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Private Use of Deadly Force to Defend Property and Restore Order:

There are certainly many important moral and pragmatic arguments about the propriety of citizens' use of deadly force to defend property or to restore order, especially when the normal go-through-the-proper-channels means of protecting property or deterring crime are absent. Texas law (see secs. 9.41-9.43), for instance gives citizens a fairly broad right to use deadly force to defend both their property and, in many instances, others' property, even under normal conditions.

Based on my quick glance at the statutes, though, I doubt that even the Texas defense would extend simply to shooting looters, chiefly because it requires an attempt to protect or recover (recover for the benefit of the owner, I assume) specific property. The shooting of looters of others' property isn't really aimed at or likely to recover that property for the owner's benefit. Even if the looter can't get away with the TV set, it's unlikely that the owner of the TV set will get it back that way; and shooting for the purpose of generally deterring others' misconduct (as opposed to, for instance, shooting for the purpose of specifically deterring people who are right near the target from looting that particular place) probably isn't covered under Texas law. Moreover, there is still a moral question as to the propriety of such shooting, and the practical matters that Orin raises (and I lean towards sharing Orin's concerns).

But in any event, that's Texas law, not Louisiana law; and it might be worth remembering that, under Louisiana law — which generally (with some exceptions not applicable here) doesn't allow the use of deadly force to defend property — the shooting of looters by private citizens is a crime: the crime of murder. Some might argue that it shouldn't be a crime, either because the Texas rule (or an even broader version of it) is generally right, or because when civil authority collapses citizens have to be able to protect their property (if they're shooting people who are looting their own property) or try to restore order more broadly. And that's all well and good for blogs. But if you are ever put in this position yourself (and I hope none of us ever will be), you might want to keep in mind that, in most states and probably even in Texas, the current criminal law is very much not on your side.

Comments: Please be calm and civil, and if you want to make arguments about the current state of the law, please point to specific legal authorities. In particular, if you want to argue about Texas law, please make sure you have carefully read the statutes I cited.

Related Posts (on one page):

  1. Private Use of Deadly Force to Defend Property and Restore Order:
  2. Comment on "Armed Response to Looters":
  3. Armed Response to Looters:
chris (mail):
Eugene,

I agree that we don't want the law to encourage either before or after the fact a private citizen shooting someone carrying away a television set from a store he just the broke the window of. His saying "I was just trying to maintain law and order" doesn't cut it.

BUT, I do want the following to be able to happen. If a person in authority, say the mayor or the police commissioner, determines that the police shooting looters is necessary for order, I want them to be able to command the officers to do this and not have them or the police officers following that command tried for murder. What is the law on that?
9.2.2005 1:04pm
billb:
After Hugo and Andrew, some neighrborhoods banded together to defend their property from looters with barricades and armed patrols. They were quite successful and were generally lauded for doing so. I don't know of anyone that was actually shot during this. Some googling can problably sort that out.
9.2.2005 1:06pm
Travis59135:
Eugene,

I agree with you about what the law says. However, do you think that people who shot looters (looting their own property) would be prosecuted? Is there any change in the law if they do something like shoot the looter in the leg (rather than kill the looter)?

More than that though, do you know what Louisiana Law would say about shooting to protect your life? One situation would be if you are being shot at, but another might be if the looter was going to take/destroy something that might keep you alive (e.g. a generator keeping your food O.K.)?
9.2.2005 1:14pm
J:
Two solutions
1) Fire warning shots. This worked for the Korean shopkeepers during the LA Riots most of the time.
2) Shoot looters using a common type of ammo in a common caliber, and not near your immediate AO. If this has to be done, there aren't any police around, and detailed investigations are unlikely. Basically, you avoid the legal problems by never being connected with it. This is not a perfectly "legal" solution, but a workaround to allow what needs to be done in a situation where there IS no effective rule of law to be done, while reducing the chances of having legal issues later.
(2) is not a commentary on when it is or is not right to shoot looters, merely a practical approach to the question of how it can be done in a fashion that leads to fewer problems later.
9.2.2005 1:37pm
Abe Delnore (mail):
Is there any change in the law if they do something like shoot the looter in the leg (rather than kill the looter)?


Well, obviously, if you don't kill someone then you can't be prosecuted for murder. But I'd be wary of any tactic predicated on shooting to wound. You simply do not control the situation to that extent. Once firearms are involved at all, we are very likely talking about killing.


--Abe Delnore

9.2.2005 1:42pm
agesilaus:
I seems to me that some who is on the property while that property is being looted can claim fear of great bodily harm and thus be free to fire at the looters. It don't believe that civilians can wander around town firing at anyone they believe to be looters. That is pure vigilantism and they should be arrested.

Of course jury nullification could then come into effect in many parts of the country.
9.2.2005 1:44pm
Nick (www):
Not being a lawyer... I', curious then how you think the following scenario would play out if shooting looters to purely defend property is illegal:

Owner of property is armed, and has a show of force. In other words threatens the use of deadly force if someone attempts to loot.

Looter then continues to attempt the robbery, and pulls out his own weapon.

If the owner then shoots the looter, would it be considered in self defense because the looter pulled a gun... or would the looter somehow be justified because the property owner showed force?

I would hope the former would be true, but it wouldn't surprise me if it were the latter.
9.2.2005 1:47pm
Amy Phillips (mail) (www):
I assume that under LA law, a person is allowed to shoot to defend the life/safety of himself or another person, right? Must the threat be imminent? Could we end up with shootouts over loaves of bread or bottles of water under the theory that I will die without food and water, and therefore am justified in shooting anyone who tries to take it from me? Does it matter whether the person was trying to steal it from me personally or from a store I own where supplies are limited enough that I could reasonably claim whatever is left for myself and my family?

