Tuesday, May 30, 2006

67 Comments:

Blogger Greg Kuperberg said...

That was Kenneth Bartley Sr.'s argument when he shot and killed a man: he was just fighting back. When his son, Kenneth Bartley Jr, shot and killed a school vice principal 20 years later, it just didn't play out the same way. Actually, there are some elements of self-defense in this second incident too, because three school officials jumped Kenneth Jr. to try to get the gun out of his hands. But the self-defense argument won't work this time. Whether it should have worked the first time is a question.

1:32 PM, May 30, 2006  
Blogger Helen said...

Greg,

The way you play with moral relativism is quite amusing. You and everyone else knows that these situations are nothing alike. In the Kenneth Bartley Sr. case, he was involved in a fatal self defense shooting over a woman. Granted, we do not know exactly what happened but he was found not guilty. Perhaps it really was self-defense where another man came after him over a woman. In the Jr. case, he brought a weapon to school and was in the process of committing a felony, he is not entitled to self-defense. The officials were simply trying to stop him from using the weapon against anyone. These cases are a far cry from the case in Atlanta.

What would you have the man do, Greg, just cry and have the robbers shoot him? That is perhaps what you would do--but you cannot ask others to give their lives so that you can be self-satisfied that no one (especially liberals) should ever have to (gasp!) hold themselves responsible for anything or anyone.

2:03 PM, May 30, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

greg ould have you deal with such a issue like all typical left-leaning academics would. That is, flap your wrists, and scream the way flamboyant gay men on Saturday Night live or on Mad TV would, and allow the assailants to beat you to death. Standing up for oneself against evil and bad guys is now academics are likely to advise others to do.
That is why I life weights and study martial arts, and own firearms. If some bad guy attacks me, he is likely to get hurt bad, and then Greg and his effete academic colleagues can write papers about how our culture has been coarsened, where even a criminal cant commit a crime without worring about getting hurn while in the commission of the crime!!!

2:17 PM, May 30, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Helen,

I couldn't agree more. A grand jury failed to indict Kenneth Bartley Sr. Makes you wonder if Greg would prefer juryless trials, probably without the press there either.

Having said that I find this yet again shows that violent people fall into 2 catagories in general. This story has both.

There are those who are violent and predatory and who form the villany and scum of society.

And there are those who are violent but protective. These are the folks who are prepared to use violence against those who are predatory in order to protect both themselves and those in society who are weaker.

I feel that as a society we have lost the distinction between the two types. The child fighting back against the school bully is treated the same as the bully himself. This strike me as failing to appropriatly punish bad behavior (the bully) by equating it to protective behavior (the one fighting back).

I can only feel that as a society this leads to an increase in predatory violence and a diminuation of the protective violence needed to keep it in check.

And I cannot help but wonder how that dynamic plays out later in life. I cannot help but feel there is a tie in somewhere to the growth of the fight club.

Earl.

2:20 PM, May 30, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Since the woman assailant who died was pregnant, one can't help but wonder if the victim who defended himself is to be charged with homicide. After all, he is male and so must be guilty of something, and she was pregnant.....

Tom P

2:31 PM, May 30, 2006  
Anonymous Anon824 said...

Rambo will be fighting the civil suits for years to come.

2:35 PM, May 30, 2006  
Blogger Greg Kuperberg said...

The way you play with moral relativism is quite amusing.

On the contrary, I have little enthusiasm for moral relativism and even less for avoiding responsibility. I think that anyone who commits homicide has an enormous moral responsibility. I think that it is a big mistake to just toss away that responsibility by saying that he was a good guy and that the people he killed were bad guys. There is a great tendency in America — maybe in all countries, but certainly in America — to swing between the extremes of justice, i.e., to suppose that after every serious event such as a homicide, the perpetrator is either a hero who deserve a medal, or a villain who deserves life in prison or worse. But you can't meet moral responsibility, or achieve moral consistency, just by swinging between extremes and declaring every case to be obvious.

Moral relativism is when you judge an act by its circumstances rather than by the act itself. If you celebrate homicide because you think that the victim deserved it, that's moral relativism. That said, I'm not totally against moral relativism in all cases. I don't know whether Thomas Autry was really justified in what he did, but I'm not going to condemn him or go against the police. If the police think that it was justified, maybe they are right.

What I do know is that there is nothing to celebrate from this kind of case. It's a fluke story that doesn't do much for public safety. The fact is that cases of justified homicide are far outnumbered by cases where the perpetrator merely thought that the homicide was justified. Stories like this are like stories where someone avoided an accident by driving on the wrong side of the road. I'm sure it happens, sometimes, but it's a mistake to say, "See, who says driving on the wrong side of the road can't sometimes be beneficial?" That is, sure, it is sometimes so, but it isn't the percentage play. Even from the point of view of Autry's own personal safety, his actions were not the percentage play. If you kick a shotgun out of someone else's hands, you're typically more likely, not less likely, to get shot.

Anyway, the case of Kenneth Bartley and his son quite well shows the moral responsibility of killing of other people. Sure, having a gun at school is a felony — but hasn't the NRA argued that it shouldn't be? Haven't they argued that it doesn't necessarily hurt anyone? For that matter, Autry's case is a lot like that of Bernhard Goetz, except that Goetz was carrying illegally. Does that make all the difference, then? Should Goetz have gone to prison for that? Or Goetz still had a claim to self-defense even though he carried illegally, how come Kenneth Bartley Jr. didn't?

Again, I'm not really saying that Autry belongs in jail or that Kenneth Bartley Jr. doesn't belong in jail. My point is that there is generally too much attitude of fighting back, not too little. The all-or-nothing, good-guys-vs-bad-guys conception of justice means that some people identified as villians get all of the punishment, while other people cut from the same cloth aren't held responsible. In particular, Kenneth Bartley Jr. clearly learned a flawed doctrine of self defense from his father, and it was too easy for him to get his dad's gun too. But Bartley Sr. has not gotten in any direct trouble for this, and that looks wrong.

4:53 PM, May 30, 2006  
Anonymous Al said...

