Gullible Gunners, part 3

Back in March I wrote about the way pro-gun bloggers leapt to the conclusion that self-defence in the UK was illegal, based on story about a man who defended himself against some robbers with a sword, killed one and ended up being jailed for eight years. Unfortunately, the story left out the fact that the killing was not in self-defence since the killer had stabbed the robber in the back after he fled from the killer’s home. In the comments to that post and this follow-up post, Kevin Baker argued that restrictions on weapons in the UK made it essentially impossible to defend yourself. Now he has a new posting where he continues the argument.

He says that he stands by this statement (emphasis added by me):

(T)here have been numerous cases of the British courts charging people for defending themselves. The law there seems to be one based on “proportional response” – e.g., stabbing someone who isn’t armed with a weapon is “excessive force.” So is bashing them over the head with a brick. There are many of these cases, and they’ve lead us to the conclusion that private citizens in Britain had best not resist attack, or face prosecution for usurping the authority of the State in its monopoly on the legitimate use of force. My primary objection to the news story was that it reinforces that conclusion. If you are a reader of that story, ignorant as to the details, in combination with all the other similar stories of people prosecuted after defending themselves, the message is “don’t resist, you’ll go to jail.”

He has “spent a considerable amount of time trying to do archive research through UK online newspapers for stories on self defense”, and found not one story where someone was prosecuted for defending themselves. So where do we stand here? Despite strenuous efforts, we have not one case where the British courts have charged someone for defending themselves. All we have is two cases (Lindsay and Martin) where the killing was not self-defence, but were presented by pro-gunners to make it look like it was.

Next, Baker seems to think there is some contradiction between Kleck’s description of Baker’s belief that gun control does not disarm any criminals as a fallacy, and Kleck’s statement that general gun availability has no net positive effect on crime. That’s net effect. He’s not saying that there are no negative effects. He’s arguing that the positive effects cancel them out.

Next, Baker once more misrepresents my position by claiming that my “philosophy” is

Violence is wrong.

Of course, it is quite obvious from what I have written in this discussion that I don’t think that violence used in self-defence is wrong. It is disappointing that Baker has chosen to argue against a straw man rather than my position.

Baker then claims:

It doesn’t matter to Tim that taking firearms away from the law abiding makes them nearly powerless against those willing to use violence against them. Women, the elderly, the physically disabled are all at a disadvantage against the youthful, strong, and predatory. They don’t NEED a gun.
If the law disarms attackers, then it can make self defence possible where it would have been impossible if the attacker was armed.

But the law doesn’t disarm attackers. It disarms their victims. The attackers have the choice to be armed or not. The State denies that choice to the victims, and so doing makes their victimization easier.

Even after I point out that a gun is not the only way to defend yourself Baker is back to claim that it basically is, with only a weaselly “nearly” to qualify his claim. He once more asserts that “the law doesn’t disarm attackers”, even though I called him on this claim before and pointed out that pro-gun scholar Gary Kleck calls it a fallacy. In our discussion, I’ve provided evidence that his claim is false, while he has not provided any evidence that it is true. Finally, it is utterly wrong to start his paragraph with “It doesn’t matter to Tim” when what follows are not facts that I have expressed indifference towards, but “facts” that I have strenuously pointed out are false.

And just to prove that Baker is still gullible, we have the latest crime figures from England. Here’s what Baker reported:

Violent crime rose 11% in the final three months of 2003 compared with the same period in 2002, Home Office figures revealed today. Latest figures show 271,500 incidents of violent crime were recorded by police in England and Wales from October to December 2003. More serious violent crimes such as murder and serious wounding rose by 13%, while “less serious” violent crime such as assaults increased 21% period-on-period to 106,000 incidents. The number of sexual offences rose 6% to 12,600 while robberies fell 7% to 23,900.

