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Tomorrow always comes

Near-future extrapolation, as Karl has recently written, is not for the faint-hearted. Vague though I was about the exact dates of my two near-future thrillers (10-30 years from now), I hope to be alive during that time period... So how predictable is the world? A world filled with Wicked Problems (cf. Karl's previous post).

Snapshot of my imagined near-future Britain: corrupt government, even more surveillance, local services beginning to break down, climate change and one socio-political twist. Before I get on to the twist, two things: 1) my technological (and other) extrapolation was deliberately conservative, 2) this is not a dystopia. In the London of these books, people get on with their lives, as they do now and as they've always done.

Both books are thrillers, with our ex-special forces protagonist highly knowledgeable about computing. (You've heard of the SAS. Hands up if you know about the SRR, or that GCHQ dwarfs MI5 and MI6 combined. Spec ops is increasingly tech-based, although not all of it.) The books' surveillance tech involves more "intelligent" software components than currently (which in some ways makes it more open to hacking). I was aiming for realism without startling advances.

(And because they're thrillers, I chose to write under a pseudonym, on the assumption that the far-future hard-SF readership would be different folk. I still don't know whether that was a good decision.)

For most of the book, the changed climate and the reported-on breakdown of the former United States appear to be pure background. This is a deliberate literary technique - both factors become unexpectedly germane to the narrative at the first book's end. (I can't say too much about either aspect without dropping in a major spoiler, so I'll stop there.)

I'm staying with world-building as my topic, but it's worth mentioning that the books live or die on the strength of the main characters' interactions. Contrast this to, say, Patrick Rothfuss's acclaimed fantasy novels, in which exploring his created world forms one of the primary aspects of the story-telling. So, more of a minor role for my world-building this time; yet in many ways I felt more under pressure to get it right, since it's a more tangible setting.

Readers who know London tell me I brought it to life, so I succeeded part-way, at least.

Ah, now... Time for the twist, and with a transatlantic readership in mind.

The setting is a Britain in which knife-carrying is legal (for those who have licences) and in which cage-fighting with blades is prime-time TV.

Boy, is this different on either side of the Pond. On the one hand, you've got the right to bear arms written down in a holy political text, while on the other hand, you've a country where firearm ownership is illegal - and carries long jail sentences - as is walking down the street with any kind of weapon, concealed or openly. It's no coincidence that one of the characters in the books suffers from hoplophobia - the fear of weapons.

The thing is, I understand both points of view (particularly as a martial artist), while noting that people tend to occupy one or other extreme camp. In Britain, we are appalled at how easily an argument escalates to murder when there are guns handy - whenever a notable shooting occurs in the US, it's reported on British TV in terms of they-still-haven't-banned-guns-have-they? Whereas as the outside view is that we gave up the right to defend ourselves.

Incidentally, when firearm ownership went from hard-to-get-authorized to a blanket ban, there was no referendum (NRA members can shriek now)... but objectively, that was entirely correct: the law absolutely reflects the majority view among the population, and a referendum would have been a waste of money. Not that we're geared up for 'em, you understand.

In 1999, the number of firearm-related deaths per 100 000 inhabitants was 0.3 in the UK and 11.3 in the US, according to this report from the World Health Organization.

Switzerland is absent from the table, which I assume means no gun-related deaths at all. This is one of the most heavily armed countries in the world - there's a gun in every home, near enough, because of national service - but it's not a violent country, as far as I can make out. (Anyone with concrete information here, feel free to confirm or deny.) Perhaps it's levels of undisciplined aggression rather than weapon ownership that makes the biggest difference.

At any rate, you can see why I found it interesting enough to feature heavily in the world-building, although the books seem to work just fine for readers who won't be aware of the British system... or of the growth of a knife culture among youths, which is a paranoia-icon for Daily Mail readers but real, nonetheless.

Actually, there was one other driver for the idea, but that one was less obvious. I noted, when crime statistics appeared on the news - I can't remember the period in question, but it was at least four years ago - overall crime figures had gone down while, while knife crime increased. Aha. Story idea...

Most Brits won't have heard about small US towns where gun ownership is mandatory and burglaries are non-existent. (I don't know whether they really exist, but I've sure been told about them. Perhaps they're apocryphal, like the notion that the US was only one vote away from being a German-speaking rather than English-speaking country.) Of course there are plenty of Americans who disapprove of what they call Florida's shoot-your-neighbour law.

There's an issue which is worth keeping (mostly) separated, which is to do with street awareness and training in self protection. The separation is worthwhile, I think, because it's not really weapons (or the lack of them) that makes the difference. (Where they blur together is the argument from gun owners that there is such a thing as responsible ownership, and it involves constant training and discipline.)

In one of Nicola Griffith's gorgeous novels, there's an ex-cop protagonist railing at self defence classes in the US that teach women they should have the right to walk naked into a biker bar and remain unmolested. Her anger is at the failure to distinguish between ethical philosophy and practical tactics. (As an instructor your duty is to empower your students to lead safe lives, not commit suicide.)

Case in point: from Peter Watts' description of his own behaviour while sitting in the car prior to the notorious border-checkpoint incident... If I'd been sitting there in his place, I'm pretty sure I would have had no trouble whatsoever. I'd have been broadcasting very different verbal and non-verbal signals to an armed law officer working in a country with a high level of firearm ownership.

That has nothing to with the ethics (or the legality) of the situation.

I know two Oxford academics who crossed a street in the US at some random point of their choosing. A cop beckoned them over and said something about jay-walking (which is not a British legal concept). One of them launched into a rant about England's being a free democracy in which people have the right to cross a street wherever they please. The outcome could have been worse.

I know people who've made funny/insulting remarks in foreign bars, among strangers at parties, you name it. Please understand, this is my friends I'm talking about...

This is like the smart kid in the playground who makes wisecracks with bullies, trying to score logical debating points. In that context, such behaviour is equivalent to an autistic failure to recognize the social situation.

(One of the black belts in my dojo is autistic, incidentally. She's good, too.)

I make no claims to being a streetwise self protection expert, but my awareness and use of tactical positioning, posture and covert hypnotic commands (verbal defusion) has prevented a couple of nasty incidents. Training makes me less likely to be involved in violence.

Oh, and... In the books, registered knife owners have extra (online) voting rights. A kind of distorted Heinlein reference, as close as I'll ever get to dilating doors...

And I might ask in closing - just how realistic do you want fictional violence to be?

173 Comments

2:

'Switzerland is absent from the table, which I assume means no gun-related deaths at all.'

err, if your research stretches as far as wikipedia, you will find Switzerland has a hideously high firearm death rate, exceeded only by a few outliers like South Africa, Colombia and the USA.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_firearm-related_death_rate

3:

Re: And I might ask in closing - just how realistic do you want fictional violence to be?

If there's very much, it had better be extremely abstract. I dislike violence, and if there's much violence I dislike the book.

OTOH, a single incident, where the idea is to pin a strong dislike onto a character, is forgivable. And sometimes an artistic necessity.

Actually, realistic isn't the right phrase. Even unrealistic violence that's described vividly fits the criteria that I use. Dissecting someone with a magic wand isn't less objectionable than dissecting them with a knife. So it's not realism per se that's the distinguishing factor. It's vivid imagery. OTOH, where the imagery isn't vivid, then even fairly major violence isn't inherently distasteful. Conan chops people to pieces all the time without bothering me. And the only thing unrealistic is that anyone could be so strong or use such heavy weapons so effortlessly. But it's not vivid. The magic in those stories sometimes approaches vivid, but never quite gets there. Saying that someone "decayed into a dried corpse within instants" doesn't qualify, but it could have with a more vivid description.

4:

Almost all of Switzerland's gun-related deaths are suicides, according to that wikipedia table.

5:

Umm, what's the evidence for growth of knife culture amongst youths? All my life nutters and schemies and neds have carried knives and stabbed each other with them. And incidences are heavily weighted towards Strathclyde, because of the culture.

Usually kitchen knives, although politicians and idiots (but I repeat myself) use any old excuse to rant about swords and combat knives.

As for your final question, it all depends. If your book is trying to be halfway realistic, then obviously the violence has to match. I would comment on the violence in your SF books but I can't recall enough details to do so.

And what makes violence realistic anyway? Realistic injuries? Gritty description of bones snapping?

6:

So what? The same data shows that in Canada most deaths involving guns are suicides and that more than half the deaths involving guns in the United States are also suicides.

7:

"Switzerland is absent from the table, which I assume means no gun-related deaths at all"

Look in different charts in the report. They have a strong lead in the overall "suicide" part, and other sources I've seen suggest over 1/3 of their suicides are firearm-related.

I've also seen other reports (International Action Network on Small Arms) that claim about 6 per 100,000 deaths from firearms in Switzerland versus over 9 per 100,000 in the US.

8:

When I visit other nations I try to abide scrupulously by their laws, no matter what the locals appear to be doing. I also do not attack their social or political systems while there as a guest. It's not only polite, but sensible. There are always "unwritten" laws.

9:

if you are going to do violence, might as well not make it stupid

A Knife fighting culture seems a bit silly to me. Could think of about a thousand better ways to kill someone with common household ingredients. Rather have a staff then a knife, or a cricket bat. Or a taser. or a bottle of pepper gas. I have a taser actually. It cost $199 and it would end a knife fight pretty fast.

I just picture a young bravo walking around with his licensed knife being all badass and then granny tasers him...

Also there is this thing called "kevlar" which would eliminate much of the danger to your run of the mill non-knife wielding populace

Guns are scary because they are the top of the food chain when it comes to killing people, and do not have any reliable defensive measures

10:

I don't think reality is particularly realistic when it comes to violence, it's far too inconsistent. People survive iron bars through the head or die from tripping on a step, one soldier walks through the concentrated machine gun fire of 3 nests another one dies from an infected insect bite.

unholyguy> I am under the impression that kevlar isn't particularly effective against blades. Regardless, wearing armor as part of daily wear is a bad scene.

11:

Kevlar is absolutely effective against blades

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4x8AJYDrFlU

you can get it in teeshirts and some more paranoid people do wear them.

