. We never saw our grandfathers and fathers rifles return. You can be sure, I will not do that, I cherish them(firearms) and the right to exercise my RIGHT to self defence. You British need to cherish and protect what you have..and the means to protect/cherish it! Perhaps.....there was a hidden message with the young Prince at the costume party??

Posted by: J W Webb at January 15, 2005 03:17 AM

The article explains why I feel safer now than when I lived in England. The average Limey watches a Clint Eastwood movie and thinks that is how things are in the US. In reality, car theft, burglary etc are MUCH lower here. Most of my neighbors (neighbours to you fellow Limeys) own guns, and many carry them while about their daily business - do I feel threatened; no, just the opposite in fact. The police are much better here too - they actually do respond on those rare occasions when someone reports a crime. Americans are very nice people, and I like it here so much that I'm staying. Bye bye England, bye bye high crime.

Posted by: Ex Limey at January 15, 2005 05:14 AM

I am a law abiding American citizen, licensed to carry a concealed firearm. I carry a gun often, and have never had to use it. After reading all about your government's disarming of its citizens, and your laws regarding intruders, I can only say that no one will change the current state of affairs, save you. Massive public demonstrations, both peaceful and otherwise, helped to stop an american war in the 60's. Make no mistake, If you, the people, are not willing to step out, and in great numbers to fight for yourselves, no one will fight for you. At the end of the day, a people who are willing to sacrifice thier rights for security, shall have neither rights nor security. Perhaps it is time for you to either fight for what is right, or accept the leavings that well protected politicians are willing to allow you. I am sure that your politicians have all the armed guards they need. What do you have? One thing is certain; If you don't force your leaders to listen to you, then you and your families will continue to be victims of the armed robbers, rapists, and murderers that strike, secure in the knowledge that they are omnipotent. And you are not.

Posted by: Ken Davis at January 15, 2005 07:00 AM

I've been to G.B. and truly love your country and your people. As Americans, we were treated like long lost cousins. It's an appreciation that will stay with me forever. But, I could never leave Michigan and live under an oppressive boot heel in G.B. Your rights have been systematically stripped, and your being herded like sheep to the slaughter. Self preservation is the most basic concept and right, and without it, what else matters? The United States Constitution, Bill of Rights, and law are founded on British common law. We kept most of our rights, you need to get yours back. The liberals around the world want one thing, control and power. They think they know better than you, and are not happy until they are telling you what you can do, and how to do it.

Posted by: Guy at January 15, 2005 01:57 PM

The thing most fail to observe is: 1) Not every homeowner (or even any law-abiding, decent citizen walking on a street) has the physical ability to wield a crow-bar or baseball bat. Some of us, when confronted with a physically stronger and larger person, are at a great disadvantage without the means of a defensive firearm.

2) Theft of heirloom material goods, to some, is worth risking life and limb for. If some thug wants to steal a TV or even an automobile, it's only an inconvenience - that's why they sell insurance. But, one should not have to hesitate to use force - lethal force if necessary - to protect unreplaceable family heirlooms. Items that are, especially at one's advanced age, more valuable than life itself.

Posted by: Chuck Klein at January 15, 2005 02:58 PM

I find much that is fascinating - indeed excellent - on the Social Affairs Unit website. I cannot however agree with the tone of the discussion on this article. Its embracing of gun culture represents what puts me off America.

Posted by: Gillian at January 15, 2005 08:02 PM

England's current anti-self-defense (read: criminal empowerment) statutes clearly spell out the difference between Englanders and Americans: I am an American citizen, you are English subjects. --Greg Wilk, Hinckley, Ohio, U.S.A.

Posted by: Greg Wilk at January 15, 2005 11:33 PM

I worked at a court for over 30 years and witnessed the human aftermath of criminals. They killed innocents with guns, knives, bats, and in the case of drunk drivers with their cars. The certainty of punishment is a deterrent to some criminals. But, they fear the armed citizen the most. They are on the scene, not miles away in a police car. Calling 911 does not stop a crime in progress.
Merely indicating the presence of a gun has deterred
many crimes. Properly trained citizens know the first rule of defense:
"Get away if possible." Their last resort is to use a firearm.

