Kevin Baker was one of the bloggers who posted on the story about Lindsay’s sword killing, claiming that it showed that for all intents and purposes self-defence in the UK was illegal. Despite learning that Lindsay had chased the robber out of his home and stabbed him in the back four times, in the comments and on his blog Baker continued to insist that self defence was illegal in practice in the UK. His argument was that England’s “laws concerning weapons make self-defense, for all intents and purposes, a lost cause”. His argument is badly wrong for two reasons.
- Using a weapon is not the only way to defend yourself.
- If the law disarms attackers, then it can make self defence possible where it would have been impossible if the attacker was armed.
Baker’s response on the first point is to focus on cases where a weapon might actually be the only way to defend yourself, for example, “a 90 pound woman who’s never been in a physical confrontation” versus “a 200-pound intruder who’s previously killed able-bodied men with his bare hands”. However, his claim was that self defence was generally impossible, not just in particular cases like a small women against a crazed killer.
On the second point he responds with:
Restrictions on weapons, except in rare cases, ONLY make it more difficult to defend oneself. They have essentially no effect on the access to weapons by violent criminals.
Baker offers no evidence for this claim. In his book Targetting Guns, Kleck calls this the fallacy of “The Overmotivated Criminal”. Not all or even most criminals are absolutely determined to get guns. Kleck writes:
Like noncriminals, however, criminals do many things that are casually or only weakly motivated. Indeed, much crime is impulsive or opportunistic, with criminals committing some crimes only if it requires little effort and entails little risk. Gun control is less likely to have much effect on crime committed by criminals with the strongest and most persistent motivation to commit crimes, such as drug dealers, emotionally disturbed mass murderers, professional hit men, terrorists, or political assassins. However, it is not all impossible for crime prevention efforts to be achieved among the more weakly or temporarily motivated criminals who make up the large part of the active offender population.
Baker than claims that the restrictions on weapons have made violent crime increase:
As a result of this physical reality, violent crime has been on the increase in England and Wales since the 1950’s.
I’m afraid that this claim is another example of the same phenomenon that led all the progunners to misinterpret the Lindsay stabbing. Because crime goes up and down and because they are many different categories of crime (such as murder, robbery, gun crimes, and so on) as well as both national and regional crime statistics, you can pretty well always find some crime statistic in the UK that has gone up. Those are the stories that American pro-gunners report. You never seem to find them reporting on the crime decreases. In fact, violent crime in England and Wales has decreased significantly since the 90s.