In England doctors have called for a ban on long kitchen knives since 2005 (1), mirroring an analysis by the American Journal of Lifestyle Medicine suggesting that “having a gun generally makes women and their families less safe.” (2) What both studies suffer from is the cause-correlation fallacy. It is not the weapon that makes women or victims of assault in general less safe, it’s having a criminal in the house that makes them less safe.
Around 2008 at the school where I worked in Portland Oregon brought in a representative, Sara Johnson, from the Portland Police Department’s WomenStrength program.
“We always want to start with de-escalation when possible,” Johnson said, “Move a heated conversation to a public place. Assailants will often try to move a victim to a private place where they can exert more control unobserved.”
She pointed out that most violence is between parties known to one another. The highly publicized examples of stranger danger, terrorist attacks and mass shootings are the rare occurrences.
“First, attempt to talk the assailant down with simple, non-threatening language following three simple steps: 1. Describe the behavior: ‘when you,’ fill in the blank,‘yell or get in my space, it” 2.describe how it impacts you or makes you feel, “makes me freeze up so I can’t address the real problem,’ or ‘feel afraid of you.’ 3. Tell them what to do. ‘Take a step back: I’ll feel better if we go out on the steps or into a public place to talk.’ That is different than insulting them. ‘You make me feel threatened because you are such a jerk.’ ”
Remaining in discourse is the first and primary tool of de-escalation and any form of conflict resolution. Johnson highlighted an important skill in dealing with interpersonal conflict: externalize the conflict so it is not about you and the other person. The context can be examined openly, and if the assailant is willing to work in the issue, so much the better.
Johnson explained that not all assailants will start or end in verbal negotiation and de-escalation. “If the assailant won’t stop or back down and moves to a physical threat, the second level of defense is physical force – punching or kicking. If the assailant moves up to the next level, bringing a deadly weapon into the assault – a knife, gun, pipe, blunt instrument, you may utilize a deadly weapon in your own defense or the defense of another to stop an imminent threat.”
What she was describing is the use of force continuum, the foundation of all self-defense as the protection of the right to life.
“To defend yourself, if de-escalation fails and the assailant continues the assault or escalates to deadly force there three options for defense with a weapon. Less lethal options include pepper spray and stun guns like Tasers. Those can be used against a physical assault. Conventional weapons like guns, knives, and batons can be used against a deadly assault, and weapons of opportunity – your purse, a flower pot, dirt, gravel, a rock. With weapons of opportunity you need to be careful, because if it is potentially deadly, like a bottle that can cause a percussive injury or break and be used to cut, it cannot be used against physical assault. That would make you the assailant.”
When we look at how force is perceived through a reasonable force continuum, as has been enshrined in law from time immemorial, we can see how strange and off base the British doctors who are for requesting a ban on kitchen knives. It’s not the knife or, as in board game Clue, referenced in the title of this article, the candle stick, or the rope that caused the murder. It was Professor Plumb or Mrs. Peacock or Mr. Green in the observatory with the rope or the dagger or the pipe. Banning the rope isn’t going to do a bit of good if you don’t deal with the assailant who has it around your neck, and if it were me on the wrong end of the rope I’d want a gun in my pocket to help resolve the problem.
To return to the British problem, a Home Office spokesperson responded to the claim, “The law already prohibits the possession of offensive weapons in a public place, and the possession of knives in public without good reason or lawful authority, with the exception of a folding pocket knife with a blade not exceeding three inches.”
In England, self-defense is not considered a “good reason,” to carry a knife, much less a gun, as an “offensive weapon” is “defined as any weapon designed or adapted to cause injury, or intended by the person possessing them to do so.”
So in our case of defense, the knife is already determined to be illegal because its design could cause injury, outside of the nature of assault and defense, not because of the intent of the bearer. And our flower pot – should we carry it for self-defense becomes illegal because our intent is to use it to do harm to an assailant, should an assault arise one arise.
In 1953 British law banned carrying anything for the purpose of self-defense. (3)
The Home Office spokesperson cited this regulation, stating, “An individual has to demonstrate that he had good reason to possess a knife, for example for fishing, other sporting purposes or as part of his profession (e.g. a chef) in a public place.” (1)
In many instances this has resulted in a “might makes right” scenario in England. The victim is unauthorized to meet the assailant’s force, and must hope that his or her strength is sufficient to save his or her own life.
“The BBC offers this advice for anyone in Britain who is attacked on the street: You are permitted to protect yourself with a briefcase, a handbag, or keys. You should shout ‘Call the Police’ rather than ‘Help.’ Bystanders are not to help. They have been taught to leave such matters to the professionals. If you manage to knock your attacker down, you must not hit him again or you risk being charged with assault.” (3)
England is violating a fundamental human right through its laws. America is trying to do the same. By attempting to define certain firearms as “assault” weapons, politicians are trying to create a circumstance where a possessor has to have a “good reason to possess” the weapon. As we can see in the British problem, once governments begin down this path they will simply erode, step by step, the human right to self-defense and the right to effective tools for that defense. Currently it is the continuation of the assailant’s attack that determines how many shots may be fired in defense of life or limb. With proposed regulation, it will no longer be the nature of the assault that determines appropriate defense, but the nature of the arm used in that defense.
About Alan Murdock:
Alan Murdock is a certified NRA pistol instructor and Utah Concealed Firearms instructor. Alan Teaches firearms classes in Salt Lake City, Utah as The Gun Tutor. Follow him on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/alan.murdock#!/pages/The-Gun-Tutor/284464574944107. He also produces video and writes about firearms and personal defense issues. His blog can be found at www.TheGunTutor.com