In Oklahoma they have a law, I think, called "make my day." If the bad guy is in your home, and you are fearful for your life, you have the legal right to end his earthly existence.

Yet people in the United States are attacking the 2nd amendment. They too do not trust us ordinary citizens to live without their, in my opinion, illegal interference with the lawful following of it.

Write everyone that you believe can help you get your rights as law-abiding citizens back and imprison the criminals.


Posted by: Court Jester at January 16, 2005 05:36 AM

"Reasonable force" is reasonable, when defending your family and property. There is nothing wrong with the law. The problem is most people don't know what the law is. If someone breaks into your home, you can defend yourself, family and property, even if that mean the burgler dies. What isn't acceptable is shooting a burgler in the back as he tries to run away from you, or smashing his brains in with a golf club if he's cowering in terror in the corner of a room.
Craig, Scotland(UK)

Posted by: C. McLeod at January 16, 2005 07:47 PM

Well said Mr. McLeod from Scotland. Unfortunately our American cousins will be unable to grasp your concept of 'reasonable force' as it seems that most of them would relish the opportunity to murder someone legally.

Posted by: I Frederick at January 17, 2005 12:35 AM

"Burglars realize current law leaves householders at a grave disadvantage and have acted accordingly"

Im not sure what burglars realise about the law as it affects householders. What they know is that the last time they, or one of their associates, broke in and someone was at home that someone did nothing and let them get on with it.

Posted by: Lurker at January 17, 2005 03:20 AM

As an Englishman whom has visited your fine location at Fairfax Va. and has seen the law enforcement perspective on both sides of the pond I offer two schools of thought:
1. The Human Rights Act and the judiciary clearly weigh on the side of the criminal and not the victim, reasonable force? Take one step into my house and get what you are given, it wouldn't happen if you were not there.
2. Since Hungerford and Dunblane gun crime and the accessability to firearms has increased up to 40% in some cities even though legislation has been introduced. I have a shotgun and I am subject to random checks at any time, my targets are vermin and clays (skeets) even though it is licensed. Where are the random checks on career criminals?? Does someone whacked out on PCP or Crack stop with a slap on the wrist?
Don't break in is the cry.

Posted by: Roger at January 17, 2005 04:11 PM

I do hope that when the time comes, when you become a statistic of the British Crime wave, that you can disarm your assailant with sarcastic tone and pious wit. I will use my Colt 45

Posted by: Ex-Limey at January 17, 2005 06:56 PM

Having lived in the U.S. all my life, this is a no-brainer; the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness all depend on our Constitution and Bill of Rights. However, I, like most Americans, believe that these documents do not define our rights, they just enumerate human rights that pre-existed those documents' creation. Maybe we had the benefit of an empty slate in forming the best form of government on Earth which you in other countries did not. If this makes no sense to you, try living anywhere in the U.S. for a while and you'll understand.

Embodied in our Bill of Rights is the right to keep and bear arms, second only in importance to freedom of speech. There are no stated restrictions on how those rights to bear arms are exercised, whether it be for the common or individual good, but it seems clear via common sense that these are not mutually exclusive, that is, the common good is served by the individual good and vice-versa. I, for one, am a law-abiding citizen, but will not abbrogate my personal safety to that of the "professionals", but rather, work with them to secure it. If that means arming myself, I'm OK with that. If those professionals get in my way by passing inane (and insane) laws in violation or in conflict with the constitution, I'll deal with that, too.

I also believe that the evidence is in from both England and Australia, and it doesn't look good for the anti-gunners: those who would obey the law will always do so, and those who don't prey on this former group. I hope those of you in those countries go to hell in the handbasket you've created - you've gotten what you deserve.

