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#1 2013-08-06 11:29:54

Registered: 2013-04-01
Posts: 1,235

On Self Defense

Much has been made of my position on self defense, mostly based on bits and pieces of my story taken from spoken interviews.  But what actually happened to my family in New Mexico?  I've never gotten to lay down all the facts, so I'll do that now.

First of all, why did we ever move there?  To summarize, we had to leave our five-year home in Potsdam, NY because our house had an extreme moisture and mold problem that Lauren ended up being severely allergic to.  The high property taxes in the village prevented us from buying a better house there (for most of our friends, the property taxes were more than their yearly mortgage payment---like having two mortgages, but one that you will never pay off).  Since we had to move away, we might as well try the polar opposite, climate-wise.  From damp and freezing to dry and boiling.  And also still cheap!  New Mexico.


Visiting Las Cruces by plane and driving around in a rental car, it seemed like a pretty nice place.  Palm trees, cacti, and stunning views of the mountains from almost everywhere in town.  A solid food co-op and a thriving farmers' market.  A good library with a huge selection of films.  A low crime rate (something like half that of Albuquerque).  So, we bought a house with three pecan trees in a nice little neighborhood.  We could see the mountains from our front yard.


Shortly after moving there, we had our first dose of culture shock:  A guy in the shopping mall just walking along with a semi-auto pistol on his hip. 


Next, the owner of the reptile store is nonchalantly wearing a .38 revolver on his hip.  I'm standing there talking to him, and this guy's right hand is inches away from potentially blowing a hole in my chest.  Weird feeling.  I said something like, "Wow, you're, um, carrying a gun."  He was friendly about it, explaining that lots of "crackheads" are into snakes, and he's gotta be careful.  He also recounted that his store had been robbed in the past for a few $2000 snakes.  I'm imagining a burglar running out the door with a pillowcase full of pythons.


Second culture shock:  driving around Las Cruces is very different from walking and biking.  When you're driving, you don't notice the trash that is blowing around everywhere.  You don't notice the crumbling cement blocks or the rotting fences.  What looks like a blur of palm trees, pastel houses, and navy-blue skies by car starts to look more like a sun-scorched wasteland when you're on foot.  Most importantly, when you're in a car, you don't notice the dogs.

Now, I'm a dog lover.  I grew up with dogs, so I generally know how to read them.  I have no problem going up to a strange dog and introducing myself, because I can tell when a dog is friendly and open to that kind of interaction.  But the dogs in Las Cruces are... different.

First of all, every block has at least one pit bull.  When I say pit bull, you're probably thinking that I'm peddling over-hyped, negative stereotypes.  This is a breed that has received all sorts of undue, negative attention in the media, right?  I mean, we all know cute, gentle, lovable pit bulls:


But it's hard to sufficiently convey how different the dogs in Cruces are from the ones that you know and love.  I wish I could show you a picture, but no image search turns up anything close to what I saw there.  This is the best picture I could find, but it pales in comparison to what they've managed to breed in Cruces:


The most impressive specimen that I ever saw lived on our street just two blocks away.  He had a head the size of a watermelon (the head pictured above is only 23 inches), an enormous jaw, rippling muscles, girthy, uncut testicles, and weighed well over 100 pounds.  I'm not sure how they grow dogs to look like this, but I suspect some kind of hormone injections are involved.  Still, the dog itself wasn't so much of a problem.

The problem was the manner in which the dog was kept:  in the front yard all day behind a three foot high, broken cyclone fence that was right next to the sidewalk.  That's the standard protocol for housing an animal that essentially looks as capable as a small lion.  In the case of our neighborhood champion, his fence was bulging out, over the sidewalk, from years of him ramming against it.


And what is it like to walk on the sidewalk next to such a fence?  Have you ever been actively stalked by a predator from inches away?  These dogs are lightning fast, and some of them growl aggressively, but even more unnerving are the ones that silently pursue you.  A few are behind higher, more reasonable walls, but that just proves how capable they are as jumpers.  I've seen one dog in our neighborhood regularly get all four paws on top of five foot high wall before not quite making it over and falling back down.  It would perform this trick repeatedly as you walked by.


Okay, so, obviously you just need to learn which side of the street to walk on.  You switch sides a lot, as you start to remember which dog is where.  For me, walking on the scary side of the street was always something of a heart-pounding thrill, but keep in mind that I was walking with a 6-year-old and a 1-year-old.

Contained dogs like these might frighten people who aren't used to them, but they generally aren't dangerous.  A much bigger problem in Cruces are the dogs that escape.

No bicycle trip in Las Cruces can be completed without encountering a loose dog of some kind.  For the most part, though, they come in the form of yapping chihuahuas, often running in a small pack, and comically brave for their size.  Cute enough, and harmless.

Occasionally, though, you see a bigger dog on the loose.  It turns out that bored dogs in front yards and insufficient fences don't mix well.  Dogs squeeze under, push through, or jump over.  Occasionally, we'd see a skimpy pit bull out, or maybe a rottweiler.  We hadn't seen one of the aforementioned impressive specimens out, though.  Still, the presence of these intimidating dogs, plus the frequency of dog escapes, seemed like a problem waiting to happen.

Our neighbors had a scrawny, nervous boxer named Ziggie living in their backyard.  She would bark her head off whenever we came home, and she never seemed to get used to us.  She also had a habit of jumping the five-foot wall that separated our backyards.  She seemed mostly harmless, but when you have a one-year-old toddling around in your backyard, surprise visits from an unfriendly dog are nerve-wracking.

Still, we were navigating this place without serious incident, at least so far.  Maybe it wasn't as dangerous as it seemed.

After living there for a while, though, we began hearing of stories from other cyclists.  Most people had at least been chased by a pit bull while biking.  One of our friends had been bitten on her shoe, and another fellow was tackled completely off his bike.

Our mail carrier, clearly a nervous wreck of a man after years of service in this environment, was armed to the teeth with anti-dog equipment.  Sprays of various kinds (including official-issue from the Post Office), clubs, prods, and pipes.  And did he have stories to tell?  Dogs on top of him, pinning him to the ground, while he emptied entire cans of pepper spray in their faces to no effect.

And you'd rarely see people out for a walk, but occasionally, an older gentleman would stroll by.  These guys would invariably be carrying a golf club with them on their walks.  After asking around, we learned that this was to fend off dogs.  Hmm...

Okay, but these were all just scary stories, right?  Just other people's collective fears getting to us.  Dog fatalities are exceedingly rare (something like 30 a year in the US), and while the majority of deaths are at the jaws of pit bulls, most of the people killed are the owners of those dogs (a nice parallel with gun fatalities there).

Still, the local wisdom was, if you're going to bike in Cruces, you're an idiot if you don't carry spray.  So, we went down to our neighborhood self-defense store (yes, this is New Mexico) and bought ourselves a can of Saber.


Months went by, and we'd see loose dogs, but nothing would happen.  So our can of Saber started sliding from our minds.  First into a coat pocket, then into a bag, then left at home most days.  Of course, only until the day came where we wished we had it out and ready.

We had seen and heard these two dogs before, many times.  Every Saturday morning, we'd bike to the Farmers' Market together as a family, with Mez (7) on the back of my tandem and Ayza (2) in the baby seat on Lauren's recumbent trike.  This trip would take us up Espina Street, a well-traveled through-street for cars.  We'd pass a house with two huge, muscular boxers blocked in on their front porch.  They kinda looked like this, but with more ear tissue cut off:


These two dogs would always bark to beat the devil at the sight of us, and they were pretty scary, but they were behind two fences (the porch fence and the yard fence), so they weren't exactly on the verge of escaping.  It's funny that, given how they were pretty much always out there, the Google street view car managed to snap a picture of one:


One Saturday in May 2010, when Lauren was four months pregnant with Novy, the morning was unseasonably chilly, so we were slightly bundled up as we made our usual trip.  As we biked up Espina, we saw a guy on the sidewalk ahead walking two dogs---guess which two dogs?  We had never seen them off that porch before, but here they were.  As we got closer, the dogs were jumping around him frantically and barking, trying to get away from him.

