Liberty is an inherently offensive lifestyle. Living in a free society guarantees that each one of us will see our most cherished principles and beliefs questioned and in some cases mocked. That psychic discomfort is the price we pay for basic civic peace. It's worth it. It's a pragmatic principle. Defend everyone else's rights, because if you don't there is no one to defend yours. -- MaxedOutMama

I don't just want gun rights... I want individual liberty, a culture of self-reliance....I want the whole bloody thing. -- Kim du Toit

The most glaring example of the cognitive dissonance on the left is the concept that human beings are inherently good, yet at the same time cannot be trusted with any kind of weapon, unless the magic fairy dust of government authority gets sprinkled upon them.-- Moshe Ben-David

The cult of the left believes that it is engaged in a great apocalyptic battle with corporations and industrialists for the ownership of the unthinking masses. Its acolytes see themselves as the individuals who have been "liberated" to think for themselves. They make choices. You however are just a member of the unthinking masses. You are not really a person, but only respond to the agendas of your corporate overlords. If you eat too much, it's because corporations make you eat. If you kill, it's because corporations encourage you to buy guns. You are not an individual. You are a social problem. -- Sultan Knish

All politics in this country now is just dress rehearsal for civil war. -- Billy Beck

Friday, April 09, 2004

I Pound My Head Against the Wall Because it Feels So Good When I Stop

(We now return to our original programming)

Tim Lambert and I are attempting to discuss self-defense and weapon regulation. In an odd mix of blog comments and posts that is probably hard for anybody but us (and maybe even us) to follow, this is the latest entry in that exchange. It started with this post, continued in the comment section, then that spawned this later post by Tim. I could not reply in the comment section of that post, so my response is below, here. Tim's response to that is in the comments to that prior post. Whew! And now I'm responding here.

A bit more background: The problem here, as I see it, is that Tim and I have entirely different perspectives based on entirely different philosophies. The philosophy that I believe Tim adheres to has led to the disarmament of UK citizens under the mistaken belief that it would make them safer. I believe, as I stated earlier, that Tim and other proponents of that philosophy suffer from cognitive dissonance - an inability to recognize the error of the philosophy, as most accurately described by Steven Den Beste:
When someone tries to use a strategy which is dictated by their ideology, and that strategy doesn't seem to work, then they are caught in something of a cognitive bind. If they acknowledge the failure of the strategy, then they would be forced to question their ideology. If questioning the ideology is unthinkable, then the only possible conclusion is that the strategy failed because it wasn't executed sufficiently well. They respond by turning up the power, rather than by considering alternatives. (This is sometimes referred to as "escalation of failure".)
Because of Tim's cognitive dissonance he is forced to dismiss or ignore anything that doesn't fit the philosophy. Thus, when I ask the question,
And how is a woman to exercise her presumed inherent right to lethal force against a rapist if she's denied any means with which to do so?
three times, he finally replies with:
Restrictions on weapons might make self defence more difficult in some cases, but they can also make it easier in others.
Isn't that comforting?

The first question Tim asked me in his latest post was:
(Y)ou 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?
Let's see what I've said about that question so far, in chronological order:
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.
The appearance is that, as I said, the government guards jealously the legitimate use of force. Proles should not overstep their restrictions.
Do you find the law prohibiting honest citizens from carrying any weapon suitable for self-defense, while the law ostensibly allows you a right to defend yourself somewhat schizophrenic?

The jury is supposed to take your "instinctive" response to being attacked into account, but if you use a weapon in your defense you're immediately assumed to have had it for offensive purposes. Am I misunderstanding the (il)logic here?
Tim, the law prevents anyone from carrying anything for self-defense. A knife, pepper spray, a club, a taser, anything.

As the law has (apparently) been interpreted (and I believe it was intended) the presumption on the part of the Government is that if you carry a weapon, any weapon, you are guilty of the intent to do criminal bodily harm. Yet the law gives lip service to the concept of the right to self-defense.
Is there or is there not a right to self-defense? English law says there is, yet its laws concerning weapons make self-defense, for all intents and purposes, a lost cause. The facts are that possessing, much less using anything that the State considers a weapon makes you a criminal in its eyes. It does not seem to legally recognize any legitimate use of force by any non-government actor.
There are no "offensive" weapons. They're just weapons. Or tools. (A hammer makes quite an effective weapon. So, apparently, does a walking stick .) A knife can be a tool or a weapon as well. Pepper spray or mace can be used to disable a victim as well as an attacker . Same for a taser, or an axe handle. So too for firearms.

It's not the weapon that carries the intent - it's the user. Yet the UK government has seen fit to tell the entire population "You're not trustworthy. You cannot be trusted with any weapon, because of the chance you might use it to inflict bodily harm upon another."

At the same time, it tells them that they have a right to inflict bodily harm upon another in defense of themselves - all the way up to homicide in the case of rape - but that the infliction of harm must be restricted to a reasonable level.

Who gets to decide what was reasonable? A JURY. Which means, 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. After all, seems to go the reasoning, if you were able to effectively defend yourself, if your attacker is wounded and you are not, or if your injuries are less serious than his, you weren't in real danger and/or you de facto used excessive force.