Not saying you should expect to see a lot of people wandering around in Kevlar anytime soon, but you would if everyone was scared of a bunch of knife wielders

I think "realism" in violence has something to do with "inspiring fear", knives just don't seem very scary

12:

Ages ago I dug into a bunch of gun death related stats for the US and various other wealthy nations and found a pretty clear pattern which suggested a quite simple policy.

The US was a dramatic outlier in murder rate, and more interestingly an even more dramatic outlier in one method of murder: murder by handgun. Americans are strangling each other, bludgeoning each other, poisoning each other, stabbing each other, etc, even shooting each other with rifles and shotguns at rates not massively different from our economic peers (less than double as I recall and remarkably consistent across method including long gun)... but handguns are off the chart (ten times or so).

So what are the gun control policies of the wealthy nations of the world? Turned out that the US is basically the only nation with wide handgun ownership. The other nations varied on their policies toward long guns. Some were not much different from the US, Switzerland I think actually had more from their militia system, others heavily restricted them just like handguns.

The recommended policy is thus: ban handguns, let people have long guns.

I think the reason that the data are as they are and that this policy would actually work is pretty simple: Handguns are an ideal murder weapon. The typical murder is a man shooting his wife or girlfriend. Next most common is a man shooting another man that he knows. Then I think women shooting husbands and boyfriends. Mostly spur of the moment killings. people get mad decide to kill someone and manage to do it before they reconsider. Handguns are the best technology to enable those murders. Stabbing/strangling/bludgeoning/poisoning/automobile/rifles/etc are in general either slower or harder to do and people tend to "come to their senses" as they load the rifle/start the car/get ready to stab again/choke the life out/etc.

Further down the "kinds of murder" list are when a gun is used in another crime. Those often rely on the concealability of a handgun. I would expect those rates to drop once criminals had to carry around shotguns or whatever.


So anyhow that's what the stats said to me.

Good news for the US is that I think it is quite compatible with the US constitution (in my opinion the second amendment is indeed saying people get guns), defensive gun ownership, hunting, target shooting, etc.

I believe it is actually also somewhat practical as we could quash the sale of handgun ammunition fairly effectively and actually get handguns out of useful circulation for the most part relatively quickly.

13:

Re: Unholyguy@9

Street-level knife fighting is not about killing the other guy, it's more about inflicting pain and getting the other guy to back down. Think slashing at forearms and inflicting painful wounds to extremeties When the utility is not to kill but intimidate, the whole game changes.

I have no idea how John has envisaged the culture in his books, but knife fighting could well be tolerated as a low-fatality form of duelling with lots of messy wounds to keep the cameras happy.

As an aside, many people think Roman gladiatorial combats always ended in one of the combatants death. That was actually quite rare, economics mitigates against the loss of high value combatants who can put on a good show! Likewise, it's actually bloody hard to kill someone with a knife if they are actively fighting back, so formalised duels with knives would not automatically end in deaths (as certain tabloids would have us believe). Just enough risk to add to the televisual ratings...........

(I think I may have had a slightly more colourful youth than most.........).

14:

i can take a long gun and turn it into a handgun with a hacksaw in about 5 minutes

15:

"Case in point: from Peter Watts' description of his own behaviour while sitting in the car prior to the notorious border-checkpoint incident... If I'd been sitting there in his place, I'm pretty sure I would have had no trouble whatsoever. I'd have been broadcasting very different verbal and non-verbal signals to an armed law officer working in a country with a high level of firearm ownership."

Excuse me but what the fuck "SIGNAL" should you be sending, given that you are waiting for an extremely-boring "Border-crossing" between two states with a common language, that have not been at war for 199 years?

HINT: There are alot of horror-stories about "Homeland Security" including harassing a whole shipload of Old-Age pensioners .....

16:

Yea, and in those five minutes you probably decide not to shoot your wife.

17:

One thing about making violence more realistic concerns the degree of damage done in a typical fist fight ie generally negligible until somebody goes down and gets a kicking. This is largely because fights are by untrained people who typically don't know how to punch properly. OTOH, a proper punch to the head will result in one of two outcomes. If the punch connects with the skull other than the face the hitter will break their hand. If it hits the face the damage will be significant, ranging from broken nose to lost teeth to broken jaw (if its a swing). Actually being on the receiving end of a Hollywood style punch in the face means massive damage. You won't be looking pretty again for weeks - you don't just rub your jaw and walk away.

18:

It might help for domestic violence but it's not going to help for real street crime kinds of things, is my point

19:

One major problem with facing a knife in a fight is that getting cut or stabbed does not significantly hurt at the time, even though it may prove fatal in seconds or minutes. Quite often people are cut and do not know it.

I have stopped an exercise in the dojo on numerous occasions because there has been blood on the floor and nobody knew whose it was. Everyone had to check their own body or that of their partner. Almost always it came from cuts that the person did not feel.

20:

Have these novels been published? What are the titles? What's your pseudonym? Forgive me if this I've somehow overlooked the obvious.

21:

guthrie@5: "nutters and schemies and neds" -
LMAO!!!!!! I have a buddy from the UK named Ned, he is always pissed that his name is used to describe crims' Your comment just made me remember him.

Being from the US, AND being black I can tell you that firearm access in the US is not as cut and dry as it seems. A lot of it depends on WHO you are, as in ethnicity. All those NRA folks are not itching to see "2Pac" walking around with AK's in the local neighborhood - no matter how much they support the 2nd amendment.

As for violence in books... why not?

22:

Gunshots do not necessarily immediately incapacitate either unless it's a hit to the brain. I've seen people shot with .44 magnum hollow points in the chest at point blank range and still run 50 feet. He knew he had been shot but he didn't even know where.

Like @10 says it's really random

Another interesting thing about the Swiss got to wonder if you issued them all handguns would their domestic violence spike to US levels?

23:

I was trying to hold back on outright advertising! My pseudonym is Thomas Blackthorne, and the books are Edge and Point.

24:

Of course, when in Rome you do as the Romans do...particularly if the locals are trigger happy and heavily armed. Easy access to weapons - particularly military grade or modded weapons does increase the kill rate. If the Norwegian killer hadn't had access to automatic weapons, there is not way he would have been able to kill 70 odd people. (well, he could, but it would require explosives or an aeroplane). In Australia, we're seeing an upsurge in stabbings, usually amongst younger men, with corresponding police crack-down and legislation for higher penalties for possession of concealed weapons.

Any weapon or violent act can kill. Killing with a gun however, is quicker with less opportunity to think about consequences. Other forms of weaponry or violence are more personal, more in your face - and therefore much more difficult to commit in error or on the spur of the moment or passion.

Most other Western governments (including Australia, New Zealand and Europe) are legislating for more controls on weaponry. Its only in the disintegrating polity known as the US that things appear to be spinning out of control. If that Tea Party mob get more influence - well, could be the basis of a good book!

25:

If you have a commentary running inside your head, it *should* be calm and collected and aware. You know how to choose words to suit your mood when you're addressing other people. One way to modify your body language is to modify your internal dialogue (aka self-talk).

This is a form of social intelligence. Broadcasting irritation is easy to do - some people can do it online without their body language being apparent. Don't get irritated; instead, keep calm. Think tactically. Put yourself in other people's shoes. Does your job entail hours of massive boredom totally superimposed with the omnipresent risk of sudden death? A law officer's does.

As I said, this has nothing to do with the ethics of the situation (or the nationalities involved, except insofar as local conditions and law affect the locals' attitudes); it is all about the psychology of communication.

If I were going through a border crossing and aware that there is a history of violent incidents and legal abuse, as you suggest, then I would be even more careful. Wouldn't you?

26:

Ah. I tried to read one of these books. The martial arts was fascinating, but the hacking sequences popped my suspension of disbelief. I just couldn't find a way to square them with reality, had to stop reading.

27:

" this is not a dystopia. In the London of these books, people get on with their lives, as they do now and as they've always done."
No offense, but just the idea of living one's life in London anytime after the industrial revolution sounds like dystopia to me ;)

28:

Spot on, Andy...

I have no idea how John has envisaged the culture in his books, but knife fighting could well be tolerated as a low-fatality form of duelling with lots of messy wounds to keep the cameras happy.

In the sporting situation, I envisaged varying levels of armour and seriousness. Some of the professional knife-fighters appear in the books (mainly the second one) and their training and personalities are similar to those of present day MMA fighters.

it's actually bloody hard to kill someone with a knife if they are actively fighting back

Yes, but with your 'colourful' youth you'll be even more aware of the variables than I am. If you do penetrate an artery or the heart, it's bad news... In Edge, I quote from the Timetable of Death, listing penetration depth, time to unconsciousness and time to death for various major arteries (and the heart). Sobering stuff.

And 'if they fight back' is of course key. I'd like to think that I wouldn't be frozen in terror, but I'm glad to say I've never faced a live knife attack. (And in this country, my own hands would be empty, unless I'd snatched up some weapon of opportunity from the environment.)

The US police have carried out various experiments (in addition to analysing incident reports) which showed that from a distance of 18 feet, someone with a knife already in their hand can stab a trained police officer whose weapon is initially holstered. Every single time, the lunge beats the draw. (Where the draw is a reaction, not pre-emptive.)

The American authors (that I know of) to check out on this are Loren Christensen, Marc MacYoung and Peyton Quinn.

In my novels I have the notion of duels among ordinary citizens, but they can turn down a challenge and simply pay a fine. (Not emphasised in the stories.)

29:

Yes, I agree. One-against-one stand-up between amateurs often involves minor injuries. People who end up on the ground and in the middle of a kicking session are in serious danger of brain damage, permanent paralysis or death.

And never mind Hollywood punches... Those movie fight scenes where the good guy whips a fire extinguisher into the side of someone's head? That always makes me wince. You know it's a lot more than a ten-minute sleep for the bad guy.

30:

Unholyguy @ 22:

I've seen people shot with .44 magnum hollow points in the chest at point blank range and still run 50 feet.

You've had an interesting life! :-)

Another interesting thing about the Swiss got to wonder if you issued them all handguns would their domestic violence spike to US levels?

If you issued Americans with lots of Swiss chocolate (Toblerone springs to mind) would the figures drop to Swiss level?

Sorry, it's too late for sensible talk where I am....

31:

@24 Norway guy did not have access to automatic weapons.