Not to be cavalier, but this is precisely why extreme situations make the best philosophical debate topics: ethics are different when everyone is fighting for their survival, even if the law can't recognize that.
9.2.2005 2:12pm
voolfie (mail) (www):
I don't see how a situation such as exists in N.O. changes anything.
The rules are pretty well understood by most people.

1. You are permitted to defend your, your family's - and your neighbor's - property if someone tries to steal it.

2. If a person employs violent force to effect the felonious taking of property, then the question of appropriate use of force shifts to the response to an assault, battery or attempted murder. Force may be met with force.

3. If the property is such that its loss could reasonably be understood as life threatening, then the situation similarly rises to something akin to attempted murder, rather than theft or robbery. Again, force may be met with force.

4. Lastly, if roaming bands of thugs are committing rape, arson (especially if there is a reasonable chance that a fire could spread to one's own residence), assault, battery, etc., then there is no question that force may be used to protect yourself, your family and friends - however you want to define that group.

Common sense ought to warn us, however, that an individual's appearance, location or suspicious activity are most definitely NOT grounds for opening fire on them.

The only gray area, as I see it, is this: What does the law have to say about defending one's property against a group of looters, which while not using violence, is too big to defend against without using overwhelming, potentially deadly force?

Frankly, questions of law are moot: there is none. And it's most unlikely people will be asked to account for their behavior and actions during this period.

Ingrained morality and common sense are the best we can hope for down there right now.
9.2.2005 2:22pm
A. Nonymous (mail):
LOUISIANA REVISED STATUTES
TITLE 14. CRIMINAL LAW
CHAPTER 1. CRIMINAL CODE
PART 1. GENERAL PROVISIONS
SUBPART C. CULPABILITY
§ 14:20. Justifiable homicide


A homicide is justifiable:

(1) When committed in self-defense by one who reasonably believes that he is in imminent danger of losing his life or receiving great bodily harm and that the killing is necessary to save himself from that danger.

(2) When committed for the purpose of preventing a violent or forcible felony involving danger to life or of great bodily harm by one who reasonably believes that such an offense is about to be committed and that such action is necessary for its prevention. The circumstances must be sufficient to excite the fear of a reasonable person that there would be serious danger to his own life or person if he attempted to prevent the felony without the killing.

(3) When committed against a person whom one reasonably believes to be likely to use any unlawful force against a person present in a dwelling or a place of business, or when committed against a person whom one reasonably believes is attempting to use any unlawful force against a person present in a motor vehicle as defined in R.S. 32:1(40), while committing or attempting to commit a burglary or robbery of such dwelling, business, or motor vehicle. The homicide shall be justifiable even though the person does not retreat from the encounter.

(4) (a) When committed by a person lawfully inside a dwelling, a place of business, or a motor vehicle as defined in R.S. 32:1(40), against a person who is attempting to make an unlawful entry into the dwelling, place of business, or motor vehicle, or who has made an unlawful entry into the dwelling, place of business, or motor vehicle, and the person committing the homicide reasonably believes that the use of deadly force is necessary to prevent the entry or to compel the intruder to leave the premises or motor vehicle. The homicide shall be justifiable even though the person committing the homicide does not retreat from the encounter.

(b) The provisions of this Paragraph shall not apply when the person committing the homicide is engaged, at the time of the homicide, in the acquisition of, the distribution of, or possession of, with intent to distribute a controlled dangerous substance in violation of the provisions of the Uniform Controlled Dangerous Substances Law.
9.2.2005 2:59pm
A. Nonymous (mail):
Interestingly, Louisiana just repassed its law on looting in June 2005. It is verbatim the law on the books since 1993, which is odd but leads me to believe the law lapsed.
LOUISIANA REVISED STATUTES
TITLE 14. CRIMINAL LAW
CHAPTER 1. CRIMINAL CODE
PART 3. OFFENSES AGAINST PROPERTY
SUBPART A. BY VIOLENCE TO BUILDINGS AND OTHER PROPERTY
3. BURGLARY
§ 14:62.5. Looting

A. Looting is the intentional entry by a person without authorization into any dwelling or other structure belonging to another and used in whole or in part as a home or place of abode by a person, or any structure belonging to another and used in whole or in part as a place of business, or any vehicle, watercraft, building, plant, establishment, or other structure, movable or immovable, in which normal security of property is not present by virtue of a hurricane, flood, fire, act of God, or force majeure of any kind, or by virtue of a riot, mob, or other human agency, and the obtaining or exerting control over or damaging or removing property of the owner.

B. Whoever commits the crime of looting shall be fined not more than ten thousand dollars or imprisoned at hard labor for not more than fifteen years, or both.
9.2.2005 3:03pm
Eh Nonymous (mail) (www):
How annoying that A. Nonymous has chosen a similar name to mine. :)

J: you just advocated committing murder in a way calculated to make it easier to get away with it. Or at least described how to do it. How do you feel about yourself, right now? Like you're a legal commentator, or someone who aids and abets criminals? Pick one.

Nick: the owner of property is privileged to reasonably defend his life and his property with deadly force when threatened by illegal force. That does not mean he can and should point a gun at everyone who walks in the door.

Someone who draws down on a property owner in an attempt to rob them is guilty of attempted robbery, attempted criminal assault with a deadly weapon (probably), and numerous other crimes. If you get wounded doing that, the law does not protect you.

You're not supposed to "go deadly" on an intruder when you can help it, but in your home and in defense of life and limb you are often presumed to not be able to help it; no duty to retreat.

The gun-toting storeowner (if that's who we're talking about) may legally shoot, wound, and even kill an armed trespasser who is attempting to illegally and/or violently rob the shooter.

