Settle in and get comfy, for this will be another patented Überpost™©®.
James said in one of his comments:
If you think the freedom to own a gun is a vitally important human right, of course you’ll interpret the odd isolated incident involving legally-owned guns as an acceptable (albeit tragic) price to pay for something fundamental to human liberty. But if like me you see the right to own a gun as a relatively meaningless, one-dimensional freedom, and thus interpret the banning of handguns as merely a minor disappointment to the minority of people concerned, then it’s obviously perfectly rational to put those people through some inconvenience even if it will only save a very small number of lives. And I fail to see how you can dispute the ban will have saved that very small number of lives, because while massacres with legally-owned weapons may be sporadic, they stubbornly keep on happening.
This is, essentially, the definition of the split between our two philosophies. I (and others like me, including the Founders of this nation and his not-too-distant ancestors) believe that the right to arms is a fundamental human right. He does not. Juxtapose Kelly’s statement: “. . . the banning of handguns as merely a minor disappointment to the minority of people concerned . . .” with Rand: ”The smallest minority on Earth is the individual. Those who deny individual rights cannot claim to be defenders of minorities.” No, but he claims to be a defender of the innocent.
James also said:
. . . the cultural differences on the gun issue are massive and probably unbridgeable. We’re barely even speaking the same language on the topic.
This is what the debate invitation was about – putting up each side of the argument, presenting each philosophy and defending it, so that the fence-sitters, the uninformed, the undecideds, could look at both arguments and make up their own minds. I chose, as James put it, “recourse to detailed statistical data.” James chose to employ emotion and hand-waving.
James also said, in response to the suggestion that possibly “far more people had died” from the law making it illegal to carry a handgun than were killed at Dunblane:
I think that’s highly unlikely. Gun deaths are still much lower in the UK than the US and it doesn’t take much of a leap of imagination to conclude that’s to do with there being fewer guns around.
This is one of those “proving a negative” questions. How do you prove, statistically, that making it illegal to carry a defensive weapon did or did not result in an increase in homicides? Specifically, seventeen additional homicides since 1997? I submit that you can’t prove it to someone like James, who will always have what he terms “reasonable doubt,” but you can present “detailed statistical data” and let the average observer draw their own conclusions.
Throughout the furious comment threads, James stuck doggedly to his single point:
. . . a blanket right to own deadly weapons infringes on the freedom of others, because it leads to a point where the threat from gun violence is no longer acceptably small. At that point the ‘freedom from fear’ is compromised.
Prior to the restrictions in the late 1990s, only a relatively tiny percentage of the UK population took advantage of the right to own handguns. But as we saw from the Dunblane and Hungerford massacres, there was a severe danger to the non-gun-owning remainder of the population from even that limited level of legal handgun ownership. An absolutely open-and-shut case of a personal ‘right’ interfering with the freedoms and rights of others – and in any civilised society, it’s at that point where a personal right must cease to be regarded as absolute.
That point, extrapolated out, says that if you allow people to own guns, innocent people will die, and if you ban guns, fewer innocent people will die. Therefore the right to life of the potential victims trumps everyone else’s right to arms.
It’s a very simple argument. Very emotionally persuasive. Problem is, there’s no way, statistically, to prove such benefit. Former Chief Inspector Colin Greenwood of the West Yorkshire Constabulary, an acknowledged authority on gun control in the UK, from his report Evaluating Britain’s Handgun Ban (PDF):
We could fill page after page with statistics and do little more than confuse the true picture. Let me suggest that if something as Draconian as the handgun ban was to have any effect at all, it would show in the six years following the ban taking effect. If we look at a period of six years before the ban and six years after, as in Table 2, and consider the use of pistols alongside other weapons favoured by criminals, we might see the real effect the ban.
If we average out the total homicide figures for the six years before 1997 and the six years after (ignoring the Dr Shipman cases*), we see that homicide has increased from an average of 706 to 825 and despite yearly fluctuations, the figure is steadily upwards. This is also so with homicide involving firearms, where the six−year average has grown from 61 to 72 and again with a steady upward trend. The use of shotguns, however, has fallen from an average of 20 down to 11 and sawn−off shotguns from 9 down to 5, but the use of pistols has increased from an average of 29 to 42. But in none of these cases does 1997 mark a watershed. Trends that began long before 1997 have continued entirely unchanged.
In Table 3, increases in the total robbery figure are much more marked and much more consistent and the firearms robbery figures tell us more about the impact of the handgun ban. Contrary to many claims, the use of firearms in robbery did not increase after the 1997 Act; it fell slightly from a six−year average of 4700 to 4100. The use of shotguns fell more sharply, but the use of pistols also fell, though by only a small amount.
Looking at the figures in Table 3 will show, however, that these trends were well under way before the 1997 Act and there is no way that the changes can be attributed to that law. The only possible conclusion is that the handgun ban was a complete and pathetic irrelevance to protecting the British public from armed criminals. It has not changed a pattern of increases in crime that existed before the ban.
(*Shipman was a serial murderer. Once his crimes were recognized and he was apprehended, all of his victims were recorded as homicides in a single year for reporting purposes, thus skewing the statistics.)
James would argue, I believe, that what “criminals” do wasn’t his point. The murders that would have been “prevented” would have been the acts of legal owners, as Dunblane’s Thomas Hamilton and Hungerford’s Michael Ryan were. My answer is that it makes no difference whether the guns were legally owned or not – the statistics indicate that the annual carnage is unaffected by the firearms laws.
I have not argued that not banning handguns or other firearms would make society safer – I know can’t prove that (though I believe it can but not necessarily must be true). But what I can prove (and James Kelly cannot statistically refute) is that bans do not make society SAFER. (Which is the point of Joe Huffman’s “Just One Question.”) And I can prove that disarming the law-abiding makes them more vulnerable, because it disarms – by statute – those few who would choose to arm themselves in their own defense and in the defense of others. As Chief Inspector Greenwood stated in his report:
At first glance, it may seem odd or even perverse to suggest that statutory controls on the private ownership of firearms are irrelevant to the problem of armed crime; yet that is precisely what the evidence shows. Armed crime and violent crime generally are products of ethnic and social factors unrelated to the availability of a particular type of weapon.
