It Was the Kitchen Knife in the Parlor with Professor Plum… or was it Professor Plum in the Parlor with the Kitchen Knife?

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.

Resources:

1. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/health/4581871.stm
2. http://www.self.com/blogs/flash/2012/11/would-you-buy-a-gun.html
3. http://www.cato.org/sites/cato.org/files/serials/files/policy-report/2004/3/cpr-26n2-1.pdf

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

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25 Responses to It Was the Kitchen Knife in the Parlor with Professor Plum… or was it Professor Plum in the Parlor with the Kitchen Knife?

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  4. Mr Ecks says:

    Desktophippie is full of it.

    The UK is now more violent than New York in its worse days in the 70′s. The violence is concentraited in large towns and cities. Most assasults don’t involve firearms because the yobs don’t need them to kick the shit out of solid citizens and they would get extra-heat for using guns. The drug trade is ful of illegal firepower and a lot of big city crooks are moving to firearms use even in non-drug crimes.

    Gun control was introduced in the UK in the 1920s for political reasons–the ruling classes did not want what was left of the working classes(those who survived WWI) getting any Bolshie ideas and if they did, they wanted to be sure that they would not have the firepower for a revolution. Guns were stockpiled for use by govt supporters at the same time. Alright to kill when the state approves but not otherwise eh?.

    The US gun deaths are routinely boosted by deceitdfully including suicides and accidents.

    The average UK dwellers is a sap beaten-down and conditioned by socialism. DON’T allow Obama to take your guns. The states thugs won’t be giving up theirs.

  5. Desktop Hippie says:

    Ohhh I see. America the beautiful has had yet another mass shooting and the gun nuts are getting antsy about their right to bear automatic weapons that can wipe out a room full of people in a couple of minutes, so they’ve had to go with the old “Britain disarmed her civilians and now it’s a hellish crime black spot where yobs roam the streets like savages without fear of the law and civilised people are afraid to go outside after dark” defence despite the fact that its a completely inaccurate view of the UK and you’re five times more likely to die a violent death in the gun toting, security conscious USA. Good luck with that! I’m sure their murder rate will catch up with yours any day now.

    • Bean Waxler says:

      Your crime rate is bad and skyrocketing, whereas ours has been dwindling for thirty years. 60% of British invasions occur while the occupants are in their home, versus 7% in the US. We are safe walking the streets, because we know no one is going to pull a knife on us knowing we will shoot them in the head in retaliation.
      London is now a more violent place that New York City, and that speaks volumes.

  6. P M Smith says:

    I know it’s asking a lot to check your “facts” – and that no fact has ever had a chance with closed minds or those who hold their “beliefs” in such a death grip that the truth has little chance of ever changing those beliefs – but here is a more recent article outlining the British laws as related to self defense:

    http://www.bsdgb.co.uk/index.php?Information:Law_Relating_to_Self_Defence

    • dynamiteutah says:

      Wonderful! Thank you. I am always ready to hear others out.

      To what address does one send their application to carry a regulated offensive weapon for defensive purposes in England, or will a European Union permit be accepted? If I need to apply to the European Union do they process the application in the Hague? Will the Utah, United States forms suffice for the application?

  7. Chilari says:

    The portrayal of the British system in this article is severely misleading. The hint is where British and English are mistakenly used interchangably, but there’s more wrong with it than that.

    A victim doesn’t automatically become an assailant if they fight back. They can fight back up to the point at which the attacker ceases to be a threat. If you can break free and run away, or leave the attacker rolling on the floor clutching his crotch, to come back and continue kicking and hitting him when he now is unable to fight back makes you an assailant (but doesn’t stop him from being one), and could get you arrested but if he’s not severely hurt you probably won’t be charged because of the provokation defence – he attacked you first and presented a very real threat.

    As for the bystander thing, that’s a load of bull. The police discourage bystanders from getting involved because then said bystander could get hurt, so the police discouraging involvement is designed to protect people and make things simpler for the police when they arrive, but it is not binding. The same applies as above – as long as stepping in bystander doesn’t use excessive force (defined by being disproprotionate to what is required to protect the victim) then they won’t get into trouble. Sometimes such bystanders do get arrested, because when you’re a cop arriving on the scene and you see two guys fighting you don’t know what the situation is, but on the rare occasion they get charged, it makes the papers and there is outrage across the country.

    Finally, I wouldn’t trust the Cato report. It is an American Thinktank, not a peer-reviewed journal, and is a poor source for information on British law. The Prevention of Crime Act (1953) is not an attack on self-defence but rather intended, and succeeded, to reduce violent crime through removing to right to carry offensive weapons in public places. It was in response to a high number of armed robberies and other violent crimes in the preceding years. In order to prosecute under that law, the prosecution has to make a case that the defendant is carrying the object for the purpose of causing harm. Self-defence items like pepper spray are permitted because they are not intended to be used as offensive weapons, namely to attack, but as defensive weapons, namely to escape attackers.

    • snelson134 says:

      Shorter Chilari: “I don’t like facts so I’ll make up my own.”