For the last time: Shooting to restore law and order is possible in theory. Do not confuse that with what's going to happen when idiots with guns and alcohol try to follow the advice that certain people have been giving.

Kudos to Orin and Eugene for having a sense of proportion.

Killing someone who is "salvaging" is murder. Killing someone who is looting someone else's stuff is often going to be murder.

Advocating murder to protect Stuff is, well, immoral.

Further discussion can continue over at my blawg, if anyone wants to disagree with me.
9.2.2005 4:41pm
ForcedAnon:
[Disclaimer: as should be obvious, IANAL nor do I play one on TV]

I don't know if LA has the notion of something like a "citizen's arrest" similar to that in CA. If it does and the act of looting is an act that justifies a citizen's arrest, it would seem that many attempts to execute a citizen's arrest of a looter would escalate rather quickly into a situation where the arresting person reasonably felt their life was sufficiently at risk to justify the use of deadly force. Note that I'm specifically NOT considering the case where deadly force is used to effect the arrest but rather to protect the arresting person during the arrest - the two are obviously quite different. Anyone know what the law is in this case - is the arresting person able to use deadly force to protect themselves even though they should have reasonably known before initiating the arrest that this would be the likely outcome?

On a vaguely related topic... In CA it's my understanding that an individual making a citizens arrest "must, without unnecessary delay, take the person arrested before a magistrate, or deliver him or her to a peace officer." [CA Penal Code 847(a)]. However, in a situation like New Orleans it could legimately take days to find a peace officer to deliver the arrested person to. This raises the question of, as long as the arresting individual provides necessary food, water and the like to the arrested person, can the arresting person really restrain the arrested person for many days while making reasonable, but unsuccessful, efforts to find a magistrate or police officer?

[No, I have no intention of testing either of these cases and don't suggest that you do either.]
9.2.2005 4:47pm
mojo (mail):
So I guess if you're gonna go hunting looters (a really, really stupid idea, btw), make sure you wear a mask and avoid witnesses?

I like to think of it as evolution in action. Or chlorine in the gene pool.
9.2.2005 4:50pm
A. Nonymous (mail):
ForcedAnon: La. does has a citizens arrest law

LOUISIANA CODE OF CRIMINAL PROCEDURE
TITLE 5. ARREST

Art. 214. Arrest by private person; when lawful

A private person may make an arrest when the person arrested has committed a felony, whether in or out of his presence.

Now, I don't have the case law in front of me, but combine this authority (which is broad, I know my own state only permits it if the felony is committed in your prescence) with justifiable homicide above and you probably could attempt to effect the arrest and if drawn on, fire.

One case I did find in a quick search: Sixty-four-year-old homeowner was not civilly liable to the parent of a 14-year-old boy who trespassed in the homeowner's backyard after dark for the purpose of stealing valuable homing pigeons, where the homeowner permanently maimed the boy with a load of deer shot to the spine; the homeowner acted in defense of himself and his elderly wife, even though the boy never entered the house and was shot while trying to scale the backyard fence, because the homeowner had a statutory right under former La. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 15:61 (now La. Code Crim. Proc. Ann. art. 214) to use necessary force to make a citizen's arrest. McKellar v. Mason, 159 So. 2d 700, 1964 La. App. LEXIS 1198 (La.App. 4 Cir. 1964).

So, if you can maimput a load of deer shot into a person's spine in order to effect a citizen's arrest and "only" maim them, well then killing them would seem AOK hunky dory too.
9.2.2005 4:59pm
Clayton E. Cramer (mail) (www):
This CNN report suggests that what is now happening there is so beyond any notion of civil order that we should just dispense with laws in dealing with New Orleans as it now stands:
Overnight, police snipers were stationed on the roof of their precinct, trying to protect it from gunmen roaming through the city, CNN's Chris Lawrence reported.

One New Orleans police sergeant compared the situation to Somalia and said officers were outnumbered and outgunned by gangs in trucks.

"It's a war zone, and they're not treating it like one," he said, referring to the federal government. (Watch the video report on explosions and gunfire -- 2:12)

The officer hitched a ride to Baton Rouge Friday morning, after working 60 hours straight in the flooded city. He has not decided whether he will return.

He broke down in tears when he described the deaths of his fellow officers, saying many had drowned doing their jobs. Other officers have turned in their badges as the situation continues to deteriorate.

In one incident, the sergeant said gunmen fired rifles and AK-47s at the helicopters flying overhead.

He said he saw bodies riddled with bullet holes, and the top of one man's head completely shot off.
I have never held the natural state of man in very high regard, but it sounds like the evacuation of New Orleans left behind a disproportionately savage group. I find the "chlorine in the gene pool" idea distasteful, but at this point, the National Guard needs orders to shoot anyone caught in the act of stealing non-essentials or committing felonies.
9.2.2005 5:01pm
NYSofMind:
There's nothing reasonable, excuseable or merely regrettable about the fact that when the national guard arrived, they found a body whose head had been shot off and other corpses riddled with bullet wounds. What's going on in New Orleans is a prime example of why the average person shouldn't have easy access to abundant ammunition and firearms. If nobody in New Orleans had a gun, then looting would go on, but nobody would be dead by human hands.

True, looting is awful, and makes the economic devastation worse. But the wanton violence that now accompanies it goes further-- it's the erasure of even the loosest patina of civilization on the area. So what if people steal narcotics from the hospitals in New Orleans? 1000 people indulging a percoset addiction is better than the no-man's-land that's developing.
9.2.2005 5:24pm
Hamiltonian:
Oh, and as a side note, allowing people to shoot looters also seems like a great opportunity for your garden variety racist to go into town and relieve some aggression.
9.2.2005 5:26pm
Kevin P. (mail):
NYSoftMind wrote:

What's going on in New Orleans is a prime example of why the average person shouldn't have easy access to abundant ammunition and firearms. If nobody in New Orleans had a gun, then looting would go on, but nobody would be dead by human hands.