The number of firearms required to satisfy the crime market is small, and these are supplied no matter what controls are instituted. Controls have had serious effects on legitimate users of firearms, but there is no case, either in the history of this country or in the experience of other countries in which controls can be shown to have restricted the flow of weapons to criminals, or in any way reduced crime.
While the number of legal firearms owners in Britain has been declining due to a hostile gun control bureaucracy, crimes involving firearms increased 196% between 1981-1992.
Rampage killings are still murders, and murder is a crime. As the line goes, “How’s that gun ban workin’ out for you?”
James put much emphasis on the differential between homicide rates here in the U.S. versus the UK. Even after I pointed out to him that the ratio has, in the not too distant past, been dramatically higher, and the trend over the last dozen years has been converging ratios – the UK’s slow, steady increase versus the US’s dramatic yearly decline. What I didn’t do was go even further back to show him that the differential between our two countries has always been large, even before either had any kind of gun control laws on the books. It is, to a large extent, a cultural thing, but it is obvious that criminals in the UK are now more willing to kill than they used to be.
Let’s discuss the first assertion, that gun laws don’t make societies safer. There have been two meta-studies of American gun control laws and research done. The first was commissioned by the Carter administration, the second by the Clinton Administration. The first was carried out by a team of three sociologists, the second by the National Academies of Science. The only similar effort in the UK that I am aware of was performed by the aforementioned Colin Greenwood and was published in 1972 under the title Firearms Control: A Study of Armed Crime and Firearms Control in England and Wales. The Carter-commissioned study was published in 1983 under the title Under the Gun: Weapons, Crime and Violence in America, and the Clinton-commissioned study was published in 2004 under the title Firearms and Violence: A Critical Review.
What were the conclusions of these three studies? Well, you’ve already read Colin Greenwood’s post-Dunblane conclusions, but here are pertinent quotes from his 1972 tome:
How effective have these controls been in bringing within their term all the firearms in the country, and in preventing criminals from obtaining and using firearms? The evidence produced in Chapter 15 indicates that fifty years of very strict controls on pistols have left a vast pool of illegal weapons. Large numbers are surrendered to the police each year and it is difficult to avoid the conclusion that this is only the tip of the iceberg. (p. 242)
No matter how one approaches the figures, one is forced to the rather startling conclusion that the use of firearms in crime was very much less when there were no controls of any sort and when anyone, convicted criminal or lunatic, could buy any type of firearm without restriction. (p. 243)
Careful examination of all the evidence available suggests, therefore, that legislation has failed to bring under control substantial numbers of firearms, and it certainly cannot be claimed that strict controls have reduced the use of firearms in crime. On the basis of these facts is(sic) might be argued that firearms controls have had little effect and do not justify the amount of police time involved. Indeed, it is possible to build up a sound case for abolishing or substantially reducing controls. It might be claimed that a tradition of restricted ownership of firearms has been built up, and that controls have helped to establish a state of public opinion in which firearms are regarded as potentially dangerous items which should be restricted as far as possible to responsible people. Any such psychological effects will, clearly, have been more effective amongst the law-abiding section of the community than they will against the criminal elements. This is clearly an important aspect of the problem and one which it is impossible to quantify, yet it is well illustrated in many of the debates in parliament on the various Bills. Prior to the passing of the Pistols Act, Members spoke frequently of their habit of carrying pistols and their willingness to use them in self-defence. The facts show that they were rarely used, but it is clear that many people felt the need of a pistol for defence. In later debates, this point does not arise. There are claims for the right to use firearms for sporting purposes, but claims for the need of firearms for defence rapidly diminish. Many factors have contributed to this. It seems that the actual risk involved was less before controls than it is in the present day, yet the demand for firearms for protection almost disappears in the early twentieth century. (pp. 245-46)
Remember this excerpt. I’ll return to it.
The conclusion of Under the Gun was not as outspoken, but similar in spirit, and is one I’ve quoted here several times:
The progressive’s indictment of American firearms policy is well known and is one that both the senior authors of this study once shared. This indictment includes the following particulars: (1) Guns are involved in an astonishing number of crimes in this country. (2) In other countries with stricter firearms laws and fewer guns in private hands, gun crime is rare. (3) Most of the firearms involved in crime are cheap Saturday Night Specials, for which no legitimate use or need exists. (4) Many families acquire such a gun because they feel the need to protect themselves; eventually they end up shooting one another. (5) If there were fewer guns around, there would obviously be less crime. (6) Most of the public also believes this and has favored stricter gun control laws for as long as anyone has asked the question. (7) Only the gun lobby prevents us from embarking on the road to a safer and more civilized society.