(Wow... three years later, my heart is pounding and my hands are shaking as I type this.)

Just as we passed by, one of them slipped off the leash and ran out into the busy street toward Lauren, coming face-to-face with her and tiny Ayza (on her recumbent trike, Lauren's shoulders are only three feet above the ground).  After a brief encounter with them, the dog turned and ran at me and Mez.  As it came toward me, it's face had a blank expression, and the cut-off ears made it even harder to read.  Feeling totally helpless, perched on my bike in my shorts, I stuck a sandaled foot out to deflect its head away as it came near.  At that point, it ran back to it's owner on the sidewalk.  I just sat there for a moment in shock.

Then Lauren turned toward the owner and screamed, "YOUR DOG JUST BIT ME!"  Her voice was strained and panicked.

And then irrational adrenaline kicked in and shook me out of my stupor.  Mez was strapped to the back of my bike, and I was keeping him upright from my seat in the front (a rather committed, helpless position for me), but the owner was still struggling with his dogs on the sidewalk.  I laid the bike down in the middle of the street with Mez still strapped in place and put myself between the dogs and my family. 

The owner was still trying to grab both of them as they leaped around him.  As I came closer, I saw that he didn't have leashes at all.  Each of these formidable dogs had a thin loop of blue, frayed twine around its neck, and the owner was struggling to put the twine back on the dog that had escaped.  Not rope.  Not clothesline.  Twine.  What you might use for lashing a bundle of newspapers together.


I shouted over to Lauren, "Where's your spray?  Give it to me!"  She didn't have the spray with her.  At that point, the owner pleaded, "Oh no, sir, there's no need for that."  I'm not sure if he thought I was going to spray the dogs at his feet, or spray him, or what.

A woman was hanging out with her two small children in her driveway nearby, having a yard sale.  I shouted over to her, asking her to call the police.  "He just lives right over there, we don't need to call the police."  I asked a few more times, but she was still trying to talk me out of it.  At this point, more people had started to gather at the scene.  A young man stopped to direct traffic around Mez, who was still stranded in the street.  An old man on a Jazzy Scooter pulled up and offered us his cell phone.  I used it to call the police.

We were pretty close to the center of town, so the response was quick and ridiculously overblown.  Fire trucks arrived first (yes, the full hook and ladder), then some EMT vehicles, and finally animal control.  The owner seemed to have more of a handle on the dogs and was starting to lead them away toward home, so I went over to Lauren with the EMT people.  The dog had bitten her on the upper arm, but fortunately, her thick, padded coat had absorbed most of the impact.  Her skin was bleeding slightly, and she had a huge red welt, but that was all.  The EMTs were trying to take her to the hospital anyway, especially after she told them she was pregnant, but she explained that we were uninsured, and she refused to go.  They examined her wound closely, and determined that no dog saliva had contacted her blood.  At some point, she looked up at me and asked, "Is Mez still in the middle of the street?"  Oh gosh!  I ran over, unhooked him, and helped him up.

After that, Lauren and I were interviewed by the animal control officer.  It turned out that, because no saliva met blood, the dog wouldn't be taken in (they are quarantined for 7 days of observation only if they could potentially infect someone with rabies).  The officer was going to issue the owner a ticket for having the dog off-leash. 

What?!  Yes, the officer explained, there's no law against dogs biting people.  I had a long discussion with him about this point.  What if a dog severely mauled someone?  Well, only if they mauled people several times would they be labeled by a judge as "vicious," at which point the owner would be required to keep them in an approved fence and walk them with a muzzle.

I could not believe what I was hearing.  If the human owner had bitten Lauren, he'd be arrested, tried, and likely put in jail for assault.

After we headed home, we had additional contact with Animal Control by phone.  It turns out that the guy walking the dogs was the owner's brother, and he had very little experience with these dogs, because he had never walked them before, so he didn't know how to control them.

Later that day, Lauren was telling our family about what had happened by phone, when I looked out the window and saw Ziggie, the neighbor boxer, in our yard again.  Lauren had just been bitten by a boxer, and this was too much.  I crept out the side door with the spray and tried to corner Ziggie before she could make it back over the wall.  I was way too slow, but tried to spray anyway as I ran after her.  Ziggie made it back over the wall unscathed, but running while spraying is a bad idea, and I found myself running right into a huge cloud of brown mist.  I had a split second to think, "Oh no!" before my eyes slammed shut in pain.

I crawled my way back into the house, totally blind and whimpering.  "Lauren, help me!"  She told our family that she'd have to call them back, came out to see what had happened, and found me writhing in a pathetic heap on the kitchen floor.

But this was not the only time the spray backfired.  Another time, a particularly aggressive dog was sticking its head over the top of it's wall (which was alarmingly taller than my head, putting the dog's snapping jaws above me).  After having this dog scare the crap out of us on multiple occasions, I'd had enough, so I decided to test out the spray a second time.  The dog didn't seem to mind, but the slightest breeze blew the stuff right back at us, this time blinding both me and 7-year-old Mez.

These ridiculous anecdotes highlight two important points about self defense weapons.  First, there's the strong possibility of blow-back (or, shooting yourself by accident).  Second, having the weapon at the ready increases the chances of you using it when you're simply "fed up," even though it's not justified.  Neither of these attempted dog sprayings were true, immediate self defense.  At best, they were marginally preemptive.

These anecdotes also made us aware of one more, very important point:  pepper spray sucks when you're in motion or it's windy.  Maybe, as the package shows, it works wonders in nighttime parking garages.  But on a bike?  Even if it doesn't blind you into crashing, it's likely to be totally off-target.  And even if you score a direct hit, the dogs don't seem to mind it.  Humans are left sobbing in the fetal position, but dogs just snort a few times before going about their business.

But here we are, biking in a place where dogs are loose all the time, and now the threat is not just hypothetical, because Lauren has just been bitten, and it obviously could have been much worse (why it bit her instead of tiny Ayza, we'll never know).  And Lauren was often going out with the kids alone, taking them here and there by bike and on foot.  After she was bitten, she was even more afraid of all the dogs she had to pass every day.  And now we realized that the weapon she had been carrying was probably not going to help.

Furthermore, the prevalence of pit bulls adds to the concern.  You can say that it's just paranoid media hype, but if you crack open any pet-store book about the breed, you'll find a discussion of the necessity of "break sticks" for pit bull owners:


So, what's a break stick?  It's a pry bar that the owner must carry at all times to get the dog to let go if it bites another dog or person.  A pit bull's jaw can apparently be difficult to open without one.  So far, we'd only been attacked by a boxer, thank goodness.

Back to the neighborhood self-defense store, this time for one of those extendable police batons for Lauren.  Maybe bonking one of these dogs on the head would dissuade it from attacking.  The baton opens via centrifugal force and gravity if you swing it downward with a violent flick of the wrist.  Lauren had some trouble getting the baton to extend fully, because it was pretty heavy.  We even had a practice set-up, where she'd sit down in her bike, and I'd kick a cardboard box toward her in place of an attacking dog, and she'd whack it.  When she was sitting down low, opening the baton was even harder for her, because she didn't have room to swing it downward with the help of gravity.

Regardless, she thought that she might not be able to club a dog in the heat of the moment, and that it might just make the dog mad.  Also, the dog had to get uncomfortably close before it was in reach of the baton.  Still, it seemed better than nothing, so we built a makeshift holster for the baton on her bike.

