The state’s protection racket


XI: Thou Shalt Not refuse to be a victim

“Mr. Thomson ran afoul of a doctrine dominant in interventionist societies. It holds that anything for which the state has no solution, is insoluble. If the government can’t put a cop outside every farm house targeted by arsonists, burn, baby, burn.

by George Jonas
National Post

When defending their monopoly to defend us, the authorities often shoot themselves in the foot. In Saturday’s National Post, Rex Murphy recalled the case of a shopkeeper in Toronto’s Chinatown who was charged with kidnapping for nabbing a shoplifter and holding him for the police. The story had a happy ending: The lawmen looked as foolish in court as they deserved to look, and the shopkeeper was acquitted.

Undaunted, though, the authorities press on. Currently, prosecutors are making fools of themselves over a citizen named Ian Thomson, whose warning shots scared away three men trying to firebomb his farm house near Port Colborne, Ont. He fired in the air; the assailants fled, and no one was hurt except the feelings of the authorities.

The householder, a licensed gun owner and firearms instructor, broke no law. Still, miffed by a citizen’s display of self-reliance, the wounded minions of the state hauled him into court for — guess what? — the unsafe storage of firearms.

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There’s a Kafkesque provision in the Criminal Code that makes it unlawful for gun owners to store their ammunition in the same hemisphere as their weapons — certainly not close enough for a gun to be of any but decorative use. The mere fact Mr. Thomson had time to fire indicated to the prosecutor he must have broken the law. Anyone who obeys, couldn’t have. Gotcha!

After counsels’ submissions, the judge adjourned till the summer. Evidently, he needed a few months to figure out just how much of an ass the law really is — a luxury not available to Mr. Thomson, who would have had to decide the same thing in seconds while being firebombed.

The authorities are having a fit every time crime victims defend themselves — but why? It wins them no kudos. The citizens they haul into court are usually acquitted. Yet something in our law enforcement elites creates the urge to re-enact the Charge of the Light Brigade, blundering into a barrage every time laid down by Lorne Gunter and other eminent editorialists. What is it, I wonder?

If the concern is safety — not just the cops’ own, but the public’s — obliging citizens to arm themselves might achieve more than attempting to disarm them. In 1996, the University of Chicago released a nationwide survey examining the impact of gun laws on crime over a period of eight years. Between 1988-1996, U.S. state laws permitting private citizens to carry concealed handguns multiplied from nine to 31. The study found that in states where people could carry, homicide went down by 8.5%, rape by 5% and aggravated assault by 7%.

The reduction wasn’t due to victims whipping out six-shooters, the study found, but mainly to general deterrence, i.e., perpetrator-awareness of crime-targets being potentially armed. No surprise here; criminals aren’t necessarily suicidal or crazy, and it’s no wonder if one out of 20 rapists doesn’t want to take a chance on being shot.

Just as crime has no single cause, it has no single solution. A gun in every purse isn’t like a chicken in every pot or a car in every garage. Still, there’s increasing evidence that when some people arm themselves, not as a substitute for law and order, but as an extension of it, all people benefit. Why stop them?

What makes law enforcement officials uneasy when citizens do anything beyond dialling 911? Is it perhaps the state trying to sweep under the carpet its inability to protect individuals?

You bet; a citizen defending himself or his property telegraphs the limitation of state power. This not only irks officials but scares them. The police don’t want to go the way of the Post Office.

Self-defence as a concept erodes the foundation of the interventionist state. Only a monopoly on coercion assures the supremacy of the public official over the private citizen, the regulator over the regulated, the tax collector over the taxpayer. But without a monopoly on protection, government’s monopoly on coercion becomes endangered. Civilians carrying guns reveal the authorities for the paper tigers they are. This, ultimately, is what worries officials. In places where people “carry’ and regard their homes as their castles, meter maids may need body armour, with Census Bureau officials having to prepare papers about the advantages of switching from cars to tanks.

Mr. Thomson ran afoul of a doctrine dominant in interventionist societies. It holds that anything for which the state has no solution, is insoluble. If the government can’t put a cop outside every farm house targeted by arsonists, burn, baby, burn. Citizens can’t take the law into their own hands just because the authorities have run out of remedies.

Luckily there’s a better view. It’s that the law is in the hands of citizens in free societies. Citizens delegate the powers of law enforcement to the police, not the other way around. Whatever a cop could legitimately do to prevent Mr. Thomson’s farm house from being firebombed, Mr. Thomson can do himself. And if he does, the state must pin a medal on Mr. Thomson instead of mobilizing gowned minions and martinets to obfuscate him into oblivion.

Original source: National Post

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