Yes, the looters, rapists, gangsters and other thugs would never think of using their hands, fists, superior body strength, knives, 2x4s and the hundreds of other weapons that can be improvised in everyday life.

No, when they approached, you could just shout "Boo" and they would run away.

Some people take the law too seriously. New Orleans, at this moment, is in a state where the law does not exist. People are going to do what they have to do to defend their lives, homes and property. Guns in the hands of law-abiding people help even out the equation. Criminals will always have whatever weapons they need.

See Canoe and a gun get duo to safety

City of misery, guns &despair
9.2.2005 6:20pm
NYSofMind:
First of all, most looters, indeed, would probably run away at the first sign of someone trying to stop them. Don't underestimate cowardice as a guarantor of civil society.

Second of all, it's a lot harder to kill someone with your fists than with a gun. Could you kill someone who resists you with your bare hands? I doubt I could. I doubt most of the people who read this blog, who write this blog, or who live in New Orleans could. Guns qualitatively, not just quantitatively, change the equation in the city.
9.2.2005 6:28pm
Clayton E. Cramer (mail) (www):
Second of all, it's a lot harder to kill someone with your fists than with a gun. Could you kill someone who resists you with your bare hands? I doubt I could. I doubt most of the people who read this blog, who write this blog, or who live in New Orleans could. Guns qualitatively, not just quantitatively, change the equation in the city.
I suggest that you go look at how many murders taken place in the U.S. using non-firearms. A lot are knives; many are clubs; a shocking number are fists, feet, and hands. Maybe you couldn't kill someone with your bare hands, but unless you are confined to a wheelchair, or you are the proverbial 98 pound weakling, the limitation isn't your strength, but your unwillingness to do so.

Are guns a force multiplier? Sure enough. But the willingness to kill is the real limiting factor, not physical weakness. The vast majority (typically 99% or so) of gun owners will never kill another person. Why? Because they know that it is wrong. Those people who are morally inhibited usually don't have any problem finding another weapon to commit murder.
9.2.2005 6:40pm
Clayton E. Cramer (mail) (www):
NYStateOfMind says:
What's going on in New Orleans is a prime example of why the average person shouldn't have easy access to abundant ammunition and firearms. If nobody in New Orleans had a gun, then looting would go on, but nobody would be dead by human hands.
It isn't the average person who commits murder, but a relatively tiny minority of people with contempt for the lives of others. It is quite common for people arrested for murder to have previous felony convictions. An FBI study in 1971 found that about 45% of those arrested for murder were convicted felons. About 1/3 of murders each year are committed by minors--who can't legally buy a gun, and in most states, can't even legally possess one, except under adult supervision. About 5% of U.S. murders in 1992 were committed by mentally ill people who had stopped taking their medications. The average person isn't the problem; it is very atypical people who the law tries to disarm today, but fails to do so.
9.2.2005 6:44pm
Bruce Hayden (mail) (www):
NYSofMind may have a point, that in a situation like NO today (or, more likely yesterday, given the National Guard's arrival), it may be safer if no one has guns.

But NO is an anomoly. First time in our lifetimes really that law and order have broken down at this level. And hopefully the last. We have to continue to live in this country, and there is some evidence from mandatory issue concealed carry statistics that we are marginally safer with an armed populace than an unarmed one in this country, and there is no reputable evidence to the contrary. Besides, there are almost as many guns in this country today as people. Eliminating guns from the law abiding would be counterproductive in that situation - as those who are not would not feel constrained to turn theirs in.

And we just have to look at England to see the results of a massive disarming of the populace. In this country, most home breakins are during daylight hours with the occupants gone. In England, they are predominently at night, with the intruders often coming armed with, for example, clubs, which they apparently are more than willing to use if they meet any resistance. Not a way I would like to live.

I, for one, am happy that I live in Colo. with its "Make my Day" law allowing me to essentially legally blow any intruders back out the door of my house with my 12 guage. If I kill them, I have that defense. And if they kill me, felony murder - mandatory life imprisonment (minimum) for all accomplices.
9.2.2005 6:52pm
Bruce Hayden (mail) (www):
I also disagree with NYSofMind that "most looters, indeed, would probably run away at the first sign of someone trying to stop them". The looters, by all indications, are young males, late teens to mid twenties, in the prime of health. They are probably a bit stronger than average, and definately stronger than many of their victims. Add to this that they often run in packs - with all that entails. And, if they don't now, they probably would if that would make their predation more productive.

No, it is much more likely that the looters, being young males, would look at their victims, and look at the number of their friends there, and calculate whether or not they would win the confrontation, and if they thought they might, would go for it.
9.2.2005 6:58pm
Bruce Hayden (mail) (www):
In the citations of LA criminal code, does that state really still have "hard labor"? I would think the prohibition on Cruel and Unusual punishment would have put an end to that - but, then again, I don't live down South, where it lingered on.
9.2.2005 7:00pm
NYSofMind:
Clayton E. Cramer writes:

An FBI study in 1971 found that about 45% of those arrested for murder were convicted felons.

In recent years, somewhere in the vicinity of 3.2% of American adult males have been in prison or on probation for a felony conviction at any given time. So that 45%-have-been-convicted-of-a-felony statistic doesn't shrink down the available pool of murderers as much as it sounds like it does. Do I think it's realistic to say that we should outlaw all guns? No, and that's why I wrote about access to abundant ammunition and firearms. That said, there's no reason to have more than two guns and to have 2000 rounds of ammunition all at once. What possible positive use could you have for all that ammo? I (obviously) am not a gun user, but, speculating, I would imagine that one gun with ten bullets would accomplish all your personal-defense needs.