But what else could we use to defend ourselves?  What about a gun?  When in Rome, right?  So, I headed over to our local gun shop:


The guys running the store, of course, had huge revolvers strapped to their belts.  I asked for their advice about attacking dogs.  One of the customers in the store was a retired cop who'd had his share of run-ins with dealers' guard dogs while on duty, and he warned that very few low-caliber handgun bullets would stop a determined pit bull.  There was also the concern about being on a bike in a public street and being unable to aim very well.  And what about a ricochet off the concrete and into a neighboring house?  One guy suggested "rat shot," which is like a mini shotgun shell filled with tiny pellets  that fits in a handgun.  It's non-lethal to larger animals, it's harmless from more than a few feet away, and it spreads out as it shoots.

I had never spent time in a gun shop before, nor had I checked out prices.  Guns are reassuringly expensive, even the used ones.  Like, $400 for a tiny one---you don't just buy one of these on a whim.  If you're trying to get your hands on a "Make My Day" type gun, you're looking at $1000 or more.

I held a small, .38 Special Ruger revolver in my hand and dry-fired it.  This was the first time I had ever touched a handgun.  Heavy, with a solid, determined clunk at each pull of the trigger.  Alarmingly, 7-year-old Mez grabbed the gun out of my hand and dry fired it too.  He argued with me when I tried to get it back from him.  Did I mention that I had Ayza asleep on my back in the sling?  Yeah, we were probably an unusual sight for this particular gun shop.


When you hold a handgun, there is a frightening feeling of power.  Power to end someone's life, with all that entails, in a split second.  Power to end your own life in a split second.

I left the gun shop without buying anything, and Lauren ended up talking me out of this idea.  Did I really want to live my public life with a gun at my side?  How would I keep it away from the kids while I was out?  Where would I store it while I was browsing the library----in my bike trailer?  What if I tried to shoot an attacking dog, but hit a bystander instead?  Thinking back to the time Lauren was bitten, there was a woman with her kids standing right off to the side, right in the potential line of self-defense fire. 

So, with just the baton and the spray, we kept on walking and biking, trying to steel our nerves against the various dogs that would stalk us as we passed.  Lauren had a painful bruise on her arm that healed with time.  The two boxers on Espina Street seemed to go away for a while.

Then one day, again on our way to the Farmers' Market, we were passing that same house on Espina.  The boxers were there this time, but they weren't on the porch like they used to be---now they were running freely behind the short fence in the front yard.  As we passed, they barked and chased us intently.  As Lauren neared the far edge of the yard, one of the dogs started squeezing underneath the edge of the fence, getting to the point where his head, front legs, and front half of his body were fully out, on the sidewalk, just a few feet away from Lauren.  I saw Lauren ahead of me frantically try to extend her baton, but she couldn't swing with enough force to open it.  I screamed at the dog with my deepest, loudest voice, and at that it squeezed back under the fence into the yard.

At this point, I was determined to have a word with the owner.  Lauren pedaled ahead and waited with the kids, while I got off my bike and headed back to the house.  The dogs leaped  and howled at my presence.  Of course, the front door was inside the fence with them, so I pounded on the mailbox and shouted for the owner to come out.  I stood there for several minutes before he finally heard me and appeared.

I told him that his dog had almost gotten out, and he seemed unphased by this news.  I explained that his dog had bitten my spouse a month ago. 

"My dog didn't bite your wife.  He just scared her," he said. 

"But the EMTs came and everything.  She had a big welt on her arm," I insisted. 

"Nah, he didn't bite her.  If he had bitten her, you'd know it, bud.  There'd be nothing left of her." 

At that point, he told me to get the fuck off his property, even though I was standing in the public street, and I walked away, telling him that I was calling animal control.

"You do that bud, you do that," he said as he went back inside.

From a pay phone across the street, we called animal control.  Then we waited.  We called again and waited some more.  The owner came out, tucked the bottom of the fence back into the edge of the grass, and then drove away.  We called again and waited more.  After about 90 minutes, animal control pulled up.  The dogs were on the porch this time, and the officer nervously examined the fence as they lunged at him.  To his view, the tucked-in fence looked sufficient, and my report of a dog half-way out did not change his opinion.  The dog wasn't all the way out, so it wasn't off leash.  Later, the officer called us and reported that the dogs are usually kept on the porch, but that the latch was left open this time by accident, which let them get into the yard, and that the owner's friend had recently been mowing and had left the bottom of the fence untucked by accident.

This was the last time Lauren rode a bike in Las Cruces.  She reverted to taking the bus everywhere instead.  Our family trips to the market came to an end, though I still braved the streets on a bike with the kids whenever I went out with them.  This worked out okay for a while.  Lots of loose dogs sighted, no dog attacks.

Then, in December of 2010, two months after Novy was born, we had our final encounter.  We were at the park watching the sunset, having a lovely time.  As dusk stared to settle, we crossed the park to head home.  Novy was asleep in the sling, and in the chilly night air, I had him zipped up under my hoodie.  Ayza, almost three, was in a stroller, and Mez, now six, was holding my hand.


A guy was playing catch with his dog, one of these aforementioned impressive pit bulls---gigantic head, rippling muscles, the whole package.  As we came closer along the footpath, he threw the ball again, and the dog caught it again, but instead of running back to him, it dropped the ball and started running toward us.  "Oh.... god," Lauren muttered.  I saw this happening and took out the spray.  As the dog came closer, the owner started chasing it, and he jumped on its back to stop it when it was less than ten feet away from us.

At that point, I made my big mistake.  I said, "Keep that dog on a leash.  I've got my spray."

The owner went ballistic.  I didn't know his dog, and his dog would never hurt anyone, and how dare I even think about spraying his dog.  His spouse, who was pushing their toddler on the swing nearby, got into yelling at me too.  At this point, he was so flustered that he let go of the dog, and it ran off.  "It's illegal to have dogs off leash in the park,"  I told him.  He's a member of three kennel clubs, don't tell him what the law is, and so on.  The whole time, he's screaming.  Periodically, he looks like he's about to punch me.  Other times, he reaches into the back waistband of his pants, but then calms himself down and reconsiders.  (Reaching for what, we wondered afterward.  Imagine me being punched in the chest with a sleeping infant under my hoodie, we realized afterward.)

I tried to explain that I carried spray because my spouse had been bitten by a loose dog earlier that year.  "I don't care if she was bitten!  I don't care if she was raped!"

At that point, Lauren started tugging at me to get out of there, but I was still trying to explain, trying to get the guy to understand our position.  She ended up walking away with the other two kids without me, all the way out of the park, before I caught up.  As I walked away from the guy, I told him that I was calling animal control.  "You go ahead and do that.  I'm a member of three kennel clubs," and so on. 

But as we stood there at the edge of the park, losing sight of the owner in the twilight, we realized how futile calling animal control would be.

When we got home that night, we reflected over all the close calls from the past year, and we decided to leave Las Cruces.  Not prove that we were right.  Not stand our ground.  Just turn tail and run away.  Yeah, you can't run away from an attacking dog, but cities are much slower than dogs.

And dogs are what brought self defense into focus for me.  Yes, there was other stuff that happened around us in Cruces, from drive-bys, to burglaries, to police raids, and those things were scary, but the only things that ever happened to us directly involved dogs.

Yes, dogs are living creatures with feelings and rights, quite a bit like humans, but when attacking, they are way faster than humans and much less amenable to discussion and reasoning.  They are explicitly after your body, not your stuff, so the strategy of "just give them your stuff and run away" doesn't work.  In fact, running away is the worst thing you can do.  Furthermore, if a dog has been bred or trained as a weapon by a human, both you and the dog are the victim of this practice.  But still, there it is:  a living, breathing weapon coming at you.

What is the passive, loving, Gandhi approach here?  Maybe curl up in a ball and protect your jugular?

Okay, fine.  But having small children with you during a dog attack makes the self defense question uniquely pressing.  You are responsible for the safety of these other, small, helpless people.  These people who have jugulars right at dog level.