"My point is that there is generally too much attitude of fighting back, not too little. The all-or-nothing, good-guys-vs-bad-guys conception of justice means that some people identified as villians get all of the punishment, while other people cut from the same cloth aren't held responsible."

Reading the article, I wonder if Autry would have actually agreed with you, hence his apologetic response about the actual death.

It's just that if I was attacked by multiple gunmen, I would wonder if I would die anyways even if I complied all the way.

I think that the incident was more based on the training Autry received, that he was taught not to hesitate or to consider the odds of survival when faced with the situation.

I also think that the death will make a lot of people consider the consequences of threatening someone, but I'm sorta glad that they saved one of the attackers. I always hope that people learn their lessons rather to die over desperate mistakes.

5:21 PM, May 30, 2006  
Blogger Helen said...

Greg,

I think what Autry did is beneficial to society. People rob, steal and hurt others because they can--in Britain, home invasions are the norm--why? Because no one is allowed to defend themselves or they can go to jail. If people were allowed to defend themselves and a few burglars were killed, maybe the stakes would be too high and the home invasions would stop. We rarely have those in the South. One was tried here not far from me and an elderly couple shot the guy. Same in the Atlanta situation. When thugs such as these decide to take on a lone person (remember, there were five of them, one of him), maybe they will think twice. If it only saves one person, the self defense that this brave man engaged in was worth it.

5:23 PM, May 30, 2006  
Anonymous Al said...

Well, to be honest, my first reaction was that it was a shame that this Marine didn't kill all of them. But now that I've calmed down, and now know the situation of the killed bandit, I really understand why Autry is remorseful about killing a pregnant woman.

I think most Marines really really hate to be thought as remorseless killers. A lot of people forget that US servicemen are humans too, despite the warrior heritage that get beaten into them since Basic training.

BTW, self defense laws usually require policemen to consider the motives for self defense. Like in the bad old days of cowboys and indians, the emotional attitude of the fighters usually makes a difference in the decision of prosecution. I'm sure officers would have been more suspicious about the actual even if Autry had a gleeful sadism about the killing.

You kinda have to trust the judgements of the officers who inspected the scene. Not all cops are idiotic brutes that most anti-corruption advocates would like you to believe.

5:40 PM, May 30, 2006  
Anonymous Al said...

BTW, I agree with Helen that the threat of death often prevents would-be-criminals from planning a home invasion.

In my Colorado suburb, you meet the nicest people who would definitely recoil from the idea of killing a criminal. Yet, these same people often have firearms capable of repelling (more like horrifically goring) a small group of thugs. Myself, I don't own a gun, but I rest easy with the concept that most people think my household does.

The most vocal people for the 2nd amendment are not criminals. Anyone can get a gun illegally with scratched off serial numbers. Many gun owners hope that they never meet any violence. And visiting the high-powered rifle range is a casual tradition that dates back to the frontier days.

But I sorta see where Greg is coming from. It's a bit of a waste to put criminals to death in the name of self defense. Yet people feel threatened, and need some assurance that they can protect their right to breath, as long as they follow the law. I think a person holding a gun towards you is fair grounds for permanent neutralization. But I think if a guy was charging towards me with a knife, with the intent to kill me, I think that a few bullets to the knee and a call for the ambulance might be a more appropiate response.

Well, I suppose the whole situation is a tribute to the Marines and always-Marines that keep our country safe during and after service.

5:57 PM, May 30, 2006  
Blogger Greg Kuperberg said...

al: Reading the article, I wonder if Autry would have actually agreed with you, hence his apologetic response about the actual death.

I'm sure that he shows as much remorse as anyone who won't get in any real trouble. Again, I'm not saying that he should be in trouble, but the truth is that that kind of remorse is cheap.

Helen: I think what Autry did is beneficial to society.

Well, there is plenty of that kind of "benefit" in Iraq. The whole country runs on street justice. It doesn't work very well. That's why civilized countries have criminal courts.

People rob, steal and hurt others because they can--in Britain, home invasions are the norm--why?

If you use phrases like "are the norm", that's trading on perceptions rather than reality. (But then, as Stephen Colbert said, reality has a well-known liberal bias.) According to British statistics, there were 319,000 reported home burglaries in England and Wales in 2004/2005. That's only comparable to the reported burglary rate of 2.1 million in the United States, given that the United States has about 5.5 times as many people as England plus Wales. Granted, the United States figure includes non-residential burglaries, but there are other differences as well. For example, England is more crowded and crime generally goes up with population density. The bottom line is that the burglary crime rate is roughly comparable.

What is very different about England and Wales is that the homicide rate there is much lower. I know the standard explanation that it's all because of "diversity" in the United States, which is a code phrase for blacks. In fact, the homicide rate in England is much lower than than the white homicide rate in the United States.

We rarely have those in the South.

Again, trading on perceptions. The FBI page says that the burglary rate in the South is higher, not lower, than the national average.

If it only saves one person...

The problem is that a flawed doctrine of self-defense may cause the problem that it was intended to solve. As the case of Kenneth Bartley and his son illustrates. (And some other notorious cases as well. There was a case in South Texas in which a guy shot and killed a repo man who was legally taking his car. The DA, incredibly, refused to indict because the repo man looked like a car thief, even though he wasn't one.)

6:02 PM, May 30, 2006  
Blogger Greg Kuperberg said...

Let me also clarify that the first figure listed in the UK crime statistics is the surveyed burglary rate, which is not surprisingly higher than the reported burglary rate. Uniform Crime Reports is based on police reports, not the Census, so that is comparing like with like.

6:05 PM, May 30, 2006  
Blogger Greg Kuperberg said...

It's a bit of a waste to put criminals to death in the name of self defense.

The problem is not that it's a waste. It's that street justice is bad justice, even though it may look okay in some individual cases.

Just the other day in Iraq, a coach for the national tennis team and two of his players were pulled out of a car and executed for wearing shorts. A Shiite militia had laid down the law in that neighborhood by distributing leaflets that said that no one is to wear shorts. That is where street justice leads, even if it begins with self-defense.

6:12 PM, May 30, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Greg,

You're obviously very smart and everything, but I think you're providing more evidence for Glenn's claim that people in academia would rather try to make the difficult, counterintuitive, unconventional argument, than the obvious and right one.