Quick, based on what Baker reported, did violent crime go up or down? Guess what, the British Crime Survey showed that violent crime decreased by 5%. The 11% increase that the newspaper used for its headline was just because the police were recording more of the smaller number of violent crimes. Of course, “crime up” makes for a better story than “crime down”, so that’s the way the paper reported it and Baker fell for it. And note that in another post he specifically acknowledges that the survey figures are more accurate than the police recorded figures.

After criticizing Iain Murray for his misleading writing about epidemiology and global warming, I should acknowledge when he gets something right, correctly stating that violent crime has been falling in Britain for years.

Comments

  1. #1 Kevin Baker
    May 4, 2004

    Just out of curiosity, Tim, what is your philosophy as regards weapon controls? Can you elucidate? I’m restricted to building that ‘straw-man’ because I’m limited to interpreting your philosophy from what you write here.

    For example, your statement: “If the law disarms attackers, then it can make self defence possible where it would have been impossible if the attacker was armed.” One of my readers has rephrased it (I think appropriately) as: “If the law disarms citizens, then it can make self defence impossible where it would have been possible if the citizen was armed.” Which of these two statements reflects the reality on the ground? And, once again, if it’s legally justified for a woman to use lethal force against a rapist, how is she to accomplish this if the law disarms her?

    You keep dodging that question. I think your last response was:

    Restrictions on weapons might make self defence more difficult in some cases, but they can also make it easier in others (because the attacker does not have a weapon). The net effect could be to make it easier or harder on average.

    I’m sure that women everywhere find that comforting.

    You point out that I didn’t show any examples in which people were actually prosecuted for defending themselves, but in the first the wheelchair bound man who defended himself with (illegal) CS teargas against an assailant who had an (illegal) knife was charged with possession of the spray. The law didn’t disarm his attacker. How was he to defend himself if he had no weapon at all? Recall that he had been robbed previously by another man who had beaten him up, thus prompting him to get the teargas.

    In the last example, an aged nearly blind man had his front door knocked off its hinges by a young and obviously very strong man. The homeowner stabbed the young man and killed him. The State spent SEVEN WEEKS ON A MURDER INVESTINGATION before concluding that self defense could not be ‘disproven’. If this old man had been accosted on the street, he would not have had access to the knife. The law WOULD have disarmed him. His attacker did not NEED a weapon. Why is this hard for you to grasp?

    One more time, my objection to the story in the Scotsman was:

    If you are a reader of that story, ignorant as to the details, in combination with all the other similar stories of people prosecuted after defending themselves, the message is “don’t resist, you’ll go to jail.”

    Have pepper spray for your defense? Go to jail. Perform an obvious case of self-defense? Suffer a murder investigation.

    But to make you happy, I’ll do a really thorough search for more of these.

    As regards Kleck, I just don’t think we’re reaching each other here. (No surprise.)

    Ah! And now I’m “weaselly.” Well I suppose one strawman deserves one ad hominem in response. But you seem to be the one attributing Godlike power to firearms. How about addressing the content of that paragraph? Is it true or not?

    How does the law disarm attackers? I showed four examples of successful self-defense. In two of them the attackers were armed. In all four of them, the defenders were armed. In three of the successful defenses, the only reason the defenders were armed was because they were in their homes or place of business. In the fourth the crime victim was charged with having an “offensive weapon.” But these facts seem to slide right off you. Why is that?

    And, finally, as refers to those crime statistics: You were happy as hell to use recorded crime statistics when you caught my error of mixing crime survey and recorded crime data. But now that the recorded crime data shows an increase you want to switch to survey data?

    You’re just like the British government: Choose the data set that gives you the best image?

    Isn’t that “weaselly?”

  2. #2 Kevin Baker
    May 4, 2004

    Though I’m sure it won’t meet your stringent qualifications.

    Yobs drove man to kill himself

    The widow of a disabled man who killed himself after being repeatedly attacked by young yobs at his Midland home last night backed calls for a “Tony Martin’s Law”.