"Self defense" sounds like a selfish justification for hurting someone else to prevent yourself from some perceived, potential hurt.  But when you're dealing with small children, there's nothing selfish about it, and it becomes much harder to "wait and see" whether the threat is perceived or real.

What used to be simply a juicy, philosophical discussion for me was now a question in need of an immediate answer.  What did I believe about self defense?  Was I really a pacifist? 

In the end, I decided that, though I believe strongly in non-aggression (as in, I'm never going to attack you, no matter what), I believe that I'm doing no wrong by defending myself.  Furthermore, if force is helpful in preventing what seems to be a likely attack (like, your dog is charging at me growling), that force is warranted, and I'm doing no wrong by using it.

In other words, I don't have to wait until your charging dog is tearing up my child's face before I bonk it.  The charging and growling part is sufficient.

Even so, I'd rather not have to face this question on a regular basis.  I joked before about the Gandhi-esque response to a dog attack, but Gandhi would probably offer far more effective advice:  "The world is vast, and surely these dogs are not everywhere upon it.  Go to a place where these dogs are not."

Advice taken.


#2 2013-08-06 13:10:46

bey bey
Registered: 2013-04-20
Posts: 386

Re: On Self Defense

Wow man.

Being German and not believing in guns-for-all, I have had some close encounters with dogs (though NOTHING of your kind except for one narrow escape on a farm abroad), and those were the only cases that made me seriously consider a defensive weapon, especially when imagining I might have children with me. Then again, in the community you describe, I guess shooting a dog might get you shot by the owner. Crazy places...

I, too, would consider myself a pacifist, in that I think war and fighting are pointless , and in that I believe there is no such thing as a "military success" etcetera. Yet I have reached a position where I'd say that all kinds of aggression for motives of power etc. is wrong, but this conviction itself entails having to defend against just this kind of aggression. This may mean standing one's ground when inevitable, it may even extend to the defence of nations.

It is somewhat bleak since it's kind of a nuclear-stalemate-is-a-good-thing world-view, but at least in personal life it seems like that if all people are meek, the dicks take over. And considering Chamberlain vs. our not-so-recent national history this might be true even in global politics.

But on a general note: some people are being silly and lots of video games get pointless criticism. My favourite story is that if I'm not mistaken, AOE II was meant to include dolphins that could be fished but they were taken out after Alpha because people might object to dolphin fishing. This from a game where the first strategic move is to kill the other player's villagers, men and women, just to destroy his economy. In that sense, I hope you can keep your head above the clouds of silly that abound on the internet and elsewhere.

In fact you can be batman.
(if he robbed houses and murdered families.)
- Dalleck


#3 2013-08-06 15:46:11

Registered: 2013-05-31
Posts: 540

Re: On Self Defense

Hmm, a very personal and scary article. I'm glad you went into detail on the attack. The less detailed interviews you've given made it easier to assume you were blowing things out of proportion or being paranoid. But no! There was actually an attack, with blood, lots of loose dogs, nonexistent laws, and apathetic owners. This is serious stuff. Some critics might have valid complaints with TCD, but the caricatures of Jason as conservative, racist gun-nut are looking increasingly ridiculous.

I had never heard of the break stick. That's unreal, but it's a thing apparently. Even on Pit Bull Rescue Central one is told that responsible pitbull owners keep break sticks. What I find laughable is the rationalizations.

Remember: pit bulls do not have a special mechanism or enzyme that allows them to "lock” their jaw, nor do they possess a higher than average “bite pressure.” They simply have the determination of a terrier.... As terriers, pit bulls will usually bite and hold. Contrary to popular myth, this is not some kind of special pit bull behavior; it is merely terrier behavior.

No need to worry. It's not like they have special powers; they're actually just from a particularly aggressive line that doesn't like letting go. Doesn't that make you feel better?

The worst part is the aggressive owners. The one guy boasting about what a real bite from his dog would look like and the other dude saying "I don't care if she was raped!" Jesus.

Thank you for mentioning that you are a dog lover. That goes a long way in dispelling some bad assumptions out there. My wife and I own two 100lb mutts and we used to frequent dog parks a lot (these have perfectly decent fences). I always hated going because "fights" would often break out among nervous or aggressive dogs. Even if it wasn't serious and it usually wasn't, you had to worry about getting in fist fights with the owners. One time, a man walked into the dog park while on his cellphone (bad behavior already; difficult to watch/control your dog while on a phone). Within 5 minutes, he threatened to "kick the shit" out of my dog because she was trying to play with his dog. Immediately after that, he informed us that he was a cop and then threatened to shoot our dog.

So yea, we've been on the other side of the equation and it's not always pretty there either.

Golden Krone Hotel - a vampire roguelike


#4 2013-08-06 22:14:27

Registered: 2013-08-06
Posts: 1

Re: On Self Defense

Let's swap dog stories!  I think one's position on self-defense will change a good deal when one has actually been attacked somehow.

In my case, I've spent years defending my unneutered 65 lb. nice lab mix dog from more aggressive dogs at dog parks.  We've had a few scrapes, none of them resulted in anything serious, and the culprits were not the monster dogs you'd think.  Actual attack pattern in that venue seems to be some dog that has a pathological fear of other dogs, maybe has been attacked before (?), sees my dog and attacks it pre-emptively before we even knew what was happening.  Anyways we've handled those, and the worst is getting into it with owners, not the dog problems themselves.  I can usually settle the dogs, although I do have to be vigilant and it makes a dog park more like work.  I haven't started carrying pepper spray or a gun because of anything that's ever happened in a dog park.

However, one time, in a place that wasn't a dog park, my dog was attacked by a really large off-leash pit bull.  I'm not going to get into details about it, because I don't ever want to encounter those people again.  The pit seized my dog's neck and from my perspective at the time, I very well thought the pit could be ripping my dog's neck open and killing him.  One guy did wrestlemania on the pit from behind, restricting his movements.  I stuck my fingers into the side of the pit's jaw, trying to relieve pressure.  I don't know if it did any good.  A third person punched the dog in the balls and that finally got it to let go.  Thankfully, the pit had only caught fur and collar, my dog only had little scrapes.  We got the hell outta there, as fast as we could as soon as I noticed that my dog did not appear to be bleeding.

Regarding self-defense: I have an Israeli-type attitude about this.  "Never Again."  Seeing that my family member / best friend could definitely have died, it steels my heart against any compassion or hesitancy I might otherwise feel on the subject.  That and the attack happened so fast, before I could do any of the usual dog park intervention preliminaries.  This dog was a killer, a whole order of magnitude worse than anything I'd encountered or dealt with before.

I will never, ever be unarmed in the kind of place that I was when this attack happened.  Fortunately, I'm not in such places very often.  I've also realized that rural residential neighborhoods are often loaded with "weaponized" pit bulls.  I don't go into such areas without a good reason now.  Not to explore, not to check things out, not to take a nice walk.  I totally understand you fleeing that city.  I've said to myself, if I ever found myself living somewhere where I felt I *needed* to be armed 24/7, I should seriously consider why I'm doing that and GTFO.  Even if it takes a lot of money to do it, or abandoning personal property.  Life is more important than things.

I'm a martial artist and a strong supporter of the Second Amendment.  That said I do not own a gun, and I haven't even been driven to carry pepper spray yet.  This is mainly becuse I feel I have other options, lethal if need be.  I was not happy for many months after the incident though, and it's taken me awhile to de-stress and calm down about how I'd really handle things in the future.  I mastered avoidance a long time ago, it's the best tool in my toolbox, and rationally I have to convince myself that the situation that happened, is just not going to happen again.  I can control where I am and when I'm armed, and that's just not "general life" for me.  In general life, I do have plans and contingencies, but I've made it many years without being in any problem areas where weaponized pit bulls are freely roaming the streets.