This guy wasn't trying to "provide street justice," he was trying not to die.

Incidentally, care to provide any, you know, "support" for this assertion: "That is where street justice leads, even if it begins with self-defense."

First, I don't think that self-defense is street justice, or it would no longer be a defensive action. Second, how does the right to defend yourself lead to shooting people for not wearing shorts? That's quite a causal chain to fill in.

Also, this little turn of phrase may be the most spineless thing written by anyone, anywhere.
"That said, I'm not totally against moral relativism in all cases."

Such conviction.

7:00 PM, May 30, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Same anon as last poster.

Greg,

One more thing: I lived in England for a while, the breaking and entering stats may look the same between ENgland and the USA, but the issue is that in America most occur during the day or when people are on vacation...etc., but in England a far greater proportion (like 3x or 4x as many) are "hot" burglaries - i.e. when the family is home. So in England more people live through the terrifying experience of knowing that someone is in their house and that their family is in danger, but also that if they defend themselves "too exuberantly," they may well go to jail. Burglars know they're harder to see at night and are barely afraid of being punched, let alone shot, so that's when they break in. Incidentally, polls show a majority of the British public are unhappy with these restrictions on self-defense.

7:20 PM, May 30, 2006  
Blogger Greg Kuperberg said...

This guy wasn't trying to "provide street justice," he was trying not to die.

This isn't really about Autry himself, it's about ways to interpret his actions. I said all along that the case is not my business, and if the police think that it was justified, they might be right.

So if it were just a matter of Autry saving himself, then I'd say okay, he saved himself. I don't think that it should be taken as axiomatic that he would have been killed otherwise. Yes, there was some risk of murder if he hadn't fought back, but there was also some risk of murder in response to fighting back. It's not at all clear to me which was the greater risk — any crime safety expert would agree that slapping a gun out of someone else's hand works a lot better in the movies than in real life. (After all, the school vice principal, Ken Bruce, was killed because he tried to grab Kenny Bartley's gun.) What we can say is that Autry got through it alive. Good for him, then.

But the response hasn't just been about that. This post is about actively celebrating the fact that Autry "took out the garbage". (To use a phrase from the movies.) That really is street justice. The premise is that it is obvious to all right-thinking people that certain street punks deserve death, either as instrinsic justice or as a deterrent.

If you take that idea to its logical conclusion, it will include not just armed robbery, but all mortal sins. It won't just be what you consider a mortal sin; rather, every armed avenger gets to make his own declarations. That is exactly life in Baghdad these days. One of the major armed groups there, the Mahdi army, has concluded that wearing shorts is public nudity, that public nudity is fornication, and that fornication is a mortal sin. Since they are well-armed, they get to decide.

8:12 PM, May 30, 2006  
Anonymous Acksiom said...

Yes, well. . .Mr. Kuperberg's arguments are basically invalidated from the start by the facts behind this disturbing multiple choice question --

A man in the united states who kills someone is most likely to kill:
(A) A child
(B) A woman
(C) Another man
(D) None of the above.

8:19 PM, May 30, 2006  
Blogger Greg Kuperberg said...

Also:

In England a far greater proportion (like 3x or 4x as many) are "hot" burglaries - i.e. when the family is home.

Again, that's trading on perceptions rather than reality. Not every perception is addressed by statistics; I managed to look up the burglary rate for both the US and the UK, but I'm not sure where the hard statistics are for this "hot" burglary concept.

In any case, no crime is more terrifying than murder, and the fact is that the United States has a lot more of it than England. (Even if you just count the white murder rate, it's higher in the United States.) Now there may be a dozen different reasons for that. In my view, a flawed, overly aggressive self-defense mentality doesn't help.

8:20 PM, May 30, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I celebrate the actions of Autry. I'm glad he got two of them with his knife. Too bad he didn't have a gun. Maybe he could have got more.

Self defense? Street justice? Who cares? Those are questions for the people who pay others to deliver violence on their behalf.

8:53 PM, May 30, 2006  
Anonymous Al said...

Well, I still won't discount anything that Greg said, but...

Being a victim sucks. I think the natural response is to desire some sort of revenge. Whether people fall through with that desire depends on the situation.

But I'm willing to bet that the people who revel in the "payback" against criminals along with celebrating self defense have experienced some sort of unpleasant situation where they were accosted by some sort of miscreant.

I suppose it's an interesting exercise to debate how "effective" and "just" "self-defense", but it sorta betrays some sort of neutralness for the criminals. That fairness is something that I personally don't believe those 5 deserve.

In the long term, I really don't think Autry wants to repeat those heroics any time soon.

The important thing for me is that that those 5 don't try to rob anyone again. Whether they need to be killed or reformed doesn't really matter to me in the long run. But it would be nice if people wouldn't pull such bullshit on the streets. It really hurts victims' feelings you know?

9:55 PM, May 30, 2006  
Anonymous Al said...

Oh and, I bet the USA has a higher rate of murder than the UK because there are more cities in the USA.

People everywhere grow up the same. Most people follow the law, or try to. Some people fail in life and meet trouble. And some will engage in criminal acts for varying reasons.

Sociology in a geographic context can get extremly complex when you have to consider population density, economies, social infrastructure, even the general environment.

In any case, violence has always been a problem. But until there's some sort of universal cure, I want some sort of natural selection, starting with prosecuting the victimizers.

10:15 PM, May 30, 2006  
Blogger Greg Kuperberg said...

Al: The important thing for me is that that those 5 don't try to rob anyone again.

If the Bernhard Goetz case is any guide, vigilantism does not necessarily deter people. Two of the guys he shot raped and robbed a pregnant teenager. A third one mugged more people. I'm sure that many people like this would express a fear of getting shot by a victim or whoever, but the real message of vigilatism could simply be that might makes right.

I bet the USA has a higher rate of murder than the UK because there are more cities in the USA.

Actually, more than a fourth of the population of England is in the London metropolitan area. The United Kingdom has other major cities as well, such as Birmingham and Glasgow. It is at least as urban as the United States.

People everywhere grow up the same. Most people follow the law, or try to.

