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Italian Parliament votes for self-defense rights:

The Associated Press press reports that the Italian Senate has just approved a bill to better protect the self-defense rights of crime victims. "[T]he bill would allow people to shoot at thieves attempting to burgle homes, shops or offices, even if the target of the burglary was not judged under immediate threat, Italian daily Corriere della Sera said."

The principle of "proportionality" has long been misused against Italian crime victims. In a 2002 article, Carlos Stagnaro and I wrote: "The courts insist that the defense must be 'proportional' to the aggression — so that if a man is using his bare hands to commit rape, the woman cannot fight back with a gun. Likewise, if your home is invaded by a gang armed with knives, the courts will not allow you to use a firearm against them.

The campaign to reform Italian gun laws, which are hold-overs from the nation's Fascist era (as Stagnaro and I detailed in another article), has been in progress since Silvio Berlusconi's election in 2001. Given Italy's status as a prime target of al Qaeda, further reform of Italian laws, to enable decent people to protect themselves against sudden attacks, would be eminently sensible.



UPDATE: Several authors on the interesting and diverse Comments discussion have wondered how expansion of the Italian right to self-defense would help in the war on terrorists. As some comments note, citizens carrying firearms (or edged weapons) would not be of use in defending against a London-style attack, involving remote-control hidden bombs. Certainly true. In other situations of self-defense against Islamonazism, citizen possession of firearms can be very helpful, as illustrated by the experience of Israel and Thailand.

Daniel Slate (mail) (www):
Excellent. All libertarians and proponents of property rights should rejoice.
7.8.2005 3:14am
Eric Anondson (mail):
Interesting. I haven't been paying close attention, I was under an impression that generally EU nations have been tightening gun laws, but are there other nations in the EU that aren't tightening gun use/gun ownership laws, but like Italy, granting more gun use/ownership rights?
7.8.2005 3:31am
Bob B. (www):
Indeed, because we've seen how well arming the general public to protect themselves has been so effective against terrorist attacks in the past.

dream on.
7.8.2005 4:36am
Eric Anondson (mail):

Indeed, because we've seen how well arming the general public to protect themselves has been so effective against terrorist attacks in the past.

Some might suggest looking to Israel as a test case. You would need to look at a nation with a significant, persistent terrorist threat, and has armed its citizenry, and a democratic society where the rule of law is supreme. You can hardly compare Italy with Somalia and expect to draw fair conclusions... Is there a better one than Israel?

I have a hunch (that's all it is) as to whether or not it helps Israel's general safety with regards to terrorism. But I'm sure someone actually has data to show.
7.8.2005 5:21am
Jeroen Wenting:
EU weapons (not just guns) control/confiscation laws are getting ever tighter.
But at the same time laws preventing people from defending themselves are being relaxed.
As a result we'll eventually be allowed to defend ourselves against bad guys but not be allowed to own the means to execute that defense.
So if I were to kill an armed burglar in my home I would eventually not be arrested for killing the guy but I would be arrested for owning a weapon capable of killing a person.

Arming the general population won't prevent many terrorist attacks, especially if the terrorists are smart as well as willing to give up their lives for their cause (as many modern day terrorists seem willing to do, in start contrast to those operating in the 1970s and '80s).
It will however limit common crime like robberies and murders, which will have a far greater positive effect on the security of the average citizen.
7.8.2005 7:14am
AppSocRes (mail):
The NRA has published a fair amount of anecdotal data involving situations where armed Israeli civilians have either prevented or blunted the effects of terrorist attacks. The NRA has also published incidents in the USA where armed citizens terminated spree killers before they could kill as many people as they might otherwise have done. Such material may be found in their monthly magazine, The American Rifleman. I'm sure one could contact the organization for a fairly lengthy list of such incidents. As a statistician who has done consulting work on terrorism, I think the data are too "squishy" to allow anyone ever to do a convincing analysis proving that an armed citizenry discourages terrorist activity; but my knowledge and gut instincts tell me that widespread carrying of firearms is in fact an active and probably passive deterrent to criminal and terrorist activities.
7.8.2005 9:29am
bvonahsen (mail):
I honestly don't see how having conceal and carry would have helped in the London blasts. Guns aren't going to save you from subway bombs or dirty bombs or a biological attack. I'd count this as a wash, neither a plus nor minus.
7.8.2005 9:50am
Jeremy (mail):

I honestly don't see how having conceal and carry would have helped in the London blasts. Guns aren't going to save you from subway bombs or dirty bombs or a biological attack. I'd count this as a wash, neither a plus nor minus.


No one has made that claim; you're setting up a strawman.

