Nothing better illustrates the differing attitudes between the United States and the United Kingdom over home self-defense than an article by a BBC correspondent who took shooting classes in the United States.
Vanessa Collingridge’s resulting article, Women who ‘shoot to kill’, tries to make women the hook for a story about a Phoenix, Arizona,-based handgun training course. Collingridge writes of her fellow students in the class,
Most of the course participants are here to improve their gun skills — not for sport but their own protection.
Mosa Laren, a primary school teacher, raved to me how “empowered” she now felt.
Collingridge puts empowered in quotes, there, I suspect, because the BBC’s point here is to demonstrate that people who carry handguns for self-protection are not really empowered at all. But she chooses an odd case to get that message across — the justifiable homicide of 16-year-old Anthony Choate.
There is widespread incredulity that someone has been jailed in Britain for defending themselves and their property – even if the end result was the death of an unarmed 16-year-old.
Recently, however, that mood was tempered in Salem, Oregon, where 16-year-old Anthony Choate was shot and killed after drunkenly wandering into a stranger’s garage.
Once inside, he lit a fire – something he often did in a stove at home.
Homeowner Linn Stordahl heard a noise and went to investigate. On opening the garage door, he found smoke and flames and shouted a warning to the shadowy figure beyond them.
Many Americans feel it is their right to defend their property
But when the figure came towards him, Stordahl pulled the trigger and fatally wounded him in the neck.
A Grand Jury later cleared Linn Stordahl of all charges, though Stordahl now faces intimidation from local teenagers – and perhaps the depths of his own conscience.
It’s a sobering tale to those who call for American-style gun laws in the UK.
It is bizarre enough that Collingridge describes the fire as if this was something to be expected and not out of the ordinary. Hey, this kid lit fires in the stove at home, why wouldn’t he light them in your garage? But, predictably for the BBC, Collingridge also leaves out a few details of this shooting.
For example, Collingridge forgets to tell her readers that when Stordahl entered the garage and saw the fire, he asked Choate what the young man was doing in the garage. Choate then began to walk toward Stordahl. Stordahl told Choate to stop, but Choate ignored the warning. Stordahl again warned Choate to stop and informed the young man that he had a gun, but Choate kept walking toward Stordahl. Only after these warnings went unheeded did Stordahl discharge his weapon, ultimately killing the 16-year-old.
For some reason Collingridge also forgets to mention that Choate’s autopsy found that the young man had a blood alcohol level of .31 and that he also tested positive for both marijuana and cocaine.
So what is the message that Collingridge has for American women? Well, if you happen to find a man high on drugs and alcohol setting fires in your garage, and if that man advances toward you while ignoring your warnings to stop, whatever you do, don’t use a handgun! Think of that poor young unarmed man! You wouldn’t really want to hurt him, would you? Just sit back and hope the police arrive in time. Maybe say a few prayers that the man won’t rape you before police show up.
This is the standard that the UK has arrived at in the persecution of Tony Martin. Martin’s home had been broken into eight times. Not receiving satisfaction from police, Martin bought a gun and when intruders broke in again, he shot them, killing a 16-year-old. For doing what the police could or would not do — protect his home — Martin received more time in jail than those who tried to burglar his residence.
Just sit around and wait to be a victim — that’s the BBC’s version of empowerment.
Women who ‘shoot to kill’. The BBC, July 21, 2003.
BBC finds Salem case similar to shooting in UK. Albany Herald-Democrat, July 5, 2003.
Homeowner cleared in shooting of intruder. Associated Press, April 29, 2003.