“Defensive gun use” in practice

Since when seconds count the police are minutes away, a brave and self-reliant West Virginia homeowner engaged in the sort of defensive gun use that proves the value of an armed citizenry. Seeing two strangers breaking into his shed, he acted like a real American and blew the perps away with a scoped rifle. (Remember, the best form of gun control is a steady aim.) He then called the police to report his heroic deed.

Alas for Rodney Bruce Black (and the two DOAs) he was – like Rick when he went to Casablanca to take the waters – misinformed. The shed was not, in fact, on Black’s property, but on the property the two dead men had just purchased. So now we have two corpses and one man in jail for murder.

Three queries for lawyers:

1) To what extent does the right to use deadly force to defend one’s home extend to out-buildings?

2) Am I correct in thinking that, for a householder dealing with an intruder, there is no legal obligation to make a verbal challenge before shooting?

3) Mistake of law is, of course, no defense. But mistake of fact is. Assuming what appears to be true – that Black had a good-faith, though mistaken, belief that he was defending his property – can he offer that as a defense and try to get what looks as if it will be a second-degree murder charge (though the news story reports that the arrest charge was first-degree, which doesn’t seem right in the absence of premeditation) broken down to manslaughter?

Is a firearms magazine writer/editor a journalist?

(ht: Walt Kelly): Is a barnacle a ship?

This is messed up in so many ways.  I understand resigning in protest against something your employer did, or asks you to do. I understand getting fired because you’re not with the program.  But Bequette and Metcalf did the right thing “…generate a healthy exchange of ideas…” that the gun community would–obviously, especially in light of these events–benefit from.  We need more people acting as though a job is not the worst thing one can lose!

But instead of forcing the magazine to either fire them or back them up after the yahoo faction erupted, or resigning on grounds that the magazine was wrongly caving in to fear (of that exchange) and ignorance, they quit as though they had done something wrong.  They could have lost their jobs and kept much more important things, but now they have nothing!

Murray’s Dunblane

Andy Murray was a survivor of the 1996 Dunblane school massacre.

DunblaneAndy Murray, victor on Sunday of the men’s singles championship at Wimbledon, was with his brother Jamie a fortunate survivor of the Dunblane school massacre on 13 March 1996.

A previous massacre in the similarly bucolic English town of Hungerford in 1987 led to a ban on personal ownership of semi-automatic rifles. The Dunblane killings were carried out with handguns. These were subsequently also effectively banned, apart from heavily regulated clubs.

There have not been any school shootings in Britain since. There was a street shooting spree in Cumbria in 2010, in which the perpetrator used a shotgun and .22 rifle, both licensed. This did not lead to any further gun control legislation. I don’t know if police checks before issuing licenses have become tougher.

Britain has a gun crime problem – among hard-core criminal gangs in a few big cities. Their armourers, facing long prison sentences if discovered, must be very prudent men. I imagine their background checks to weed out agents provocateurs rival those of the police, and a lone nutter would get nowhere near one of their expensive weapons.

IN 2011 the UK recorded 38 firearms homicides.


Please confine comments to gun issues related to the UK and similar countries. We don’t need further advertisements for the Second Amendment. The arms clauses in the 1689 Bill of Rights are not treated in Britain as part of the living constitution.

Controlling gun violence

Gun control is good, clean fun, but controlling violence is all about controlling violent people and places.

… isn’t primarily about controlling guns. David Kennedy explains.

I put somewhat more stock than David does in the value of universal background checks and tougher penalties for gun trafficking, but surely he’s right that this is all second-order compared to the policing strategies discussed in his op-ed, focused on violent people and violent places. Or, I would add, to simply raising alcohol taxes. Some people are much more dangerous than others, but even those people are much more dangerous even than their personal norm once they have a skinful.

Two good guys with guns

didn’t do well against bad guys with guns, even though they were not only trained but apparently alerted to being targets.  I continue to be totally mystified at the idea that just packing heat will let you get the drop on someone who means harm to you and can pick his time and place. McLelland was in pajamas at home; of course his piece was no more than a few steps away, or maybe in the next room…would he and his wife be OK if only that piece had been a full-auto machine gun?

This terrible episode may be cheering up some of the lunatics who think their guns are for fighting their government, but it sure doesn’t help the home protection side of the debate.