He did his killing with a mini-14 which is basically a hunting rifle with a large mag.

He also had a semi-automatic pistol

Probably could have done it with a bb gun given that he had an hour and a half to chase people around on an island

228 yes maybe, if the guy with the knife has his out already. However odds are the cop will get stabbed, maybe shrug it off if he has his body armor on, and then shoot the perp

32:

I'm glad to have you here, John. You go ahead and promote the hell out of your book!

"In one of Nicola Griffith's gorgeous novels, there's an..."

I haven't read any of her books, but "It Takes Two" was a damn fine short story.

33:

The US has a high firearm death rate, but most of them are to and by hoods. The handgun shootings dropped here with a mandatory 6 month jail term for anybody with a gun in a car they could use.
I sometimes think more people hate STARSHIP TROOPERS than read it. Anyway young girls, if trained at school on law and how to use them, could carry a knife.

34:

PS. OK. This is likely old time racist BS, but I once read that Mexico had organized knife fights back in the 20' and 30's. A new government said it was it was uncivilized and banned it. I did not say it was so.

35:

My understanding is that, in the United States, the following is true:

(1) Firearm ownership (rifles and pistols) is predominantly middle-class, and suburban or rural. (Gun ownership is not unknown in cities, but per-capita ownership is much higher in the suburban/rural areas)
(2) Crimes committed with firearms tend to be predominantly urban, and predominantly not committed by members of the middle-class.
(3) The number of crimes committed with firearms on a yearly basis is less than 1% the total number of firearms estimated to be in circulation.
(4) At least 37 of the States allow licensed adults to carry a firearm concealed in most public places. When such laws were passed, opponents of the practice predicted a rash of slayings by permit-holders. Such slayings have not been seen in Police records from those States.

As was noted above, it is not too hard to turn a long-arm into a pistol-sized object.

If you still hold that pistols should be banned, I will note this: many in the firearms-rights community will blithely ask if Prohibition was successful at limiting access to alcohol, or ask if the War on Drugs has made it impossible to find narcotics.

36:

John: I think I would like more realistic violence in literature. But I don't know if I'd properly recognize it.

Have you read any of the works of Rory Miller? He is a retired American policeman/prison-warden, who occasionally does talks about violence at conferences full of aspiring writers. He is also author of a book titled "Meditations on Violence", and another titled "Violence: A Writer's Guide."

I agree with you about situational awareness and cultural sensitivity. Both are very useful for escaping trouble.

37:

Please note: A taser in the UK will cost you $199 ... and five years in prison. (They're illegal. Classified as handguns.)

38:

That's true Charlie but so is carrying a knife i think, at least without "good reason". The world building exercise in question seems to involve a pretty major rewriting of UK laws to the point where citizens are DUELING eachother in public (-:

It seems kind of hard to imagine a society that would allow death match cage fights and not tazers.

But given that, could always just go for pepper gas I suppose

39:

I wouldn't quite claim the fights in my amateurish stories are realistic. But I don't do Hollywood fist-fights.

There's one scene, not yet finalised, which involves a bunch of Nazi thugs trying to kick a man to death. Our middle-aged heroine takes drastic steps, with the 9mm Browning she carries in her handbag.

In some ways, it's a very Hollywood sort of scene. Think 1935, and how Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers looked. Except the bad guys wouldn't seriously hurt their victim, and the idea of Ginger Rogers with a Browning would make the Producer's head explode.

40:

Chris O'Neill @ 24
Actually, if the Tea Party get control in the 2016 election, then it really isn't going to be good.
The US will implode in about 2-3 years if/when that happens.
Followed by martial law, and something remarkably like the theocracy of Nehemiah Scudder or the repression of "The Handmaid's Tale"
Ugggg ...

41:

The Law is, as has been pointed out often, an Ass. Frex, it is actually not illegal to own handguns in the UK but the type, shape and calibre are severely restricted and a Firearms Certificate is needed. On the other hand restrictions that apply in the US to firearms, such as silencers and shoulder-stocks which require a lot more jumping-through of hoops don't apply here -- it's not difficult to own a De Lisle rifle in the UK whereas it is a Federal Firearms Licence holder-only weapon (the same sort of expensive licence that machine-gun owners need) in the US.

Pepper sprays are illegal for civilian use in the UK as well as tasers, shockguns etc. whereas elsewhere sprays with a certain level of chemical effectiveness are allowed.

Violence -- one major problem writers usually skip over when fighting scenes are required in their fiction is the ability or otherwise of someone to initiate an attack or even fight back effectively when attacked initially. Joe Public normally has to go through a threat-display/bluster cycle or two before the fighting actually begins, it's part of our ape-pack heritage. That happens even when they are attacked directly by others. Training can solve a lot of this hesitation, especially the sort of reflexive responses that most martial arts drill their pupils in but that response is almost always to attacks or perceived threats -- I have a funny story involving a time it happened to me in a pub but I'm not sure about the statute of limitations.

I have a vague storyline for a novel in the back of my mind, sort of SF, entitled "Zero to Kill" about how someone could be trained (or "programmed" if you like) to be violent from a cold situation to the point of maiming or killing someone without reason or cause. I'm having difficulty finding anything in the medical references that might actually provide a possible method to carry out this conditioning without preselecting a sociopathic or even psychopathic personality to use as a subject and for the storyline I'm envisaging that doesn't work.

42:

A few years ago student of my mother's was arrested for carrying a one inch disposable craft knife in his portfolio in a random police search. AFAIK that's about the only legal size knife to carry in the UK. He was stopped at a well known police hot spot Vauxhall Station. (I leave it for the class to work out why the police might be hanging around there looking for low lifes - they often had a scanning arch like you get at customs handy.) The college administration refused to defend his right to take his course work home as he had been asked by his tutor, and left it to her to explain to the magistrate why a 17 year old black student might need a craft knife for an art qualification. I don't know whether it would have done any good hiding the thing in his pencil case, like another student who took a stanley knife on the Eurostar to Paris, because that's what the scanning arch is for. I'm sorry I don't know the end of this story RL intervened.

I don't carry a pocket knife around anymore, even though I don't commute through Vauxhall at present, (the plain clothed police never looked at me once), but because of the low level of anxiety it caused when I remembered I had it on me.

Re: violence in books
It depends on context and writers intent. Richard Mogan's violence is part of the whole package that comes with his damaged protagonists. That finger eating scene in the? Iain M. Banks book is really disturbing. It has really stuck in my head. I can't remember the book, but i'll never re-read it because of that one scene. It makes my skin crawl just writing this.

43:

further to 42
And I resent him for that. ( I just realized, I'm not so good at setting down the conclusions to my little theses.)

44:

For the record: I got Edge from my library some month ago, and *really* enjoyed it. Other viewers, please, read it, it's very very good.

John - sorry I didn't buy it, I'm skint.

45:

#27 - Seconded, and whilst I've never lived there for an extended period, I've spent 2 weeks in central London on a course for work. That was long enough, even with the support systems of a hotel and expenses for buying dinner in restaurants.

46:

If you want the ebooks without DRM buy them from the publisher - Angry Robot. For some reason Waterstones in the UK, and as far as I can see the US sellers add DRM to their editions.

47:

It has been suggested that if we educated the teenagers carrying knives as to exactly how to use them, we might get less use of them because they find out just how nasty a knife fight can get (you both get injured, and you can so easily accidentally kill someone).

The cultural issues are interesting as well - from what I have been told by people from North Lanarkshire (Industrial and ex-industrial deprivation hot zone) 20 years ago when they were being mad teenagers out for fun (ie drinking and fighting) only a jessie would use a weapon, real men used their fists; there was a culture of violence based upon pecking order and proving your manhood in which fighting was permissible but actually trying to kill your opponent or using a knife was not. 20 years later, teenagers are carrying knives out of fear, and think that brandishing one at the right moment when they are being attacked or intimidated by someone will make a difference. Instead, they accidentally end up killing someone.

48:

Clarification on carrying knives -

One can carry a folding, non-locking pocket knife, with a 'cutting edge' of less than three inches (7.62mm) in public for any or no reason. (think most Swiss Army knives and 'old-school' penknives)

You only need a reason ('good reason' or 'reasonable excuse' according to the Criminal Justice Act '89 and the Offensive Weapons Act respectively*) if the blade locks (this classes it as a fixed blade) and/or is over three inches in length.

NB: self defence is neither a good reason nor a reasonable excuse...

obTopic -

I like my violence realistic (or, at least, internally consistent) and well-described.

That doesn't mean there has to be a lot of it, but what there is needs to be done well.

49:

The legislation was deliberately written to ALLOW a standard "Swiss Army" to be carried - there are so many of them, and so useful.
Though the "big" blade on mine isn't used much - it's the ability to get inot any known drinks container that's really useful!
When going to a cookery class a couple of years ago, we took a partial set of very sharp kitchen knives with us. We were very careful to wrap them in a kitchen cloth, that in an apron, and then tie that up.
And we had a set of clues for said class with us, which included the instruction/request "Bring (sharp) kitchen knives with you"

Reactions - well someone skimmed my crdit-card at an ATM once, but fortunately I cottoned, a chase ensued, and then I IMMEDIATELY phoned the bank - I got my nmoney back.
Earlier this year, someone MAY have tried it again, inside a bank. I reacted with no thought at all, slapped his hand down, got inside his personal space, turned the volume to max, and then called for assistance. He left.
Two weeks ago, I was hobbling determinedly towards the railway station (I have a temporary ankle-injury) and two idiots made loud noises and apparently threatening gestures towrds me. Fencing reflex took over, and I prodded the near one, quite hard in the gut (yes, that's criminal assault).
I got a load of czech/polish/lith/slovak abuse - they thought they were having a joke.
"Gehen se raus üntermenschen!" got their attention, though, and they buggered off.

50:

#12: Contrary to what the PC establishment wants you to believe, the numbers for domestic abuse and murder (spouse injuring or killing spouse) are more or less equally divided between the sexes. The vast majority of murders are men killing other men in connection with other criminal activity.

#42: Consider Phlebas. Yes, that scene is disgusting, but it's meant to be. BTW, the next time you read a Culture novel, ask yourself—are the Culture really the good guys? ISTR Banks himself saying at a con that they're an extrapolation of the present-day USA.