    Teenage hooligans terrorised Martin James, 64, so many times that he eventually fired an air rifle at them to scare them off – and landed himself in trouble.

    Instead of tackling the louts, who had also vandalised his property, police threatened the despairing householder with prosecution for daring to use the firearm.

    It was an airgun, but still…
    This has happened more than once, as I recall. I’ll have to dig up the older one.

  3. #3 Tim Lambert
    May 7, 2004

    My philosophy on weapon controls is that we need to look at the cost and benefits and adopt them if the net benefit is positive. If it isn’t, then we should not adopt them. I already said that I did not approve of the 1996 laws here. That is because while there has been a reduction in deaths, that reduction is small relative to the cost and there were more productive ways my tax dollars could have been spent.

    You seem to be arguing against controls by exclusively talking about the costs and willfully ignoring any possible benefits. Even though Kleck describes it as a fallacy you continue to insist that the laws cannot disarm any criminals. You don’t have any evidence for your claim and you just keep ignoring the evidence to the contrary. Why are criminals in England much much less likely to use guns than in the US?

    I’m happy that you are now actually looking for news stories to back your claim that there were all these “other similar stories of people prosecuted after defending themselves”, but surely it would have better not to have made the claim if you didn’t have supporting evidence.

    I expect the British government would like to use whatever figures make them look the best, but that does not change the fact that the survey figures measure crime more accurately.

    When I corrected your comparison of police recorded figures with survey ones, my point was that you should compare like with like. The police recorded figure for England was right there next to the survey one, so it was much easier to compare the police figures, so that’s what I did. I agree that the comparison using survey data is the better one. That means:

    1. Robbery rates are much higher in England than in the US

    2. Violent crime has dropped steadily in England since their gun ban

  4. #4 Kevin Baker
    May 10, 2004

    “My philosophy on weapon controls is that we need to look at the cost and benefits and adopt them if the net benefit is positive.”

    How do you calculate “net benefit” on something like the 1996 handgun ban? Or the semi-auto ban?

    Actually, I argue against controls because of the net reduction in a fundamental individual right. A reduction that is in direct violation of the fundamental laws of both the UK and the US, said laws having been “re-interpreted” but not repealed or amended. I have a real problem with goverments that decide to work outside their own rules, most especially when it comes to the protection of the rights of the individuals making up the society. “But it’s for our own good,” of course.

    The English Bill of Rights allows

    That the subjects which are Protestants may have arms for their defence suitable to their conditions and as allowed by law

    yet English law no longer allows any subject to have any weapon outside his own home or place of business. “As allowed by law” has become “not allowed at all.” And what one may have inside the home is also strictly regulated.

    The same path is being pursued here. We’ve seen how successful it’s been in England. We’ve seen how well the registration effort is going in Canada. I shudder to think what the results would be here. But how do you calculate something like that?

    (I’m still doing research for my next piece – some fascinating stuff out there.)

  5. #5 Andrew Upson
    May 18, 2004

    [quote]Why are criminals in England much much less likely to use guns than in the US?[/quote] You may consider this to a bit of a nit-pick, but wouldn’t the better question be “Are criminals in the UK using guns more now compared to before the handgun ban or less?”

    Far as I know criminals in the US have been using guns at greater rates than in the UK for the last 100+ years (back to a time when guns laws and availability were similar).

    So maybe an even more appropriate question would be “Is the difference in criminal mis-use of guns between the US and UK converging or diverging or staying the same since the UK hand gun ban?” I have no numbers to back myself up, but my impression is that the rates are converging. In other words, the rate in the UK is going up, and the US rate is going down or staying the same.

  6. #6 Kevin Baker
    May 30, 2004

    Well, no matter. It’s been apparent that you have your opinion and I have mine and never the twain shall meet.

    Regardless, my latest (and last) piece in this exchange is now up here.