I'd like to add a racist note to the end of this.  It is my anecodotal experience that disproportionate numbers of black children in the USA are deadly afraid of dogs.  Not all by a long shot.  Some like dogs just fine.  But if I'm going to hazard a guess as to which children are afraid of dogs, without even looking at them, I'm going to say they're black.  They might be from India, a rare few might be Hispanic, but they're almost never white and if they're scared to death, they're usually black.  Sometimes I get these ridiculous reactions even from pre-teens or teenagers when walking down the street, scared to death and jumping out of the way of my 65 lb. rather nice on-a-leash lab mix dog.  I ran this racist observation past a friend of mine from NYC who did lots of work with disadvantaged youth back in the day.  It didn't surprise him a bit and he said it's the legacy of people growing up in neighborhoods where dogs are viewed as weapons.  Hence why I use the phrase "weaponized" above, as I've met plenty of smaller pits that are just fine.

Sorry Las Cruces sucked.  You did well to leave.  The mildly PTSD-like symptoms will diminish over time.

As for some other themes in your article, like guns being powerful, being afraid of having that power or using it... well I understand, and I can empathize, but enough martial training for long enough will turn those things into tools rather than talismans.  It can take awhile though, and deciding what your Rules of Engagemet are, is part of the martial arts learning curve / growth.  I used to feel funny about knives, and now they're just things I cut my mangoes and cheese with.  I still haven't learned the gun, it's a frontier for me.  I will do it within the next 2 years, because I know I have to have the skill *before* I need to use it.  But I'm not being driven there out of any immediate need, or fear.  By the time I get there, I think all those weird feelings about "OMFG there's all these horrible things I could do with a gun!" will go away.  Just like, every once in awhile I think anyone (including me) could just end their life, right now, by turning the wheel of their car violently while driving down the Interstate.  So why not do it?  Well, I think because it would suck, and serve no purpose other than satisfying a fleeting, crazy impulse.  I'm not that impulsive a guy and I do have a healthy self-preservation instinct.  I tell myself that farmers use guns for things like shooting vermin, that it's a tool and I don't do stupid things with a power saw when I use one.


#5 2013-08-07 05:35:17

Registered: 2013-05-31
Posts: 540

Re: On Self Defense

Just like, every once in awhile I think anyone (including me) could just end their life, right now, by turning the wheel of their car violently while driving down the Interstate.


Golden Krone Hotel - a vampire roguelike


#6 2013-08-09 05:38:01

Registered: 2013-07-02
Posts: 8

Re: On Self Defense

Thank you Jason for sharing this thrilling story.

I want to share one quick point of view from my side, in France: we have a pretty recent (1999) law for "dangerous" dogs which implies you need a permit to own such a dog (it includes pitbull but many others). It constraints the owner to avoid most public spaces, or keep a muzzle and a leash if going there. The city mayor or our equivalent your sheriff may be requested to use euthanasia if constraints are proved to be unrespected.

Additional statistics:  in France since 30 years, 42 killeds by dogs. Compared to overall population, I calculated the chance of being a victim of a fatal attack is four times lower compared to USA.  And our local winning serial killer is, by far, the german shepherd.

I personnaly own a cat. Much less trouble...


#7 2013-08-09 14:13:09

Registered: 2013-04-01
Posts: 1,235

Re: On Self Defense

Well, I own a few different knives (pocket knives and one sheathed knife), and I see what you mean about these being just tools like a power saw.

However, I think it comes down to "How easy is it to make a mistake with the tool" and "What's the worst possible outcome of a simple mistake with the tool"?

Dynamite is a tool also, but I'd be nervous if I was working with it.  My great uncle was killed in a nitroglycerin accident back in the day.... you know, one slip and you're dead.

So, with a gun, you are one little finger press away from ending a life.  I can't say that about a knife or a power saw.  You could kill someone with it, but you'd really have to make a determined try at it.  A cocked gun (semi auto or revolver) is even worse.

I agree... a car is probably pretty close to a gun in this department (one flick of the wrist on the highway and you're on your way to ending the lives of 4 friends and four strangers, or maybe more).  And in fact, cars kill something like 5x more people each year in the US than guns.... one of the leading child killers, too.  We should probably all be wearing helmets while driving, at least if you want consistency with our national obsession with bike helmets.


#8 2013-08-09 15:27:41

bey bey
Registered: 2013-04-20
Posts: 386

Re: On Self Defense

I'm just realising that the whole difference in perspective between Germany and the US might be deeply philosophical.

For me, what makes guns special (and incomparable to cars) is that they are meant and designed to kill. That is their prime function, while cars, knives in general etc. have other prime functions that are non-harmful by design (transportation, cooking etc.) and to me that makes all the difference.

This way of thinking fits neatly with Kantian / enlightenment ethics of intention. This is still probably the most important general undercurrent in the thinking of most people I know. Of course, the Anglophone sphere has had very different philosophical forefathers, past and more recent. The difference between ethics of intention and pragmatism or utilitarianism would neatly explain the difference in views on guns.

I don't expect that's interesting to anybody here, but it was a small realisation for me, so here we go. smile

In fact you can be batman.
(if he robbed houses and murdered families.)
- Dalleck


#9 2013-08-09 22:43:40

From: england
Registered: 2013-05-27
Posts: 381

Re: On Self Defense

firearms were definitely created with the sole purpose of hurting people back in china, and almost all evolutions of firearms has had hurting people in mind to this very day (obviously there are sport firearms not intended to hurt anyone and created with perfect balance for hitting a tiny black dot, and stuff like those cool 12-guage tazer cartridges so you can shotgun someone with lightning from a safe distance. although i'm not sure how safe tazering someone inaccurately from long range is, since even at close range it has led to plenty of deaths. oh, this is another discussion entirely)

knives were created as tools, but have definitely evolved some strains of pure weapon. there is a mall in federal wall, washington (and many other parts of the world, i'm sure) that just sells blades. swords, knives, other strange blades that aren't quite a sword or a knife. but some of the knives!


[last time i checked] in the uk you are not allowed to carry a knife in public. which makes sense to me, but considering how many people are stabbed every day these kind of rules don't really do anything as you cannot enforce them.
heck, handguns have been (almost) completely outlawed in the uk since 1997. yesterday two people were found with gunshot wounds and a handgun was recovered near them. one of them died, nobody else is thought to be involved, they knew each other. banning things doesn't really work.

i think the american 'right to bear arms' is a completely hilarious and obviously out-dated sentiment, i mean, is a band of [understandably] upset native americans likely to ransack your stables and steal your barrels of ale any time soon? do you still have a watch tower on the hill keeping look-out for a fleet of invading british vessels? i really, really, really think a lot of pro-firearm people who quote a two-hundred year old law are strange. however, a lot of these people are the same ones who will illegally push through anti-abortion laws 'in the interest of the public who have been very vocal on the issue' a week after the vote was interrupted by the public in the gallery yelling and making so much noise that the vote could not be conducted in time.. so, i don't know what is going on in some peoples heads.

i love firearms. shooting them is fun, they are almost always amazing from an engineering view. i was a member of a rifle club but sadly i haven't been in a while and i miss the social part of that, as well as getting to lay on the floor concentrating on my breathing and clearing my mind to shoot at a dot. better than any other meditation i've tried.
but i was really surprised to find out that every single firearm-owner in america is not even registered. and what is the point of a concealed carry licence? good god! do you really need your gun to pick up a new tv at walmart? indeed, anyone owning a firearm for self-defence is a very misguided person and will more than likely end up injured by the thing they thought would defend them. i mean, quite simply, if you are unfortunate enough to encounter the situation you have bought this firearm to defend yourself from, who is this mystery gun-toting maniac likely to shoot first? the person trying to defend them self with a firearm or the person who is running away screaming? who is self-defending against who in this duel?

ahh. firearms are totally cool when you're not using them for the ancient 'intended' purpose, but every single person who has such a piece of sporting equipment definitely needs to have some thorough background checks and be placed onto a register. self-defence should most definitely not be an option when filling in the firearm owners application form, and anyone who even tries to mention that should probably be put onto another list, 'do not ever give a firearm to this person'

i just woke up and this probably doesn't make much sense


#10 2013-08-11 09:20:34

Registered: 2013-07-07
Posts: 5

Re: On Self Defense

largestherb wrote:

ahh. firearms are totally cool when you're not using them for the ancient 'intended' purpose, but every single person who has such a piece of sporting equipment definitely needs to have some thorough background checks and be placed onto a register. self-defence should most definitely not be an option when filling in the firearm owners application form, and anyone who even tries to mention that should probably be put onto another list, 'do not ever give a firearm to this person'

I have to disagree. Now, I'm a pretty spiritual pacifist type person and I'll probably never buy a gun, or even a weapon besides a wooden plank. I'm still of the opinion guns should be legal for self-defence, while requiring proper background checks and registration.