Posted by: Dorsey Harrington at January 17, 2005 07:55 PM

Adam Smith, author of "The Wealth of Nations" said, "showing mercy to the criiminal, is cruelty to the victim".

Perhaps more lawmakers should be the victim. They'll find out quick who has rights and who doesn't.

What changed the basic premise that a person has the right to defend themselves and their castle against all intruders? Who gave the lawmakers the right to take this most basic right away?

Posted by: Edward at January 17, 2005 08:10 PM

Many US citizens don't know the law either. Most states do not have 'make my day' laws. Oregon, where I live for example, does not allow one to use deadly force to defend property, whether the person is in your house or not.

Having the 2nd amendment does not grant license to kill a criminal. The defender still has to prove why lethal force was justified in that case, otherwise, the defender will still go to jail.

I was in England a few years ago and had the opportunity to watch a town hall meeting where they were discussing how to deal with the increased number of criminal assaults (some armed, some not) to steal cell phones. The most "intelligent" thing they said was they should force manufacturers to quit providing features in the phones that would make them desirable to criminals. They didn't quite get the point that consumers probably wouldn't want the phones either. They were blaming the phone's features for the criminal acts. Doh!

I've seen several references on this thread about 'gun violence'. That is a misnomer. It should be referred to as 'criminal violence using a gun',too often people tend to blame the inanimate object for the acts of the criminal. Place the blame where it should be placed, and then deal with it accordingly. If that results in a dead criminal (assuming it meets the criteria for justifiable), then so be it.

Posted by: RMoore at January 18, 2005 01:45 AM

Let me ask the American contributors to this discussion whether they believe that there would ever be a situation in which the killing of an intruder by a householder was illegal.

Personally I can't think of many situations when a traumatised householder would not be justified if his actions led to a burglar's death. But surely there will be situations where it would be ludicrous to say that manslaughter has not occurred, if not murder. Shooting a fleeing burglar in the back may be one such instance.

And BTW Australia's crime rate is far, far lower than ANYWHERE in the US. And no-one here, other than sportsman and farmers, has a gun. But we do have the right to self defence as they do in the UK.

Posted by: Peter at January 18, 2005 03:28 AM

Sorry Peter from Australia but you lie! I looked up the statistics "rates" for Australia & the US & the "RATE" of crime is lower in the US. The facts (something all anti gun zealots ignor) come from:
1. Australian Bureau of Statistics 4510.0 Recorded Crime - Victims, Australia 2003
2. F.B.I. Uniform Grime Reporting data 1984 thru 2003, I used 2003 in order to compare same years.
Check them out they are of the internet.
Homiside: Australia 6 per 100,000 & US 5.7 per 100,000.
Motor Vehicle Theft: Australia 497 per 100,000, US 433 per 100,000.
Assults: Australia798 per 100,000, US 295 per 100,000.
Sexual Assults: Australia 92 per 100,00, US 32.1 per 100,000.
According to these FACTS I feel more safe in the US than I would in Australia! Next time check the facts before posting the liberal lies. Contrary to liberal belief, repetition does not turn a lie into truth.


Posted by: Rod at January 18, 2005 09:17 PM

Well, Peter from Australia, I think you'd better recheck your statisticts. According to what I've been reading from a major publication, Australia's crime rate nearly equals that of Merry Olde England and yes, you do have the right of REASONABLE defense. Define "reasonable." If you injure, maim or kill your home intruder, you will draw a much stiffer term in prison than your intruder. Poor Mr. Tony Martin is living proof of this. He even got sued by one of his intruders for.....are you ready for this....deprivation of his chosen profession. I used to admire Australia as being the only other country I would like to live in if I didn't live here in the good old U.S of A. Now, if I got the chance to even visit your poor benighted country, I'd go elsewhere. Australia claims to be a separate country from England, but let the Queen visit and you prostrate yourselves like loyal English subjects. You even use the 'kings english' and spell your words just like the Limeys. 'C' in place of 's' etc.