While an armed citizenry coupled with strong self-defense laws may have made no difference in the recent London case, it is simply unsupportable as a logical matter to extrapolate "I'd count this as a wash, neither a plus nor minus." Armed citizens may very well be more successful than unarmed citizens at repelling suicide bombers, kidnappers, and hijackers. Since when have terrorists stopped using those methods?
7.8.2005 9:59am
jurisprude:

my knowledge and gut instincts tell me that widespread carrying of firearms is in fact an active and probably passive deterrent to criminal and terrorist activities.


I suspect that widespread carrying of firearms also enables the escalation of already tense situations into (more) violent crimes; rather than someone breaking an adversary's nose in the heat of passion, they can reach for a gun. A case in point would be the well-publicized incidents where "road rage" turns into homicide. Of course, the reason those incidents are so well-publicized is that they're infrequent. However, similar incidents that take place inside the home, in less public situations, are more frequent and less likely to be publicized.

My point is not that the citizenry shouldn't be armed. On the contrary, I'm a gun owner and agree that widespread gun ownership probably deters and prevents some criminal activity (I'm not so certain that it deters would-be terrorists). However, you should consider the possibility of a corresponding increase in violent crimes.
7.8.2005 10:02am
h2so4 (mail) (www):
prude,

Perhaps you should look at the latest crime data for the U.S and England. In it you will find that your corresponding increase is actually a corresponding decrease in the Gun Loving U.S. of A and the utterly gunless Brits are experiencing an sizable INCREASE in violent crime. Numbers don't lie...
7.8.2005 11:06am
Bob B. (www):
You may also note that while the EU is 'disarming' what I would consider to be an already disarmed citzenry, it also does not suffer from the frequency of armed home robberies that the U.S. does. In fact the mere occurence of such an act would be major national news (due to rarity), whereas in the US it might get a blurb in the local newspaper.

Also, noting that the US has nearly 2x the per capita murder rate of any country in the EU (Spain being the highest in 2000 with 2.94 and the US at 5.64), what is the purpose of rearming a nation? They are already well below an armed nation. Sure, there's all kinds of issues relating to culture etc., but I fail to see any reason to arm countries that don't suffer from the problems you cite. This is essentially assuming that a reality that exists in the U.S. exists everywhere else too.
7.8.2005 11:11am
jurisprude:
h2so4,

Numbers don't lie. I'm not talking about current, year-to-year trends, but long-term, per capita figures, which, as I think Bob has pointed out, show a higher rate of violence in the U.S. than in unarmed countries.
7.8.2005 11:18am
Adrian (mail):
Actually, UK violent crime rates are higher than in US. Twice as much, according to 2000 data. It is only the murder rate which is lower.

Speaking of unarmed vs. armed countries, some of "new EU" countries happen to have very little firearms and, simultaneously, murder rates higher than US.
7.8.2005 11:24am
jurisprude:
I'm open to the possibility that I'm wrong. I was just speculating.
7.8.2005 11:25am
Al_Norris (mail):
There may be some correlation in that criminals in the US are more prone to commit violence than their counterparts in the EU. I think there is a changing standard (of criminal action) to verify this, happening now in Great Briton.

As for defending against terrorists? I don't think that untrained civilians are prepared for such confrontations, regardless of where they reside. Israel may be the exception, as most who carry there, are in fact trained.
7.8.2005 12:22pm
Bob B. (www):
The UK has been disarmed for a long time, bringing into serious question any correlation between disarming and rise in violent crime rates. Note also the lack of a higher murder rate, most likely due to rarity of a crime actually being committed with a gun.

You would need to look at the actual circumstances of new EU countries and why the murder rate is so high. Large presence of organized crime, large amount of gun trafficking (note, this is not what could be considered 'very little firearms'), and underdeveloped social and political structures as a result of the end of communism. The rate is also high amongst the younger age segment (under 25 years old) suggesting that access to firearms is easy and there is relatively little control. In effect, these countries are probably not as disarmed as one thinks. To arm them more would doubtfully provide any positive benefit other than to draw attention for the benchmark for violent crime (that being the U.S.)
7.8.2005 12:30pm
Clayton E. Cramer (mail) (www):
"The UK has been disarmed for a long time, bringing into serious question any correlation between disarming and rise in violent crime rates. Note also the lack of a higher murder rate, most likely due to rarity of a crime actually being committed with a gun."

Acutally, no. Restrictive British laws about handguns and rifles are pretty old, dating from the Firearms Act 1920, but shotguns weren't significantly restricted until 1967. Murder rates were low even before 1920, when the UK had less restrictive gun laws than a number of American states had back then.

