Friday, August 19, 2011

A better response for Tom...

Who asked:
"Tom, simple join the British Army and do two tours of Norn Iron."

OK, that's a start. So, is there a British Army manual that I could read? Or did you get special training for that duty?

I'm really very curious, because I would like to have a set of skills that I -- a somewhat out-of-shape but not necessarily overweight -- man could call upon that are not lethal. Signing up for a tour in the US Army is also off limits because of my age.
I was a bit flippant in my first response, but my original advice was not too far off.

As a civilian, your best bet is to:

  • Try to stay out of that sort of area in the first place
  • Be aware of your surroundings
  • If you see an angry crowd coming down the street--go the other way!
While it may sound cowardly, it this is a more prudent course of action. First off, as a civilian you probably won't have the basic kit for dealing with riots, let alone the more specialist gear.

Basic kit would be
  • Nomex coveralls, with hood as well as reinforced knee and elbow pads
  • Riot helmet
You might be able to make due with motorcycle kit, but it's probably not flame resistant as is Nomex.

More specialised gear would be the perspex shield, baton, CS grenades, specialised transport (e.g snatch land rover), etcetera.

In the US, you could buy CS spray, but I am not sure of the legality of carrying it in your area. And you need a huge bottle of the stuff for crowd control.

But the military and the police have another advantage over civilians in crowd control--numbers.

I am assuming that you would be one, maybe two, at most a handful of people--not best to try to take on a large crowd without the gear in such circumstances. Snatch squads aren't that large,but they are well trained and well equipped.

And while Dan Snow caught and sat on a looter who ran past him carrying armfuls of shoes, he is a big strapping lad--a former member of the Balliol College rowing team (the rowing fraternity is pretty tall with Dan coming in at 6"5'), you are not.

Part of my reasons for writing a more in depth answer comes from having watched The Panorama episode on the August Riots. Far more frightening to me than the crowds was the burning. Seeing the fires in Tottenham where a family lost their home and Croyden where a 150-year-old furniture store burned down was particularly disturbing to me.

I will admit to PTSD from being in a petrol fire. The first thing that comes into your mind is that a tablespoon's worth of petrol fume has the equivalent explosive power to 4 sticks of dynamite. The second is "where the fuck is the fire extinguisher?" I did put out the flames, but unless you want to pack around a halon fire extinguisher you won't be prepared for such an eventuality.

Sorry, Jim.

Although some communities did stand watch to protect their property such as the Sikhs in Southall. People in Enfield, Hackney and Eltham also patrolled their areas with the police warning against vigilantism.

As for firearms.

It is alleged that a shooting was what caused the riots in the first place.

Also a gun isn't that useful in putting out a raging fire: the way a fire extinguisher would be.

Tariq Jahan's appeal for peace is what is supposed to have stopped the riots.

Draw your own conclusion.

I would also add that CCTV is proving to be quite an effective tool in catching the people responsible for these acts.

My area was fairly peaceful compared to where White Rabbit lives. The rioters broke into Hugo Boss and the Bureau de Change next to the tube station and the betting shop a bit further away.

We Brits tend to be fairly unflappable in the face of adversity though.

Although, one of my parent's friends opined the rioters should be made to do national service...

See also:
BBC News England Riots
Father of victim appeals for calm
England riots: Before-and-after images of the devastation


  1. Not too young, actually. Too old. But your more in-depth answer is really informative. So it seems that conflict avoidance is first (excellent advice), and if anticipating a threat, retreat (also excellent advice). But what if I'm too slow, or trip (like the tragic case of Keith Blakelock)? Didn't they teach you any way to break free from a hold or protect yourself from an attacker (or attackers) when you're on your own?

    Thanks much!

  2. I'm not sure that advice of the sort you seek is available through this medium.

    I do know that having acquired some insight into how Laci thinks, and evaluates situations, he is who I would want protecting my back.

    I'd like to think however, that he regards me similarly. From my experience, there is also an essential calm and self-confidence that can make a key difference. A difference to yourself, in how clearly you think in response to crises, and to how others respond to you.

  3. If you are too old--there is a course for using your cane as a weapon.

    I could teach you how to break holds, but that would have to be something that requires actual in person training.

  4. Well, I don't use a cane, and don't need one to walk. Carrying one around just for self-defense might cause problems with local police.

    If I understand, though, owning a gun isn't necessary if I:

    1) avoid dangerous places
    2) retreat from potentially aggressive encounters
    3) project a confident attitude, and
    4) learn and continually practice some sort of martial arts that are within my physical capabilities

    Am I missing anything?


  5. That's pretty much it.

    There is a class for OAPs (Old Age Pensioners) over here which teaches them how to use their can as a defensive weapon! If it passes British legal muster, I'm more than sure it will pass US LEOs opinion.

    BTW, Keith Blakelock was a police officer which was why he was a target (a woman had died during a police raid on the housing estate where he was killed).

    Although, I am amazed that the firefighters didn't turn one of their hoses on the attackers during that riot and the recent riot. Then again, the fire was the important thing.

