BBC to Women: Don’t Shoot at Drunk, High Men Who Break Into Your Homes

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.

Collingridge writes,

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.

South Carolina’s Home Invasion Policy

South Carolina’s Attorney General, Charlie Condon, has made national headlines for leading his state’s controversial anti-abortion efforts. Condon’s actions have made him enemy number one among some feminists. In January, however, Condon announced a new policy that should help women (and in fact already has in one case), and yet the media is raking him over the coals for it.

After hearing several reports of home invasions in South Carolina, Condon announced that the state would not prosecute individuals who killed intruders in their home. At the time Condon said,

The message needs to be sent loudly and clearly that the state is going to back the homeowner if their home is invaded. I’m putting home invaders on notice that if an occupant chooses to use deadly force, there will be no prosecution.

Apparently many in South Carolina thought Condon’s statement was a gimmick for public consumption — Condon made his announcement less than two weeks before beginning his campaign for Governor. But then a woman in South Carolina killed her boyfriend, and Condon stayed true to his word.

The case seems pretty straightforward. On February 17, Lisa Gant, 36, had an argument with the father of her child, William Brock, Jr., 39. Brock lived about 20 miles from Gant, but occasionally stayed at her house and had clothes and other possession in her apartment. Gant told police she argued with Brock and that he slapped her and put her in a headlock after she told him she wanted to end their relationship. She managed to get Brock to leave the apartment, slamming the door behind him and locking it.

Brock then proceeded to break down the locked door. When Brock entered the kitchen, Gant stabbed him in the chest with a filet knife. Brock staggered out to his car, and was found dead by police who arrived shortly thereafter.

Should Gant face prosecution?

Condon said no, and essentially ordered prosecutors, who had charged Gant with murder, to drop all charges. Local prosecutors and police would have preferred to place Gant on trial and let a judge and jury sort out whether or not she committed justifiable homicide.

In the absence of any evidence that Gant was untruthful about the events that transpired on February 17, 2001, what could possibly be served by putting her on trial. What is the point of asserting that people have a right to defend themselves only to put them before a jury to decide if Gant was really scared when her boyfriend broke down her door to get at her?

Condon nicely summed up the problem with viewing Gant and others like her as criminals who have to undergo an expensive trial to assert their right to defend themselves from intruders in their own homes,

You don’t want to put the homeowner in the position of saying, ‘If I use deadly force, I might be cleared after a trial.’ That’s tantamount to saying that people have rights, but there’s a huge cross attached to it. Most courts have a laissez-faire attitude about these things, figuring that everything will come out fine after a trial. But I think we need to send the messages that the home is sacred ground, period.


Home-invasion policy ignites South Carolina. David Firestone, The New York Times, March 16, 2001.

Violence Policy Center Pushes Deadly Myths

Should women buy guns for self-defense? According to a Violence Policy Center study, the claim that women can protect themselves with guns is a myth. Unfortunately the statistical analysis they use to make this case is absurd and an excellent example of how poorly designed statistical analyses are used to deceive.

The actual statistics cited by the VPC are accurate enough. In 1998 only twelve women shot and killed an attacker in a justifiable act of self defense. In the same year, about 1,100 women were murdered by attackers who used handguns. Since a woman is more than 100 times as likely to be killed with a handgun than use a handgun to kill an attacker, the VPC argues that the notion that handguns are a viable option for self-defense is ridiculous.

The problem with this claim is it assumes the only time a woman successfully uses a handgun to defend herself is when she shoots and kills a would-be attacker. What about the woman who shoots her attacker, thereby disabling him, but he survives? Not an act of self-defense according to the VPC. What about the woman who pulls a gun on her attacker causing the attacker to flee without the woman firing a shot? Not an act of self-defense according to the VPC.

We know from analysis of handgun use by police and private individuals that when a person uses a gun in self-defense, rarely does that use result in the individual actually firing the gun, and rarer still does the use of a gun in self-defense result in the death of the attacker. The mere presence of a gun is often more than enough to convince an attacker to flee the scene rather than risk serious injury or death.

By focusing equating successful self defense with the death of a perpetrator, the VPC tries to mislead women by drastically diminishing their likely usefulness in defending against an attacker. The VPC should be ashamed of itself for giving out such distorted information and perpetuating its own deadly myth.


A Deadly Myth: Women, Handguns, and Self-Defense. The Violence Policy Center, January 2001.