Posted by: Larry at January 19, 2005 02:06 AM

Wow, how interesting. I just spent the last two hours (ok so I'm a slow reader)reading all the opinions of Brits, Americans and even some Aussie's. It amazes me (an American) how most of the British comments are from the passive element that are perfectly willing to let the government denude you of your basic human (and animalistic) right of self protection of you and yours. I say animalistic as well because I have never in my life ever seen any creature, when faced with imminent danger, just stand there and let the threat occur just to see if it would be bad or not. I've never seen a fly stand still for a slow moving flyswatter closing in on it. Of course this is the opinion of a blood thirsty American just waiting and hoping for a criminal to accost me in the hopes that I can "Legally Murder" him. I believe thats how one of the Brit comments went. The few Aussie comments mostly outlined how low crime is, in their country compared to the U.S. Facts not supported by statistics. Aussie Statistics that is. They did say that only farmers and ranchers and mostly "Outback" folks still possesed firearms. I guess most of the criminal element lives out there with the "Roo's and Dingo's" and not in the unarmed cities. Oh, wait a minute, Roo's kick and Dingo's bite don't they. God, I've become lost in the reasoning here. One comment from an American was about the fact that back in the Forties, we sent to England, the guns of our fathers, uncles and brothers for them to defend themselves from, lets say, an intruder. And none of those guns ever returned from that effort. Well, thats ok, because it was understood that the danger from intruders never ends. However, what isn't ok is that along with those guns went our fathers, uncles and brothers to help in the struggle. Thousands of them never returned either. Now to my ultimate point. The sickness in my gut and my anger with you "Subjects" allowing the unconditional right to self protection to be legislated away by Omnipotent, Power Hungry Politicians is only over powered by the realization that the deaths of your war victims and soldiers and our soldiers and civilians that supported England is being spat upon by your passiveness. You are lambs being led to the slaughter. And, eventually, we will have another war to fight with the One World Government that is overtaking the human intellect. You, the Brits, the Aussies and the Canadians are the first examples followed by the United Nations doctrine of world wide gun control are the start of it all. Ohhh my, I started out pretty good but now I'm a conspiracy advocate. Well, ok. Think what you will but let me tell you that when the time comes to bail you out again, us redneck Yanks will show up with our squirrel guns and be more than happy to die for the cause of "FREEDOM" for everyone. No matter how stupidly you care for it now. That's just one of our "Blood thirsty" traits.

Posted by: Rudy Keszey at January 19, 2005 08:13 PM

"I am usually in agreement with the spirit of these articles but should we allow homeowners the use of unreasonable force? Will a change in the wording allowing a greater use of force really deter these crimes? "

It's not a change in the wording but rather a change in the actions and consequences of a few break-ins that will deter the criminal mind. Once a few perpetrators have been injured or killed in the act of burglary, news of the incident will be spread around in the news. Knowing that one of their fellow felons have departed and that the homeowner was not prosecuted for the act of home defense sends a clear message: "enter unlawfully at your own risk". The deterrence comes from the knowledge that others have been injured or killed while breaking into homes and that a similar fate may await the criminal contemplating similar activity.

There was a fast food restaurant in the "bad side" of the town that I grew up in that had an armed robbery at least once a week. The management grew tired of the assaults and the high employee turn-over and hired a plain-clothes security guard. Within a week, another armed robber entered the store and was gunned down in the act of the crime. News of the store defense was broadcast in the local media for several days. The store did not have another robbery for another two and a half years following the incident. The reason why? Probably because any other would-be robbers knew that there could be an armed civilian present and waiting for them if they attempted to rob the store. That KNOWLEDGE OF WHAT HAPPENED was the DETERRENCE.

Posted by: Kris at January 19, 2005 10:26 PM

Would the last person to leave the United Kingdom please turn the lights off.