That's true, but when people go astray, that follows social patterns. Typically there are some types of crimes that are similar to admired or accepted behavior. For example, if people feel strongly about animal rights (as they do in England), then you might see more law-breaking by animal rights protesters. If people admire vigilatism and "fighting back", as many do in the United States, then that might be associated with homicide and deadly assault. Moral and legal gray areas lead to criminality. It doesn't help to deny these gray areas and try to paint them in with tiny little pure white and jet black dots.

10:43 PM, May 30, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Greg,

You've said how flawed the concept of self defense is.

1.) What is the alternative? Willing victim who hopes the criminal can find mercy for the victims? If not, then what?

2.) What should a person do - other than defend themselves - if attacked? Be specific.


"Hot" burglary differences are not just a perception. Here's a link to a Mark Steyn column - which I had never read before - that cites the "hot burglaries" as 10% in the US and 50%-ish in the UK.

Here's another site that gives a reference for that stat (13%US vs. 50%UK) in a crime/law journal:
http://www.ssaa.org.au/newssaa/political%20archive/legislativereports/iladec98.htm

Further, I think you'll agree that it makes no sense to say that "murder is more terrifying" than a hot burglary, since nobody knows ahead of time which hot burglaries will turn into murders.

12:59 AM, May 31, 2006  
Blogger Greg Kuperberg said...

You've said how flawed the concept of self defense is.

There is nothing wrong with the idea of defending yourself. It's hard to be against safety, and I'm about as pro-safety as they get. What is flawed is certain conceptions of self-defense. Generally self-defense goes wrong when it is less and less about defending the self, and more and more about self-defensing other people.

Neither of your references concerning "hot burglaries" have the authority of official statistics. Not that those should be completely trusted either; but the point is that anything else is at best derivative to police, census, or hospital data. In fact, both of your citations are just references to opinion pieces, which may or may not trace back to something better.

Actually, I have to wonder just how "hot" these burglaries are in the United Kingdom, given that its overall homicide rate is less than one third that of the United States: 1.6 vs 5.5 per 100,000 population in 2004. Maybe the idea is that in England, even robbers have good manners.

1:35 AM, May 31, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Kuperberg,

"There was a case in South Texas in which a guy shot and killed a repo man who was legally taking his car. The DA, incredibly, refused to indict because the repo man looked like a car thief, even though he wasn't one.)"

One problem with that story, it isn’t accurate. The repo man was committing a felony. He was STEALING THE VEHICLE.

Under Texas law, to repo a vehicle you have to take your paperwork to a Marshal, pay him a fee and have him accompany you when you repo the vehicle.

There is a good reason for this, if you are caught skulking around on somebody’s property in Texas at night, it is assumed you are up to criminal behavior. In Texas you may use deadly physical force to defend property. You may end up dead.

The repo man knows this. He also knows that once he is off the property he has legal possession of the vehicle based on the repo paperwork. So, instead of paying the fee and doing things legitimately, they snatch the vehicle in violation of law (In the same manner as a car thief). Some get shot for their trouble. That is their fault, not the fault of the poor sap that shoots them thinking they are stealing an expensive piece of property. That is why the shooter doesn’t get arrested, tried and jailed: He hasn’t committed a crime, but the repo man has.

If you don’t like the law in Texas, don’t go there. But don’t misrepresent the situation.

2:54 AM, May 31, 2006  
Blogger Mercurior said...

i live in the UK, and we dont have guns, if we did then the criminals would have bigger and better guns, and you get fire fights, then the police will have to carry bigger guns, then kids will take guns to school to protect themselves, which makes bullies carry bigger guns and so on..

murder rates are lower, in my home town of 188,000 people there is about 1 murder every couple of years. and NOT one was with a gun.

in the law you are able to stop a burgler with reasonable force, but thats it, you can knock them down etc but not if you are aiming to KILL them. a grey area,

4:32 AM, May 31, 2006  
Anonymous Al said...

Actually now I think Greg is trying say that excessive self-defense can count as vigilantism. And if I understand, Greg is trying to say that society should not encourage vigilantism like in say "The Boondock Saints", because there will be cases where killings will get get out of hand and hurt innocents instead (psychologically or physically?). But the basic idea is that vigilantism will cause more violence than it will prevent.

I suppose this could be a valid argument that observes the murders per unit populace in the USA and UK (sorry that I misinterpreted the word rate as killings per unit time).

But this is sort of a personal issue for me so I want to ask Greg:

*If you where confronted with Autry's situation, what would you do?*

I'd actually like to add a few modifications to the scenario. For example, I am personally wondering if a personal Tazer would be a decent defense weapon. Or maybe pepper spray combined with some martial arts. So even though the only weapon Autry had was a nice, for the question I guess it could be answered with whatever would be realistically be at hand.

I don't know if charming good looks and a charismatic personality counts as an answer though.

And actually I think I would personally say that I would just try to comply, but it really anguishes me that few people can stop criminals like these.

4:41 AM, May 31, 2006  
Anonymous Al said...

Mercurior actually presents a logical case of escalation of violence. I like this train of logic, simple and without some discussion with morals.

Denver isn't really a big city, so perhaps the lower crime rate is a result of a decent economy and good living conditions rather that the fact that my neighborhood has enough long rifles to for a militia.

Still though, I wish schools would be more strick when it comes to bullies. The grow up rotten, and they will become a problem sooner or later.

4:46 AM, May 31, 2006  
Anonymous Al said...

Mercurior actually presents a logical case of escalation of violence. I like this train of logic, simple and without some discussion with morals.

Denver isn't really a big city, so perhaps the lower crime rate is a result of a decent economy and good living conditions rather that the fact that my neighborhood has enough long rifles to for a militia.

Still though, I wish schools would be more strick when it comes to bullies. The grow up rotten, and they will become a problem sooner or later.

4:48 AM, May 31, 2006  
Anonymous Al said...

Sorry for the double post, my internet times out a lot.

4:49 AM, May 31, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Who here thinks vulnerability is a virtue?

Who would accept a severe beating rather than shoot and kill an attacker?

Who would accept permanent injury rather than shoot and kill an attcker?