#49: That's not even a close approximation of German.

51:

And I forgot—

#2: Actually, Switzerland is pretty far down the list—13 out of 40 listed countries, leaving ~160 countries unaccounted for.

52:

@50
Yes the Culture always put me in mind of 'The ones who walked away from Omelas' U. K. le Guin) in that they have a 'hidden' part of society SC that do all the grown up stuff while countless billions Have Fun. (I know that's what makes the story, but… )

53:

Para 1 - I think the wording in #12 should read "The stereotypical murder...". Also, it neglects all murders not using firearms, and the stereotypical "weapon of choice" for a female murderer is poison (Note to moderators; I'm talking about stereotypes deliberately, and not making claims abuot actuality).

Para 2 - I've never been convinced that The Culture are the "good guys" except in a "this is the worst possible system, except for all the others" type of a way.

Para 3 - Who suggested that it was?

54:

'Edge' seemed to me a perfect refutation of "An armed society is a polite society." Wonderful, and nice to see 'Slasher' Stross in it.

re:voice as defence - a good parade-ground voice and manner can make people think twice, but I wouldn't count on it - not everyone has the same set of responses.

re:Greg, fencing reflexes. I'm an ex-sabreur and though I've had a quiet life, when things have got hairy I've a handy parry hardwired into my responses that's helped me out a few times, and works fine with an empty hand.

Obligatory armed anecdote - once when I was a lot younger I discovered a bunch of lads hassling someone with MS in the street. I shouted at them and they seemed keen on giving me a kicking, except ...

A few minutes before, I'd found a 4 foot wood saw in a skip, and being a thrifty sort decided to take it home.

So these lads approach, I reach into my coat, and soon we're all leaving unharmed in opposite directions at various speeds - them fastest.

Note - lots of people are in jail for murder after killing someone with a weapon they took off their opponent. And lots of people are dead. It's not a game. If I were in a similar situation today I really wouldn't risk it. And my general problem with weapons is that it escalates minor things into very serious ones.

55:

Ugh. What Banks book was that? I'd like to avoid reading it.

56:

Crampons, have been known to come in handy on the way back from a Scottish Winter trip when confronted in an underpass. Ice axes are generally kept behind front doors in certain households, but as any fool knows are no used strapped to the back of your back.

57:

7.62 mm? That's a gun calibre, not a blade length.

(I suspect you meant 7.62 cm)

58:

@35:

You can't make access to guns impossible, but you can make it difficult, and restrict the amount of guns already lying around. This will reduce the amount of gun crime to pre-planned crimes involving criminals with access to resources and networks, which would be a small minority of existing gun crime.

And anyway prohibition failed mainly because society could not tolerate the degree of gun violence illegal activity fueled.

59:

A good, all-steel cane costs less...and you don't have to worry if it would be considered a gun.

Of course, tasers as used by police usually involve a single hit, and a group of policeman imitation an (American) football pile-on.

Thus, I think tasers are of limited use by a person who doesn't travel with at least two burly buddies. But that's just my opinion...

60:

karrde @ 36:

Have you read any of the works of Rory Miller? He is a retired American policeman/prison-warden, who occasionally does talks about violence at conferences full of aspiring writers. He is also author of a book titled "Meditations on Violence", and another titled "Violence: A Writer's Guide."

I've only read "Meditations on Violence", so thanks for the heads-up on the other book! Even on the basis of that one book, he deserves a place on the must-read list.

Since Vikings come into my current trilogy, I was interested in his descriptions of criminals in berserker mode - the way their highly elevated body temperature causes them to run amok naked.

He also seems to be married to an SF writer. Anyone know who that is?

61:

A good, all-steel cane costs less...and you don't have to worry if it would be considered a gun. but would be considered to be an "offensive weapon" under Uk law, unless you'd purchased it earlier that day (and even then still could be if you used it to attack someone).

62:

The Tea Party are a symptom, not a cause, and I honestly believe the US is more like to implode than to elect one of them President. The Tea Party includes Randians, religious nuts, tax "reformers," racists and all sorts of people. I think their primary common trait is that no amount of reason or information will change whatever fairy story they have built in their heads about the world and how it actually works. They glom onto ideas and don't let go: some of them are not bad (bring down debt/deficit); some of them not so good (no new revenue streams) and some loopy: Obama wants to send my uncle to a Death Board to drain his essential oils and sell them to the UN. I don't think they have it in them to build a unified functioning dystopia, but they certainly represent/act as a drag force on our political engine and could help hasten or precipitate a decline. Maybe they will be shaken off to an effective degree in 2012, maybe not. That will say a lot about the US' future, probably. Easy guess for 2013: more grid lock, more wasted opportunities at more crucial turning points, but probably less Tea Party as that segment of the population waits for its next shoggoth form to manifest.

63:

"Does your job entail hours of massive boredom totally superimposed with the omnipresent risk of sudden death? A law officer's does."

Omnipresent? Please don't justify their thuggery with hyperbole. Wikipedia claims the US Border Patrol has lost 114 officers in the line of duty since 1924:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_Border_Patrol#Killed_in_the_line_of_duty

And I'd bet only a minority of those were on the Canadian border - I wouldn't be surprised if they were more at risk driving to work and back.

64:

Well, if you don't have a limp or a weak leg, maybe.

In the United States, I'm not aware of any limitation on canes. I'm not even sure the TSA would swipe one from a person boarding a plane.

65:

I think Bob said it best:

'William Zant Zinger killed poor Hattie Caroll,

With the cane that he twirld round his diamond-ringed finger.'

66:

The "Writers Guide" is fairly recent.

I became aware of Rory Miller by reading his blog, so I'm only vaguely aware of his wife and her writing. Wish I could help you on that.

67:

That's a sore point, in that I actually do have a limp ;-) (seriously, ostio-arthritis in my right knee, but very early days). My walking stick is made of aluminium tube, and I'm not sure I could swing it fast enough to do damage.

68:

Robert Sneedon @ 41:

Re programming killers. I found this book useful, although I was researching suicide cults when I read it.

Some time back, US Army research revealed that very few professional soldiers are actually able to shoot to kill during battle. The army used the findings to change the soldiers' training, in particular to dehumanize the enemy.

I've not read his books, but Lt. Colonel Dave Grossman seems to be the most notable writer in this field. Some reviewers note that he has a political agenda, but that his first book, On Killing, shows the least bias.

If you're UK-based (as I'm guessing you are), you'll probably know about Derren Brown's The Heist. It is worth watching, or re-watching. (For those who've not seen it, this is the one where he "mind-programmed" people to commit armed robbery.)

The key technique is unconscious association between emotional states and external triggers (a particular shade of green, a particular piece of music), along with some loaded language that acted as posthypnotic suggestions when the people walked into the situation he had set up (with the armoured van and the so on).

The first part is operant conditioning, which is far more powerful than most people recognize. In NLP (neurolinguistic programming) it's called anchoring, and that's the kind of approach that Derren Brown uses.

I don't know of any books that simply and elegantly teach hypnosis and related techniques to someone without experience of hands-on training. This book is for medical doctors, geared towards a context of doctor/patient consultation, but is worth reading. (The phase-locking of breathing, mentioned inside, is hugely important and rarely mentioned elsewhere - except in training courses.)

Anchoring is reasonably well explained in this and this.

To experience trance, try a Paul McKenna book-with-CD - whichever seems most relevant to you.

Note that hypnosis by itself allows the subject to make only the changes they already want to achieve. It's the operant conditioning that allows the 'unnatural' reprogramming you're talking about.

Oh, this book is a must-read for understanding psychological persuasion, and you'll find the discussion of Korean War brainwashing useful.

Once someone starts to behave a little differently from before, then cognitive dissonance kicks in.

(P.S. None of the above is meant as a wholehearted endorsement of NLP. I wrote about that in my first post.)

69:

Cheers all the same! Thanks for the endorsement.

Plus, now that I'm trying to make a go at this writing thing full-time, I finally registered with the PLR scheme, which means I get some pennies whenever someone borrows one of my books from a library.

Most writers are skint, too!

70:

You're 100% right - people differ in their responses, and you have to read them and the situation.

In the particular case I'm thinking of, I used a calm voice and a rock-steady stance. (I was not the intended victim - this was a stationary bus and a gang of youths was about to beat up the driver.) All the other passengers had scurried away - it was the last stop - pretending not to notice what was about to kick off.

I marked out certain words in a lower, gravelly tone. Voice tonality is rarely processed consciously, which magnifies the effect - a deeper tone is one way of signifying a command. In particular I said something like, "I'm in no hurry to get off the bus."

This caused an instant state-change in every one of the gang members, apart from the one closest to the driver (who had no protective barrier to help him - it was an old single-decker bus). That one was grabbed by his mates and hauled off the bus.

You can read such a state-change by the sudden defocusing of eyes and slackness of muscles around the mouth.

I did not begin my intervention until they were all lined up in front me, in the aisle of the bus. I'd been sitting very quietly while they were scattered around the vehicle; I didn't want them behind me.

From mutterings I overheard as I walked away, they had assumed I was a police officer. So back to your point about responses varying - I can imagine other contexts in which being taken for a police officer would have been bad news.

(Plus, y'know, there are people like Rory Miller mentioned in @36 who've had thousands of such encounters. They're the experts, not me.)

71:

This, following, linked, site gives a reasonable description of operant conditioning in its military application - which is of course the grimly practical application of B.F. Skinners work ..its come a long way from feeding pellets to pigeons!


http://www.killology.com/art_trained_operant.htm

" The military and law enforcement community have made killing a conditioned response. This has substantially raised the firing rate on the modern battlefield. Whereas infantry training in World War II used bull's-eye targets, now soldiers learn to fire at realistic, man-shaped silhouettes that pop into their field of view. That is the stimulus. The trainees have only a split second to engage the target. The conditioned response is to shoot the target, and then it drops. Stimulus-response, stimulus-response, stimulus-response: soldiers or police officers experience hundreds of repetitions. Later, when soldiers are on the battlefield or a police officer is walking a beat and somebody pops up with a gun, they will shoot reflexively and shoot to kill. We know that 75 to 80 percent of the shooting on the modern battlefield is the result of this kind of stimulus-response training. "


If you haven't already come across it I think that you might like to read John Keegans " The Face Of Battle "


If I put in another link then of course the post will be held for moderation but here is a brief description from the books listing on Amazon.com ..