The more deeply we have explored the empirical implications of this indictment, the less plausible it has become. We wonder, first, given the number of firearms presently available in the United States, whether the time to “do something” about them has not long since passed. If we take the highest plausible value for the total number of gun incidents in any given year – 1,000,000 – and the lowest plausible value for the total number of firearms now in private hands – 100,000,000 – we see rather quickly that the guns now owned exceed the annual incident count by a factor of at least 100. This means that the existing stock is adequate to supply all conceivable criminal purposes for at least the entire next century, even if the worldwide manufacture of new guns were halted today and if each presently owned firearm were used criminally once and only once. Short of an outright house-to-house search and seizure mission, just how are we going to achieve some significant reduction in the number of firearms available? (pp. 319-20)
Here’s part I haven’t quoted before:
One could, of course, take things to the logically extreme case: an immediate and strictly enforced ban on both the ownership and manufacture of all firearms of every sort. Let us even assume perfect compliance with this law — that we actually rounded up and disposed of all 120 million guns now in circulation [Remember, this was 1982. – Ed.] that every legitimate manufacturing establishment was permanently shut down, and that all sources of imported firearms were permanently closed off. [Like the UK has! *snort* – Ed.], what we would then have is the firearms equivalent of Prohibition, with (one strongly suspects) much the same consequences. A black market in guns, run by organized crime (much to their profit, no doubt), would spring up to service the now-illegal demand. It is, after all, not much more difficult to manufacture a serviceable firearm in one’s basement than to brew up a batch of home-made gin. Afghanistani tribesmen, using wood fires and metal-working equipment that is much inferior to what can be ordered through a Sears catalog, hand-craft rifles that fire the Russian AK-47 cartridge. Do we anticipate a lesser ability from American do-it-yourselfers or the Mafia? (p. 321)
Even if we were somehow able to remove all firearms from civilian possession, it is not at all clear that a substantial reduction in interpersonal violence would follow. Certainly, the violence that results from hard-core and predatory criminality would not abate very much. Even the most ardent proponents of stricter gun laws no longer expect such laws to solve the hard-core crime problem, or even to make much of a dent in it. There is also reason to doubt whether the “soft-core” violence, the so-called crimes of passion, would decline by very much. Stated simply, these crimes occur because some people have come to hate others, and they will continue to occur in one form or another as long as hatred persists. It is possible, to be sure, that many of these incidents would involve different consequences if no firearms were available, but it is also possible that the consequences would be exactly the same. The existing empirical literature provides no firm basis [my emphasis] for choosing one of these possibilities over the other. Restating the point, if we could solve the problem of interpersonal hatred, it may not matter very much what we did about guns, and unless we solve the problem of interpersonal hatred, it may not matter much what we do about guns. There are simply too many other objects that can serve the purpose of inflicting harm on another human being. (pp. 321-22)
That last paragraph is encompassed by Say Uncle’s pithy observation: “Gun control: what you do instead of something.” Obviously I possess copies of both of these texts. I did not purchase a copy of Firearms and Violence, but when it came out I did pull excerpts from the publicly available portions, and the full text is available online. Its conclusions were much less negative, but that report didn’t contradict the conclusions of Firearms Controls or Under the Gun. This was typical:
Should regulations restrict who may possess firearms? Should there be restrictions on the number or types of guns that can be purchased? Should safety locks be required? Answers to these questions involve issues that go beyond research on firearm violence.
These policy questions cannot be informed by current studies. Available data are too weak to support strong conclusions. [My emphasis.] Therefore, we believe that one of the most pressing needs is to pursue the data and research that are needed to fill knowledge gaps and, in turn, inform debate in this important policy area. Our committee identified key approaches to strengthen the research base on firearms and violence. We also believe that the federal government should support a rigorous research program in this area.
Research linking firearms to criminal violence and suicide is limited by a lack of credible data on firearm ownership (including possession and access) and individuals’ encounters with violence. The committee found that the existing data on gun ownership and use are the biggest barriers to better understanding gun violence. Without better data, many basic questions cannot be answered. Such data will not solve all problems of methodology. However, the almost complete absence of this information from the scientific literature makes it extremely difficult to understand the complex interpersonal, social, and other factors that determine whether or not a firearm will be used to commit a violent act.
Colin Greenwood studied all the data available to him as of 1971. Wright, Rossi, and Daly studied all of the data available to them as of 1982. The authors of the National Academies of Science report studied all of the data available to them as of 2003, and NONE OF THEM CONCLUDED THAT “GUN CONTROL” COULD BE SHOWN TO CONTRIBUTE TO ANY REDUCTION OF “GUN CRIME.”
If the evidence existed, surely someone would have found it, but they did not. In fact, this third report put paid to the claims of gun-control supporters (including James) that “more guns equal more crime.” The “Executive Summary” on the topic of the effect of “Right to Carry” laws said:
A total of 34 states have laws that allow qualified adults to carry concealed handguns. Right-to-carry laws are not without controversy: some people believe that they deter crimes against individuals; others argue that they have no such effect or that they may even increase the level of firearms violence. This public debate has stimulated the production of a large body of statistical evidence on whether right-to-carry laws reduce or increase crimes against individuals.
However, although all of the studies use the same basic conceptual model and data, the empirical findings are contradictory and in the committee’s view highly fragile. Some studies find that right-to-carry laws reduce violent crime, others find that the effects are negligible, and still others find that such laws increase violent crime. The committee concludes that it is not possible to reach any scientifically supported conclusion because of (a) the sensitivity of the empirical results to seemingly minor changes in model specification, (b) a lack of robustness of the results to the inclusion of more recent years of data (during which there were many more law changes than in the earlier period), and (c) the statistical imprecision of the results. The evidence to date does not adequately indicate either the sign or the magnitude of a causal link between the passage of right-to-carry laws and crime rates. [My emphasis.] Furthermore, this uncertainty is not likely to be resolved with the existing data and methods. If further headway is to be made, in the committee’s judgment, new analytical approaches and data are needed. (One committee member has dissented from this view with respect to the effects of these laws on homicide rates; see Appendix A.)
In short, “we can’t prove anything.” But Appendix A?
The thrust of Chapter 6 of the committee’s report is that studies purporting to show a relationship between right-to-carry (RTC) laws and crime rates are fragile. Though I am not an econometrician, I am struck by the fact that most studies of the effect of policy changes on crime rates are fragile in this sense: Different authors produce different results, and sometimes contradictory ones. This has been true of studies of the effect on crime rates of incapacitation (that is, taking criminals off the street), deterrence (that is, increasing the likelihood of conviction and imprisonment), and capital punishment. In my view, committees of the National Research Council that have dealt with these earlier studies have attempted, not simply to show that different authors have reached different conclusions, but to suggest which lines of inquiry, including data and models, are most likely to produce more robust results.
