Gullible Gunners, Again

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.

  1. Using a weapon is not the only way to defend yourself.
  2. 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.

Comments

  1. #1 Kevin Baker
    April 4, 2004

    Too long for your comment section, and besides, the “preview” feature seems to have failed. I’ve responded at my blog.

  2. #2 Kevin Baker
    April 6, 2004

    Tim?

  3. #3 Tim Lambert
    April 6, 2004

    This is a reply to Kevin’s post here.

    Kevin, thank you for invitation to continue the discussion on your other
    blog. I’m declining your invitation — I prefer to post
    comments here. If you want to repost things there as well,
    that’s fine.

    Now, your point 1: you asserted that the statement “self defense in the UK is
    illegal” is “practically true”. If you acknowledge that you can
    defend yourself without a weapon, then surely you must concede
    that your statement is false?

    Your point 2: You claimed that what I was implying was: “Honest
    citizens should never use a weapon in self defense, and the
    government is honestly doing everything it can to disarm
    everybody so that you can successfully defend yourself in your
    unarmed state.” I never said anything like “Honest
    citizens should never use a weapon in self defense”. Kindly
    refrain from stuffing words into my mouth. I do not appreciate
    it.

    You continue to insist that “laws against weapons have essentially no
    effect on the access to weapons by criminals”, claiming that the
    English experience somehow illustrated this. You then write
    extensively about the violent crime rate England. But this is not
    even relevant to your claim, since it includes violence done without
    weapons. It simply does not tell us whether the laws reduced access
    by criminals. You compared the violent crime rate in England with
    that for the US — a more relevant comparision that might shed some
    light on whether the laws reduce weapon use by criminals would be to
    compare gun crimes in both places. In 2000, England had about 4,000
    with-gun robberies while the US had 170,000.
    After allowing for six times as many people in the US, the rate is
    still seven times higher in the US. This hardly proves that the
    laws made the difference, but the evidence is not on your side.

    I also note that you did not comment on the Kleck quote I gave. Do
    you concede that the “overmotivated criminal” is a fallacy as
    Kleck argues?

  4. #4 Kevin Baker
    April 7, 2004

    We’re still arguing from (widely) different perspectives, but cogent questions nonetheless. I will respond on my blog in a couple of days. Thank you, Tim.

    Here’s a hint though: violent crime, weaponless or not, is quite relevant to the topic as I hope to eventually get you to understand.

  5. #5 Kevin Baker
    April 9, 2004
  6. #6 Tim Lambert
    April 14, 2004

    This is a reply to Kevin’s post
    here

    In your latest attempt to justify your cliam that the British don’t
    really have a right to self defense you write:

    Self-defense involving any weapon is legally risky. In both cases
    excessive force is to be judged by a jury.

    But this isn’t any different from the US. If a prosecutor doesn’t
    think a jury is likely to convict, they are not going to bother
    bringing the case before a jury. You also claim

    If you use force effectively in your own defense, especially if you
    used any weapon in that effective defense, you stand a very good
    chance of being charged with excessive use of force, and placed
    on trial.

    But you don’t actually have any evidence for this claim. As far as I
    can tell, American pro-gunners are constantly on the lookout for
    news stories about how terrible things are in the UK. So far they
    have found a total of exactly zero cases where someone has
    genuinely acted in self-defence and been convicted of (or even
    prosecuted for) a crime. That’s zero. But you seem to think
    that it happens all the time.

    Next we come to your bizarre misreading of my statement:

    “If the law disarms attackers, then it can make self defence possible
    where it would have been impossible if the attacker was armed.”

    You claimed that I was somehow saying that “Honest citizens should
    never use a weapon in self defense” even though I wasn’t and
    insisted that was the only possible meaning even though I had
    written nothing the slightest bit even remotely like that.
    Consider two scenarios:

    1. Attacker has a gun. Defender does not.

    2. Attacker does not have a gun. Defender doesn’t either.

    Self defence is possible in the second scenario while it isn’t in the
    first one. Is that clear now?