That high risk of prosecution effectively chills the right to self defense. Who wants to risk court? Just the costs, not to mention the possibility of conviction? The inability to have or use a weapon in your defense also chills the right. If you are overmatched, what use is resistance?
I've said that, for those so willing (a firearm is) the BEST TOOL FOR THE JOB (of self-defense). But as Mr. Lindsay demonstrates, it's hardly the "only way." Your conclusion that my "argument is logically flawed" is based on your fallacious understanding of my argument.
That's seven times I've tried to make my position perfectly clear. Here's what Tim has said in response:
I think your arguments would be more persuasive if you could actually come up with a case that supports the position that self defence is not allowed.
Kevin, you seem to be equating self defence with guns. This is doubly wrong. First, guns are far more frequently used for offensive purposes than for defensive ones. And second, guns are not the only means for self defence.
To explicitly answer your question: No, I do not find the law to be schizophrenic. Restrictions on offensive weapons do not make it impossible to defend yourself.
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. It certainly isn't to make it impossible.
Even if there are some rare situations where a gun is the only possible means for defence, it does not make the statement that "self defense in the UK is illegal", since that is a general statement describing all situations.
(Emphasis mine.)
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...
And finally,
(Y)ou 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?
We're using the same words, but apparently speaking different languages.

So here you go, Tim: English law says, as I quoted:
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 done only what he honestly and instinctively thought was necessary, that would be most potent evidence that only reasonable defensive action had been taken."
One of the most important limitations on the use of weapons is of course that they cannot be carried or used to injure other people.
so weaponless self-defense is not statutorily illegal. Self-defense involving any weapon is legally risky. In both cases excessive force is to be judged by a jury. I think I said that several times. I think I was pretty clear about it, but if not, there it is in black and white.

Tim's second objection is:
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.
What I said, verbatim, in response to your assertion of "If the law disarms attackers, then it can make self defence possible where it would have been impossible if the attacker was armed." was:
Nice of you to admit that last point. Big "if" there at the start, though. Because what you are saying here by implication is "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."
Tim, that's how it translates to me. If that's incorrect, please explain, in detail, exactly what you did mean.

Tim continues:
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.
Not relevant? Why? As I pointed out - REPEATEDLY - by disarming the law abiding it leaves them essentially defenseless against violent criminals, armed or not. All the criminal need be is physically superior to his victim, or (should he desire) the criminal can be armed, knowing almost as a certainty that his victim won't be. If criminals need not fear effective resistance then they will be emboldened. I pointed to England's experience with violent crime over the course of the 20th Century, noting that the real upswing in violent crime began just shortly after passage of the law that made illlegal carry of any weapon for defense on the grounds that there are no "defensive" weapons for the general public, only "offensive" weapons by definition. Yet those same weapons, when held by government officials, are considered "defensive." I gave a hypothetical example of weaponless self-defense, and then added two conditions that made weaponless self-defense even more hazardous. Tim did not comment.

Tim continues:
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.
To me that isn't as important as the fact that England, according to the British crime survey, suffered 276,000 robberies in 2000, and the U.S. about 408,000. With six times England's population, that makes the English rate four times the American rate. Tim evidently considers the higher rate of robberies involving firearms to be worse than an overall much higher rate of robberies period. I do not concur. That is apparently the disconnect between our two philosophies - as long as the perpetrator doesn't have a gun it seems, the crime committed has less importance. I don't want to be the victim of a robbery, period, and I think that government policies that "restrict" my chances of successfully defending myself against them are immoral.

Now, I suppose, we'll start trading statistics again?

Tim concludes:
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?
The pertinent part of the Kleck quote was this:
Like noncriminals, however, criminals do many things that are casually or only weakly motivated.
(I)t 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.
Specifically as it comes to guns, Kleck is correct, but by disarming the citizenry and by making it legally risky to use weapons in self defense, it is safer for "weakly or temporarily motivated criminals" to commit crimes against other people. They don't need a gun to be successful. Physical superiority, a knife, a steel bar, or even a broken bottle is all that is needed.

An here's the pernicious part, what I believe is the unintended consequence of a philosophy that considers all weapons in the hands of non-government agents to be "offensive weapons," one that does not recognize that citizens can carry a weapon with defensive intent: Those "weakly or temporarily motivated criminals" learn that violent crime is lucrative, easy, and low-risk, and with each new success they become emboldened to do it again. This draws others to do it as well, just as the lucrative illicit drug industry constantly attracts new "talent." Easy money. Some percentage of those "weakly or temporarily motivated criminals" become professional or at least semi-professional at it, and are willing to carry the tools of the profession.

This is a long-term trend, and I believe the history of violent crime in England illustrates this. The rising level of violent crime in England as a result of the failure of the philosophy that "all weapons are offensive" forced the government to become ever more restrictive towards the general citizenry without affecting the ever rising levels of violent crime. In combination with other failed social policies, particularly social welfare and criminal justice reform, disarming the general public has resulted in a polity with the highest level of violent crime in the developed world.

Still unwilling to admit the error of the philosophy, the government continues its congnitive dissonance and "escalates the failure" by announcing a desire to end of "double-jeopardy" protections and trial by jury for some crimes. Another incremental step toward what would be, for all intents and purposes, a police state, not a free nation.

All of this justified, apparently, by a fear of firearms.

UPDATE, 5/2:

I made an error in this post, which Tim pointed out:

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.
He was quite correct. I was wrong. I have apologized and clarified my position in a later post.

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