There's several examples of crimes that could have been stopped by guns. e.g. all those school mass murders. What if the staff had access to a high powered rifle? I'm fairly sure AR-15s are legal in some states in the US. If those schools had one or even several of those, and some of the staff had training, maybe those massacres could have been avoided. What about the Aurora shootings guy? Maybe if some of the people in there had pistols, there could have been less deaths. He wasn't even wearing a bullet proof vest.

Other situations include things like assault or home invasion. If you have a gun, the attackers are much more likely to back off. Even if there's 10 people, they aren't going to be stupid enough to attack you if you pull a pistol on them. They don't want to die.

Other problems include things like the fact that gun bans don't stop criminals getting guns anyway. And then you end up with the situation where all the criminals have the guns and none of the civil people do, so the civil people can't defend themselves.

You also have the problem of a tyrant government, which from what I've seen may very well be happening in America right now. Some really sketchy laws have been passed there.

Now, I'm all for less guns and less violence. It's just that banning guns doesn't solve the problem. The only way to solve it is to teach people there's a better way, that guns and violence aren't necessary. Until then I'd rather have civil people having access to the means to defend themselves from criminals and well if you ban guns, they just don't have any options.


#11 2013-08-18 17:39:34

Registered: 2013-04-06
Posts: 59

Re: On Self Defense

This is an amazing story.  I've never thought about dogs as an actual threat, but after reading this, I can feel how incredibly oppressive living with the fear that a juiced up pitbull could attack your family.  Terrifying.

Definitely provides an interesting lens to view Castle Doctrine.

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#12 2013-08-19 08:11:59

Registered: 2013-04-01
Posts: 1,235

Re: On Self Defense

Yes, in many ways, The Castle Doctrine is my love letter to a place that I used to live.  I'll never forget you, Las Cruces!


#13 2013-08-20 12:05:07

Registered: 2013-07-07
Posts: 16

Re: On Self Defense

what makes guns special (and incomparable to cars) is that they are meant and designed to kill.

It's not so clear cut. If I were a gun manufacturer i'd protest that my product's prime purpose is not to kill, but to dissuade attackers--that's the use I have in mind. Of course the ability of my product to act as a deterrent depends on its ability to cause serious bodily damage, but that damage is not what it's _for_, that's not it's primary purpose.

I see no way to refute this hypothetical gunsmith. His claim that 'guns are meant to deter attackers' is as plausible as your claim that 'guns are meant to kill'.

To claim that any object is 'for' a single thing is imo to commit the teleological fallacy. There's no such thing as purpose in the sense intended here--there are simply things that people happen to do with objects, and ways that people think about those objects. So I think this is a very shaky foundation from which to argue that guns belong to an entirely separate category of object to cars.

Last edited by bitbutter (2013-08-20 12:06:01)


#14 2013-08-21 01:50:13

Registered: 2013-07-07
Posts: 16

Re: On Self Defense

largestherb wrote:

i think the american 'right to bear arms' is a completely hilarious and obviously out-dated sentiment

The question isn't 'why should people have guns?', the relevant question is: does it strike you as morally acceptable to use threats of force against peaceful people to take their things? For me the answer is clearly no.

Consider also that the statistical data on gun ownership gives no clear picture of its correlation to homicide. For instance, taken globally, gun ownership rates have a weak _negative_ correlation with homicide. Consider the possibility that on net, the disincentive for attackers that armed targets present is more significant than the negative effects of having more civilian gun ownership--in terms of the total number of homicides. See my post on gun control agnosticism for more.

To echo what liq3 said: 'when seconds count, the police are only minutes away'. And even if police are close by when you're attacked, they have no legal duty to protect you as an individual, whether you're being raped or murdered. Bear in mind too that if 'unrest' gets bad enough, the police will withdraw from your neighbourhood completely. Consider the Korean business owners who successfully protected their shops with firearms from their rooftops during the LA riots when the police decided to stay away.

Bear in mind also that the state is by far the biggest killer of its citizens in the 20th century (dwarfing private murder rates). And that democide of an armed population is much harder than exterminating an unarmed one.

None of this strikes me as 'hilarious'.


#15 2013-11-18 14:03:00

Registered: 2013-11-18
Posts: 1

Re: On Self Defense

Here is my advice to you on owning a gun: do not carry a gun unless you are absolutely sure you are mentally prepared to use it.  I have lots more advice below, but I think that's by far the most important.

If you buy a gun, you need to develop a plan around the gun.  Your plan should include a plan for both training and also a plan for securing of the gun itself.  A great first step would be to take the NRA pistol course.  It covers many aspects such as: mentally preparing yourself to use deadly force, what you can expect to experience after using deadly force, secure storage, proper handling, proper stance, etc, etc. The course will also cover all applicable federal and state laws.  You want to make certain that you are always in compliance with the law.  It's a very technical course, and I definitely learned more then I anticipated from the course.  When I signed up for the course, I never thought it would cover so much of the psychology of carrying a gun, and the impact that it has on a person after a gun is used to defend.

I was very glad to read that you were already thinking about secure storage.  You need to have secure storage for two reasons: so that your kids can not get a hold of it, and also so that an intruder can not steal it.  You should go to a shooting range periodically and practice.  It's not just target practice.  But practice so that you know what to expect when the gun goes "bang".  How much force to pull the trigger, how much recoil will you feel, how loud it is, etc, etc.  You also need to practice targeting the gun.  You need to continually practice lining the sights up.  Lining the sights up is very difficult in the beginning.  I can't imagine trying to get them lined up without any practice at all.  You will be far too stressed to line up the sights correctly, which means your bullets are not going where you want them to go.  Only through constant repetitiveness of bringing the sights to target, will your reflexes be able to do it automatically when stressed out under threat of attack.

You will need to talk to the rest of your family about owning a gun.  Going to a shooting range and teaching your kids gun safety is a great father - son and father - daughter activity.  You and your wife will need to decide together, who in your family is qualified to carry a gun.  Once at the appropriate age, all members of your family should take the NRA course.  I won't suggest an appropriate age, as that's between you and your family.  Proper training and understanding about the gun, it's purpose, the acceptable times and places for handling are far better and more effective then the security that you provide a gun.  Although both are necessary.

I am a strong proponent of the second amendment and our right to bear arms.  I think it's very unfortunate that gun ownership seems to be so slanted towards men.  I wish more women would seek out the training and also have a desire to carry firearms.  A 200lb man attacking a 100lb woman is not a fair fight.  There is nothing more equalizing then the woman carrying a gun, and having the training, the discipline and the mindset to use it to defend herself.  A mean, powerful dog attacking you and your small children is not a fair fight either.  I have no desire to engage any fight with any person or animal.  If I am forced to engage by the other party, the last thing that I want is a fair fight.  I am going to win.  No doubt or hesitation in my mind about it.