The motivation for the Firearms Act 1920 wasn't crime, but fear of Bolshevik revolution--although Cabinet discussions show that there was a conscious decision to mislead the public by claiming that it was a crime measure. See here for a detailed examination of the materials declassified in 1969-70.

Concerning the claim that widespread gun ownership or carrying will result in an increase in other crime rates: sorry, but as logical as this might appear, the experience of those states that have liberalized their concealed weapon permit laws indicates otherwise. Murder rates, for example, which you would expect to be the most prone to rise as permits became available on a non-discretionary basis, either stayed flat or actually declined. Here is the Tennessee Law Review paper by Dave Kopel and myself on this subject.

The reason is simple: most murders are committed by people with previous felony convictions, minors, or people with mental illness problems. These are also the categories of people in the U.S. who are either completely prohibited from owning guns (under federal law) or whose purchase or possession is severely restricted under federal or state laws--and who do not qualify for permits to carry guns, even under the liberalized concealed weapon permit laws.

I also maintain a blog devoted to civilian defensive gun uses in the U.S., with links to news coverage of such events. These are very common. A week doesn't go by--sometimes a day doesn't go by--without such events making the press somewhere in the U.S.
7.8.2005 1:49pm
gab (mail):
"Given Italy's status as a prime target of al Qaeda, further reform of Italian laws, to enable decent people to protect themselves against sudden attacks, would be eminently sensible."

It's unclear to me how arming the citizenry would allow "decent people to protect themselves." And David Kopel writes no rationale for this statement. And frankly, given the way Italians drive, and the tempers they exhibit while doing so, I feel much safer knowing they are not armed.
7.8.2005 2:06pm
Bob (www):
For a another viewpoint, also feel free to read "SHOOTING DOWN THE "MORE GUNS, LESS CRIME" HYPOTHESIS", 55 Stan. L. Rev. 1193.
7.8.2005 2:30pm
Sebastian holsclaw (mail) (www):
"The courts insist that the defense must be 'proportional' to the aggression — so that if a man is using his bare hands to commit rape, the woman cannot fight back with a gun. Likewise, if your home is invaded by a gang armed with knives, the courts will not allow you to use a firearm against them."

Are these two hypotheticals or grounded in case law?
7.8.2005 2:44pm
Clayton E. Cramer (mail) (www):
Bob writes:
For a another viewpoint, also feel free to read "SHOOTING DOWN THE "MORE GUNS, LESS CRIME" HYPOTHESIS", 55 Stan. L. Rev. 1193.
One of the reasons that I started the civilian gun self-defense blog is that one of the authors of that paper, in email, insisted that true civilian defensive use of guns was very rare--perhaps one case every ten years or so. For a supposedly serious scholar, this is laughable, because such incidents are reported across the nation almost daily. See my response here. I also point out some serious problems with the claims in the paper here.
7.8.2005 3:38pm
Clayton E. Cramer (mail) (www):
Oh yeah, here's another problem with Donohue's work (I haven't copied the links over):
As an example, consider this recent presentation by John J. Donohue III, one of Lott's strongest critics. The paper is ostensibly about the rise of non-discretionary concealed weapon permit laws (what Donohue calls "Right To Carry" or RTC). Donohue points to the recent example of actor Sean Penn, who has a California concealed weapon permit (apparently issued in violation of California law), and how two of his guns were stolen from his car. While Donohue acknowledges that Penn "succeeded in getting one of the relatively few gun permits in the non-RTC state of California," raising this issue as part of a discussion of RTC laws makes no sense at all.

Donohue also points to the now thoroughly discredited Violence Policy Center claim that in Texas, "41 permit holders were arrested for murder or attempted murder...." While admitting that some might have been falsely accused, Donohue never acknowledges that it is routine for Texas district attorneys to charge anyone engaged in a defensive shooting, and that many of these "arrests" never turn into criminal charges, because the grand jury refuses to indict. Donohue makes the claim,
During the first 5 and one-half years of the Texas RTC law, the Violence Policy Center was able to identify that 41 permit holders were arrested for murder or attempted murder (the number would be too low if the researchers didn’t capture every permit holder in their count or if some permit holders committed murder and didn’t get arrested, and would be too high if some were falsely accused). The Violence Policy Center, License to Kill IV (June 2002), http://www.vpc.org/studies/ltk4cont.htm. The current murder rate in the U.S. across all groups is roughly 5 per 100,000, so if one takes 150,000 as the average number of permits over the first five year period, one would expect roughly 7.5 murders per year from gun permit holders (if they killed at the same rate as the average American today), which totals 41 murders over the full period.
There are a number of misleading aspects to this statement. The VPC study claims 41 permit holders "arrested for murder or attempted murder" which Donohue then compares to "41 murders over the full period." Donohue's apples and oranges comparison is either a sign of carelessness, or dishonesty. Which does he want to cop to?

