Yesterday, Mikeb30200 questioned my assertion that the average UK inhabitant has lost the right of armed self-defense. I pointed out that the Islanders are not allowed to own guns for self-defense, period. No handguns. No long guns, save those used for “sporting purposes.” Later in the day, I encountered a Daily Mail tale wherein 19-year-old Gary Holmes shot an intruder—with an air rifle. Whereupon the invader, one Lewis Patterson, left. And called the cops; with an obvious expectation that the Old Bill would nick Holmes for shooting him. So far . . . no. But I betcha that a civil suit will be forthcoming. (The U.S. doesn’t have a lock on ambulance chasers.) Meanwhile, here are the bullet—sorry “pellet” points of how you “get away” with shooting a home invader in The Land of Hope and Glory . . .
1. Buy an airgun or some other “sporting” firearm
A UK home defender can buy an airgun without a license—provided he or she’s 18 or older and gun’s power limit is set at 12 ft. lbs. (air rifles) and 6 ft. lbs. (pistols). (For comparison, U.S. competition airguns use compressed air stored at 2000 to 3000 lb/in².) If a UK resident wants to step up to an airgun capable of causing more than a simple owee, your “Section 1 Firearm” requires a firearms certificate.
Same goes for a shotgun (forget about a rifle). If you’ve got armed home defense on your mind, you’ll have to lie to the Old Bill about your intentions in that regard, in great detail, in both writing and face-to-face (at home and down at the station). There will be a thorough police investigation of your background (including speeding tickets and mental health) and your references; so don’t just pretend you use the gun for blasting birds. Join a club, blast some birds, then apply.
2. Learn how to unlock and load
Assuming you’ve managed to secure a Section 1 Firearm, you’ll have to keep that bad boy unloaded, under lock and key, in an approved gun safe, nailed to the wall and/or the ground. And yes, the police can (and will) come at any time to check the security arrangements. If there’s a home invasion, the bad guy will have to wait for you to get your gun.
[Holmes] looked out of his bedroom window and saw Patterson in the back garden.
Mr Holmes said: ‘He was swaying like he was drunk. I knew something was going to happen. He was not normal.’
Mr Holmes grabbed an air rifle he used for shooting rabbits on a farm and ran downstairs. ‘On the way I picked up three pellets and put two of them in the gun,’ he said.
He found Patterson in his mother’s living room. He was attempting to steal his £1,250 motorcycle, which he stored there for safe-keeping.
Nice neighborhood. And either the air rifle was of the 12 lbs. or less variety—leaving a lot of peeved bunnies—or Mr. Holmes hadn’t stored it properly. You can not “grab” an air rifle out of a locked safe or cabinet. No doubt that detail will be the subject of investigation if and when a civil suit proceeds. As will Mr. Holme’s decision to grab his gun before there was a direct threat to Holmes’ home or his homies.
3. Warn the bad guy
“I told him to get out, not very politely,’ Mr Holmes said. ‘He just looked straight back at me. I put the rifle up to him and he stepped out on to the patio.
‘I know a bit about firearms and the law, so I warned him. I showed him the rifle and he came back into the house again.
‘That was when he raised the iron bar he was carrying. So I raised the gun back up. Then I shouted again: “Get out.” He just stared at me.
Most American states have adopted the “castle doctrine.” As the title suggests, this principle comes from England. It gives U.S. citizens the legal right to use deadly force to defend their home—in some states extended to workplace and car—from a violent attack or an intrusion which may lead to violent attack.
That last bit is key. In states with a castle doctrine you do not have to warn an invading bad guy to leave. Nor do you have a duty to retreat. In the UK, you must do both. As Mr. Holmes knew.
He kept coming at me with the bar so I shot him. He then started to come towards me again and threw a brick at me. I shot him again. If I had let him hit me, I could have been in hospital or dead.’
Mr Holmes added: ‘At the time I was in shock. Thinking back, it was just a reaction. I don’t just shoot people.’
Well, not effectively. Speaking of which . . .
A lot of American gun owners laugh at the idea of a .22 caliber bullet as a defensive round. The usual refrain: “The bad guy will get really annoyed once he realizes he’s been shot.” Imagine how Mr. Not Normal felt when he was shot with a BB. Stopping power? Good Lord, no! That would be barbaric!
Bottom line: if you’re going to shoot a home invader in the UK with an airgun, it’s probably best to use it as a diversionary tactic only. Shoot and scoot. Or attack with something else. In this case, a few pieces of burned toast launched Odd Job-style may have been equally effective.
5. Get a good lawyer/barrister
Patterson fled on a bicycle but then contacted police to report being shot.
He claimed he was hit as he walked past the property, but was exposed as a liar. He was not seriously injured . . .
He praised the police for how they handled the investigation, although he was initially concerned about being charged himself.
‘I never expected to have to shoot a person,’ Mr Holmes said. ‘The first officers who came seemed quite surprised when I said I had shot him. I don’t think they knew what to think. They seemed a bit confused about who they were going to be charging, so they sent officers from CID to take a statement the next day.
The cops seem to be making soothing noises in this case, but this is a Daily Mail story. Based on my experience as a longtime UK resident alien, I’m sure the Old Bill will be calling on Mr. Holmes again in the near future to discuss a few details and remove his gun for safekeeping. After all, he has no “right” to it.
It’s no wonder Mr. Holmes was concerned about the police. If Mr. Holmes didn’t own the rifle for the express purpose of shooting rabbits, if he told someone it was for self-defense, if his gun was set on iota above 12 lbs., he could be charged with “having an air weapon with intent to endanger life.” He’d be looking at a possible custodial sentence up to . . . wait for it . . . life imprisonment. And/or an “appropriate” fine.
Alternatively, Holmes could be charged with “threatening others with an air weapon (even if unloaded) to cause them to fear unlawful violence.” That crime carries a penalty of up 10 years imprisonment and/or a fine.
Equally depressing, Mr. Holmes could face civil action. Mr. Patterson can sue Mr. Holmes for simple battery (if not Grievous Bodily Harm). Given that Patterson called the cops to get Mr. Holmes in trouble, he probably understands this option. If so, there’s plenty more legal ammo at Mr. Patterson’s disposal.
It is an offence to fire an airgun within 50 feet of the centre of a public highway, If by doing so you cause any member of the public using that highway to be injured, interrupted or endangered. This applies even if you are on private property adjacent the highway.
No exceptions, mate. But it’s better to be sitting in jail howling against a system that leaves average people without the right to armed self-defense than it is to get hit in the head with a brick. One supposes.