And I don't want to begin to ponder why Mr. Hayden enjoys the ability to legally murder door-to-door salesmen as much as he does.
9.2.2005 7:03pm
Nigel Kearney (mail) (www):
I want to repeat Chris's question from the very first comment:

What is the legal authority for police or the National Guard to use deadly force in protection of property?

Followup question: why is it, or should it be, different for private citizens?
9.2.2005 8:13pm
Kevin P. (mail):
NYSoftMind wrote:

And I don't want to begin to ponder why Mr. Hayden enjoys the ability to legally murder door-to-door salesmen as much as he does.


He doesn't enjoy any such ability. Note that Colorado's law protects homeowners against invading intruders, not door-to-door salesmen. Misunderstanding the law doesn't contribute anything to this discussion.
9.2.2005 9:11pm
Rich:
That said, there's no reason to have more than two guns and to have 2000 rounds of ammunition all at once. What possible positive use could you have for all that ammo?

A bit off-topic, but I do a lot of target shooting, and I routinely have several thousands of rounds available to me. Why? Because if you shoot a lot, it's a whole lot cheaper to buy in bulk (I reload too, but an associate's life leaves less and less time for that aspect of the hobby). Not saying that's a good positive reason to have lots of ammo around, but it is a positive reason.
9.2.2005 9:14pm
Der Englander:
@ Bruce Hayden
"And we just have to look at England to see the results of a massive disarming of the populace."

Knowing what I do of my fellow subjects, doubtless there are a not insignificant number of Brits sneering at the US right now. "Oh look at them shooting each other. The animals. Thankfully WE wouldn't have that problem. WE'VE been so clever and got rid of guns."
Clever? Really? Let's say that there were no guns in Dodge ...or London. The police are gone. Electric and gas are off and will be for weeks. There has been no fresh water for days so people will soon* start dying of thirst. You have no idea how far the damage extends or how long help might take and drug adicts are already frantic, desperate for a fix. In short, all bets on reasonable behaviour are off. So tell me, my scoffing, condescending friend, who is it has the power now? This is so simple even Muppets Against Guns should be able to figure it out, so come on. Is it the young or old? the male or female? the big or small? the most aggressive or most respectful? the normally law abiding or the practised law breaker? That's right! The most powerful people would be young, aggressive, muscular males who are experienced in fights, especially ones with friends like themselves. i.e. gang members. Not exactly the kind of people you want in charge when the next few days will be a struggle for your very survival.

In New Orleans, women, older and weaker citizens, and those who are sick, injured or on their own, can rely on their trusty shotguns to keep them *relatively* safe. No chance of that in the UK. One major disaster and thanks to the smug, the ignorant, the sneering and the downright deceitful, it will, quite literally, be survival of the fittest. With many areas deserted, others cut off by flood water so foul that no-one with any sense would be in it and fires, smoke and noise all around to cover any misdeeds, you'd really need to watch your back. And your front. Not easy when you've been four days with no food, water or sleep. Been a bit miserable once, EVER, to that little thug down the street. Not looking like such a good idea now, is it? What about that time you lied to the court about your ex-husband. Uh-oh! Or you refused to tip that waiter that time? Oops! Oh, and fancy a bit of action gentlemen? the women are there for the taking. And when you're finished simply render her unconscious and throw her out for the alligators/dogs to eat the evidence. Might I suggest you start with a gun banning feminist or two? T'will be all the sweeter!


* bottom of...
http://www.wildsurvival.com/survival-facts/

Think it couldn't happen? Think again...
http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,1072-1762363,00.html
9.2.2005 9:57pm
nordsieck (mail) (www):
NYSofMind writes:

That said, there's no reason to have more than two guns and to have 2000 rounds of ammunition all at once. What possible positive use could you have for all that ammo? I (obviously) am not a gun user, but, speculating, I would imagine that one gun with ten bullets would accomplish all your personal-defense needs.

---

I own a pistol I use for target shooting (9mm) and possibly for self defense, although I don't own any self-defense oriented ammunition.

On a day that I go to the range, I can easily burn through 300 rounds in 2 hours of shooting.

If I can shoot 300 rounds in 2 hours, it seems reasonable that a person who re-loads his/her own ammunition could have 10,000 rounds on hand, especially if that is spread over several calibers as it is (presumably) easier to make ammunition in large batches.

Addressing the self defense aspect of your question, shooting a gun to hit a man sized target, who doesn't want to be hit, at any range over about 7 feet is very difficult. If the confrontation is in an urban environment, the situation is that much more difficult.

According to this website, the two criminals used over 1,100 rounds of rifle ammunition in the North Hollywood Shootout. Despite the fact that they out gunned their opponents and were effectively impervious to the bullets of the police officers (in the beginning), they only wounded 10 policement and 5 bystanders - failing to kill a single person.

If 2 criminals who out gun their opponents needed 1000+ rounds to simply deter (not kill) an out-gunned, although more numerous opponent for an hour and a half, how many rounds should I (prudently) have on hand to defend myself for 10 days from gangs of roving criminals who reportedly have the police and national guard outgun ? 10,000 rounds and 2-3 rifles would give me some peace of mind.
9.2.2005 10:03pm
Jerry Huling (mail):
NYSofMind wrote:

"That said, there's no reason to have more than two guns and to have 2000 rounds of ammunition all at once. What possible positive use could you have for all that ammo?"

Reason? I want. That's more than an ample "reason."

2000 rounds? Bah! My Uzi can go through that in ten minutes (I'd probably have to change barrels, though). And that's just for one member of my family.