" What is going on when a man stands to face a charging horseman or goes over the top from a muddy trench to a likely death? Would a horse, no matter how trained, charge directly into a mass of armed men? Would they flinch? Would the horse turn? Could they really be routed in ways so colorfully portrayed in paintings of war when it seems simply impossible to fit so many horses or men into so small a space, to leap through the mass of other flesh? What did it really mean to be struck a sword's blow or a by musket's ball? What became of a man wounded in no man's land, or captive, or a slaughterer of captives. Keegan's questions range from the deepest questions of humans facing death to the pragmatic problems of daily needs and mud and dirt and flesh. This book is apparently unique among military histories in raising and contemplating them."

72:

"Perhaps it's levels of undisciplined aggression rather than weapon ownership that makes the biggest difference."

I've always suspected this to be the case.

The Second Amendment, of course, refers to the right to bear arms in the context of "a well-regulated militia", but at this point the Supreme Court has essentially ruled that qualifier to be meaningless.

But that's a tangent.

73:

And in other news, UK outlaws sticks of more then 3 centimeters in length. And rocks. Rocks can be carried on your person only with "good reason".

Boy listening to some of this stuff is enough to make you want to join the NRA. I mean gun control I can understand, but why in god's green earth would anyone outlaw pepper spray?

74:

Some time back, US Army research revealed that very few professional soldiers are actually able to shoot to kill during battle. The army used the findings to change the soldiers' training, in particular to dehumanize the enemy.

From what I read, this is somewhat of a myth. Or rather, huge misinterpretation of data.

US Army found that during WWI only 1/4 of American soldier ever actually fired at the enemy. During WWII it was about 1/2. Army psychologists said that "modern people are conditioned from childhood not to kill, and it shows" -- and the program you mentioned was instituted.

What actually happened was, in 1914-1918 military doctrine has not yet adjusted to long-range artillery and other modern (at the time) weapons, and infantry tactics were so bad (read: designed for 1860-era weapons) that only 1/4 of the foot soldiers ever saw an enemy close enough to shoot at them. Vast majority of casualties in WWI were caused by the relatively very few soldiers -- fixed machineguns and indirect artillery fire.

By WWII infantry tactics got better, and about 1/2 of soldiers got to shoot at the enemy. By the time of Vietnam they got good enough that everyone did. And they had very few psychological problems with that.

75:

Because if you can get hold of it then the shitty little thug down the street and his mates can get hold of it. Pepper or CF spray is good in situations where you have ideally one opponent who you can quickly spray before running away. However I am of the opinion that if it was legal and accessible the majority of uses would be violent/gang related crimes where the criminals use it on innocent people and police officers.

One of the biggest problems I see with the arming oneself argument is that more often or not muggings and violent attacks are done by a gang of people on a smaller group or an individual. Obviously barring luck and extreme physical superiority one on many is never a winning combo. Hence the argument that arming oneself can even up the odds but this doesnt get around the problem that the gang can acquire the same weapon which nullifies your defence and massively increases the danger of that group of muggers.

76:

@73 There's a vicious circle of knee jerk reaction.

Generally people are happily unarmed and see no reason to be armed, or to turn tools into weapons.* Something to do with the English propensity for apologising for something the other person did? As John was saying it's all about where your head is.
Then someone unhinged goes on a killing spree,**. And legislation is passed to restrict access to firearms ect. (sword practice in central Edinburg * cough cough*). This makes the next round of deaths even more outrageous because $unhinged has to go to even greater lengths to make their statement.

*There are few places, locations/micro-cultures where this doesn't hold, but I haven't heard lists of the Young Dead on media for a few years now, so perhaps these things are more constrained or just no longer news worthy.

**see: Dunblaine, Hungerford and Cumbria 2010 ( Though I don't think they are going to ban shot guns yet/ever. However you will probably get shot by So10 or equivalent if you wave one around in public.)

77:

But the shitty little thug down the street and his buddies as you pointed out are going to beat the shit out of you regardless. The fact that they spray you in the face with something non lethal that does no permanent damage is not really adding much to the experience or upping their capabilities any. Maybe you will get lucky and they will spray you rather then kick you.

Something with a non brute force takedown is pretty essential for a woman to have any kind of chance even one on one, that is really the target market

As far as multiple opponents, you are going to lose unless you run away. Only guns help with that.

78:

" I mean gun control I can understand, but why in god's green earth would anyone outlaw pepper spray? "

Because they can be used to commit armed robberies.

At one time in the UK criminals would use improvised ammonia sprays in robberies and they still do now and then but over here in the UK it is held to be a Bad Idea that efficient versions of improvised chemical weapons be generally available. See here ...

http://www.westmercia.police.uk/news/news-articles/man-attacked-with-pepper-spray-during-bromsgrove-robbery.html


On Charlies response on the subject of Tasers at 37: about 12 years ago when I was employed in technical support in a British University I was engaged in doing a little research on the internet into various import export patterns for something deeply tedious that you wouldn't be interested in as a favour for one of my academic colleagues when I came upon a firm in the Irish Republic that was importing and selling Tasers.' Oh, Joy 'I thought to myself' this will make street robberies really interesting.' Anyway, I got my Head of school to Instruct me to call in the cops and they duly turned up and took down my particulars as it were but gently turned down my offer to act in the capacity of agent to import one or two of these interestingly vicious toys. Sadly they turned down my offer ..even when I offered to try the Tasers out as a civilian practitioner as it were. Could it be that they didn't like my suggested aliases of "Sebastian Tombs"

Try googling 'robbery with tasers in UK "


" 13 December 2010

Man shot with taser in pharmacy robbery
Taser gun The man was shot with a taser gun during the raid

A man has been shot with a taser gun during a robbery in Belfast.

Two men, one armed with the taser, raided the Oriel Pharmacy on the Ormeau Road just after 1300 GMT.

The thieves threatened workers and assaulted one staff member with the weapon before fleeing the scene with diazepam and a small red cash box.

Police said the man received a low level shock. They have appealed for anyone with information on the robbery to come forward. "

79:

This is the one i have

http://taser.com/products/personal-safety/taser-c2

You shoot it, in addition to tazing the bad guy it sprays confetti all over the place with your id number on it.

80:

The other thing you got to think about is which do you want him robbing you with? A knife or a tazer? Me, I'd take the tazer. Unless you think there is a real chance of keeping knives out of the hands of bad guys

81:

further to 76
it's not that I'm dissing firearm restrictions: just that the legislation was passed by old maids in a paddy - the Olympic team trained abroad at one time (hey how are they getting around that next year?)
Aand it doesn't solve the problem of J Random Unhinged v the world (not that nail bombs are a better alternative of course). Or ask a rural Doctor about the delights of signing off shot gun licences for the depressed local population.

82:

In the spirit of Ilya's correcting myths in #74:

#50 - Contrary to what the PC establishment wants you to believe, the numbers for domestic abuse and murder (spouse injuring or killing spouse) are more or less equally divided between the sexes.

That is only true if murder and shoving are considered equivalent, using a scale that doesn't include sexual assault or coercion. http://www.nij.gov/topics/crime/intimate-partner-violence/measuring.htm

The stats for intimate partner murder - including ex-spouses and boyfriend/girlfriends - ran 3 women to 1 man in 2000.

83:

With a quarterstaff, "any number under six" shouldn't be a problem.

84:

by the way, I know a woman who is blind in one eye and has a criminal record because she tried to defend herself, in a hideous over-reaction, using a spraycan of oven cleaner.

If you need a weapon, it's because the other lot are tougher than you. So there's a good chance you're just bringing something to be used against you. So don't. Spend your money on running shoes or taxi fares.

85:

Depends on what you call abroad but the British Team trains in Northern Ireland and sometimes in Switzerland.

http://news.bbc.co.uk/sport1/hi/other_sports/olympics_2012/4162498.stm

Note the British Home Offices response on the subject ..

" A Home Office spokesperson said the laws had been voted in by an "overwhelming majority" of MPs.

"The banning of handguns wasn't a matter of eroding personal freedoms, it was a matter of ensuring that what had been shown to be a terrible, if statistically small, risk was removed," she said. "


It is of course possible for the UKs current firearms legislation to be amended, or even repealed in its entirety, but that is wildly unlikely to happen.

As for any " Or ask a rural Doctor about the delights of signing off shot gun licences for the depressed local population." No doctor - rural or otherwise - with a grasp of medical ethics and the possibility of being sued would sign off for a shotgun for someone that he knew to be clinically depressed.

86:

@84 Running is always my #1 choice. Nothing beats running your ass off for problem avoidance. Unfortunately, it is not always possible.

That is why i like the non-lethal self defense stuff, if it works, great, if not, at least when it gets used on you it's not a big deal

You have to understand that guns are different though. "God created man, but Sam Colt made them equal". There is no such thing as "other lot is tougher then you" with guns except for maybe numbers. Combine that with the fact that most criminals never bother to learn how to use their guns and there is actually a self defense value proposition there.

I'm a bit ambivalent on gun control. The one time I pulled a gun on someone, it worked, they left, no one got shot. Could certainly have gone down differently though.

The whole debate seems like a set of bad choices to me. A lot if it depends on how you weight the trade offs.

87:

it doesn't stop them getting asked. or having to go to calls where someone else has signed off one.

i'm shutting up now. I feel if i'm sounding all wrong on this issue,

88:

Hey, I see what you did there! There's a wheen of stories to be told about sword practise in edinburgh, but online is never the place to get into them.

89:
A Knife fighting culture seems a bit silly to me. Could think of about a thousand better ways to kill someone with common household ingredients. Rather have a staff then a knife, or a cricket bat. Or a taser. or a bottle of pepper gas. I have a taser actually. It cost $199 and it would end a knife fight pretty fast.

I bet 200 quatloos on Dumarest of Terra.

90:

May I suggest that you take Vit D supplements at around 5000 units per day. It has a big effect on arthritis, completely eliminating it in my case.