  7. #7 Kevin Baker
    June 5, 2004

    No comment?

  8. #8 Tim Lambert
    June 5, 2004

    Patience.

  9. #9 Kevin Baker
    June 13, 2004

    But do try not to take a full month like I did, OK?
    :-)

  10. #10 Kevin Baker
    July 3, 2004

    I know you counceled patience, but it has been a month now. I realize you’re busy, but I kept my promise. :-)

  11. #11 Tim Lambert
    July 3, 2004

    Well, you took a month as well. I want to finish Malcolm’s book before I write my post.

  12. #12 Kevin Baker
    July 3, 2004

    I didn’t think it would be that difficult for you, Tim. I bet it will be interesting when you get around to it, though.

  13. #13 :
    July 4, 2004

    Quite honestly having read the posting in your blog I don’t know if there’s anything worth responding to.

    In ALL countries, including he US, pleas of self-defence are a difficult issue for the legal system.

    If I were to decide to trawl through every paper in the US finding cases where pleas of self-defence were used in trials and pull out sentences to highlight in blood-red I could probably mount the same sort of case for the US as a Stalinist hell-hole you seem determined to try and make against the UK.

  14. #14 :
    July 4, 2004

    Quite honestly having read the posting in your blog I don’t know if there’s anything worth responding to.

    In ALL countries, including he US, pleas of self-defence are a difficult issue for the legal system.

    If I were to decide to trawl through every paper in the US finding cases where pleas of self-defence were used in trials and pull out sentences to highlight in blood-red I could probably mount the same sort of case for the US as a Stalinist hell-hole you seem determined to try and make against the UK.

  15. #15 :
    July 4, 2004

    Quite honestly having read the posting in your blog I don’t know if there’s anything worth responding to.

    In ALL countries, including he US, pleas of self-defence are a difficult issue for the legal system.

    If I were to decide to trawl through every paper in the US finding cases where pleas of self-defence were used in trials and pull out sentences to highlight in blood-red I could probably mount the same sort of case for the US as a Stalinist hell-hole you seem determined to try and make against the UK.

  16. #16 :
    July 4, 2004

    Quite honestly having read the posting in your blog I don’t know if there’s anything worth responding to.

    In ALL countries, including he US, pleas of self-defence are a difficult issue for the legal system.

    If I were to decide to trawl through every paper in the US finding cases where pleas of self-defence were used in trials and pull out sentences to highlight in blood-red I could probably mount the same sort of case for the US as a Stalinist hell-hole you seem determined to try and make against the UK.

  17. #17 Ian Gould
    July 4, 2004

    Kevin will no be heartened by the following story:
    http://www.newsshopper.co.uk/news/lewgreennews/display.var.504395.0.killing_was_self_defence.php
    Of course, the defendant in the case DID have to appear in court to expaling WHY he burnt his fiance’s father’s corpse and buried the remaisn so obviously civil liberties still have a way to go in the UK.

  18. #18 Kevin Baker
    July 6, 2004

    To anonymous:

    The point is that the general populace of the UK has been convinced that defending oneself – particularly with lethal force – will lead to their prosecution. They believe that in this the legal system is actively against them. The way such cases are reported in the media is responsible for this. The same cannot (quite) be said for the US. Here, we still have at least some reporting of successful self-defense, with emphasis on (or at least mention of) the fact that the defender is not under threat of prosecution.

    The difference that we “gullible gunners” point out is the different mental attitude between people in the UK and people in the US. Here we still believe that we have an inherent right to defend ourselves and our property, and we’re shocked and angered when the government prosecutes someone for doing so. It appears that in the UK people want a right to defend themselves and their property, but are resigned to the belief that doing so will lead to prosecution.

    And Ian? O.J. Simpson walked here, too. That doesn’t mean it was self-defense. I actually gave two or three examples of UK self-defense cases where people were found not guilty or were not charged. I used them to illustrate that the situation there is, at best, confusing to the general populace. But they also illustrated the fact that the reporting added to the general belief that self defense is very legally risky.