As for "possible use," in an anarchy bullets are better than bullion, cartridges more convertible than cash, and with sufficient ammunition, almost all things are available.

There's no need to speculate whether one pistol or two is ample. Whether ten rounds or 10,000 is sufficient. This question has been settled empirically for the last three hundred years and reduced to the maxim:

He who puts the most metal in the air, wins.

Afterwords, we can join hands and sing Kumbaya.
9.2.2005 10:45pm
Robert Lyman (mail):
No reason to have more than two guns? Sheesh, I need more than that many just to cover the available game here in VA, never mind specialized target guns, little .22's to teach people with, self-defense pieces, and a couple of antiques thrown in. Given that the tens of thousands of rounds I (and my wife) have put downrange have never once struck a human being, what exactly is the justification for eliminating most of my collection, along with my reloading gear?

And how is 10 round of ammo going to do me against a gang of armed thugs? What makes you think that if I have 20 or 100 rounds in the safe that I'll suddenly become a murderer? And why would you imagine that criminals who make their living selling contraband smuggled from thousands of miles away can be prevented from stockpiling whatever they want?

I get annoyed at people who think they know what I "need." I drive what I want, live where I want, shoot what I want. It's called "freedom." I don't know what your hobbies or interests are, NYSofMind, but I don't imagine you'd be amused if I, with little or no knowledge of them, started telling you what size knitting needles you could use, or that your chainsaw had too much horsepower, or that you had too many hammers, or your favorite chef's knife was too sharp, or whatever.
9.2.2005 11:24pm
NYSofMind:
Wha tdisturbs me the most is that the responses to my 'why do you need 200 rounds' question seem to be focused either on target practice or on the value of ammunition in a state of anarchy.

Let me respond to the second type of objection first.

You take for granted the idea that we will find ourselves in a state of anarchy. However, speaking as someone who was in Manhattan on 9/11, I can assure that anarchy is not the automatic default position in a crisis. If everyone in Manhattan had pulled out their gun and sat at their door worrying about who would take their stuff after 9/11, we never would have recovered as quickly as we did. it was instead the fact that so few Manhattanites actually own guns (and, in fact, gun ownership has become de facto illegal on the island of Manhattan since then) that contributed to nobody going insane and trying to fortify their building. Talking about who becomes powerful in a state of anarchy, and the relative value of trading ammo, suggests tht you believe that the entire project of organized society is a sham and that we will find ourselves back in a primal state of nature at the slightest breeze. Rather, I like to think that society breeds civilized individuals who will, even in the face of disaster, never allow themselves to fall to that place. The presence of a survivalist mind set only subverts that main project of western civilization.

Second, to respond to people who like to target practice: grow up. For much the same reason that we don't give everyone a nuclear reactor, even though there are certainly legal and productive uses for a nuclear reactor, it seems absurd to me to say that we should allow people to assemble private militias because you enjoy target practice. Whereas knitting needles will never be used to create a state of anarchy, guns will be used for such. The question of degree is relevant here, and drawing a line isn't arbitrary so much as it is realistic. The existence of a stockpile of 2000 rounds of ammo poses an exponentially greater threat to basic civil interaction than a box of knitting needles.

Also, I still find arguments about manual weapons thoroughly unconvincing. With a gun, you can take out 10 people in 10 seconds. With a knife, you'll, what, slice someone's tendons before you're subdued? This isn't cage fighting. It happens in the real world.
9.3.2005 2:16am
Kevin P. (mail):
NYSoftMind:

With a gun, you can take out 10 people in 10 seconds.


By your own admission above, you know nothing about guns and are intent upon proving it to the whole world. 10 people in 10 seconds? Put down the remote and step away from HBO.
9.3.2005 2:45am
NYSofMind:
I admit the numbers may be fantastic, but the point is unchanged-- the amount of damage you can do with a gun is much, much more than you can do with a knife.
9.3.2005 3:01am
Hans Blix:
NYSofMind exhibits all the common fallacies in the liberal anti-gun mindset. First, guns, except in full blown combat situations, are primarily defensive in nature. It's a lot easier to "hold off" a mob with a gun in a defensible position (high up, barricaded, etc.) than it is to storm that position with a gun.

The classic gun control case study is the Rwandan genocide, where nearly a million people where killed primarily with machetes, hoes and fire. They sure didn't need guns there, eh? Yet, had the Tutsi's had a few hundred crates of M-1's, and the ammunition to go with them, they could have reasonably held off mobs of rampaging homocidal Hutu's.

NYSofMind is just that -- and I live in NYC, where, unfortunately, I'm surrounded by a great amount of such muddle-headed liberal claptrap. I have to register and get "permission" essentially here bfore I can even legally own a rifle or shotgun, and basically forget about legally owning a handgun in NYC. Only the criminals and the cops have 'em. The rest of us fuggeddaboutit.
9.3.2005 4:20am
Robert Lyman (mail):
NYSofMind,

You say that there is no "positive use" for lots of ammo. We respond that 1) there is at least one positive use, and 2) that the notion of liberty in general means that our choices should not be limited unless we pose some kind of threat to the community. Since you pose more of a threat to the community when you drive a car at 55 mph than I pose merely by possessing lots of ammo (or by using it at a proper range), your argument amounts to banning something quite safe because you don't like it or approve of it. So sorry if I'm irritated by that idea. You don't want criminals to have guns? I'm on board. You think that possession of guns make people go "insane" in a crisis? That's a rather foolish notion which I find personally offensive.

This gets at the heart of it: "The existence of a stockpile of 2000 rounds of ammo poses an exponentially greater threat to basic civil interaction than a box of knitting needles."