91:

One of the reasons that Special Forces are so effective is that just about every single one of them has no problem with killing people. It's explicitly what the job is about. Not disaster relief, or peacekeeping etc - killing. Well, that and sneaking around or sitting in a ditch for days bagging your own shit. Back when I was playing soldiers it never once occurred to me *not* to point my gun at the enemy and pull the trigger.

92:

I had a stun gun when they were still legal here.
Utterly useless as a weapon.
Or rather, about as effective as hitting someone with a whippy stick ie painful but not debilitating. To work, you have to hold it on a major muscle group for around 3 seconds. Which is like getting someone to hold still while being savaged by a big dog - not very plausible.

93:
I know a woman who is blind in one eye and has a criminal record because she tried to defend herself, in a hideous over-reaction, using a spraycan of oven cleaner.

So did she blind herself with the oven cleaner or was that part of the attack?

Oven cleaner's nasty stuff.

94:

She tried to spray it at someone, who grabbed her arm and turned it into her face.

Very nasty.

95:

Arguably, the freedom from such control is the greatest value there is.

96:

*92 Agree with you about stunguns. Tasers are really different. I shoot you with a taser, you fall down and can't move for about a minute. The operate at range and fire a little dart with wires trailing behind it

97:


"I know a woman who is blind in one eye and has a criminal record because she tried to defend herself, in a hideous over-reaction, using a spraycan of oven cleaner."

See, that's an argument for letting people have pepper spray. Because at least then they aren't trying to use the wrong thing.

98:

"Spend your money on running shoes or taxi fares."

Running away is one of those things that always sounds like brilliant advice.

Until you've actually had the conversations with the police about a stalker where they say things like "Mmm, yes. Well there's not much we can do until he actually harms you."

Tell you what; I drove straight from the police station to the local DIY store and bought the most fuck-off axe I could find. And I felt a damn sight better walking out of that store with it than I did when I went in.

Eventually I moved and I was VERY careful that there was no easy way to find me.

But in the intervening time -- well, Mr Pratchett wrote a sentence in one of his lesser known books about this that he was probably joking about, but which was pretty true at the time -- it's not to put the fear into other people, it's to take it out of me.

This stuff happens because we have a permissive society which lets it happen. Where not only are the victims of crime unarmed and undefended, but so is everyone else around them. Criminals know this, and know they act with relative impunity.

The best anyone can do 'legally' do is phone the police who will arrive minutes or hours later and supervise having the blood washed off the street. We have a social atmosphere where violence both casual and intentional is regarded as a sort of inevitable background and the recommended course of action for half the people in it is "try and be prepared to run away from things".

The mark of a civilised society is that it arranges its affairs so that ALL its citizens do not have to live in fear, not just those who are male, fast runners or six-foot-six.

99:

Self defence classes are also a waste of time unless they emphasize things like vigilance, body language, preparedness and situational awareness. By the time violence starts its too late for most people. It is generally believed that to be able to perform an action under pressure requires something like 5000 repetitions in training. The average person would be lucky to throw a single good punch, let alone go for locks or throws without years of martial arts behind them.

100:

@98 it is certainly a true statement that the more experience you have with police the less inclined you are to trust them with your safety. There are a number of reasons why it's pretty much impossible for them to do much more then catch some of the bad guys some of the time, usually after the crime is committed.

101:

It's also an argument for an entirely different proposition - in that situation *any* weapon would have been turned against her unless she'd got a firearm and a lot of training - and even then, how far does a missed shot travel? Who does it hit on the way? Do you get your shot off first? How many guns and how much training do they have? Have you just started a blood feud with the largest criminal family in town? (my friend's assailant was from the kind of family where people say "I got nuffing to say about them"). Do you carry it when you're out drinking? If not, that's when you're at most risk, if so that's when you're the biggest danger to yourself and others. Are you ever tempted to turn it on yourself or your partner, or that noisy dog next door? Once you've got that hammer, how many nails can you see? How much money have you got locked up in that nasty lump of metal, and in training? Isn't it often cheaper morally and economically to be robbed now and then? Unless you believe summary death and maiming to be a fitting punishment, and yourself as a competent judge.

(Pepper spray in that situation would have incapacitated her and her attempted use of it annoyed the attacker, leading to a right shoeing at best)

@100 - in urban UK areas I've seen the police act very quickly and at great personal risk. I've also heard of and seen some that were lazy little shits, but that's rarer.

When a mentalist turned up at a London university with a machete demanding lab time to "disprove Einstein", the first copper on the scene lost a thumb, and probably saved a few lives - there were no other casualties that day. They don't all spend their days murdering Big Issue sellers at demonstrations.

Re:stalking - it can't be pleasant and you do have my honest sympathy Katie, but we can't live in a world where people are routinely arrested before they've committed a crime just because someone said they looked at them funny. And imho if you'd used that axe on someone, you wouldn't feel so great about yourself. As Dirk's pointed out, such people are rare.

So back to the main point, which is to read the situation - which sounds like the main lesson in Our Temporary Host's virtual dojo. In many parts of the world, including the bit I live in, weapons are un-necessary and will often make things worse. Least (blood) shed, soonest mended.

ps. Don't have nightmares. Assaults are rare and crime rates are declining in general. It's a very safe world and it's getting safer.Though I've got thousands of hours of simulated fights (mainly sabre), I think I've experienced less than five minutes of the real stuff over my whole adult life. And that's probably typical.

102:

@101 it is not at all a safe world you just happen to live in a safe part of it. If you want to believe that you are helpless and incompetent when it comes to protecting yourself and your family, that is ok with me, it might even be true for you. I, on the other hand, am not, and don't see any reason to pretend to be so.

I grew up around guns, while I'm not some special forces badass I'm not at much risk of most of the things you are worried about. It's not assumed that all criminals have guns either, I'm pretty sure I will at least come out on top if I am armed and they are not

I think the overall argument behind gun control is not that an individual being assaulted is better off not having a gun, it is that society overall is better off keeping the number of guns down. Are we going to allow a few people to get slaughtered without opportunity to resist or will we give them that opportunity, knowing that overall more people die?

The counter argument is that it is not just about personal safety, an armed populace serves as an effective deterrent to police states and other political badness. And that a free citizenry needs to take some level of responsibility for their own safety if they are to remain free.

It's a complex argument, and from a theoretical standpoint I'm not sure where I sit on it. I wonder if there is not some middle ground somewhere.

Since my country has chosen the route of the armed populace though, from a practical perspective it makes sense for me to own guns given that everyone else does. That ship has sailed.

As far as the police go, it's not a matter of if they are brave or competent or not, it's just a fact that they are not likely to be very close to you when something happens. "When seconds count, the police are only minute away". There is nothing they can do to move them from point A to point B any faster. It's straight out physics that most of the time they are on blood mopping detail

103:

@unholyguy#102

"The counter argument is that it is not just about personal safety, an armed populace serves as an effective deterrent to police states and other political badness. And that a free citizenry needs to take some level of responsibility for their own safety if they are to remain free."

Hmmm are we sure about that? I mean how many civilizations have had access to weaponry and effectively managed to use them to resist the establishment of a police state.

I only mention it because it seems to me that in most cases - the populace at large - welcomed the establishment of police state and only later - figured out it might have been a bad move.

Do you have any references?

Also just to point out, having a pistol is not really going to protect you from the brown-shirts seeing as they, being backed by a government (legit or not) entity with access to military hardware, will just out man, and out gun you.

104:

The classic case being the "one bullet, one German" policy of the Warsaw Uprising. Which wasn't even a pyrric victory. (Does that count as a Godwin?)

Smallarms ain't worth more than the bag they came in against a modern armed state, and will only mark you out as a target all the sooner. It's a sign of the inexperienced revolutionary that they have an inappropriate obsession with weapons. "Time to end this game of soldiers", as one of Christopher Brookmyre's characters said.

unholyguy - let's not get personal, eh? I can handle myself (cadet training in the world's oldest regiment took care of some of that). My family are better at that sort of thing. And although I'm British, I've lived in a Third World capital (and not in the nice bit), in Rochester NY, and other "dangerous" places.

You're floundering a bit, too. First you say you need weapons to defend yourself against armed assault, then you claim such arms aren't common. Doesn't matter, really.

I didn't exactly grow up around guns - the nearest to where I grew up must have been three miles. But to me a "gun" is a crew-served weapon, a GPMG or possibly a shotgun (okay, they were closer - more like 10 yards). I'm pretty familiar with stuff like rifles & carbines, I've fired a Bren and loaded a mortar. So don't go there.

We seem to have stumbled into $Internet_argument_#N :the right to arm bears. Nothing anyone can possibly say in this thread will be any different to the thousands of similar discussions already online. Most that I've seen descend into name-calling and forcing people to dig up statistics that the other side contest. Probably best to pack it in. I'm right though ;)

105:

@104

Black Watch?

wait you said you were British. Which one, if you don't mind telling?

106:

Monck's Regiment of Foot (in a very junior role)

107:

The thing that always comes to my mind is the SA Brownshirts and the role they played in the rise of Hitler. It's hard to believe it would have played out that way with an armed citizenry. One of the classic tricks of fascism is using private brute squads to intimidate political rivals.

Phil, apologies for getting personal on you..

108:

@107
Yeah I think it might have been a little harder. But do you think the Brown shirts would have gone in unarmed? I am just thinking if it were me, I'd be like, 'Hey boss, I don't mind breaking a few heads but a least give me an my boys some light carbines, and and a couple light machine guns in case things get rough.`

I guess I just think its a bit unrealistic, seeing as how much of the populace approved of the action. At best you'd get a civil war.

109:

@106

Cool!

@107

One other thing. The brownshirts trained. I mean they actively practiced being thugs and fighting. I don't think everyday folks can just pickup a weapon and starting fighting trained soldiers. So being armed won't really help much.

110:

On knives and Kevlar.

Kevlar is highly effective against slashing, its less effective against thrusting (not a Kevlar weakness, but an effect of the sheer power that can be put behind a thrust), but it still helps a lot (the low power strikes in the video posted in @11 for example).

The real limit of kevlar against knives though, is that a knife has much much more precision than a gun. If knife vests become common in response to more knives, the knifers can simply stab people somewhere else.