Who would accept rape rather than shoot and kill an attacker?

Who would allow the rape of their small child rather than shoot and kill an attacker?

9:13 AM, May 31, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Mercurior,

Your argument just doesn't hold water. New Hampshire has one of the highest per capita firearm ownership rates in the USA. Around 50% of the homes have firearms, and usually several firearms at that. Concealed carry permits are easily available and many of us are regularly carrying concealed firearms. It has been said there are enough firearms in private ownership to arm every single man, woman and child in the state.

And yet we have a very low crime rate, we have the third lowest crime rate in the US. A rate incidentally that many towns in the UK would be proud to have. And there are precious few shootouts on the street.

Those shootings that do occur are almost invariably tied to drugs and involve firearms that are illegally held anyway, or are domestic and would otherwise be settled just as lethally with a kitchen knife.

Our crime rate is lower than Quebec just to the North, and much lower than Massachusetts to the south. Both Quebec and Mass have very strict firearms ownership laws and the number of armed households is very low. Vermont to the west and Maine to the east have similar laws to New Hampshire and similar low crime rates.

We don't pick up the paper and read about pensioners being beaten in their own homes for what little they have. The reason is simple. That little old lady might just have a .38 special snubby on the night stand.

And since the UK banned all handguns there has been a steady increase in the use of handguns in crime in the UK. So, if your argument is true, why have the common ciminal scum not disarmed themselves also? It seems to be exactly the opposite.

There are now, I believe, 48 states where concealed carry is legal. Firearms sales recently reached record highs. And yet the crime rate here continues to fall. There have been no "Rivers Of Blood" that we hear about all the time. Amazingly, honest, law abiding folks don't turn crazed killers when they have access to a firearm any more than they do when they have access to a knife.

On the other hand the crime rate in the UK continues to rise. Why is this?

It would be very convinient for you to just dismiss this is American Hype. But here's the catch. I left the UK 10 years ago to come in live in the US. And frankly the country I left just doesn't exist any more it has changed so much.

Earl.

10:08 AM, May 31, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Anonymous 10:08,

Just a minor correction. I think there are 40 states where one can either 1) carry a gun without a permit or 2) carry under a "must issue" law, or 3) carry under a "may issue law." All three categories make it very easy for non-felons or mental cases to carry.

11:11 AM, May 31, 2006  
Blogger Greg Kuperberg said...

The repo man was committing a felony. He was STEALING THE VEHICLE.

The shooting of the repo man, Tommy Deen Morris, was extensively documented in the Houston Chronicle. None of the five article, nor anyone quoted in them, saying anything about Morris repossessing the car illegally. They say a great deal to the contrary.

An article three days after the shooting quotes another repo man: "What he (the wrecker driver) was doing was legal," Douglass said. "I can't believe the police are going to condone killing someone over a car." The case also resurfaced three years later because Morris' widow won a $2 million civil judgment against the repo company. Her lawsuit accused the repo company of setting up Morris by sending another repo man to take the same car without telling him. The gunman, Casey, was alerted by this first repo man, who drove away when the lights went on in the house. This was at 2:30AM; Morris was shot at 3:30AM. None of this is consistent with the theory that the repo man has to come with another guy and serve papers before taking the car. Maybe it's a new law; it wasn't so in 1994.

The Texas law that the Houston Chronicle does describe is the one that allows (or used to allow) Texans to shoot people to protect their property at night.

If you where confronted with Autry's situation, what would you do?

These sorts of questions get asked misleadingly often, much more often than the incidents actually happen. There are more violent confrontations between relatives than between complete strangers. But since you ask, if I were confronted by a gang with a shotgun and other weapons, I'd just hand over the money. I'm not Spider-Man.

[New Hampshire's] crime rate is lower than Quebec just to the North.

It certainly ought to be a lot lower, given that New Hampshire doesn't have any large cities. Quebec has Montreal, whose metropolitan area is more populous than all of New Hampshire, and it also has Quebec City. It is much more urbanized than New Hampshire.

In fact, New Hampshire's crime rate, as measured by homicides, is only slightly lower than that of Quebec. According to Uniform Crime Reports, New Hampshire's homicide rate in 2004 was 1.4 per 100,000 people. According to Canadian statistics, Quebec's homicide rate in 2004 was 1.5. New Brunswick has a population structure more similar to that of New Hampshire, and its homicide rate was even lower, 0.9.

Now I won't say that it's completely because of the guns that New Hampshire has a poor showing in homicide compared to New Brunswick (which is safer) or Quebec (which is only slightly less safe despite having huge cities). It's a bit more complicated than that. It's not just about having guns or other weapons, it's about a certain willingness to use them in confrontations.

Vermont, meanwhile, has the same reported homicide rate as Massachusetts, 2.6 per 100,000, for 2004. Although all of these figures are lower than the United States national rate, 5.5 per 100,000.

We don't pick up the paper and read about pensioners being beaten in their own homes for what little they have.

Actually some of us do. Not exactly pensioners, but rather Dartmouth professors near retirement. Half and Susanne Zantop were murdered in their homes in New Hampshire by some teen robbers who were eventually traced to Vermont. It was all over the news for a while.

11:23 AM, May 31, 2006  
Blogger Helen said...

Greg,

The Dartmouth professors case was not exactly a home invasion. The teens pretended to be doing an "environmental survey" and the professors let them in and were in the process of chatting with when the teens turned on them (they were looking for cheap thrills) and killed them--not with a gun but with knives. The teens were a couple of daredevils who wanted to go around robbing and killing people to get enough money to get to Australia. Of the four houses they hit before the professors'-- two had no one home and the other two would not let the boys in. Unfortunately, these professors were naive and probably thought the best of these "nice young men." BTW--these boys came from good homes with decent parents. Unfortunately, they decided that work was too boring and it was just easier and funner to try their hand at murdering others. The truth is, that if these professors had guns or had just turned these kids away, they might still be alive.

11:43 AM, May 31, 2006  
Anonymous Al said...

"The truth is, that if these professors had guns or had just turned these kids away, they might still be alive."
While normally I'm an advocate for CCW laws, I don't think a gun would help in this situation.