That has not happened here. [My emphasis.] Chapter 6 seeks to show that fragile results exist but not to indicate what research strategies might improve our understanding of the effects, if any, of RTC laws. To do the latter would require the committee to analyze carefully not only the studies by John Lott but those done by both his supporters and his critics. Here, only the work by Lott and his coauthors is subject to close analysis.
If this analysis of Lott’s work showed that his findings are not supported by his data and models, then the conclusion that his results are fragile might be sufficient. But my reading of this chapter suggests that some of his results survive virtually every reanalysis done by the committee.
Lott argued that murder rates decline after the adoption of RTC laws even after allowing for the effect of other variables that affect crime rates. The committee has confirmed this finding [my emphasis] as is evident in its Tables 6-1, 6-2, 6-5 (first row), 6-6 (first row), and 6-7 (first two rows). This confirmation includes both the original data period (1977-1992) used by Lott and data that run through 2000. In view of the confirmation of the findings that shall-issue laws drive down the murder rate, it is hard for me to understand why these claims are called “fragile.”
In addition, with only a few exceptions, the studies cited in Chapter 6, including those by Lott’s critics, do not show that the passage of RTC laws drives the crime rates up (as might be the case if one supposed that newly armed people went about looking for someone to shoot). The direct evidence that such shooting sprees occur is nonexistent. The indirect evidence, as found in papers by Black and Nagin and Ayres and Donohue [cited in Chapter 6], is controversial. Indeed, the Ayres and Donohue paper shows that there was a “statistically significant downward shift in the trend” of the murder rate (Chapter 6, page 135). This suggests to me that for people interested in RTC laws, the best evidence we have is that they impose no costs but may confer benefits. [My emphasis.] That conclusion might be very useful to authorities who contemplate the enactment of RTC laws.
In brief: The worst thing you can say about “Right to Carry” laws (“More guns on the streets!”) with any confidence is that such laws might not be responsible for the reduction in homicide and other violent crime that often coincides with the passage of such laws.
Three reports over three different decades, and all of them conclude that there’s no data indicating that gun control laws reduce gun violence. And it’s not like they haven’t been LOOKING.
This illustrates the difference between “recourse to detailed statistical data” and emotional hand-waving.
Now, what about defense of the innocent?
Here’s where that “culture” question comes up again. Remember Colin Greenwood:
Indeed, it is possible to build up a sound case for abolishing or substantially reducing controls. It might be claimed that a tradition of restricted ownership of firearms has been built up, and that controls have helped to establish a state of public opinion in which firearms are regarded as potentially dangerous items which should be restricted as far as possible to responsible people. Any such psychological effects will, clearly, have been more effective amongst the law-abiding section of the community than they will against the criminal elements. This is clearly an important aspect of the problem and one which it is impossible to quantify, yet it is well illustrated in many of the debates in parliament on the various Bills. Prior to the passing of the Pistols Act, Members spoke frequently of their habit of carrying pistols and their willingness to use them in self-defence. The facts show that they were rarely used, but it is clear that many people felt the need of a pistol for defence.
James insisted, repeatedly, that the overwhelming majority of people in the UK “have no wish” to own guns for self-defense purposes. I concurred with that opinion. The overwhelming majority of people here don’t own guns for self-defense purposes. Of the people living in the (now) 37 “shall-issue” states, only about 2-3% of the eligible actually get a permit. Of the people who own guns here, the 40% or so of households in this nation, the majority don’t keep a loaded firearm close to hand for self-defense purposes. We have a lot of guns, but we are not a “heavily armed” nation in that regard.
The difference here is, we still have the choice. We have not suffered the decades of death-by-a-thousand-cuts legislation that has resulted in a UK where less than 0.5% of the population now (legally) owns firearms of any kind, and the overwhelming majority of the population now holds the opinion that “firearms are regarded as potentially dangerous items which should be restricted as far as possible to responsible people” – where “responsible people” are, by implication, government employees like the ones who shot a man to death because they thought the table leg he was carrying wrapped in a cloth was a shotgun. Here we still believe, in the majority, that we have a right (and many of us, a duty) to defend ourselves, our families, and even our society.
James insisted that British subjects have that same right – the right to “proportionate self-defence”. That very topic has been a subject of much discussion in this blog, mostly in the form of debate between myself and Australian mathematics professor Tim Lambert. In our last exchange, I discussed the case of Brett Osborne, a man who plead guilty to manslaughter after stabbing a naked, bloodsoaked intruder with a steak knife in defense of himself, his pregnant girlfriend, and other people in his apartment after the man burst in, violently raving. He plead guilty to manslaughter because:
“The law,” explains Harry Potter, the barrister who, with Charles Bott, would defend Osborn, “does not require the intention to kill for a prosecution for murder to succeed. All that is required is an intention to cause serious bodily harm. That intention can be fleeting and momentary. But if it is there in any form at all for just a second – that is, if the blow you struck was deliberate rather than accidental – you can be guilty of murder and spend the rest of your life in prison. [My emphasis.]
“Moreover,” Mr Potter continues, “while self-defence is a complete defence to a charge of murder, the Court of Appeal has ruled that if the force you use is not judged to have been reasonable – if a jury, that is, decides it was disproportionate – then you are guilty of murder. A conviction for murder automatically triggers the mandatory life sentence. There are no exceptions.”
The judge in the case lectured Osborn:
Judge Shirley Anwyl QC said that she accepted that Halling could have been perceived to be “dangerous to others”. But she added: “With hindsight it is clear that Halling was presenting no real danger to anyone but himself.”
“By your plea you have accepted that you intended real serious injury. Your use of violence was not wholly unpremeditated in that you did equip yourself with at least one knife.” She added: “I am in no doubt about your genuine remorse and your appreciation of the appalling effect that the killing of Halling has and continues to have on his relatives and friends.”