111:

The whole point of the Brownshirt thing was the army and police could ignore it because it wasn't a civil war, no one was getting killed, just beaten senseless

The SA guys were not military just a bunch of street toughs and politically brawling was relatively commonplace

Hitler's supporters at that time were still very much a minority, but people were so scared of the SA that resistance to Hitler was crippled

Mussolini had a similar outfit which Hitler copied

The Germany Army hated the SA and would never have allowed them to be militarized

112:

Self defense classes are useless unless its done the real old way makes lots of blood. Most people freak out over any blood. It takes long hard training or a hard live to make someone bleed and not stop in horror. Thugs don't care, they like it. That's what they do.
I knew a guy who was getting into bar fights. He showed me his new hip pocket holster for a small gun to make sure he was not ganged up on. I tried to talk him out of it. I said it would give him the guts to dumb things. The next job I saw him on, his head had been pealed. I asked about his gun and said he was hit with a 2by4 before he was ready to fight. That's the trick. Its not like TV. Someone you don't see just hits you. The main thing is not to be dumb.
Back in the day some new kind of left fem's who wanted to be mean, were taking those classes. So they would not be afraid. I was around 240 and I said show me. It was a bad joke, it takes more than head bands and words. They needed to be fearful. Remember lions sleep in trees. The biggest lion gets the top.

113:

PS. "One of them launched into a rant about England's being a free democracy in which people have the right..." The worst crime in America is POP. Pissing of the wrong police man. If they were not so very, very English they could have been in a heap of trouble.

114:

PrivateElron @ 62
"don't think they have it in them to build a unified functioning dystopia
LURVE IT!

@ 83 & 84
A quarterstaff is only of use if you really know how to use it, and also NOT good in restricted spaces.
"Spend your money on running shoes or taxi fares." Agreed, provided there is somehwere to run to, and you CAN run (I can't at present - and me a dancer!)
Once someone decided that "Red meant go" and tried to flatten me with his car. I dodged, and hit the roof with my cane. He came around the block ....
I was able to poke him in the gut, and run for the tube-station, before he got his breath back.
Could not do that, at present.

Phil Knight @ 104
"cadet training in the world's oldest regiment"
The Honourable Artillery Company?
If not, who make the claim?
I see ( @ 106 ) - the regiment now called The Coldstream Guards.
Sorry, but the HAC are older - now there's a collection of professional piss-heads!
On old friend's ashes are scattered over their cricket ground (which is INSIDE the City of London) ... it's a whole collection of long stories.

d. brown @ 113
POP happens here as well, and I suspect, everywhere.
There will ALWAYS be police who are much too full of themselves.
The trick for a "good" police force is to keep those numbers to a minimum.
Which is difficult, let's face it.

115:

The other thing about carrying a weapon is that when the time comes, you *use* it.
You do not flash it around, or threaten to use it - you get it out and do it - instantly, with no warning.
As mentioned elsewhere, most people are incapable of that level of violence. If you are one of the people who are capable of this, then either you have had training or you *are* the problem we are talking about.

116:

dirk b. @ 115

Or both.
If you've fenced (I have) then you have trained reflexes.
If you've come very close to death because of nasty persons (I have) then you are likely to have, shall we say "nervous" reflexes.
So you STILL have to be careful because you DON'T want to go around trashing innocent people, who make the wrong moves.

If you are capable of going Bersark, then you have to be even more careful. If only because of the memory-blank(s) and the appalling endorphin-withdrawl "down" you get afterwards, whilst wandering around going "what happened?" [ Writers never seem to mention that side of it - I wonder why? ]

117:

That's why you need "rules of engagement".
For example, if someone grabs my arm in a crowded street (as they have done) I will just pull into a defensive stance. If they do that in a dark empty alley it's full on counterattack. If it's all a mistake, it's *their* mistake.

One of the biggest problems is knowing when the fight has started. It's why competent martial artists often lose - they wait too long. An aggressor picks the time, the place and they attack because they believe they can win. They are usually right, quite often because they are bigger, or stronger, or are armed or have their friends around them or are just drunk/drugged or plain vicious.

118:

Yes - writers always never mention the emotional effects of the comedown. It wouldn't do to see John Wayne crying after a fist fight at the saloon. That crying thing even happens to those who you would not expect eg Waffen SS troops.

119:

Oh yes. They're a lot older. Thanks.

120:

"we can't live in a world where people are routinely arrested before they've committed a crime just because someone said they looked at them funny."

So the only option is to wait until you're dead and die with the happy knowledge that now at least someone will pay attention to the problem?

See; this is society permitting the fear of violence. That permissive attitude is exactly why we have the problem -- the knowledge that you can get away with things because no-one will interfere. No intervention until things get really messy.

There's no early course correction. This is why we have youth knife crime -- because we don't punish minor vandalism and theft. When they finally stab someone it's always such a surprise that suddenly the justice system is interested this time. That's why they say things like "It ain't fair". It doesn't feel fair to them because they've long learned that "antisocial" behaviour means "crime we can't be bothered to punish" and they've come to the conclusion that all rules can be ignored.

This was a guy who had tried to follow me to work. The first time he got stopped by traffic at lights. The second time he was a lot closer. After I started driving in circles he realised I'd seen him and disappeared. A few days later he tried running my car off the road -- but he doesn't know I've done police driving courses well enough to be able to avoid him. That was when I went to the police.

"And imho if you'd used that axe on someone, you wouldn't feel so great about yourself."

I'd rather have had the axe and swung it at him than face him unarmed if it came to it. Like I say -- take the fear out of me. Buying an axe is something I can do about the situation when the "correct" route produces nothing.

Unless the police are going to be useful, then the ONLY person defending me is me. Frankly it doesn't matter how bad fighting back makes me feel because that's better than dead.

I'd rather not have to fight back, but the way for that to happen is that society decides to solve these problems properly and to protect people. Not for the individuals to accept that they must go like lambs to the slaughter.

121:

This is entirely wrong.

Most of the major political factions in Weimar Germany, had tough paramilitary formations - and the Nazis often found that their opponents gave as good as they got. Take the Iron Front for example:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Iron_Front

122:

@121, not an expert on the SA. I'm basing most of my information off "Rise and Fall of the 3rd Reich" which is a first hand eyewitness account and a great read, but not exactly the most unbias of sources

I was aware that other brute squads existed but my impression was the SA had kicked the crap out of them by the time Hitler rose to power

Do you have any sources to recommend?

123:
Self defense classes are useless unless its done the real old way makes lots of blood.

A friend of mine took Krav Maga lessons for a few years, which I gather are big into full contact "realistic" sparring. Unfortunately an overenthusiastic newbie damaged her knee and that was the end of that.

Statistically speaking it's unlikely any actual real word confrontation would've caused as much damage as the training did (Required an operation and ~2 years of rehab)

Plus she didn't rate her chances versus a male assailant, though I gather that's sort of by design, Krav maga being all about realistic assessment of situations.

124:

You seem to be fighting a strawman of your own devising. Nobody here is saying people should go like lambs to the slaughter, and in the UK you have a right to use reasonable force to defend yourself. I've never yet read of a case where someone was convicted after defending themselves.

Perhaps you live in a violent society in a violent country? I think you'll find most of us on here would like to try and create a much less violent society, and your preferences don't seem to match up with what is known about how to have a less violent society.

125:

Training...
In my case, cracked ribs on two occasions, bloody nose, black eyes, dislocated thumbs (both) and fingers, on crutches twice for weeks and a big toe broken in three places (which caused no problems at all surprisingly)

126:

Hitler and Co. had one advantage their opponents on the left did not have, which was a compliant police and judiciary which consistently looked the other way where Nazi violence was concerned.

I'll have to get back to you on the reference thing, but given that the NSDAP were invited into government by the mainstream conservative parties, and given that those parties hoped to use the NSDAP against the radical left, that would suggest that the anti-Nazi groups still had some fight left in them.

127:

Better not going there than having training. Look and walk around it. Lions sleep in trees. The biggest lion at the top. Learn from them.
I minded my own business, had Army training that was used, was big and very strong and looked like a biker. It took two busted noses and other things to teach me that.
After the last LA riots the English magazine 'THE ECONOMIST" said to understand it you needed to know that LA had 1/9 the police that any Euro city would think was needed. The powers here have never had the taxes to pay for enough cops. What holds down crime is getting the guy fast. Badly over worked cops end up doing dumb cop tricks, us and them stuff.
All the SA were killed in the "Night of the Long Knives. " That let Hitler get backing from the Rich. In the street wars of the time a R/W who killed a L/W got 4 years or so. A L/W who killed a R/W got 20 or so. Most hated the SA but hated the Commies more.

128:

Only the leaders of the SA were killed in June 34.
The SA continued and was eventually merged with the army.

129:

Point of note: many of the SA -- anyone aged over 30 in 1930 -- had military experience from the German army during the first world war. They weren't mere "street thugs", they were street thugs led by combat-hardened NCOs with trench warfare experience. In other words, probably one whole lot more dangerous than any contemporary street gang.

130:

dirk bruere @ 99 :

Self defence classes are also a waste of time unless they emphasize things like vigilance, body language, preparedness and situational awareness. By the time violence starts its too late for most people.

Yes, yes, and a thousand times yes.

131:

d brown @ 112:

Self defense classes are useless unless its done the real old way makes lots of blood. Most people freak out over any blood.

Likewise, yes. My traditional karate training did not equip me for self defence *until* I trained in a dojo where every now and then a significant portion of us had blood-spattered gis. In particular, I learned in the dojo to carry on fighting when something is broken (nose, ribs, torn knee ligaments), and that a determined opponent won't be deterred by such injuries, either.

Otherwise, you learn it on the rugby pitch or even more strongly, as you say, by living a hard life.

132:

Greg Tingey @ 116:

dirk bruera @ 115, 118:

Yes - writers always never mention the emotional effects of the comedown. It wouldn't do to see John Wayne crying after a fist fight at the saloon.

You've got a bunch of writers taking note, I'll bet... especially me! Must include that in the next book. (Although I have talked about uncontrollable shaking - very odd when you're an observer in your own body, that's if you've experienced it that way.) Cheers, guys!