I mean, they would have stabbed the professor already, without the poor man drawing fast enough.

Personally, I think the consequences of resistance/non-resistance are unpredictable, but I think we can all agree that all criminals must be tried in a fair court, assumed innocent before proved guilty, if they were not already killed for their recklessness.

12:13 PM, May 31, 2006  
Blogger Greg Kuperberg said...

Helen: It's splitting hairs to argue that the Zantop murders were not a home invasion because there was no forced entry. As the Wikipedia article says, "Home invasion...is a legally defined offense in the United States, Australia, and New Zealand, and applies even if entry is not forced. It can also apply if someone is invited into a home and remains on the premises after being asked to leave by the resident."

The truth is, that if these professors had guns or had just turned these kids away, they might still be alive.

Anonymous at 10:08 argued that robbers are deterred from home invasion because the residents there might be armed. Here you are arguing something different, that we all have to carry guns all the time, and generally mistrust teenagers as well, in order to protect ourselves. The deterrence argument doesn't go very far in the Zantop case, because the perpetrators did first encounter a suspicious home owner, Andrew Patti, who regularly answers the door packing heat. It didn't deter them, obviously; they just took the Patti encounter as a dry run.

I don't think that it's reasonable to expect everyone to reach for a handgun on every suspicious impulse. Again, Baghdad is somewhat like that these days. One of the problems in Baghdad is that if everyone is armed and acts threatened all the time, then you can no longer distinguish the threatening criminals from everyone else.

12:30 PM, May 31, 2006  
Anonymous Acksiom said...

Still irrelevant, and this is still why --

A man in the united states who kills someone is most likely to kill:
(A) A child
(B) A woman
(C) Another man
(D) None of the above.

2:46 PM, May 31, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The original reference isn't online, but here's the actual hot burgalry citation that was at the end of one of the opinion pieces:

Lott, J. and Mustard, D. (1997) "Crime, Deterrence, And The Right-To-Carry Concealed Handguns", Journal of Legal Studies, vol. XXVI (January 1997).

Greg,

If you're against vigilantes or worried about creeping vigilantism, I can understand that; however, Autry's actions are so far from vigilantism it's almost irreleveant to mention them here.

I'm pretty sure you'd say it's more the reaction to the story that troubles you, but if that's the case then I think you've been sending slightly mixed messages. For the record, I would have turned over my wallet, too.

Mercurior,

The issue is: how do you aim to knock somebody out as opposed to killing them? Let's say you have a cricket bat. Do you swing 3/4 strength? Not likely with all of the adrenaline flowing. It's obvious that you shouldn't hit a burglar again if they're out cold, prone on the ground, but suppose you catch them just wrong with the first shot and do kill them? On top of that, the fact that you even have these considerations floating around in your head is likely to adversely affect your ability to defend yourself. (I'm a cog neuroscientist - task frame switching like this always kills performance.)

4:15 PM, May 31, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Kuperberg,

"An article three days after the shooting quotes another repo man: "What he (the wrecker driver) was doing was legal," Douglass said. "I can't believe the police are going to condone killing someone over a car.""

I suppose getting legal advise from a repo man is cheaper than a lawyer but I think the better bet would be the guy who passed the bar in Texas. Namely, the DA or the lawyers who handled the civil suit for the widow. The reason there was no prosecution is that there was no violation of law by the shooter. The repo law has been the same for decades, by the way.

If the repo man quoted above doesn't know the law for repo-ing in Texas, he (or his estate) will have a good suit against whoever he works for when he gets himself shot. And so it goes.

4:53 PM, May 31, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I notice that state law is beginning to change regarding the obligation to retreat in the face of an attack. Florida changed its law so a person may stand his ground and fight when attacked. This means he doesn't have to run out the back door of his house when the crook comes in the front door. He can if he chooses, but he is not legally obligated to run.

Missouri recently passed the same type of law. I don't know how many other states have passed such laws, but they are under consideration in several.

5:03 PM, May 31, 2006  
Blogger Greg Kuperberg said...

The original reference isn't online, but here's the actual hot burgalry citation...

Lott and Mustard's main data analysis in this paper is about something else entirely; they must have gotten their factoid about "hot burglaries" from somewhere. Citing this paper isn't any better than citing a columnist like Mark Steyn unless it is traced back to the real source of information.

I'm pretty sure you'd say it's more the reaction to the story that troubles you, but if that's the case then I think you've been sending slightly mixed messages.

That's correct, I object to the reaction to the story. ("Troubled" is slightly the word; I'm a bit too old and cynical for that.) But thinking about this the right way involves properly interpreting the original story. What Autry did seems reckless and not necessarily the best for his own safety or for public safety. But the Atlanta police have no choice but to congratulate him for this. The public feels very strongly about good guys and bad guys and they don't want the police to even criticize good guys, much less charge them with anything.

I suppose getting legal advise from a repo man is cheaper than a lawyer but I think the better bet would be the guy who passed the bar in Texas. Namely, the DA or the lawyers who handled the civil suit for the widow.

That's right, various lawyers were quoted in the Houston Chronicle in the five pieces they wrote about the shooting death of Tommy Deen Morris. None of them put forward the theory that Morris committed a crime. If anyone would benefit from that theory, it would be the repo company that stood to lose millions of dollars for wrongful death. The repo company argued it totally differently; they questioned whether a second repo man really had been sent to get the truck. By your theory, both repo men, not just the one who was shot, committed felonies on the same night.

In fact, the DA just couldn't explain to Morris' widow that shooting Morris was legal, so they eventually did submit the case to a grand jury. The grand jury failed to indict Casey for the same old reason, the Texas horse-thief law. This law could be read as allowing you to shoot law-abiding people who merely resemble car thieves. (But somehow I doubt that it has to be read that way.)

5:44 PM, May 31, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Greg,

I don't see how we have enough information to say that Autry was reckless. He retreated by running. He called for help which was passed on to the police.

We don't know if he had a chance to simply give up his wallet. We don't know the intentions of the crooks. We don't know what the crooks communicated to him about their intentions.

I have only seen the single linked article. Is there additional info?

6:09 PM, May 31, 2006  
Blogger Greg Kuperberg said...

