It seems Crown Prosecution Service are a bit insane. Let me start with a caveat: this post isn’t a debate about gun control. Doubtless, gun laws get people riled up. But, generally speaking, “gun control” people and “gun rights” people argue past each other. Differences in core philosophy (the good of society v. the rights of the individual) make it impossible for those debating to see eye to eye. For the purpose of this post, I have no real interest in getting sidetracked by the issue of gun control.
No, I’m stuck on a larger issue here.
In case you haven’t heard, police in Leicestershire, England arrested a man who took a legally-owned shotgun and shot two men breaking into his home. According to this man’s mother, he’s had his home broken into before…several times. The Guardian’s report says that neither suspect’s injuries were life-threatening. The piece also indicates that these suspects are being arrested and charged with aggravated burglary. Perhaps more frightening, the story highlights several other examples where homeowners have been charged and convicted with crimes after defending their property.
Frankly, it’s nearly impossible for me to wrap my mind around this. I just don’t get it. In this latest instance, you have two men who have forcibly trespassed into your home. I promise that words alone aren’t going to get these guys out of your house. Nor is it likely that you’re winning a fist fight…after all, they outnumber you. What are you supposed to do to get them out? Are you really supposed to call the police and wait for them to arrive? While the burglars grab stuff and flee? REALLY??
It might be one thing if a man had shot people innocently trespassing across his yard but that’s not what happened here. Here, a man might be prosecuted for defending his home—his ultimate place of retreat. And that’s what I really take exception to. A person should know that there’s at least one location where he can have peace of mind: his home. As I see it, part of what comes along with owning property is the unadulterated right to control access…and to control access without having to answer to anyone else. When the law starts protecting those who violate an owner’s physical possession, it takes away some of the usefulness of ownership. Indeed, it diminishes the meaning of “ownership” itself.
Now it’s true that the “bundle of rights” an owner has depends somewhat on how he treats his land. That’s why a store open to the public can’t refuse people based solely on race. Similarly, it’s why people who choose to rent their property to tenants become greatly constricted in how they can control access (e.g. they have to follow proper procedure to evict). However, in these examples, the owner made the conscious choice to subject himself to greater regulation when he choose to invite others onto his property. He might have easily bought the property and kept it all to himself…and if he had, he could control access as arbitrarily as he wanted to. That’s the beauty of ownership.
Sadly, it seems that prosecuting authorities in England have no respect for this. It’s utterly wrong. It’s profoundly messed up. It’s what life looks like when up is down.