    • dynamiteutah says:

      Thank you for your comment. You write “[the victim] can fight back up to the point at which the attacker ceases to be a threat.” The point I am making in the article is that by designating certain tools as “offensive” weapons and banning the right to carry these for defense sets the victim at a disproportionate disadvantage. The banning of handguns, the best defensive weapon against deadly assault notwithstanding, citizens are put at risk by asserting wrongdoing onto the carrying of certain tools.

      You state that pepper spray is not “intended to be used as offensive,” yet there are many examples of attackers using pepper spray to harm their victims. Here are two:
      http://www.chron.com/news/houston-texas/houston/article/Two-arrests-in-Sugar-Land-pepper-spray-attacks-4090462.php
      http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/lanow/2011/11/suspect-in-wal-mart-pepper-spray-attack-refuses-to-talk-with-lapd.html

      Under your logic, because pepper spray has been used offensively by some, it should be listed among the offensive weapons that cause crime. Under my logic, pepper spray, knives and guns are inanimate objects that are used by their owners for ill or good. I have been a permitted concealed firearms permit holder for years in the United States. There are a few circumstances where I was very glad my right to defense was not so infringed that the attacker was put at the advantage by removing my right to a tool to be used for my defense.

      You indicate that the arresting officers and court would have to prove that the weapon was intended for harm for it to be designated as offensive, but from the Home Office spokesperson’s statement, it is clear that the presence of a non-folding knife, a folding knife with a blade longer than three inches, a folding knife with certain properties such as the ability to be flicked open or to be opened by gravity are prima facie evidence that a crime has been committed.

      • dynamiteutah says:

        In fact, pepper spray is banned under the Firearms Act of 1968 Part 1 section 5b.

        Chilari, what you are saying is that Britain successfully utilized media reports of criminal activity to justify the banning of defensive weapons and that politicians are maintaining the media spin to make citizens feel more safe after being robbed of the tools of self defense. That is exactly what politicians in America are trying to do right now.

        http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/1968/27/part/I

  8. tomdperkins says:

    Ralph here:

    http://www.theguntutor.com/2012/12/28/it-was-the-kitchen-knife-in-the-parlor-with-professor-plumb-or-was-it-professor-plum-in-the-parlor-with-the-kitchen-knife/#comment-62

    Cites Criminal Law Act 1967, Section 3 (1) as if it has any relevance.

    It doesn’t matter how the law is written, it matters how it is enforced.

  9. DEK says:

    The continuum of force, particularly at the low end of physical assault, amounts to leaving the weaker defenseless against a stronger attacker and helpless against whatever further predations the attacker may decide to pursue once he has his victim in his power. This is a very bad situation in which to place the old or crippled or female. This means, of course, that a parent cannot come to her child’s assistance.

    As for the assistance of others, if a bystander was not himself attacked, may he use any sort of force to aid the victim without himself becoming an assailant? (And let us remember that it was anciently settled in our law that a credible threat to use force is itself an assault.)

    This is not a civil society or even a society at all, and is in fact even less than a State of Nature, where one might act on fellow feeling to come to the aid of another.

  10. Laka says:

    If a bloke wants to be an decent hooligan, he don’t need no knife. A beer bottle will do him just as good. No fear! Have an Happy New Year mate.

  11. snelson134 says:

    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.”

    As long as “beaten to death by fist” can appear in the “Cause of Death” entry on the autopsy report, lethal force will be justified even if only bare hands are involved.

    BTW, there are numerous examples in the case law backing me up. Officer Johnson is either a liar or a fool. She’s also an accessory before the fact because she contributes to the assault succeeding.

    • McGehee says:

      Another reason why it’s better to be judged by twelve than carried by six. If I have to defend myself against some thug, I’d rather have the forensic evidence tell his side of the story than him.

  12. egoist says:

    Fists, feet, penis… could be (and often are) assault weapons. Feinstein has already exposed the circuit that the gun control expansion will take (initially). Is it strange that they seek to level the playing field by robbing peter to pay paul, yet seek to prevent jane from protecting herself from pual’s peter?

  13. teapartydoc says:

    Such thinking will only speed a return to what some of the philosophers of yesteryear called the state of nature. When that state is approached these laws will seem even more laughable and absurd than they already do, and will be less enforceable, too. The only people who will find comfort in them will be highwaymen, rapists, and the ruling elite, who will use them to keep the middle classes supressed by the violence of those they use as their handy foil: said highwaymen and rapists.

  14. Ralph says:

    ‘Bystanders are not to help’

    Criminal Law Act 1967, Section 3 (1) states ‘A person may use such force as is reasonable in the circumstances in the prevention of crime’.

  15. frank martin says:

    Q: How does English law treat those who have learned some form of Martial Art like Karate or Judo ? If you are not allowed to defend yourself with a weapon, are you allowed to train for self defense?

  16. Stephen Taylor says:

    I live in Texas, thank God, where we still walk upright. I’m embarrassed and ashamed to admit that my forefathers were English.

    What happened to England?

  17. Kevin M says:

    As weapons are banned, physical strength is the only protection. Good for Rosey Greer, hard luck for many women.

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