The VPC report also neglects to tell us how many of those murder and attempted murder charges involved guns. Doubtless, a majority, but what relevance would a murder committed with a knife, poison, or a blunt object have to the Texas concealed handgun license? Donohue has to know this. Where's the qualifying explanation?

Donohue acknowledges--parenthetically--that the VPC's number of murders and attempted murders "would be too high if some were falsely accused" but doesn't bother to look at the readily available evidence on this. Examining Texas statistics shows that as of May 17, 1999, there were 22 murder charges filed. Of these, 2 were convicted, and 4 were dismissed. The rest were still pending. Even making the unlikely assumption that every remaining charge would result in a conviction or guilty plea, this still means that VPC's "41" charges are going to be 33 or 34 convictions, and most likely, a good bit less than that. For the year 2001, there was one murder conviction of a licensee, and 157 convictions of non-licensees. This also suggests that the VPC's "41" charges overstates the actual number of murders and attempted murders committed by Texas licensees (unless, of course, 2001 was a very unusual year).

There are other problems with the VPC report that Donohue seems to have missed. The VPC report lists at least two murders that took place on the property of the killer (Jack Reynolds and Daniel Meehan)--where a concealed weapon permit makes no difference whatsoever.

The VPC also lists a kidnapping where no gun was involved, until the victim tried to get away from the kidnapper's home--at which point the kidnapper used a rifle. A license to carry made no difference in this case at all.

Some of the cases that the VPC points to seem to have left no tracks after the arrest. They list a Randy Phil Allen II who was arrested in 1999 for a 1988 murder (which would have been before the Texas RTC law took effect). But whatever happened? There is a Randy Phil Allen II who lives in Texas, but while he responded to my email, he refuses to answer my email inquiry if he is the same Randy Phil Allen II arrested in 1999.

1. It seems a bit hard to believe that this exact match of name is a coincidence.

2. If it is a coincidence, and he is not the guy who was arrested in 1999, why not respond with, "No, I am not the same guy."

3. If this is the same Randy Phil Allen II who was arrested in 1999, he clearly could not have been convicted, or he wouldn't be out of prison already.
7.8.2005 3:43pm
Jeroen Wenting:
Europe is not disarmed until there's not a single knife or baseball bat left in the hands of the subjects.
This situation is quickly coming about though.
7.8.2005 4:05pm
h2so4 (www):
YEA!!! What Clayton Cramer said.... : o )

The civilian gun self defense blog is a great resource. I check it out everyday..
7.8.2005 6:54pm
Jarrod:
David

I am generally supportive of allowing teachers in the 3 southern border provinces to carry guns. However, like most things the devil will be in the detail and I am not sure because the policy it worked in Israel that it will in Thailand.

"Muslim extremists in Thailand���s southern provinces of Narathiwat, Yala, and Pattani have been carrying out a terrorist campaign, seeking to create an Islamic state independent of Thailand, whose population is predominantly Buddhist.

Most teachers are Buddhists, and they have been a key target of the terrorists, who have also perpetrated arsons against dozens of schools."

While the majority of Thailand's population is Buddhist, the same does not hold true for Narathiwat, Yala, and Pattani. In those 3 southern border provinces, around 85% of the people living in those 3 provinces are Muslim.

One problem in arming teachers with guns is, are you only going to arm Buddhist teachers or are you going to arm Muslim teachers as well? If you are only arm the Buddhist teachers this will create further problems between Muslims and Buddhists in the southern border provinces for 2 reasons. First, teachers who have been killed include people of both religions and Muslim teachers would likely see this as a "us" and "them" policy which discriminates against Muslim teachers. Second, it will only further exacerbate tensions between the Muslim and Buddhist communities as many in the Muslim community feel that they have long been discriminated against by the Thai government in Bangkok, particularly on employment and career advancement in the civil service. However, on the other hand, some teachers, particularly at Islamic schools are behind the increase in the recent violence.

It is now a year since the policy was introduced and there is little evidence to show that allowing (some ?) teachers to carry guns that there has been any decrease in the violence directed against teachers or against schools.
7.9.2005 10:45am
Tim Lambert (mail) (www):
Cramer refuses to admit that Lott has done anything wrong but finds the flimsiest of excuses to dismiss work refuting Lott. He misrepresents what Donohue wrote in his email and in any event it's not even relevant to Donohue's analysis of Lott's claims. The rest of his criticism of Donohue is not relevant either but I dealt with it here if anyone is interested. And here is some more on Cramer.
7.9.2005 12:02pm