I'll posit one more theory before I sign off:  I think carrying a gun can also become an excellent deterrent.  Humans and animals, including big scary dogs, have a sense of things.  They have an intuition.  I don't know that dogs can literally smell fear.  But I do believe that they can sense or perceive fear, and also sense or perceive confidence.  If you are properly trained, and you have properly prepared yourself mentally to defend yourself or your family, it is likely that you will become more fearless of these animals and situations.  I believe that fearlessness may act as a deterrence against attack.  Both from humans and animals.

I am very sorry that a few individuals have coerced you to move from your home.  I hope there were other variables that are influencing your decision to move.  I hope the decision was not made by a few bullies.


#16 2013-11-18 15:11:07

Registered: 2013-04-01
Posts: 1,235

Re: On Self Defense

Actually, there were very few other variables convincing us to move!

Las Cruces was pretty nice otherwise.

But, on EVERY block, there was a juiced-up pit bull in a front yard behind an insufficient fence.  A fence literally touching the sidewalk.

3-foot-hight cyclone fences were pretty common.... barely tall enough to keep even a small dog's head from coming over into the sidewalk space.  Wooden fences were seen occasionally, but almost always rotting, with loose boards where a dog snout or sometimes entire head would come out at you, snarling.

I've even had a snarling dog head come at me over the top of a 6-foot-high cement block wall as I walked by.... the jaws just a few feet from my face.  There must have been something behind the wall that the dog was standing on top of.

Fortunately, we were only ACTUALLY attacked by ONE of these dogs.  We had some close calls with only a few others. 

But it was the daily encounters, especially AFTER being attacked once, that really got to us.  You just could not avoid these dogs... they were literally everywhere.

The point being that, even if I had a gun, I couldn't shoot them all---they weren't actually doing anything other than being scary accidents waiting to happen.  I shoot such a dog, even if the animal and owner are really asking for it, and i might actually be doing a public service, but I don't think the owner or the police would see it that way.  Also, if you shoot a dog, even one that is attacking you, you probably have to contend with a very angry and emotional owner, who may bring out a gun of their own.  At that point, you're in a gun fight.  Not good by any measure.

And I really didn't want to live in a place where I HAD to arm myself in order to feel safe.  And my wife---who was often out with three little kids on her own, without me, especially didn't want to arm herself in order to feel safe.

Given the situation, moving seemed like the best option.  Now we don't live in constant fear, and the non-gun weapons that we used to carry are gathering dust.


#17 2014-01-22 18:35:53

Registered: 2014-01-22
Posts: 2

Re: On Self Defense

bvanevery wrote:

I'd like to add a racist note to the end of this.  It is my anecodotal experience that disproportionate numbers of black children in the USA are deadly afraid of dogs.  Not all by a long shot.  Some like dogs just fine.  But if I'm going to hazard a guess as to which children are afraid of dogs, without even looking at them, I'm going to say they're black.  They might be from India, a rare few might be Hispanic, but they're almost never white and if they're scared to death, they're usually black.  Sometimes I get these ridiculous reactions even from pre-teens or teenagers when walking down the street, scared to death and jumping out of the way of my 65 lb. rather nice on-a-leash lab mix dog.  I ran this racist observation past a friend of mine from NYC who did lots of work with disadvantaged youth back in the day.  It didn't surprise him a bit and he said it's the legacy of people growing up in neighborhoods where dogs are viewed as weapons.  Hence why I use the phrase "weaponized" above, as I've met plenty of smaller pits that are just fine.

I can attest to this. Yes, I own a PITBULL and she's Lab with Rottwieler, APBT, Boxer, & Greyhound in her - and yes, she will get aggressive - but she is always friendly on a first-come basis, meaning she will absolutely love you unless you harm her even around other dogs. Yet, only one of my dark-skinned friends tolerates her and plays with her; anyone else with colored skin, their first instinct is demanding to "put that thing away".

bitbutter wrote:
largestherb wrote:

i think the american 'right to bear arms' is a completely hilarious and obviously out-dated sentiment

The question isn't 'why should people have guns?', the relevant question is: does it strike you as morally acceptable to use threats of force against peaceful people to take their things? For me the answer is clearly no.


The key issue behind gun ownership is taking or restricting it is a means of guaranteed threat of violence against peaceful individuals whose motives always have a clear basis of self-preservation, based upon a likelihood of something possibly happening instead of something already having happened in the best case scenario. For this, I'm against banning even convicts from owning guns as well - a criminal upon having paid his time deserves no less a right to self-preservation than someone else.


#18 2014-01-29 09:00:56

Registered: 2014-01-25
Posts: 349

Re: On Self Defense

Damn man, I read this whole thing, interested and empathetic but for some reason, after reading the whole thing, after everything intense was over and done, I got teary for a few seconds.
Well written and thank you for sharing man. Loving your game.


#19 2014-02-01 00:37:45

Registered: 2014-01-31
Posts: 68

Re: On Self Defense

Yes. Its pretty interesting how Cultures are in different countries.

I live in Sweden, and here Self defense are very restricted.
In my opinion, self defense is outright wrong, if you are defending property. We swedes compare self-defense, lets say you are defending a 500 SEK bill (comparision: about 50$ dollars) and kill a person who attempts to rob you on the street.
Thats comparable to kill someone to steal THEIR's 500 SEK bill. We swede's refer it that regardless if you avoid losing a 500 SEK bill by killing someone, or killing someone to get a 500 SEK bill, you are effectively valueing that Life (regardless of if its a robber or victim) to 500 SEK (50$). And thats the wrong thing with self defense.
Defending your Life if theres no other way out? [check] its okay. Defending your Health? Maybe, use as Little violence as possible.
We swedes refer self defense as "Taking matters in their own hands" and is very frowned upon.

And "stealing" back items that someone stole is forbidden too. What you should do, is when you see your bicycle in anyone elses rack because a thief stole your bicycle, Contact police and they will recover the bicycle for you.
Thats because of "occupance right", if you own a item, you both occupy it and own it. You have the right to occupy the item. If a theif steals your item, he has the occupancy right now, even if you are owner. Taking back the item is illegal, because even if the first transfer from you to the theif was illegal, it does not make the occupance transfer from theif to you legal.
In other Words, only the police or "enforcement" (Swedish: Kronofogde) may legally transfer a item from somebody else to you, if this "somebody else" refuses to give you, or permit you to take the item.

What you SHOULD do if you are robbed on the street: Follow the robber's instruction. Give your wallet, give your card & PIN, and so on. Make sure to remember how the robber look like. THEN you report to the police. Police then takes over from there and solves it for you. Never take matters in your own hands. Thats ONLY allowed if the robber would pursue you, attempt to hurt you or attempt to kill you even tough you are following the robber's instructions, or if the robber's instructions would lead to Death.
Thats is even written in the leaflets that the law enforcement hands out at large events and so on.

A thing that makes police happy if its you can Place non-fatal traps in your wallet, like a GPS transmitter or a radio tracker, so the robber can be tracked and arrested.

The self-defense law in sweden (Swedish: Nödvärn) states that violence may ONLY be used as a last last last resort, if you die if you don't self-defense. And violence must cease anytime a escape route or escape possibility appears. This means that if you get right to kill someone in self-defense, but in the middle of the assault, a escape route appears. Then you are obligated to attempt escapeing, not finishing the robber off.
This is also valid in your own home! So if there come burgulars with baseball bats, I can't just take my hammer and hit the burgulars in the head. That would be manslaughter (Swedish: Dråp) or aggravated assault (Swedish: Grov misshandel) which is both punishable with a minimum of 4 years of prison to 10 years of prison.

