NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


June 7, 2004

The withdrawal of Englishmen's right to self-defense is having dire consequences in Great Britain: higher crime rate, weak sentences for assailants, and even the victims end up thrown in jail, says historian Joyce Lee Malcolm.

This did not happen all at once. The people were weaned from their fundamental right to protect themselves through a series of policies implemented over some 80 years, she says. Those include the strictest gun laws of any democracy, legislation that makes it illegal for individuals to carry any article that could be used for personal protection, and restrictive limits on the use of force in self-defense. The impacts have been stark:

  • One is six times more likely to be mugged in London than in New York City.
  • More than half of English burglaries occur when someone is at home, while the frequency of such "hot burglaries" is only 13 percent in America.
  • Since handguns were banned in 1998, handgun crime has more than doubled.
  • Offenders under the age of 21 are almost never sent to prison; criminals that end up in prison are routinely released after serving half the sentence.
  • .

Overall, with the exception of murder, violent crime in England and Wales is far higher than in the United States. The British police are now, for the first time in their history, routinely armed, and have even sought the advice of American policemen to deal with gun crime

Victims of crime risk imprisonment for defending oneself. Fending off robbers in one's home with toy pistols will get one charged by the police; killing an assailant results in a life sentence, while if one manages to knock an attacker down, you must not hit him again or you risk being charged with assault, says Malcolm.

Source: Joyce Lee Malcolm, "Self-Defense: An Endangered Right," Cato Institute, Policy Report No. 2, March 2004.

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