Posted by: A Free man at February 1, 2005 09:23 PM

As a Brit. ex-pat resident of Japan, I couldn't agree more with the majority opinion, namely allowing the householder to defend himself against various types of violent criminal. UK authority will not allow the average law-abiding citizen to defend himself, because the police want to maintain the sole right to commit violence. Banning private ownership of firearms was, in retrospect, a prerequisite to introduction of a Police State. When Tony Martin (Norfolk farmer that shot dead a burglar) was sentenced to life in prison, I knew Britain was washed up. From that point my exit strategy went from planning to execution. US citizens, I urge you to resist calls to give up your firearms. They are your last defence against tyranny, domestic and foreign.
This may sound paranoid, but don't knock paranoia: It keeps you free and it keeps you alive.

Posted by: Andrew Milner at February 6, 2005 06:38 AM

My horse is not dead. It is a 357 Colt Python. If you pass my threshold unwelcomed, its muzzle will be up your nostril. (I live in southern California)

Posted by: Robert Todd at August 2, 2005 02:31 PM

Here's two links for your examination of the issue:


Posted by: Bink at August 9, 2005 08:24 PM

I'm just a common man. Here in the US that makes me part of an elite group of people. "WE THE PEOPLE" those are some very important words to all of us. Because without the people there would be no government. The basic rights of the people spelled out in the constitution. For all the people, the rich, the middle class, the poor, not just the small group of elitists that make the laws. Now these rights are fundamental, not granted to us by the government, but by ourselves. the problem with governments is they believe they always know what's best for the people. We the people know better.It's time for our brothers in GB to realize that the same holds true for them. You have to show the elitists in your government that its time for some changes. It's time to grab the moment and change those archaic, outdated and unrealistic self defense laws.It's totaly insane the way things are now. How can any moral society send a man to prison for life for defending his life and property? I have an idea, why don't you just have a criminals holiday. Have them over for tea and then let them take whatever they want on the way out the door. Sounds good. Noone gets hurt and noone goes to prison. Especialy the home owner. You Brits may think we're a bunch of cowboys, but it's just that we truly believe in individual freedom and self defense is one of them. Until you folks can get those idiots in your government to make some changes we'll pray for you. And remember if ever you need us again these "DAMN YANKEES" will come.

Posted by: Wayne Studey at October 24, 2005 03:20 AM

Firstly Aussies have LESS rights to self defence than we do in the UK due to the fact that they are not even permitted to own non firearm weapons even inside their own homes.

The UK's Prevention of Crime Act 1953 never restricted the Statutory right for UK citizens to have arms for defence, what it did do was pull the wool over the eyes of every law abiding citizen probably laying the foundations of the current levels of violent crime at the same time..

The Home Secretary Sir Frederick Maxwell Fyffe, (also a sponsor) said in the Commons ; " it is not the intention of the Bill to place in peril (of breaking the law) the innocent citizen pursuing his or her daily round".
Hansard, 26 Feb. 1953.
Lord Saltoun, who had spoken vigorously on behalf of the liberties of the subject, summarised the position by reminding the Lords of the importance of the statement made by Lord Lloyd, who represented the Government, saying; "it is not the purpose of this Bill to prevent people from carrying weapons if they think it is necessary for their defence. I hope that is noted".

When the original WIll of Parliament is considered with the aid of Hansard (as per the Pepper v Hart judgement) it is clear that the '53 Act does not in actual fact imply any repeal of the English Bill of Rights which clearly allows us to have arms for our defence. The innocent citizen who carries a weapon for defence does so with a Statutory right and therefore the Lawful Authority required under Section 1 of the Prevention of Crime Act.

It is also interesting to note that a Bill is currently going through Parliament that amends the 1967 Criminal Law Act to exempt householders from prosecution if they use violence in self defence UNLESS the force is grossly disproportionate and then only with the leave of the Attorney General.

Posted by: Matthew Wilkinson at June 2, 2006 11:57 PM

it's not right that anyone should face punnishment for defending his/her life & the lives of family & loved ones

Posted by: Anthony at August 4, 2006 11:01 PM
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