What my obligation is, is retreating from the scene, eg flee out of my door or jump out of window and flee off from the scene. Thats is valid both in homes and out on the street. Have Wife or Children? Help them escape the home!

Traps in home? Forget it, if Swedish police would see your home with some dangerous trap, its called "Preparation for assault" (Swedish: Förberedelse till misshandel) and is imprisionable with Everything between 2 weeks to 2 years. If someone burgular actually trips one of your traps, and damages itself in the act, its called "accidentially causing bodily harm to other", (Swedish: Vållande till kroppsskada) (the term "accidentially" come from that the burgular trips the traps, not you) and is fined or imprisionable to 6 months. If the burgular dies, its "involuntary manslaughter" (Swedish: Vållande till annans död) imprisionable Everything between 2 weeks up to 2 years.
Only trap allowed in home would be fitting high-value items with a GPS transmitter or radio tracker, that would you or law enforcement, to track and recover the items. (Or really not, it doesn't need to be high-value, you can legally fit anything with a tracker, but its not kinda Worth it spending about 100$ on a tracker for something that is valued less than about 200$)

Putting a baseball bat beside your bed to "defend yourself" in case of burgulary? Nope, "Preparation for assault" too.

Actually, its illegal to have a too loud "Alarm sirén" that can cause the theif tinnitus. Accepted alarm siréns are up to 120dB. Anything exceeding that, or placed in a way so it would come too near a thief´s ear, is illegal. A car owner installed a car alarm and did his own siréns that exceeded 120dB of sound pressure. That did get him fined, and he was later on sued by the burgular for a amount that many times exceeded the value of his car. So the burgular could buy his own car. The reason: The burgular got lifetime tinnitus. Same with putting razors on items that is high valued, in such ways so anyone attempting to steal the item Cuts itself.
Think of having a pit bull guarding inside the house? Nope, according to law it should be coupled (on a leash - INSIDE YOUR LOCKED HOME!) and, if the dog would damage a burgular if the burgular come in range of the coupled on-a-leash dog (because the dog is insufficently trained), the dog should also have a muzzle.
If the burgular damages itself while burgularing your home because of a fault from your side, the burgular can sue you.

And if we go on to weapons, its very restricted. Each weapon requires a separate license, is tracked, have their unique serial, and may ONLY be used for the purpose that the license was applied for. So if you have 2 identical weapons, one for "sniping on the shooting range to win prizes" and one for "hunting mooses in the forest", picking the wrong weapon (even if the only thing that differ them apart is the serial number) is "Weapon Crime" and is imprisionable and would cause revocation and confiscation of both weapons.
So even if you have a weapon license, forget it using the weapons for self defense in your home - even if you are threathened to your Life. Use something else. Just take whatever else, like the bedside lamp or something and use that for self defense if you are threatened to Life.
Weapon licenses for self defense are rarely given, its like 10 people of 9 million that have a civilian's self defence weapons license. (All cops have a service weapon that may be used for self defence).
Knifes, hitting weapons (like baseball bats or metal knuckles) and guns may not be weared in the public, even if concealed. One exception is legally transporting such things between 2 legal places. Public is defined as "any space that can POSSIBILY entered by a random individual" which means even your lot (just outside your door) is considered public space.

Thats really in contrast to USA that permits shooting humans to avoid losing property that these humans attempt to steal, and have no weapon restrictions almost.

Thinking really hard: If someone attempt to rob you of a 50$ bill by threathering your Life, would it actually be right to kill that robber? If you have 3 choices:
Give the robber the 50$ bill
Kill the robber
Robber kills you

Then the best choice is giving him the bill? right? Then you take it with the nearest police office so the robber can be arrested and the 50$ bill recovered to you.
If you kill or hurt someone attempting to steal from you, you are actually punishing him with a sentence that far exceeds the sentence he gets by law, and that is injustice/unfair.

What do you Think about sweden? Its really a peaceful country here.
Im kind of a pacifist too, and violence is wrong. Especially when it comes to "defending dead things" (items, property).

Last edited by sebastian (2014-02-02 05:56:06)


#20 2014-02-01 07:14:17

From: A ditch somewhere
Registered: 2013-06-15
Posts: 61

Re: On Self Defense

I'm a pacifist as well, but it seems like your laws protect the criminal, not the owner of the property. This could only work if the police had more power in Sweden than they have here, e.g. not requiring a warrant to search somebody. I do think the best thing to do if you're mugged is to give the mugger anything you have and escape, but that car alarm law just sounds ridiculous, as does that law about not being able to protect your belongings. Of course, I don't mean to be insulting.

"I just robbed Mr. Rogers." -Ludicrosity "The wood is my desk, and I'm knocking it with my head." -Blip
"I'd rather pack 25 meats than 1 crowbar if you know what I mean..." -Jabloko
"This is one of the most disturbed things I have seen in quite a while. I blame global warming." -bey bey
"that seems like more resources than I'm willing to put into having my kids killed." -cbenny


#21 2014-02-01 12:46:17

Registered: 2014-01-31
Posts: 68

Re: On Self Defense

Nathan: No, the laws protect both, both the criminal and the owner, equally.
(Many swedes however tell me that "sweden laws do protect the criminal more than the victim" and that the police in sweden are lazy. I dont understand why some people in my country say so)
And yes, the police do not require a warrant. A single policemen can itself decide to do a house search or a person search without having to Contact anyone (its called "Danger in delay" - Swedish: Fara i dröjsmål). But normally, the police ask the prosecutor (Court permission is not required) for a permission Before doing a house search, however, police are not required to do it.

How is it ridiculous? If you set up a dangerous car alarm or a too harsh home protection, you are effectively punishing the burgular with a sentence that is far more harsh than the sentence that a Court would give, and thus is injustice.

Lets say this: You put a car alarm that makes a thief permanetly deaf for his Life.

This means that any thief breaking and entering your car, will get the sentence "Deaf in lifetime", while a thief breaking and entering anyone else's car, get the sentence "3 months in jail".
This means that the thief that got the "Deaf in lifetime" sentence, will feel injustice in compared to the thiefs that get the sentence "3 months in jail".

To compensate for this, Swedish Courts decrease the sentence for people who have get lifetime or longtime bodily damages due to someone taking matters in their own hands.

Its a known case, of someone defending a other person for being murdered, and got jailed, its called "Per-anders Pettersson" you can google it.
The case is like this:
A criminal is attempting to kill a women by choking her so she cannot Breathe. Per-anders pettersson saves womens Life by taking a car jack and hitting the criminal 2 times. The first time did not have a effect, the second time did make the criminal unconscious. He was later diagnosed with chronic migraine.

The criminal which attempted to kill the women, had to pay 800$ in damages to the women and got probation (eg he is set on free foot, if he do a crime again in 2 years, he will get the sentence both for the attempted murder and the new crime)
Per-anders petterson, who saved the women's Life, had to pay 5000$ in damages to the criminal, and was found guilty to "Assault", which he was imprisioned for 1 year.

Result: The criminal who attempted to murder the women, got 4200$ straight into the wallet (damages from Per anders pettersson - 5000$ minus damages paid to women he attempted to kill - 800$ = 4200$) and was released on free foot. The attempted murderer got on free foot because his sentence was decreased by the Swedish Court due to Per-anders petterson taking matters in his own hands and causing the criminal irreversible brain damage (chronic migraine) so the criminal was, according to Swedish Court, already punished for the crime and a good bit above it. (Thats why he got Money for damages)
In the end, the guy who saved a women's Life had to pay damages to the women, indirectly (The guy had to pay damages to the criminal which in turn had to pay damages to the women)

Here is a link to the article:
Cut off the assault, was himself convicted

So no, in sweden, forget self defence if its not absolute neccessary to save your own Life. Else, just call the police and let they do the work :-)

Last edited by sebastian (2014-02-01 13:33:26)


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