    Now we come again to your claim that “laws against weapons have
    essentially no effect on the access to weapons by criminals”. I
    point out that your claim is contradicted both by Kleck (who
    calls it a fallacy) and gun crime rates in England since
    something seems to be keeping gun crime rates there
    relatively low. When you started talking about overall crime
    rates I pointed out that these were irrelevant to your claim you
    respond by substituting a different claim, a claim about how
    weapon restrictions allegedly caused crime increases. Well, I
    suppose we can discuss that as well, but first I need you to
    stop flitting about like a butterfly and retract or defend your
    original claim that “laws against weapons have
    essentially no effect on the access to weapons by criminals”.

    Oh, and you blew the comparison of robbery rates. You have compared
    the survey measured robbery rate in England with the police reported
    robbery rate in the US. The police reported number in England is 78,000
    (it’s right next to the 276,000 figure you reported) that’s roughly
    the same rate as you get with 408,000 robberies in the US once you
    adjust for population.

  7. #7 Kevin Baker
    April 14, 2004

    I knew I was going to enjoy this!

  8. #8 Kevin P.
    April 19, 2004

    Tim Lambert wrote:

    But you don’t actually have any evidence for this claim. As far as I can tell, American pro-gunners are constantly on the lookout for news stories about how terrible things are in the UK. So far they have found a total of exactly zero cases where someone has genuinely acted in self-defence and been convicted of (or even prosecuted for) a crime. That’s zero. But you seem to think that it happens all the time.

    Since you ask, see:
    http://reason.com/0211/fe.jm.gun.shtml

    In 1987 two men assaulted Eric Butler, a 56-year-old British Petroleum executive, in a London subway car, trying to strangle him and smashing his head against the door. No one came to his aid. He later testified, “My air supply was being cut off, my eyes became blurred, and I feared for my life.” In desperation he unsheathed an ornamental sword blade in his walking stick and slashed at one of his attackers, stabbing the man in the stomach. The assailants were charged with wounding. Butler was tried and convicted of carrying an offensive weapon.

    In 1994 an English homeowner, armed with a toy gun, managed to detain two burglars who had broken into his house while he called the police. When the officers arrived, they arrested the homeowner for using an imitation gun to threaten or intimidate. In a similar incident the following year, when an elderly woman fired a toy cap pistol to drive off a group of youths who were threatening her, she was arrested for putting someone in fear. Now the police are pressing Parliament to make imitation guns illegal.

  9. #9 Kevin P.
    April 19, 2004

    Tim Lambert wrote:

    Consider two scenarios:

    1. Attacker has a gun. Defender does not.

    2. Attacker does not have a gun. Defender doesn’t either.

    Self defence is possible in the second scenario while it isn’t in the first one. Is that clear now?

    Actually, self defence is always possible. It may be risky, it may be more dangerous than staying passive, but it is always possible. It is particulary possible when the man with the gun is within arm’s reach. In fact there is no shortage of training available to learn how to do precisely this. Police officers in the US often receive training in gun retention – or how to hold on to their gun while physically restraining a criminal. (The corollary to all this is that if you are a citizen defending yourself with a gun, be sure to back up and out of physical range of your assailant).

    Of course, in neutered societies, people are conditioned into believing that self defense is way too dangerous and it is better to let the criminal have his way.

    Tim, you should seriously consider taking a class in defensive gun use. I don’t know if they are easy to come by in Australia, but you may learn a thing or two. While it is tempting to think that the academy has the answers to everything, the street is not so forgiving.

  10. #10 Kevin P.
    April 19, 2004

    This is what Scotland Yard says about carrying weapons:

    http://www.met.police.uk/youth/weapons.htm

    An offensive weapon means any article made or adapted for causing injury, or intended to cause injury.

    It’s the Law!