Yet according to the law itself (provided to me by Lambert):
Section 3 of the Criminal Law Act 1967 provides that a person may use such force as is reasonable in the circumstances in the prevention of crime, and the question of reasonableness is subject to the amplifications contained in such cases as R v McInnes and R v Palmer. It has been held that “if a jury thought that in a moment of unexpected anguish a person attacked had only done what he honestly and instinctively thought was necessary, that would be most potent evidence that only reasonable defensive action had been taken.” Normally only reasonable force is acceptable but if in the unexpected anguish of the moment excessive force is used it may still be acceptable, if the defendant honestly and instinctively believed it was necessary. It has been long established (prior to either the Criminal Law Act 1967 s 3 or AIDS) that a woman may take the life of a man attempting to rape her, though she may not generally carry a weapon to achieve this.
A fact I noted at the time is that such a restriction makes a woman’s supposed “right” to the use of lethal force essentially moot.
When a defendant deliberately used a lock knife he had opened prior to an incident, and stabbed an assailant after the defendant had received a single blow to the face, it was held that this could not possibly be reasonable.
On the other hand, if a plea of self-defence is raised when the defendant had acted under a mistake as to the facts, he must be judged according to his mistaken belief of the facts regardless of whether, viewed objectively, his mistake was reasonable. So where a policeman shot dead a man who was unarmed and had already surrendered he was still entitled to claim his action was self-defence if he honestly believed this to be the situation. The test is whether his action was reasonable in the situation as he perceived it, rather than as it actually was.
In other words, “hindsight” has nothing to do with it. If Osborn believed he or someone else was in danger, then stabbing Halling should have been justified, but it was not according to the Crown Prosecution Service, so they charged him with murder.
This is an illustration of the cultural difference that exists now between the US and the UK, one that I believe has resulted from the very laws that Colin Greenwood warned about. The laws are always presented as a path to greater public safety, but as illustrated above, such promises are always lies. The result of those laws has been the steady disarmament of the people who once “spoke frequently of their habit of carrying pistols and their willingness to use them in self-defence” but who now must fear defending themselves because it might result in a charge of murder. Example, Kenneth Batchelor, 51, Canterbury Road, Chilham who shot a violent intruder to death with a shotgun:
A Kent man accused of murder shot and killed a bodybuilder as he tried to break into his home, jurors have heard.
Car mechanic Kenneth Batchelor, 51, of Canterbury Road, Chilham, denies the charge at Maidstone Crown Court.
Jurors were told he discharged one shot from a 12-bore shotgun at “very close quarters” as Matthew Clements tried to pull open an upstairs window.
They heard claims that Mr Batchelor fired the shot as he tried to defend himself and his home in November 2007.
Prosecutor Cairns Nelson told the jury they had to decide “where the line should be drawn” between reasonable and unreasonable force.
He said: “Kenneth Batchelor shot Matthew Clements as he attempted to break into the defendant’s home, no doubt to inflict violence or at least threaten violence.
“The two men knew each other, this was not a stranger burglary.”
Like that makes a difference?
The court heard that on 17 November last year Mr Clements, 42, of Frittenden Close, Ashford, made a series of threatening phone calls to Mr Batchelor after drinking heavily and smoking cannabis.
Mr Batchelor decided to arm himself with a shotgun he owned legally at his home and to “resolve the matter himself” and not call the police, the prosecution claimed.
Mr Nelson said: “No doubt he hoped the problem would not emerge.
“In interview he told police he was frightened so turned out the lights and locked the door. He said he thought telephoning the police might make the problem worse.” [Remember that – Ed.]
The court was told Mr Clements climbed up scaffolding around Mr Batchelor’s cottage in the early hours of 18 November and was fired at through an open window.
But here’s the fascinating conclusion of that murder trial:
A homeowner has been cleared of murder after he shot and killed a bodybuilder at point-blank range when he tried to break into his house.
Kenneth Batchelor, 51, fired a shotgun at “very close quarters” at 42-year-old Matthew Clements, who had climbed the scaffolding of his home to try to force open an upstairs window.
Mr Batchelor had received a barrage of threatening phone calls from Mr Clements, a 20-stone [280 lb.] nightclub bouncer, who was demanding maintenance money from the Batchelor family following a former relationship between his girlfriend and Mr Batchelor’s brother Gary, which produced three children.
The jury at Maidstone Crown Court took just one hour unanimously to acquit Mr Batchelor of the murder of Mr Clements who, the court heard, had an “explosive temper” and had become “fixated” with demanding money from the Batchelor family.
The court also heard that Mr Clements, from Ashford in Kent, was “well known” to police, settled disputes by violence and had once turned up at a garage to threaten the manager with an Uzi submachine gun.
That’s impossible! There’s been a ban on fully-automatic weapons in the UK since 1937! (Was it one of the Uzis that came in with shipments of frozen pizza in 2003? You have to wonder how many were missed.)
Mr Batchelor, a mechanic, legally owned the shotgun which killed Mr Clements with one shot to the chest, and told the court that it had discharged accidentally [my emphasis] as he stood terrified at a top floor window which Mr Clements was trying to open.
The court heard how Mr Clements had told Mr Batchelor that he was “coming to get him”, and had torn off his shirt before scaling the scaffolding to the top floor of Mr Batchelor’s house in Chilham in Kent at around 1am on November 18, 2007.
Cairns Nelson, prosecuting, told the jury: “You will have no difficulty, we suggest, in coming to the conclusion that, at the point Mr Batchelor shot the deceased, he was a frightened man.”
The prosecutor added: “In the circumstances, Mr Batchelor was entitled to defend himself and his property. You will hear Mr Batchelor told police the shotgun was discharged by accident in the heat of events.
“The case enters that very difficult area – the degree to which a householder can use violence to defend himself.
“What is reasonable and what is unreasonable; what goes over the line, what doesn’t go over the line. It is for the jury to decide where the line should be drawn and what is reasonable in response to a threat.”
