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I'm watching an episode of American Justice about vigilantes. It has made me think about the statements so many people make in Michael Moore's movie. "I have the right to protect myself and my family". "People have an obligation to protect themselves."

Americans tolerate and even deify vigilantes.

Vigilantes, it seems to me, tend to over-react, to jump to the conclusion that they are in danger when they are not or it is not really clear that they are. It comes back to fear.

I also feel that those who carry guns around intend, whether consciously or not, to use them. They are just aching for an excuse.


( 4 comments — Leave a comment )
Nov. 17th, 2002 01:30 am (UTC)
There was a big row about this in Enland a couple of years ago. A farmer in a part of the country where policing was rather inadequate bought a gun to protect himself. He shot and killed an intruder - unfortuantely a teenage boy. The trial raised a lot of issues and divided people. Eventually he was sent to prison, with a rather long sentance,for manslaughter but has since been released after serving only a fraction of the time.
Nov. 17th, 2002 08:02 am (UTC)
There certainly are the cases where it is not all that clear who is "right". The neighborhood, for example, where a gang of crack dealers moved in and took over, shootings started to become common, the Police were not able to respond adequately, and so the neighborhood got together and burned down the crack house. Because they had created a danger for others - even though they did not intend to hurt anyone, even the crack dealers - law enforcement charged them - I don't remember the verdict.

There are cases where some action seems justifiable. All too often, of course, the vigilante is acting as a one-person or one-gang justice system, and sometimes they get the wrong person.

I don't know how the police do their work over there in England, but I suspect that with fewer guns in the country it is not as serious a situation most of the time. Do people feel they are adequately protected most of the time?

I think that our systems of justice must protect the accused and cannot trample everyone's rights. Because of this, of course, the police can only do so much, no matter how many of them there are. BUT.

You've perhaps heard of the graffiti experiment. Crime in NYC was on the rise, particularly in the subways. The city began to do two things particularly: clean up graffiti immediately after it's been painted, and catch and arrest persons who jump over the turnstyles or otherwise avoid paying subway fares. The police action was always visible. It may have seemed to some that they were wasting time on small-time criminals but crime went down considerably. The theory is that the graffiti and the open defiance of the law created an atmosphere where crime was easier to commit. So when these two visible things were brought under control, it was less comfortable for criminals there.

I don't know if this is the exact reason crime went down but it seems like a good explanation. It may take time for the message to get across, but if a city keeps dealing with the small stuff and it's obvious to the citizens that persons will not be allowed to commit crimes right in front of them, then criminals are not going to like that city much.

I wonder, though, why so many Americans are so indifferent to the rights of others. I don't mean people I work with, for example, but so many of the people who commit crimes do so almost psychopathically. How do they develop such an attitude? I do work with "applicants" who often bring with them a sense of entitlement. I sense this is a version of what afflicts these criminals.

As usual, I have no real answers, just lots of questions.
Nov. 18th, 2002 12:54 am (UTC)
I suppose there are no easy answers otherwise we'd have put them into practice. I do sympathise with peoiple who are driven to take the law into their own hands but they often hit back harder than is justified.
It does seem though that an increase in gun ownership leads to an increase in deaths and injuries; we have relatively fewer guns and relatively fewer deaths than in America.
Nov. 21st, 2002 07:18 pm (UTC)
In general the UK police are not armed, though there are specialist firearms officers in all forces and also the Diplomatic Protection Squad who are routinely armed. Armed patrols are now becoming standard in some areas of Manchester and London and elsewhere (can't think where). This is in response to the huge increase in gun crime over the last few years and the increased number of young people who carry guns, especially black kids.

Do people feel adequately protected? I don't know. For myself, I don't feel especially vulnerable to gun crime. It is usually a case of 'black on black' shootings - for petty vengeance or in drug turf wars.

As far as graffitti goes; there are a few local authority walls where graffitti is encouraged. It seems to me that a reasonable response would be to encourage it more. It is one of the few areas of artistic eapression that most young people have. I find the pervasiveness of advertising posters far more offensive.
( 4 comments — Leave a comment )


Judith Lautner
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