  6. So, you don't think there is any circumstance where those 4 points would fail in protecting you in a potentially lethal situation?


  7. My opinion is guns do more harm than good. But, Tom, wants to know if "three's any situation" that a gun would be useful for protection.

    Sure, Tom, there is. You win, if I understand you correctly that you want to own or carry a gun in case of "any situation" no matter how unlikely.

  8. Definitely not in riots

    Tom, from my regimental history

    Bloody Sunday.

    Try combat if you want a situation where guns are appropriate.

    Not civilian life.

  9. Then if there are scenarios where a gun is useful in self-defense, the idea of banning guns is based on utility (no kidding, you say). A gun in the hand of one woman who uses it to prevent her rape is not worth 100 gang members killing each other. There are, of course, dozens of other comparisons upon which a decision about utility can be based. But if, as a society, we start judging things based on utility, particularly when we wish to make ourselves feel "safer" -- an elusive goal -- don't we run a risk of some pretty horrible consequences?

  10. Who's talking about banning guns, Tom. Usually around here we talk about the reasonable restrictions that Scalia sanctioned.

  11. Didn't you know, Tom?

    Didn't you get the memo?

    Here's the Heller-McDonald language:

    Like most rights, the right secured by the Second Amendment is not unlimited. From Blackstone through the 19th-century cases, commentators and courts routinely explained that the right was not a right to keep and carry any weapon whatsoever in any manner whatsoever and for whatever purpose. See, e.g., Sheldon, in 5 Blume 346; Rawle 123; Pomeroy 152–153; Abbott 333. For example, the majority of the 19th-century courts to consider the question held that prohibitions on carrying concealed weapons were lawful under the Second Amendment or state analogues. See, e.g., State v. Chandler, 5 La. Ann., at 489–490; Nunn v. State, 1 Ga., at 251; see generally 2 Kent *340, n. 2; The American Students’ Blackstone 84, n. 11 (G. Chase ed. 1884). Although we do not undertake an exhaustive historical analysis today of the full scope of the Second Amendment, nothing in our opinion should be taken to cast doubt on longstanding prohibitions on the possession of firearms by felons and the mentally ill, or laws forbidding the carrying of firearms in sensitive places such as schools and government buildings, or laws imposing conditions and qualifications on the commercial sale of arms. Heller at 54-5

    Which has as a footnote (26):

    We identify these presumptively lawful regulatory measures only as examples; our list does not purport to be exhaustive.

    Better yet:

    But the enshrinement of constitutional rights necessarily takes certain policy choices off the table. These include the absolute prohibition of handguns held and used for self-defense in the home. Heller at 64

    Reasonable restrictions are OK!

  12. No restriction.....August 22, 2011 at 9:38 PM

    ....sounds reasonable to me.....

  13. My sincerest apologies. I thought after reading your blog that you ultimately believed that only if there were no guns in the hands of civilians the gun violence would be dramatically reduced or end. If I'm not mistaken, though, Norway has the licensing, registration and safe-keeping requirements you seek (gun shows are not applicable). Only a complete ban would have prevented Breivik from shooting all those people. Registration, licensing etc. may let us know who has a gun, but alone wouldn't have enough predictive ability to make sure no gun is misused or accidentally discharged.

    My argument isn't about what the Supreme Court has ruled. I don't disagree that it states that restrictions are within the scope of the 2nd Amendment. You have made your point clearly on this blog that you believe that the 2nd Amendment is a collective right, and that the recent rulings are contra to 70 years of law.

    What I'm getting at is that if utility (i.e. guns are just too much trouble) is what's driving your desire regulations/bans, who gets to decide how utility is maximized? You admit that a gun may be useful in some cases, so what about the person for whom maximizing personal utility may involve carrying a gun? Is she just out of luck?

  14. While no law or enforcement of law can perfectly eliminate every single crime, the laws in Norway did make it more difficult for Breivik to do what he did, and more expensive. That in turn reduced some of what he was trying to accomplish, and eliminated entirely some facets of his plan.

    We have no way of knowing how many others have been thwarted by those laws from illegal gun violence.

    What we do know is that the entire country of Norway had fewer instances of gun violence, illegal or legal, but especially illegal, than many U.S. cities. THAT is the desideratum.

    The POV here is that we should eliminate illegal guns, and be reasonably restrictive of legal guns to weapons ownership which requires training, and is sufficiently rigorous that people will be far more careful with secure storage than is currently the case in the U.S.

    There is also no need in Norway for people to have widespread open carry or concealed carry. It is a more free society and culture because it is amore lawful and less violent one.

    People are safe, AND free. We can be both.

    And those who like guns and shooting sports, for their own sake, still own and enjoy them.

    The way to do that is not more guns among more people, it is fewer guns. Especially ILLEGAL guns.

  15. Tom, speaking for myself, I don't believe in banning all guns. No apology is necessary, especially since I'm often accused of exactly that. But you make a mistake to bring up Norway. Their gun violence rate is what it could be in the U.S. They and other places like that are proof that what we're talking about is right and doable.