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Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Two Extremes on Self-Defense

When it comes do defending one’s life and/or property, Great Britain grows ever more civilized, whereas the United States of America grows ever more barbaric.

From Reuters:

People in Florida will be allowed to kill in self-defense on the street without trying to flee under a new law passed by state politicians on Tuesday that critics say will bring a Wild West mentality and innocent deaths.

The Florida House of Representatives, citing the need to allow people to "stand their ground," voted 94-20 to codify and expand court rulings that already allow people to use deadly force to protect themselves in their homes without first trying to escape.

The new bill goes further by allowing citizens to use deadly force in a public place if they have a reasonable belief they are in danger of death or great bodily harm. It applies to all means of force that may result in death, although the legislative debate focused on guns.

The "Stand Your Ground" bill passed the Senate last week on a 39-0 vote and now goes to Republican Gov. Jeb Bush, who indicated he will sign it.

"This is about meeting force with force," said House sponsor Republican state Rep. Dennis Baxley of Ocala. "If I'm attacked, I should not have to retreat."

So now you don’t have to run away if you feel your life is threatened and you have a gun on you. (Which in Florida is not as uncommon as one might think.) You can just shoot the bastard. This a pretty far jump from the old rule in Florida:

A license to carry a firearm is not a license to use it. Under Florida law, you can use deadly force only if you reasonably believe yourself or another person to be in danger of death or serious personal injury, or to prevent the imminent commission of a forcible felony (such as rape, robbery or carjacking). There are two important concepts to remember: The first is the "Duty To Retreat"; this means that if you can avoid the danger by running away, then run away, no matter how you may feel that this affects your honor. The second is the "Castle Doctrine", which means that you do NOT have a "Duty To Retreat" when in your own home or place of business; you can stand your ground and defend your premises and possessions even if you could avoid personal danger by running away.

Florida previously expanded the ‘Castle Doctrine’ to workplaces and cars, but now one’s Person is one’s Castle.

England, on the other hand, has gone the opposite route. England once had their own version of the Castle Doctrine, (I assume we stole the idea from them in the first place) but they scrapped it. As a result, if a Brit assaults some teenage punk that broke into his house to nick the telly, the HOME OWNER goes to jail. From Mark Steyn: (what he calls a “hot” burglary Americans call a home invasion- that is, a burglary that takes place when the home owners are at home)

Just over 10 per cent of US burglaries are "hot" burglaries, and in my part of the world it's statistically insignificant: there is virtually zero chance of a New Hampshire home being broken into while the family are present. But in England and Wales it's more than 50 per cent and climbing. Which is hardly surprising given the police's petty, well-publicised pursuit of those citizens who have the impertinence to resist criminals.

These days, even as he or she is being clobbered, the more thoughtful British subject is usually keeping an eye (the one that hasn't been poked out) on potential liability. Four years ago, Shirley Best, proprietor of the Rolander Fashion emporium, whose clients include Zara Phillips, was ironing some clothes when the proverbial two youths showed up. They pressed the hot iron into her flesh, burning her badly, and then stole her watch. "I was frightened to defend myself," said Miss Best. "I thought if I did anything I would be arrested." There speaks the modern British crime victim.

Her Majesty's Constabulary has metaphorically put a huge neon sign on every suburban cul-de-sac advertising open season on property owners. If you have a crime policy that makes "hot" burglaries routine, it's a reasonable bet that more and more citizens will wind up beaten, stabbed or dead.

It is a scene right out of A Clockwork Orange. (I blame the pernicious influence of the French) On the other hand, one imagines reading of this scene in Florida:

Dan Blitz, father of three, was killed last night after challenging Johnny Derringer to a fistfight. Blitz had been drinking heavily in a local bar following a fight with his wife,, when Derringer stepped on his foot. Blitz stood up off his stool, swore at Derringer, and told him to step outside “for a beating.” Derringer stepped back, drew and fired once, into Blitz’s left eye. Questioned and released by the police, Derringer said he felt his life had been threatened, and that he saw no reason to try to run or avoid the fight, given that he is, in his own words, “a fast draw, a dead eye, a man with ice in my veins where blood ought to be.” Derringer continued- “Don’t start nothin’ won’t BE nothin’ yo!”

I’d rather fear getting shot for being a belligerent drunk than fear going to jail for fighting to defend my home and/or family. England’s overly civilized way encourages the barbarians, whereas Florida’s overly barbarous way encourages gentlemanly behavior. An armed society is a polite society. England has not only taken away her citizens’ arms, but now wants their balls.

Again, I blame the French. What thread of thought in England’s past could have led to this? I mean can you imagine Henry the 5th cowering in the corner while somebody robbed his castle? I guess Hamlet might go in the corner to hear himself talk for half an hour while he got robbed, okay, but is England all Hamlet and no Prince Hal? Where have all the Falstaff’s gone?


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