Here in the US, I would suggest, such a case would never go to trial. At most, depending on the prosecuting attorney, it might go before a Grand Jury, but no charges would be pressed. But note Mr. Batchelor’s defense – he ACCIDENTALLY shot Clements. There was no intent to harm. As Judge Shirley Anwyl QC warned Brett Osborne, “you intended real serious injury. Your use of violence was not wholly unpremeditated”. In this case, Batchelor, obviously part of the less than 0.5% of the British population who still legally possess a firearm, armed himself with his shotgun but he didn’t mean to pull the trigger. (And if you believe that, I’ve got this bridge in Brooklyn I’d like to sell you.) The only defense he could go with was that the deadly shot was “accidental.” Of course the State couldn’t just let the case go without warning the plebes:
Detective Chief Inspector Mick Atkinson, the senior investigating officer, said: “We worked closely with the Crown Prosecution Service to bring this case before the court as it was believed it was one a jury should decide upon.”
He added: “We would urge anyone who feels under threat in a situation like this one to contact police at the earliest opportunity and not take the law into their own hands.” [My emphasis.]
Following the verdict, Judge Jeremy Carey said: “No-one should draw any conclusions of a general kind on this case. This defendant has been acquitted of the charge of murder, each case depends upon its own merits.”
Compare and contrast that case with this one from Virginia:
Police say a Botetourt County man shot and killed another man who broke into his home Friday night. It happened on Houston Mines Road in the Nace area of the county. Police say the intruder was able to get into the home and that’s when the resident shot him. But first police say he secured family members in a locked bedroom. The Sheriff’s Department is not releasing the resident’s identity. But deputies say someone showed up at the home at around 10:40 Friday night yelling and threatening to break in. The resident called 911 and loaded his 12-gauge shotgun. We’re told he only fired after the intruder used a patio chair to break-in through a glass sliding door.
And the follow-up:
The 911 tapes are chilling and investigators say they prove the homeowner did the right thing.
“With the 911 tape it’s very clear he had no choice at the time. He shot and he did show restraint. He warned the person not to come in, that he had a weapon, that he would use it repeatedly,” says Commonwealths Attorney Joel Branscom.
The homeowner quite deliberately shot the intruder not once, but twice in the chest. No Grand Jury, no murder trial. Justifiable homicide. But Kenneth Batchelor, faced with a 280 lb. angry, violent, irrational professional bouncer gets charged with murder in an almost identical situation, and has to claim he “accidentally” killed the man to avoid life in prison. At least his jury let him off. Brett Osborn didn’t feel he could take that chance. After all, he didn’t “accidentally” stab Halling several times in the back.
The British haven’t always been this way. They’ve slowly been broken to it, psychologically, by an unending assault from their government and their media – and the same forces have been acting here in the U.S. as well, though with much less “success.” The post that started this iteration of the debate was Rachel Lucas’ shock at the reactions of the public to the beating death of a father at the hands of “yobs”:
Every time I read a story like this over here, which is several times a week, I am more and more baffled by the comments. The people are enraged and furious, but usually close with, “Well this is what we’ve come to; I wish I could leave the UK.”
I don’t get it. This is precisely why I originally named this category “Britain Surrenders,” months before I knew I’d move over here. And now that I’m here, I’m still trying to figure out what it is in their hearts and minds that stops them from marching the streets demanding the right to arm themselves.
Culture. Here in the U.S. we don’t have police telling us as a matter of policy “how to properly be a victim.” While our law-enforcement officials advise that we not resist, they don’t go so far as to tell people not to even try to intervene in some way because to do so might “put them at risk.” Here in the U.S. a lot of us own guns, and even more of us have yet to be brainwashed into believing that firearms emit brain-altering radiation that turn their possessors into slavering murderers. (There are exceptions, of course, but those exceptions here are statistically small.) Here the use of violence in defense of self isn’t considered “antisocial,” it’s considered good policy. Example:
COLLEGE PARK, Ga. — A group of college students said they are lucky to be alive and they’re thanking the quick-thinking of one of their own. Police said a fellow student shot and killed one of two masked me who burst into an apartment.
Channel 2 Action News reporter Tom Jones met with one of the students to talk about the incident.
“Apparently, his intent was to rape and murder us all,” said student Charles Bailey.
Bailey said he thought it was the end of his life and the lives of the 10 people inside his apartment for a birthday party after two masked men with guns burst in through a patio door.
“They just came in and separated the men from the women and said, ‘Give me your wallets and cell phones,'” said George Williams of the College Park Police Department.
Bailey said the gunmen started counting bullets. “The other guy asked how many (bullets) he had. He said he had enough,” said Bailey.
That’s when one student grabbed a gun out of a backpack and shot at the invader who was watching the men. The gunman ran out of the apartment.
The student then ran to the room where the second gunman, identified by police as 23-year-old Calvin Lavant, was holding the women.
“Apparently the guy was getting ready to rape his girlfriend. So he told the girls to get down and he started shooting. The guy jumped out of the window,” said Bailey.
A neighbor heard the shots and heard someone running nearby.
“And I heard someone say, ‘Someone help me. Call the police. Somebody call the police,'” said a neighbor.
The neighbor said she believes it was Lavant, who was found dead near his apartment, only one building away.
Bailey said he is just thankful one student risked his life to keep others alive.
“I think all of us are really cognizant of the fact that we could have all been killed,” said Bailey.
One female student was shot several times during the crossfire. She is expected to make a full recovery.
Police said they are close to making the arrest of the second suspect.
The student defender has not been charged, nor will he be.
Compare and contrast:
Eight people were arrested following the incident at Sundridge Park Golf Course on Sunday. Two youths, aged 17 and 13 were also taken to south London hospitals with head injuries. The 17-year-old is in stable condition in hospital while the 13-year-old was later discharged and subsequently arrested.