Guns, crime, and gun control

How you know the NRA works for the gun industry rather than gun owners.

On the off-chance that not all RBC readers regularly view guns.com (which is exactly what you’d expect it to be) here’s my Q&A on gun policy. The site boldly published my answers – including the snark – unedited. Enjoy!


Q: You’ve been critical of the NRA leadership in the past but if you were in Wayne LaPierre’s shoes, how would you handle the current debate on gun control? Would you come to the table prepared to negotiate or would you dig in and prepare for a protracted battle in Congress?

A: If you’re Wayne LaPierre and you want to stand up for the rights of law-abiding gun-owners, you make a deal that sacrifices the non-law-abiding: universal background checks, better record-keeping and data analysis, stronger gun-tracing, tough penalties for scofflaw gun dealers and straw purchasers who knowingly arm criminals. But if you’re Wayne LaPierre and your job is making sure the dollars keep flowing from customers to your gun-manufacturer sponsors and from those sponsors to the NRA’s bank account (and your own), then you mount a national scare campaign to stimulate gun sales.

I’ll leave it up to you to figure out which Wayne LaPierre is actually running the NRA.

How Americans of a Different Era Ended Mass Deaths of Schoolchildren

My “discovered book” by Grove Patterson, written in 1954, includes this account of the author’s early years at the Cleveland Plain Dealer:

The main grade-school building in Collinwood, railroad town and suburb of Cleveland, was destroyed by fire during the afternoon session. In the panic that ensued 273 little boys and girls were burned or trampled to death. There has been no other school fire in American history to compare with it in stark horror.

The scene on the copy desk that night and until four o’clock in the morning is engraved in my memory. Tears flowed down the cheeks of oldtime, supposedly hard-boiled copyreaders as they handled column after column of vivid stories from the schoolhouse, the morgue and the homes of the bereaved.

As I reflect on whether we will as a nation do anything to stop the next Newtown massacre, I consider Patterson’s sentence “There has been no other school fire in American history to compare with it in stark horror”. Why was this statement true when Patterson wrote it 46 years after the Collinwood fire and why is it still true? Because Americans decided to use their government to make it true.

After Collinwood and some less deadly but still horrible school fires in the Progressive Era, U.S. schools were mandated to have fire escapes, paint that was free of accelerants, panic bars on exit doors, fire alarms and fire drills. No doubt it was expensive. No doubt some people resisted. No doubt some resented the imposition and complained about big government intruding on the lives of communities and individual citizens.

But American reformers got their government to do it, and that’s why no fire as deadly as the 1908 Collinwood blaze has happened in a U.S. school since.

People back then were not smarter than we are today. They certainly didn’t have more money or love their children any more than we do today. But they strongly believed that governmental action could save the lives of children, acted resolutely on those beliefs and made them real. May their courage and their faith in government inspire everyone who is now trying to stop the next Newtown.

Dad’s Army for Freedom!

The strange belief that militias are necessary for liberty.

Barack Obama took a nice dig at Second Amendment absolutists in his second inaugural speech:

For the American people can no more meet the demands of today’s world by acting alone than American soldiers could have met the forces of fascism or communism with muskets and militias.

The question: what did the authors of that little sentence, the Second Amendment, mean by it? is subject to the historical analogy to Goodhart’s Law : when an indicator is used for policy, it gets distorted (see: monetary targets, Soviet central planning). To get an unbiased evaluation of the original intention, you’d have to hire a historian from Mars and deprive them of all data after 1800.

Fortunately there’s a slightly easier question. Where did they get the idea of :

A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state …

How does this stand up as a claim of fact?
In 1792 it looked pretty good:

    • List of free states: Great Britain (*), France, Netherlands, Switzerland, United States.
    • List of free states with militias or citizen armies: Great Britain, France (chaotically), Switzerland, United States.

* when not considered as a tyranny under the iron gaiters of George III.

Today the proposition doesn’t look quite so good: Continue reading “Dad’s Army for Freedom!”

Wedge politics

The NRA is against universal background checks, which the whole country is for? Good! Let’s vote on that.

Now that the NRA has come out against universal background checks – obviously good policy, and with overwhelming public support, including among gun owners and NRA members – Harry Reid should bring up a background-check-only gun bill. If Boehner won’t move it in the House, start a discharge petition. Force every Republican to go on record for or against common sense (and against or for the NRA).