    The Prevention of Crime Act 1953 (Section 1(1)) states that:

    ‘Any person who without lawful authority or reasonable excuse, the proof whereof shall lie with him/her, has with him/her in a public place any offensive weapon, shall be guilty of an offence.’

  11. #11 Tim Lambert
    April 19, 2004

    Kevin, your source is Joyce Lee Malcolm’s article. Right after your two examples of supposed self-defenders being prosecuted, she gives the example of Tony Martin and leaves out all the facts that showed that it wasn’t self-defence. I strongly suspect that if we knew all the facts for the other two cases, they would look rather different as well.

  12. #12 Kevin P.
    April 20, 2004

    Tim Lambert wrote:

    I strongly suspect that if we knew all the facts for the other two cases, they would look rather different as well.

    And your evidence for this is …

  13. #13 Tim Lambert
    April 20, 2004

    The evidence is that is how all the other ones turned out. Malcolm did not report all the relevant facts in the Martin case. Why should we think she did better in the other two cases?

  14. #14 Toby
    April 21, 2004

    Kevin, you say:
    Of course, in neutered societies, people are conditioned into believing that self defense is way too dangerous and it is better to let the criminal have his way.

    For one thing, since most Australian and British men are in possession of a perfectly working set of testicles, describing their society as ‘neutered’ doesn’t seem the best choice of words. I don’t see the connection between an inability to carry offensive weapons and emasculation.

    Secondly, did you intend to present any evidence of an unwillingness for members of countries with gun-control to defend themselves?

    I can immediately supply a number of the examples of the opposite: At the Monash University shooting (see http://www.theage.com.au/articles/2002/10/21/1034561430119.html), the gunman was overpowered by unarmed staff and students. A quick google found a story from the Geraldton Guardian (http://www.geraldtonguardian.com.au/Archives/06072001/News/06072001news.htm), where a robber armed with a knife was stopped by a manager armed with an axe handle, and a story from The Herald Sun (http://www.heraldsun.news.com.au/common/story_page/0,5478,9175691%255E1702,00.html), where a robber armed with a knife who attempted to rob a video store was overpowered by the manager and customers.

    You can get examples of people resisting armed robbers in a country with gun control – including unarmed people (in one of those academies like Tim belongs to) willing to attack and subdue a gun-using attacker – just with a google search. I’d be interested in seeing some evidence that people in countries with gun control are unwilling to defend themselves.

  15. #15 Kevin P.
    April 21, 2004

    Toby, I said neutered societies, not neutered countries. There are plenty of places in the US, mostly liberal cities, where the brainwashing exists in plenty.

    My wife works in the field of prevention of domestic violence and sexual assault in a major university in Texas, normally a very pro-gun state. The dominant advice given out by her university? Don’t try to fight back – run and hide, and call police on your cell phone. There is absolutely no mention made of encouraging practical self-defense, and of the actual social duty and benefit of resisting attack then and there. Of course, every situation is different, and each individual should make the choice of whether to resist or not, depending on the circumstances. But it is dismaying that realistic self-defense is never even suggested. Privately, many people will admit that armed self-defense is a reasonable option that should be discussed openly, with its pros and cons, but they don’t mention it in the orthodoxy of the university.

    Of course, the irony is that the police, should they arrive in time to actually prevent the crime – a somewhat rare event – will be carrying that evil thing, a *** shudder *** gun. Apparently, a police officer, because he is paid $30,000 per year, is obligated to risk his own life and limb to defend the victim, when the victim cannot be bothered to defend himself.

    As a generalization, I tend to find the victim mentality most present in white liberals in the US, particularly those in larger cities and academic environments. I was not born in the US. In my native country, India, the right of self-defense is rarely articulated in public because it is simply assumed that people can and will resist attack with whatever means are at hand. The courts have dismissed charges against people who were defending mere property, not just their life. The notion that self-defense should be avoided is considered bizarre.