According to reports, the players were about to tee off on the fourth hole of the course in Bromley, Kent, when they were confronted by a group of teenagers brandishing planks of wood.
Despite the group threatening to attack them if they did not hand over their golfing equipment, the golfers apparently fought back. An eyewitness, who did not wish to be named, said: “Everyone had a weapon and they were just trading blows.
“The golfers stood their ground, though.
“I guess because they had their clubs as protection.”
As well as the 13-year-old, two other teenagers were arrested, including a 15-year-old boy from Downham and a 16-year-old boy from St Mary Cray on suspicion of affray.
A 33-year-old woman, from Downham, and a 49-year-old man, from Plaistow, have been arrested on the affray charges.
Officers also arrested a 53-year-old man, from Hayes, on suspicion of causing actual bodily harm and a 48-year-old man, from Keston, on suspicion of causing GBH, while a 39-year-old man, from Plaistow, was arrested on suspicion of disorderly conduct.
How much do you want to bet that the golfers have no prior police records, but the juveniles have long, long ones? (Moreover, how much do you want to bet that one or more of those golfers has a firearm or shotgun permit?) Personally, I’m surprised that the golfers had the testicular fortitude to actually defend themselves, given the state of the law over there. Do they really believe that golf clubs are “proportional” to nail-studded wood planks? They’re probably about to find out differently.
The result of the decades of disarmament and discouragement of public resistance by the government and media, plus the concurrent coddling of criminals has resulted in the UK, specifically Scotland, England and Wales, becoming (if you believe the UN,) the most violent nations in Western Europe. The government has done its best to obfuscate these facts and placate the populace, but they know better. Like Kenneth Batchelor, many no longer bother to call the police anymore because they know it won’t do any good, and might get them in legal hot water.
James Kelly and his ilk want to protect the innocent? Bullshit. They concentrate on literally one-in-a-million crimes for the justification to disarm the people who aren’t the problem, while they ignore the fact that ordinary people every day are the victims of violent crime that they might avoid were they allowed access to those very arms.
A 48-year-old man has appeared in court charged with a series of rapes on women and children across south-east England.
Antoni Imiela, a former rail worker from Appledore, near Ashford, Kent, is charged with nine counts of rape against three children and five women in Kent, Berkshire, Surrey, Hertfordshire and south-west London.
The offences occurred between November 2001 and October 2002, Maidstone Crown Court heard.
One woman was allegedly raped twice.
Compare and contrast:
A Cape Girardeau woman shot and fatally wounded Ronnie W. Preyer, 47, a registered sex offender who had broken into her home early this morning with the intention of raping her a second time, Cape Girardeau Prosecuting Attorney Morley Swingle said today.
Swingle said he will not be charging the victim, an older woman who positively identified Preyer this morning as the man who raped her on Saturday.
“It is clear that under Missouri’s self-defense law the woman was justified in using deadly force upon the intruder in her home because he was in the process of burglarizing her home when she shot him,” Swingle wrote in a letter to police chief Carl Kinnison.
Cape Girardeau police had been keeping a close eye on the woman’s home, in the southwest part of Cape Girardeau, since she reported the rape nearly a week ago.
In that instance, she’d heard the glass break in a basement window around midnight on Saturday, and decided to make a run for it through her front door, according to police reports of the incident. When she opened the door, Preyer attacked her.
He punched her in the face and forced her into the bedroom, where he raped her.
She reported the rape that night, and described her rapist.
Police were actively working the unsolved rape case, Swingle said, and had been frequently driving past the woman’s home in case her attacker returned.
This morning, the woman called 911 after hearing a car door close near her residence. An officer responded, checked the doors and windows, including the one that had been broken during the first attack.
Her landlord had recently repaired the window for her, Swingle said.
Once the officer determined that no one had entered the home, he left.
About two hours later, the woman was at home watching television, when Preyer broke the same basement window and came in, getting the still-wet calking on his clothing as he did so, police reports said.
He found a main fuse panel in the basement and shut off the electricity. The victim immediately tried to call 911, but the phone would not work because there was no electric.
Having recently purchased a shotgun, she grabbed the weapon and when Preyer began banging on the basement door, she was ready for him. When he crashed through the basement door into her kitchen, she shot him once in the chest and ran, heading for a neighbor’s house, where she called the police.
Here, in most jurisdictions, a rape victim can buy a gun for self-defense. In the UK? Not so much. “Self-defence” isn’t an acceptable reason there anymore. It hasn’t been since 1953. But Ronnie W. Preyer won’t be raping anyone else, ever.
Two brothers jailed for life for murdering a couple in their own home were described by police as “formidable, ruthless and incredibly violent”.
Robert Firkins, 33, and Lee Firkins, 31, both of Weston-super-Mare, had denied murdering Graham and Carol Fisher at their home near Wadebridge on Bonfire Night 2003.
Lee Firkins was first convicted as a juvenile of actual bodily harm in 1988.
In the intervening years he was convicted of other offences including possessing an offensive weapon and drugs.
He was also jailed for four years at Chelmsford Crown Court in 1997 for wounding with intent.
The first of Robert Firkins’ previous convictions was as a juvenile for criminal damage in 1989.
He had others for theft, burglary, drugs and criminal damage.
Prosecutor William Boyce QC, said the brothers, originally from Dagenham, Essex, had planned to rob the Fishers, but on the night it appeared to be a “robbery gone wrong when things got out of hand.”
A safe in the bungalow was found open and £3,094 in cash was left around the home.
On 29 December, 2003 police found two shotguns buried on the beach at Fand Bay in Weston-super-Mare. They were soon linked to the defendants by fingerprints and DNA evidence.
Prosecutor William Boyce QC said the double-barrelled shotgun found was “consistent” with the weapon used at the remote Perch Garage on 5 November, although there was no conclusive proof it was the same one.
So these two monsters did a “home invasion” and brutally killed the couple in their own home.