No. The existence of ammunition in the hands of criminals--in any quantity--poses a threat to civilization greater than a few knitting needles (leave aside the question of a needle-armed mob vs. the defender with 10 rounds as you suggest). The existence of ammunition in the hands of the law-abiding, even in large quantities, is a net positive for civilization, as it permits the shooting of rapists and home invaders, who can commit their crimes either with or without the benefit of knitting needles.
9.3.2005 8:30am
Robert Lyman (mail):
BTW, what's up with a reference to "private militias"? I thought we were talking about ammo, not an organized military force.

But so long as we're on the topic, a group of neighbors who knows how to use guns to defend their homes from criminals strikes me as a powerful force for civilized behavior, and not something to be reflexivly condemned.
9.3.2005 8:37am
NYSofMind:
I do want to get past this idea that somehow the mere fact that something else *can* be dangerous means that guns, which *are* dangerous, can't be regulated. there's a balancing act that a reasonable person ought to perform that should very clearly indicate that a car is nothing like a gun when you're talking about regulation of dangerous instruments. America, for better or worse, can't exist without cars. America could exist quite comfortably without guns in the hands of civilians.

What I still have a problem with is this: you seem to assume that I'm saying that you, sitting at your computer, pose a threat to me because you have a lot of ammo. That isn't it. I'm saying that by allowing you to have lots of ammo, we're enabling two things: 1) for people who are not criminals but who are still less trustworthy than the average VC reader to also have lots of ammo, and 2) that, pressed into a crisis situation, you may get hot headed and start doing wild things like shooting your neighbor because you have a paranoid fantasy that he's going to try and steal your stockpile of spam. Remove guns from that equation and everyone has to breathe for an extra second and hear what each other are saying.

Now, as to the 'guns are really only effective for defense' argument-- that doesn't seem to be holding true in New Orleans, certainly, where people are having massive gun battles in the streets.

so, to respond to some other points:
1) I think I conceded that target practice may be a use for ammo that is not intimately dangerous, but then proceeded to argue that it does not even approach outweighing the ways that abundant ammo makes a situation worse.
2) I am arguing that the mere existence of a stockpile of ammo does, in fact, pose a danger to the community, because it transforms, intrinsically, a crisis situation. If you're trying to defend your house and you're waving around your rifle, and I come over to have an argument with you and I don't have a rifle, then even if my complaint is a legitimate one, I can't really have that argument with you securely, can I? The immediate impulse to go get your gun is exactly what I find so destructive to the fabric of society. Raising the issue of the Hutus and Tutsis makes the point perfectly: we're better at maintaining civil order than they are, and if you really think you need to worry about what the Hutus and Tutsis did, then you are demonstrating an extreme lack of faith in western society. The point is that America is better than being a place where people need guns to feel safe, and is better than a place where people hack at each other.
3) Private militias *is* the point. A group of neighbors who all own guns and defend each other in an organized fashion is a group of neighbors that's seeking to replace the police. That's what police are for. What worries me is the existence of groups like the Branch Davidians, and the ability of law enforcement to control their growth and raw firepower. When Giuliani wanted to end crime in New York, one of the ways he did it was to start arresting people for small crimes... and that's how the central park rapist was caught, by being taken into custody after jumping a turnstile in the subway. Gun control can function the same way.
9.3.2005 10:58am
Robert Lyman (mail):
A group of neighbors who all own guns and defend each other in an organized fashion is a group of neighbors that's seeking to replace the police

In an environment where there are no police due to natural disaster, I regard that as a positive development, not a negative one. Naturally I would feel differently if they were doing this on an everyday basis, at least if they were interfereing with legitimate police work. I am truly mystified as to why you think it would be bad for me and my neigbors to band together to assure our collective security in the absence of any public authority on whom we could rely.

I am not endorsing shooting looters at Best Buy or my neighbors in my driveway. I am endorsing doing what is necessary to protect my wife and children from attack in an lawless environment, up to and including opening fire. You have to go pretty damn far to convince me to pull the trigger.

Fundamentally, I see our difference as this:

You seem to think that guns transform good people into bad ones--in a crisis, I may shoot innocents instead of dealing with them in a humane fashion because my gun makes me irrational regarding my spam stockpile. Thus you say that if NYC had more gun owners, 9/11 would have been worse because instead of cooperation, they would have been shooting each other.

I believe that guns give people power, and the choice to use that power for good or evil, or something in between, lies in the character of the individual. A good person with a gun is still a good person, but more powerful in his ability to do good by protecting his family and community from predators. A bad person with a gun is empowered to do more bad (unless of course he gets shot by the good guys). Now I know that in life the good/bad distinction has many shades of grey, but I stick to the idea that the possession of guns or large ammo "stockpiles" is by itself neutral on the good/bad scale, and its impact on civilization depends strongly on who it is owning the guns and ammo.
9.3.2005 5:35pm
Clayton E. Cramer (mail) (www):
In recent years, somewhere in the vicinity of 3.2% of American adult males have been in prison or on probation for a felony conviction at any given time. So that 45%-have-been-convicted-of-a-felony statistic doesn't shrink down the available pool of murderers as much as it sounds like it does.
Oh, it doesn't? Why not? If the law prohibits at least 3.2% of American adult males from buying a gun because of previous criminal behavior--and there is reason to think that this 3.2% will end up committing almost half of the murders--it appears that a law banning gun ownership by convicted felons, if actually enforced, would substantially reduce the number of murders. Of course, we are making your assumption that gun availability substantially influences murder rates--an assumption that seems rather difficult to defend.