    I have found the same attitude in traveling in the Phillipines, and suspect that it is the norm in much of the world. It is us Westerners who have become so civilized that we are conning ourselves out of an elementary human right and duty.

    Anyway, if you are interested in the subject of self-defense, check out:
    http://www.keepandbeararms.com/opsd

  16. #16 Toby
    April 21, 2004

    Kevin –
    Neutered societies or neutered countries – you are still equating the ownership of a weapon with a capacity for sexual behaviour. Unless one genuinely believes the two are somehow linked, it isn’t an appropriate word. Perhaps ‘pacification’ would be more appropriate.

    And it still seems that you are linking the right to carry offensive weapons with a right to self-defence without providing any significant evidence for this link.

  17. #17 Kevin P.
    April 21, 2004

    Toby, if you work with animals you know that neutering often produces pacified beasts, right?

    Toby wrote:

    And it still seems that you are linking the right to carry offensive weapons with a right to self-defence without providing any significant evidence for this link.

    Evidence? The two rights exist independently, but the first significantly enhances the second, and the abrogation of the first seriously diminishes the second. How much evidence is needed for common sense propositions? Should I also produce evidence that clouds and rain are linked to each other?

    You have come late into this discussion. The original discussion is here:
    http://cgi.cse.unsw.edu.au/~lambert/cgi-bin/blog/guns/UK/gullible.html

    What many people have found is that in Britain, if you defend yourself with a weapon, you will likely not be charged with a crime for the act of defense, but you will very likely be charged with a crime for using an offensive weapon, even though you were blameless in the circumstances. This is so institutionalized that in effect, it is better to avoid defending yourself with anything other than your bare hands. This of course, is an option for only healthy and strong people. Hence our argument is that self defense in Britain is effectively nullified, just like one’s freedom of religion would be effectively nullified if one could worship only at an Anglican church. Tim Lambert’s argument is that since one can still defend oneself with one’s bare hands, self-defense is alive and well in Britain and we are full of shit. This is the Tim Lambert style of argument – walk into the forest, walk around all the trees and point to the two stumps in the forest as evidence that the forest doesn’t exist.

  18. #18 Kevin P.
    April 21, 2004

    Ok, I take back part of that – you were in fact in the original discussion. Nevertheless the notion that criminals disarm themselves because of minor gun control laws while preparing to commit serious crimes like robbery, rape and homicide is too silly to debate. This is the symptom of the mentality of the academy – that the most elementary of human behaviors can be explained away through clever number work. I am glad I completed graduate school with my common sense intact.

  19. #19 Kevin P.
    April 21, 2004

    Here is a recent example of a case of self defense where the criminal was armed with a knife:

    Clerk’s gun trumps knife in robbery try

    No shots fired, nobody got hurt.

  20. #20 Kevin P.
    April 21, 2004

    Tim Lambert wrote:

    Consider two scenarios:

    1. Attacker has a gun. Defender does not.

    2. Attacker does not have a gun. Defender doesn’t either.

    Self defence is possible in the second scenario while it isn’t in the first one. Is that clear now?

    I have finally found the example I looked for two days ago of a case where the victim was unarmed and the criminal had a gun:

    http://msnbc.msn.com/id/4700983/

    and

    http://www.claytoncramer.com/gundefenseblog/archives/2004_03_01_archive.html#107898408388949999

  21. #21 Kevin Baker
    April 24, 2004

    Kevin P., the word you’re looking for isn’t “neutered,” it’s “domesticated.” As in one of my favorite quotations:

    To be civilized is to restrain the ability to commit mayhem.
    To be incapable of committing mayhem is not the mark of the civilized,
    merely the domesticated.
    – Trefor Thomas

    I will try to get a response post up this weekend. I’ve just been too busy to crank one out.

  22. #22 Kevin Baker
    April 30, 2004

    My response is up here.

  23. #23 Kevin Baker
    May 3, 2004