A house where an elderly man and woman were found murdered showed signs of a struggle, police have said.
The bodies of the couple, Terence Martin, 72, and his wife, Vera, 78, were discovered in Abbey Street, Faversham, Kent, on Wednesday.
Detectives are examining whether they were the victims of a bungled robbery.
Post-mortem examinations are due to be carried out at the William Harvey Hospital in Ashford, after which the couple should be formally identified.
They were described by neighbours as a devoted pair who often walked holding hands.
A card on one bouquet of flowers left at the scene read: “The sweetest and most loving couple anyone has ever known.”
Det Ch Insp Dean Barnes described it as an “extremely distasteful crime”.
He said there were no signs of a forced entry into the house, but it appeared to have been searched.
“It could be a burglary gone wrong. This is something which is currently being investigated.
Compare and contrast:
Altha Rider usually keeps a .38 pistol by her bedside. Thursday night, the 87-year-old woman was ready to use it.
It wasn’t long after Rider went to bed Thursday night that someone tried to kick in the front door of her home at 65 Brushy Road, she told an officer, whom she met at the carport door with pistol in hand.
In a phone interview this morning, Rider told the Guard she is still a little shaken by the incident.
Rider said she had gone to bed around 9 p.m. with a light on in her den, and was awakened by the sound of her front door being kicked in around 10.
“When I heard the racket I screamed and then got up to see what happened,” Rider said. “I couldn’t see anyone, so I got up and went lookin’.”
Rider went looking with the .38 pistol that she keeps by her bedside for protection. She said she also has a .410 shotgun, but realized that would only give her one shot before she would have to reload.
According to Rider, the intruder had tried unsuccessfully to gain entry through a back door before going to the front of her home. The bottom half of the door was broken and splintered from the dead bolt down.
“He unlocked my storm door to get to the wood door,” Rider said. “But he didn’t get the door open — the door lock held.”
After not seeing anyone around her house, Rider said she called a family member, who then called police.
“They (police) were here right away and looked around, but they couldn’t find anybody,” Rider said.
The following day, an arrest was made and a missing person case was closed.
Police say Keith Eugene White, 31, of Batesville, reported missing since Nov. 25, 2008, was reportedly caught on McHue Road Friday morning.
This burglary occurred, police say, following the break-in attempt at Rider’s home.
According to Lt. Brenda Bittle, White was caught when deputies responded to a break-in on McHue Road.
“A key holder went to check on the house and found a door kicked in,” Bittle said. “When deputies arrived they searched the house and found White inside,” Bittle said.
“He had in his possession several items taken from other homes in the area Thursday night,” Bittle said.
White was arrested without incident and taken to jail, where he confessed to several burglaries and is a suspect in several more, Bittle said.
“He was out of prison on parole for burglary,” she said.
Or this one:
70-year-old who held gun on intruder gets national attention.
SOUTH BEND — Sandra Hochstedler, the 70-year-old woman who held an intruder at gunpoint earlier this week, is out of the hospital and making the media rounds.
On Friday afternoon, a production crew with the news magazine Inside Edition visited Hochstedler’s home to re-create the harrowing standoff for a segment to air on the show.
“It was quite a production. It was really interesting,” Hochstedler said early Friday evening, shortly after the crew and host Les Trent had left her Portage Road home in northern St. Joseph County. “I really had to act. It was almost like I was in a studio.”
“I’m hoping it will be inspiring to others,” she said of the reason she agreed to film the segment, “to let them know that they can do this, that they can protect their homes. And if it comes to it, they can take extreme action.”
On Sunday evening, as Hochstedler was hauling firewood from her garage into her home, a man reportedly came running at her from the street and chased her inside.
She grabbed her gun and dialed 911, she said, and after the man burst through her living room window she held him at gunpoint until police arrived, threatening to shoot him dead if he moved.
The story was immediately picked up by local media outlets, and soon, the national media came calling as well.
Besides Inside Edition, Hochstedler said she has been contacted by ABC News, Good Morning America, and the Fox News morning show Fox and Friends.
Although flattered, Hochstedler said she is still a bit baffled by all of the attention.
“It takes my breath away,” she said her newfound celebrity, “because I’m like, ‘What? How did it get national attention? What is the big deal about? Doesn’t everyone try to protect their home?”
No ma’am, they don’t. And in the UK they can be prosecuted for succeeding, but I hope you’ll be inspiring to others as well.
In the mean time, another father has been beaten to death by a gang of youths in England.
In the U.S. there’s a debate over just how many “defensive gun uses” there are each year. John Lott says it’s on the order of 2.5 million. The lowest estimate I’ve ever seen anywhere comes from a 1994 U.S. Department of Justice press release that sets their estimate at 82,500.
Eighty-two thousand five hundred.
That’s two hundred twenty-six defensive gun uses a day.
But we should disarm the law abiding because a gun owner snaps and kills seven, or ten, or thirty-two people?
James Kelly calls the right to arms “a relatively meaningless, one-dimensional freedom,” one that affects a “minority of people,” and that banning firearms (and now knives) will result only in “some inconvenience even if it will only save a very small number of lives.” He thinks the U.S. should follow Britain’s lead.
What about those 82,500 people here (at absolute minimum) who use a firearm defensively each year? How many of them would end up dead were they not armed? (And how “inconvenient” would they find that?)
We can’t know.
But you know what I believe. And you know what James Kelly believes. And now it’s up to you to decide what you will believe.
Compare and contrast.
Update: James Kelly “responds” in a non-responsive way, sort of a “I know you are, but what am I?” reply.
But don’t worry, there won’t be any further Reasoned Discourse™ – James has disabled comments. I never expected anything more (or less, for that matter). Sorry, my error. James is allowing comments. Be polite, would you?
UPDATE III: There we go! James has now closed his comments. Bye-bye, James. Thanks for playing!
UPDATE IV: Original HaloScan comment thread (54 comments) still available here.