By David T Breaker. Follow David on Twitter.
When a burglar enters a property, a "home invasion" to borrow the rather apt American terminology, the intruder does far more than simply cross a threshold uninvited. The victim, excluding any financial and sentimental losses incurred, is often left with a heavy psychological weight, the sense of safety and security we develop from our homes forever shattered; some can simply place the event behind them, but others are left with a trauma they seek to resolve with extreme security measures, high tech surveillance equipment, or even moving home. For the resident, a home that's been broken into is rarely the same.
Yet for the resident that is both present and awake during a home invasion there lies a risk that life very literally will never be the same: are the intruders violent, as in the case of an elderly grandmother who was water-boarded or an elderly couple tortured with a hot iron, are they sexually violent or of murderous intent, and what response does the householder undertake? Does the householder defend themselves, their family and their home, thereby risking their judgement being second guessed as not "reasonable", or simply hide away and hope for the best? For some, the elderly being disproportionately victims of home invasion, physical reality makes that choice for them, being left with no viable alternative but appeasement. And if the homeowner does decide to take action, what action can he or she take? We are all, to one degree or another, at a disadvantage, intruders often being in groups of two or more, overwhelmingly young males, predominantly of above average fitness, and often equipped with crowbars and other weaponry; what match is the average householder, half asleep in their pyjama outfits, armed only with whatever is to hand in their bedrooms? Are we expected to defend ourselves with slippers and socks?
Sadly however, for the best part of a century, governments of all stripes have actively sought to disarm, weaken and emasculate the public, nationalise self-defence, and erode our ancient rights to protect ourselves, our families and our homes. It is after all in our Bill of Rights "That the subjects which are Protestants may have arms for their defence suitable to their conditions", yet through a series of Home Office memos giving direction to police forces responsible for the issuance of gun licenses, starting in 1937, the justification required to own a gun has been continuously increased to reduce the number of lawfully possessed firearms. By 1969 the police were required to deny all licenses for self-defence purposes, with crimes in subsequent decades skyrocketing. Indeed across Europe, countries with lower gun ownership rates report higher rates of home invasion, assault and even murder than those with more gun owners; likewise nearly half of all burglaries in England occur when the victim is at home compared to 13% in the US; and the FBI’s Uniformed Crime Report of 2007 found that states with laws allowing licensed gun owners to carry their firearms have a 30% lower homicide rate, 46% lower robbery, and 22% lower violent crime rate than states without such laws, Florida’s violent crime rate and murder rate dropping by 32% and 58% respectively since they introduced such laws. Homeowners with the right to defend themselves, and the equipment to do so, are evidently a deterrent, with figures from the U.S. Department of Justice finding that 34% of felons had been "scared off, shot at, wounded or captured by an armed victim" and 40% of all criminals admitting that they "had been deterred from committing a crime out of fear that the potential victim was armed".
Recently of course the rights and wrongs of our homeowner laws have been back in debate after the high profile arrest of a couple accused of GBH having non-fatally shot one of the four balaclava-wearing criminals they found breaking into not just their house but their bedroom. Yet despite recent headlines declaring "License to shoot burglars" there remains nothing of the sort. Though the intruders failed in their bid to gain a reduced sentence because of their injuries – the judge wisely noting that if you invade a house with a gun then you can expect to get shot – the couple themselves were fortunate that the CPS decided not to prosecute; there is no clearly defined right to defend your home, the couple finding themselves arrested, detained in police cells for three days and treated to the full criminal suspect experience, handcuffs and all, until authorities – in safety and comfort – had decided if they had acted "reasonably". Surely however, as Cicero noted, "any and every method of protecting ourselves is morally right"? It's also statistically right: a study by criminologist Gary Kleck of Florida State University found that "Robbery and assault victims who used a gun to resist were less likely to be attacked or to suffer an injury than those who used any other methods of self-protection or those who did not resist at all."
Which in the end means that the public simply cannot be expected to continue on the current legal basis, uncertain of their rights, denied access to legally licensed firearms, and without the deterrent that a "castle doctrine" – a statutory act guaranteeing the right to defend, as was once common law in England and was subsequently made constitutional law in 44 US States as well as statute law in the remaining 6 states – would provide. It is long time that the culture of disempowering and disarming law abiding citizens ended, it's time that the ancient right to defend ourselves and to own the licensed firearms to do so was restored. In short it's time to put the law abiding majority first, not criminals.