Do I think it's realistic to say that we should outlaw all guns? No, and that's why I wrote about access to abundant ammunition and firearms. That said, there's no reason to have more than two guns and to have 2000 rounds of ammunition all at once. What possible positive use could you have for all that ammo?
What possible negative use is there for more than two guns and more than 2000 rounds of ammunition? A criminal can't misuse more than about two long guns and perhaps four handguns unless he is sitting in a bunker somewhere (an infrequent situation). A criminal isn't going to use more than a couple hundred rounds before the police kill him. So what's the big deal about having more than two guns and 2000 rounds?

I (obviously) am not a gun user, but, speculating, I would imagine that one gun with ten bullets would accomplish all your personal-defense needs.
Unless, of course, you are in New Orleans right now. Of you were a shopkeeper in Los Angeles during the Rodney King riots. Or you lived in Oakland after the Loma Prieta earthquake, when there was a small scale disruption of civilized behavior in some parts of Oakland. Or you lived in Florida after Hurricane Andrew. Or, to point to the historical purpose of the 14th Amendment (incorporating the Second Amendment against the states), if the Klan has a habit of showing up at your door to remind you to stay in your place. Shall I keep going?

In any case, the Second Amendment's purpose was not primarily self-defense, or hunting, but to act as a counterbalance against concentrations of government power. My book For The Defense of Themselves and the State: The Original Intent and Judicial Interpretation of the Right to Keep and Bear Arms (Praeger Press, 1994) will enlighten you.
9.4.2005 1:31am
Clayton E. Cramer (mail) (www):
NYStateOfMind writes:

2) I am arguing that the mere existence of a stockpile of ammo does, in fact, pose a danger to the community, because it transforms, intrinsically, a crisis situation. If you're trying to defend your house and you're waving around your rifle, and I come over to have an argument with you and I don't have a rifle, then even if my complaint is a legitimate one, I can't really have that argument with you securely, can I? The immediate impulse to go get your gun is exactly what I find so destructive to the fabric of society.
Perhaps you should spend some time in societies where gun ownership is common, and there are essentially no gun control laws, like Idaho. Oddly enough, the fabric of our society is far healthier than New York City (or even New York State). The best indicator of this is our murder rate.

I'm not claiming that widespread gun ownership is why we are so much more civilized than New Yorkers. But I am claiming that if widespread gun ownership is the problem that you claim, it seems to be completely trivial compared to whatever it is that makes New Yorkers kill each other so readily, even with restrictive gun control laws.

Raising the issue of the Hutus and Tutsis makes the point perfectly: we're better at maintaining civil order than they are, and if you really think you need to worry about what the Hutus and Tutsis did, then you are demonstrating an extreme lack of faith in western society.
Yup. Anyone that thinks that western society would ever exterminate Jews must be some sort of paranoid. Ditto, anyone that thinks that western society would tolerate lynchings.
The point is that America is better than being a place where people need guns to feel safe, and is better than a place where people hack at each other.
Yes, we just saw the example of how good America is, in New Orleans.

You need to get past your fantasy about fundamental goodness of our society. Most people are pretty civilized. A few are completely out of control--and when the restraints of law enforcement are removed, the only thing that stands between your family and the savages is a gun in your hand. I know: I've lived in places where for practical purposes, law enforcement does not exist, such as Los Angeles--and not just during riots.
9.4.2005 1:39am
Clayton E. Cramer (mail) (www):
NYStateOfMind writes:
When Giuliani wanted to end crime in New York, one of the ways he did it was to start arresting people for small crimes... and that's how the central park rapist was caught, by being taken into custody after jumping a turnstile in the subway. Gun control can function the same way.
I see. So are you claiming that anyone that owns more than two guns or more than 2000 rounds of ammunition is an antisocial element that needs to be locked before he commits a more serious crime?

Remember: about 40% of Americans have at least one gun; the median number of guns owned by gun owners is five--where are you going to find enough prison space for probably 15% of the population? I guess you will have to release the lesser criminals (murderers, rapists, robbers) to make room.

You really need to travel out of New York, and visit the United States. It is a very different place than you imagine. Here in Idaho, gun owners are a strong majority. Anyone with a clean criminal history can obtain a permit to carry a concealed handgun--and about 5% of the population has such a permit. Once you have that permit, you are exempt from all waiting periods and background checks on buying firearms. Machine guns require no special permit--just completing the federal paperwork. Yet the murder rate here in Boise (the only "city" in the whole state) compares favorably to almost any European country, typically below 1 per 100,000 population per year.
9.4.2005 1:47am
YankeeSamurai (mail):
NYStateofMind - please stop and give some serious thought to what others on this blog have said about firearms, and firearms policy. We are not criminals or the stereotypical gun-nuts here, rather, serious folks, many who are educated, thinking, rational people. Hence, I think, in not willing to rethink your strongly held views, I think you are missing out. Firearms are not inherently evil objects. Rather, people who misuse them are, like the gangbangers and other assorted criminals and predators in New Orleans these days. I think using these as an example of what firearms are used for is stretching the argument, I daresay.
9.4.2005 8:56am
NYSofMind:
I really feel like I've been short changed by everyone thinking I'm talking about them. The fact is, I acknowledge that most gun owners are not raving lunatics who are going to shoot me when I accidentally walk on their flower bed. My real point is that the prevalence of guns even in the hands of a relatively small number of bad people so dramatically outweighs the good that they are in the same catergory as nuclear devices-- very faintly good as a deterrent, but too deadly to leave in the hands of the public, even if most people wouldn't use one to blow up their city.
9.5.2005 11:28pm
K. Parker:
What worries me is the existence of groups like the Branch Davidians

In general, you need better nightmares (apologies to Herb Gardner.)

And not that I want to get into a bidding war with Mr. Cramer, but Washington state, which is more blue than red (depending on whom you ask) has a concealed-carry permit issueance rate even higher than Idaho's.
9.6.2005 2:46am