I don't see how we have enough information to say that Autry was reckless.

Fair enough. When I said that it seems reckless, I meant that we don't really have enough information to say. The part that I would wonder about is kicking a shotgun out of someone else's hands. Before I attempted that, I would wonder whether my foot would miss the shotgun, or bounce off of the shotgun, or someone else in the gang would pull out another shotgun.

So yes, those are missing details. On the other hand, as I said, the case is not my business and I don't care all that much.

6:43 PM, May 31, 2006  
Blogger Dr. Melissa said...

Greg,

You (and I) would worry about the consequences of disarming a wild-eyed, shot-gun totin' teen who is part of an aggressive (doped up?) pack of robbers, but we're not trained combat vets who might know a thing or two or three about proper self defense against 5-to-1 odds. So it's reckless (for me). So who cares? It's Autry's life and he's alive after taking the steps necessary to defend himself. I probably would have made a different decision, and only, regretably, because I had to (not that I have any desire to kill someone in self-defense, but I have even less desire to be dead because I'm unable to defend myself).

Vigilantism would be Autry taking the shot gun and shooting the remaining kids after subduing the other two. He could have. He didn't. They certainly meant him mortal harm (or is pointing a 12-guage at ones nose insufficient proof of intent?).

Societally, the U.S. shows no indication of demonstrating widespread vigilante justice. Quite the contrary, in fact. Societally, the U.S. shows an increasing preponderance to abhor force in all its forms including self-defense. This position is cast in moral tones. Good people turn the other cheek. Good people would never use overwhelming force. Good people would avoid confrontation. Good people would run away.

This position ignores the original stimuli--the criminal ignoring law, liberty and love of life. The criminal is willing to use force to take money, possessions or even your life. Is it moral to value his life over your own? There is no guarantee that Autry's life would be taken, but there is no evidence to indicate that it wouldn't have either. The time to ponder motives evaporated when under mortal threat. It is easy to evaluate these incidents in retrospect and they should be evaluated, but one can hardly blame Autry for instinctually valuing his life over those intending him harm.

No doubt he feels sorrow for the situation. Thank God. He's human and will have to live forever with the consequences of that girl's death. Makes me think of the poor truck drivers who hit and kill a suicidal driver who veers in front of their vehicle on purpose. Selfish scumbags force an innocent person's hands. Autry wasn't this passive, but he was innocent. They were the aggressors. That their pasttime entailed this potential downside should have occurred to them. Maybe next time, for the survivors, it will. Maybe not. Criminals aren't the brightest bunch.

At least Autry is alive. Had he died at the hands of these thugs, an innocenct would have been lost and that would have been a tragedy.

10:19 PM, May 31, 2006  
Blogger Helen said...

Dr. Melissa,

It would indeed be pathetic if the US showed "an increasing preponderance to abhor force in all forms including self-defense." The truth is, there are more laws being passed that show the opposite--that true self-defense such as in Autry's case is justified. There is a secular Christianity going on in our country that says to turn the other cheek. In terms of dealing with criminal behavior, turning the other cheek is destructive and allows criminals to flourish. I thank God that there are grassroots organizations like the NRA that still believe that law abiding citizens have a right to self-defense. Thankfully, there are enough Americans who still believe that the rights of law abiding citizens are more important than the rights of criminals.

7:19 AM, June 01, 2006  
Blogger Dr. Melissa said...

Dr. Helen,

My evidence to support the anti-self-defense mentality is the perspective that retaliating against the 9/11 bombers or those who supported them is immoral--ala Cindy Sheehan because they view the act as aggressive and not defensive. Essentially, they use Greg's reasoning: that self-defense is a slippery slope and that vigilante justice ends with being injustice. They view the U.S. government as a Bully, Daddy-Figure (much like the Military)who is being mean. Sheehan's perspective, and people who believe like her, would view Autry's actions through that lense. What I find interesting is how the same people will vilify abusive men, but given a choice, I guess they would prefer a woman's rape to her self-defense with lethal force. If, (assuming they use logic)their logic is followed through.

I live in Texas where the laws are definitely in the defender's favor. It does seem that the trend legally is following Texas' lead. (Uh oh.) But I think that this issue may be a Blue-State Red-State divide. Or possibly Christian/Humanistic.

11:57 AM, June 01, 2006  
Blogger Mark K. Sprengel said...

Actually turn the other cheek in the original aramaic refers to rotating the hips so the punch you return to your assailant lands with maximum force ;-)

1:47 PM, June 01, 2006  
Blogger Greg Kuperberg said...

Helen is absolutely correct that the United States has not remotely turned away from violence. On the contrary, it has embraced many kinds of violence and coercion at levels not seen in decades. The invasion of Iraq is the biggest American war in 30 years. The American prison population has multiplied as well; it is many times as big as that of other wealthy democracies, even per capita. The government is increasingly impatient with due process as well, reserving it only for American citizens; several classes of non-citizens are guilty until proven innocent. I'm not even mainly talking about "illegal enemy combatants" here, but rather about "illegal aliens". There are even Iraqi Christians who have to sit in American jails until they can prove that they deserve political asylum.

(I can imagine Homeland Security's argument against the Iraqi Christians in Brownsville: "Asylum from what? We liberated you.")

Helen is also correct that these trends are against the teachings of Christ. It seems that many American Christians (if they can be called that) take Jesus as an idol, but then want the government to do the complete opposite of what he actually preached. They leave it to athiests and Jews, and I suppose liberals who they don't think are good Christians, to take Jesus' advice seriously. The atheists, Jews, and liberals are of course outvoted. Indeed, Jesus said, "If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also." Beyond that, it seems to me that some of the biggest fans of lethal self-defense and the death penalty have in mind a perversion of redemption. They secretly, or not so secretly, want mortal sinners to be killed before they have a chance to repent and be saved, to make sure that they go to eternal prison in the afterlife.

Nor are violence and prisons the only areas that certain American Christians have revised the teachings of Christ. Jesus also said, "You cannot be the servant of both God and money." Congress solved problem of two masters by making them one and the same, by putting "In God we trust" on all money in 1956. (Admittedly, it was used on coins earlier than that.) They might as well go all the way and replace presidents on bills and coins by Jesus. If they did that, then if Jesus were alive today and asked whose face was on a coin, the answer would be "Yours".