    What you don’t see there are cases where the authorities pat the defender on the back and say “good job.” Doing so would usurp the authority of the State. There are places here in the US where the State guards that power jealously (New York, Maryland, and New Jersey come immediately to mind), but in the majority that is not true.

    As I noted in a post on a different topic, the difference between our two nations appears to be an “aggressive edge.” That edge is probably a major contributing factor in the difference between our homicide rates as well, but we aren’t a nation of supplicant victims.

  19. #19 Ian Gould
    July 7, 2004

    I’m sorry but how do you know what the population of Great Britian believe? Hsve you polled them on the issue? Clearly all the people in the stories you cite who did use deadly force weren;t affected by this media brainwashing you claim is at work. Further, are you saying that there’s a genuine problem with the British legal system or simply that there’s a problem with the British media?

    Can I suggest you try and find actual statistics for the frequency with which self-defence is actually advanced as a defence in the UK and the US andhow often it succeeds.

    Since I’m an Australian I can’t speak for the British but the common perception of Americans here is of desparately frightened people, jumping at shadows and with no faith in their ability to defend themselves without guns.

  20. #20 Kevin Baker
    July 7, 2004

    “I’m sorry but how do you know what the population of Great Britian believe(s)?”

    It’s a generalization, Ian, based on what I’ve read and with conversations I’ve had both in person and on-line with residents of the UK.

    “Clearly all the people in the stories you cite who did use deadly force weren’t affected by this media brainwashing you claim is at work.”

    And how many were there? The question that needs to be addressed is “how many people are affected, and so do not defend themselves?” Are these just the few nails left that have to be hammered down?

    “Further, are you saying that there’s a genuine problem with the British legal system or simply that there’s a problem with the British media?”

    Both.

    Actually, that’s too flippant. It’s a cultural difference that I’m pointing out. More accurately, a philosophical difference, and (IMHO) that philosophy pervades the government and the media, and through them – to a large extent – the populace. But the failure of that philosophy results in what I and other “gullible gunners” consider to be injustice when people who defend themselves and others are prosecuted for doing so. It fails further in that the philosophy results in a populace of supplicant victims who reject the idea of defending themselves, and who are then a vast victim pool for those who are willing to threaten or use violence against them. It’s a pacifist philosophy, and it doesn’t work.

    “Can I suggest you try and find actual statistics for the frequency with which self-defence is actually advanced as a defence in the UK and the US and how often it succeeds?”

    You can suggest it, but I’m not a professional researcher. Hell, I’m only an amateur philosopher, but I ascribe to the ancient philosophy, si vis pacem para bellum. I note that once the British changed their laws regarding personal defense, their violent crime rates began climbing until now that polity has the highest rate in Europe. It has taken quite a while to create a nation of victims, but they’ve managed it. I’d be more interested in a comparison between the percentage of violent crimes in which John or Jane Ordinary actually resist here and in the UK. It’s the willingness to resist that I’m interested in.

    “(T)he common perception of Americans here is of desparately frightened people, jumping at shadows and with no faith in their ability to defend themselves without guns.”

    Ah, the media again. That’s a topic unto itself. Trust me, we’re not “desperately frightened,” nor “jumping at shadows.” Well, not most of us anyway. The people who are desperately frightened and jump at shadows are the ones who fear other armed citizens, though. Again, it’s a difference in philosophy. What is it about drawing a government paycheck that makes a fellow citizen trustworthy? What is it about your other neighbor who works in the private sector that makes him untrustworthy with a weapon?

    For me this topic goes far beyond just the question of how the British treat people who use lethal force in self defense. It is very much about the philosophy of the legitimate use of force, and I don’t think many people see it in those terms.

  21. #21 Tim Lambert
    July 16, 2004

    My reply is here,

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