2:55 PM, June 01, 2006  
Blogger Helen said...

Dr. Melissa,

These people usually have no "moral logic." The real question is who they wish to protect and/or defend. The literature is full of liberals who feel that even if a woman kills a man who may have abused her while he is asleep on the couch, it is justifiable self-defense (battered women's syndrome). Or these types may actually salivate over Fidel Castro or worship Hugo Chavez despite their being murderuous thugs. If the killing or violence is "for the good of their cause", it is justifiable. If violence does not further their cause, it is called vigilante justice and/or imperialism.

4:20 PM, June 01, 2006  
Blogger Greg Kuperberg said...

I agree that it's a miscarriage of justice when a jury acquits a woman of murder on a theory of battered woman syndrome. All that the prosecutor should have to say in response to this argument is that two wrongs don't make a right. Many juries, however, don't quite believe that. They don't want to believe that murder is really murder when a "victim" or "good person" does it.

I don't think that feminism or liberalism completely explains this type of case. It is true that BWS as a legal defense against murder is a misuse of feminism and the science of psychology. But there are other ways that juries shamefully arrive at acquittals. The very first BWS acquittal was in Michigan and it was technically "not guilty by reason of temporary insanity". It can be compared to the trial documented in "Anatomy of a Murder", which was another temporary insanity acquittal in Michigan, in 1952. The defendant was guilty as all hell, but the jury acquitted him because they were persuaded that the victim had raped the defendant's wife. In the real trial, they didn't really believe all of the psychobabble about temporary insanity; they just thought that the victim was a criminal who deserved to be shot.

8:24 PM, June 01, 2006  
Blogger PlanetaryJim said...

The issue of Tommy Deen Morris being a repo man has nothing to do with why he was killed. Whether he was in possession of a lawful order to repossess a vehicle or not, the homeowner who saw an unmarked tow truck being hooked to the vehicle the homeowner was duty-bound and contractually obligated to defend as his own property didn't know Morris was authorized to repossess the vehicle. It isn't like the repo man went up to the door to present his paperwork or give the homeowner a chance to make full payment to bring his account current.

No, the repo men of Texas work like thieves in the night. If they are, then, confused with thieves, it is no wonder that a grand jury in possession of the facts finds for the homeowner.

Justifiable homicide is both those things. It is justifiable. Meaning, to me, that some individual felt he was defending life, liberty, or property by killing someone else. And, it is homicide. Someone had to die. Sometimes the killer is mistaken in thinking that he was justified in applying deadly force. But, several million times a year, someone somewhere demonstrates (often by presenting a gun) that they have the ability to apply deadly force, and a crime is prevented.

4:46 AM, August 13, 2006  
Blogger PlanetaryJim said...

Greg Kuperberg seems to enjoy playing with statistics. By unifying home invasion with burglary, he appears to assert that nobody is helped by being able to use deadly force in self defense. Whether he likes it or not, Americans have guns and use them.

Americans have guns because filthy British redcoat scum attempted to steal our guns in 1775, and Americans chose to slaughter those redcoat slime. I believe that America exists because on 19 April 1775 a bunch of American men chose to stand up and shoot at British soldiers. Doing so prevented the Brits from seizing the arsenals at Lexington and Concord. It was an effort that met with such enthusiasm from Americans that thousands of them took to the field and chased the redcoat filth all the way back to Boston. I think hundreds of Brits were slaughtered.

Now, it seems, Kuperberg would have you believe that soldiers in war and homeowners defending their property and a woman defending herself against rape are evil. Judging by his words on this page, Kuperberg would forcibly prevent a woman from buying a gun because he would rather she be found in an alley with her throat slit, her panties stuffed in her mouth, and her rapist's semen oozing from her nether orifices. And I would not.

I would rather that every man and woman be armed at all times as part of a cultural acceptance of the deeply significant obligation to defend life, liberty, and property with deadly force when and as needed. In this matter, I am joined by such stalwart defenders of liberty as Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, Patrick Henry, Sam Adams, Paul Revere, and many others. Whole religions, such as that of the Sikhs, have been founded on this ideal of being armed for the purpose of defending life, liberty, and property.

Reality doesn't have a liberal bias. Liberals simply don't like to look at the parts of reality that conflict with their views. They would rather label every Texan as trailer trash than come to grips with the fact that the average Texan owns five guns. Liberals would rather play games with statistics than look at the facts. In fact, when concealed carry laws are passed, in state after state, violent crime rates drop. When people are able to have weapons with which to defend themselves, crimes are prevented.

Of course, Kuperberg doesn't want people to prevent crimes. He doesn't want villains to be killed. He doesn't believe any homicide is justifiable. Perhaps he also doesn't believe in police officers having guns, as the British police state villains at the airports very evidently do, or in the death penalty, or in the military occupation of other countries. Maybe he thinks that only police ought to be provided with deadly force, and Americans should simply dial 911 and die.

I would agree that occupying other countries militarily is wrong and that the administration of the death penalty has proven to be no deterrent to crime and often an injustice - lots of innocent men have gone to the death chamber, subsequent evidence has revealed. But, the only solution to the police state is an armed and educated populace. Since the liberals and neo-conservatives have nationalized education and destroyed the public schools, we probably cannot count on enlightenment. But, much as they trot Australians or Brits or Japanese examples out and pretend that all is well in those countries, goofballs like Kuperberg cannot persuade Americans to part with their guns voluntarily.

Every totalitarian dictator from Kamel Ataturk to Hitler to Mussolini to Tojo to Stalin to Mao to Pol Pot to Blair has insisted that their people must be disarmed. As Machiavelli noted, being unarmed, among the other evident harm it brings to you, causes you to be despised.

And that, friends, is what Kuperberg appears to be doing. He despises those who stand up for themselves in defense of life, liberty, and property as they see fit.

5:14 AM, August 13, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think it's very important for people to know that in the Bartley Sr. case, there was never a trial. Also, the man he killed was unarmed. What kind of justice system is that?!

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