133:

Katie @ 120:

Katie, you're a survivor. Congratulations. Keep on doing what you're doing. If you direct your awareness out into the world, then if the place where you're living now is safe you'll be able to smell the roses. Either way, you win.

134:

And then there's the relentless mental replays of the whole thing, over and over with the emphasis on could have, should have, next time... It's not fun, or at least I have never found it so.

135:

I suppose I ought to point out that traditional combat martial arts are not about self defence, but about winning a fight. Something entirely different.

136:

I, er, have Kevlar in my vocal cords.

137:

I really liked Slow River. It won the Nebula & the Lambda, so it can't be too bad.

138:

There's two aspects to that. Just thinking about the logistics of a cop being in the right place at the right time is enough to kill off any thought of being reliant on the Police being able to save the day.

(The fire extinguisher company Nu-Swift used to point out in their advertising that the first five minutes of any fire was your problem--same logic--and I am sure we could debate fire-fighting as enthusiastically as self-defence.)

But my personal experiences of the Police have soured me. Firefighters and Ambulance crews, wonderful people, and the live through some rough stuff. I suppose that the problem with the Police is that they have power over us, and we all think we know the quote. (No, it only tends to corrupt.)

139:

To add, the SA were related to the Freikorp paramilitaries. These guys were far from unarmed. Part of the reason for their success over their communist rivals was that they were better equipped, better trained, and better armed. They had everything from rifles up to heavy machine guns and improvised armoured vehicles.

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/e/e7/Garford_Putilov_in_Freikorps_use.jpg

They used this firepower to launch a number of attempted coups against the democratic Weimar government. The 1923 Munich Putsch involving Hitler was one of these.

The thing with armed citizenry is that you can never guarantee that the ones with the most guns are the best people for fighting tyranny. Often it is the case that those with guns and who are best at using them are concurrently the ones most likely to support a totalitarian government, and to use those guns against other civilians than against a tyrant. First thing the Rwandan regime did ahead of the infamous massacre was to hand out weapons, after all.

The only real defense against tyranny is democratic awareness.

140:

@ 132, 134
Yes
Like I said ... wandering around, going "What happened", and why is he unconscious, and why are people avoiding me - what went wrong ... errr ... plus the all-encompassing headache.

IIRC, SPielberg showed SOME of this in "Saving Private Ryan" - the reactions and aftereffects of battle.

141:

As an American who was born here and has lived here for all my life (41 years to be precise), I have never heard of "US towns where gun ownership is mandatory and burglary"is non-existent." Off the cuff, I suspect it is a myth promulgated by Britons who want loosened gun laws.

As for the small towns in the US where it is customary to leave the doors unlocked, I would hypothesize that it is practical because if anyone steals something in such a tight-knit community they would have a hard time getting away with it. To date, I have not heard anyone connect gun ownership with the above custom.

142:

There is one town, Virgin, Utah where gun ownership is mandatory. Apparently no real reason for it. The town has less than 400 people, who mostly already had guns, and anyone can opt out.

143:

After all the yelling I picked up MORE GUNS LESS CRIME, by Jhon Lott at a bargain bin. I get the idea that some who hate it have not read it. They just know its wrong. To me it's not that far out.
Here we go again, "Years Ago" I was ridding across a small part of the State of Arizona. I saw a real biker with a AK-47. In the 70's they were not common at all. Then there were the kind of young people who hang around street corners at Housing Projects doing so with full Cisco Kid Western holsters and big guns. Guy at the gas station had a small one. He said that in that State you could carry anything you could. But never, ever let it be covered in any way.
Most people I saw in the short time I was there did not show guns. But some did and the gas guy said they had was less crime than other states. He and his work buddies were the only one's I talked to. But I sill remember sometimes. I never heard of their streets running with blood any more than anywhere else.
That town were you had to have a gun. That was R/W political theater. It's true, but nobody there cares.

The Freikorp paramilitaries were country landowners men. Some have said our American Legion was formed by the rich to do the same thing here after WW-1. Keeping the Commies down outside the law. The Veterans of Foreign Wars was formed for real Vets who wanted nothing to do with the Legion. So said people who were there.

144:

The Freikorp paramilitaries were country landowners men.

No, they were not.
The name Freikorps derives from nationalist volunteer units fighting against Napoleon, especially from states that had a peace treaty with napoleon or where allied with him.

That they used the same name again after the Versailles Treaty was pure theater. It was a shadow army to circumvent disarmament provisions. It was set up, so the Reichswehr could credibly say: "We have nothing to do with it!" But it was effectively their reserve, fully armed, well trained and financed by secret Reichswehr funds. Because they were dependent on secrecy, they relied on extreme right-wing circles to set all this up. People that were unlikely to tell the French.

You could call the official Army "landowner's men", because in the Prussian army all officers were landowners and it didn't much change after the War. But for the Freikorps, it's not true.

145:

I live in a village in a mostly rural area of the UK, and it's not unusual to leave doors unlocked, car keys in ignition etc here. As you rightly surmise, this has more to do with sense of community than with gun ownership.

146:

When I was young ... OK, the past is another country and all that ... we wouldn't bother closing our front door except when going out, and even then we didn't usually bother locking it. We were on a public footpath a mile from the next nearest building.

Yes, we had guns. One 12-bore and one .410 shotgun and a .22 rifle, but those were for rabbits and the like, standard country folk equipment, and we'd never have dreamed of pointing them at people.

But the farmer whose farmyard was at the top of the lane would keep an eye out for who was heading on down. As did the farmer a mile away in the other direction on the footpath.

147:

A couple of years ago I was debating gun control with my brother-in-law. Some things he said got me thinking, and I dug up some statistics about homicides in the US and Canada. Turns out Canada has about 10% the homicide rate of the US — and we had that even before we had gun control.

The usual statistical caveats apply (eg. is suicide counted as a homicide?), but that did seen to indicate that the rate of violence in the US has as much to do with the culture as the availability of weapons.

148:

Maybe Canada screens for psychos first, before handing out guns?

149:

unholyguy

"i can take a long gun and turn it into a handgun with a hacksaw in about 5 minutes"

(apologies if somebody's answered this before)
I believe that the idea is that most murders are very, very spur of the moment.

150:

Thanks, I'll check it out.

151:

unholyguy


"The thing that always comes to my mind is the SA Brownshirts and the role they played in the rise of Hitler. It's hard to believe it would have played out that way with an armed citizenry. One of the classic tricks of fascism is using private brute squads to intimidate political rivals."

Most people aren't prepared for attacks; that's the most important part. If the SA were dealing with the odd armed person, they'd go armed and shoot first.

And the first time some target was ready and shot first, kiiling a few SA's, the propaganda would spin it as an attack (rememeber Kristallnacht?) and use it as justification for more attacks.

152:

unholyguy :

"The whole point of the Brownshirt thing was the army and police could ignore it because it wasn't a civil war, no one was getting killed, just beaten senseless"

I saw some figures recently on assassinations during the 1920's in Germany. There were ~300 political assassinations. All left-wing assassins were executed or imprisoned; *no* right-wing assassins were. The existing system liked right-wing thuggery; the question was who ordered it, against whom, and how publicly messy it was.

153:

@149 I think the idea is that murders are so very spur of the moment that the extra work involved with getting your shotgun out vs your handgun will prevent them.

I kind of doubt that.

There are actually several ideas all mixed together

1: Domestic violence, crimes of passion: My guess would that handgun vs long gun is probably not a huge difference here, the easy availability of any gun is probably enough to drive the murder rate

2: Street crime: Handgun vs long gun is at first glance a big factor since handguns are so much easier to conceal. My point is that since long guns can be converted to handguns, banning hand guns alone may not help as much as you would hope. Like banning heroin but not cocaine, you might just move the activity

3: A culture that produces people that want to kill eachother a lot (i.e. Swiss vs American gun ownership to murders ratio). I honestly think this is the driving factor behind the high rate of violence in the US. While gun control may be an effective treatment, it's a treatment of the symptom not the disease

154:

There was a shadow black army to circumvent disarmament provisions. They were members of the army whose term was up and went to the USSR to train. Then came back to the real army.
Everything I've read said the Freikorps were working farmers and farm workers. Under the command of the landowners when called up.
What I read from a few places could be wrong. But it came from what was known then. Most people did not like the SA. But they were viewed as holding the country together from commies who wanted it wrecked. No, not all of them wanted that. The ones that did had riots all the time that made the SA seem not that bad. Most just wanted both to go away.

155:

I'm just back from my nephew's passing-out parade in Catterick. Welsh Guards in his case, with Coldstream, Scots and Irish Guards in the same training platoon. (Emotional, me? Must be grit in my eye.)

156:

Converting a long gun into a handgun that can both be concealed and actually hit a target is a bit more difficult than you make it out to be.

As far as easy accessibility of guns goes, criminals very rarely own a gun legally (prison surveys put it at 5%, not specific to the crime), people having guns in their house really only contributes to crime when the guns get stolen and resold to criminals.

@whoever said you have to use a weapon for it to be effective self defense: Not even close, at least with guns. The absolute lowest estimate puts the number of incidents where a gun was used in self defense (in the US) at 100,000 per year, the highs put it at 2 million. Even in the US people don't get shot quite that often.

157:

Almost all handgun killing in America is by and to thugs. I made a suggestion that cut way back on drive- by shootings. The next mayor cut funding on everything to pay for frosting to make things look better. Now we are back to just like other places

158:

@101 wrote:
"Isn't it often cheaper morally and economically to be robbed now and then? "

s/robbed/raped/

no.

159:

Looking at per capita stats for that, the rate for the United States is double that of the UK, suggesting either all those weapons aren't putting anyone off, or suggesting something worse.


@John, #155 Cheers! raises glass.

160:

Guards??!
I would have thought a decent regiment like the Paras...

161:

Hum mm? Well, The Paras ! , are used in the Media as something Fixed and Unchangeable and Ever So Heroic, but actually deployment and formation of troops in the British Army alters with time and even full time status as a fully employed to a given role is in doubt these days. In today's British TA ...

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/4th_Battalion,_Parachute_Regiment

And then there's the Paras - Lo Cost - support role to SAS/SBS ...it's by no means as straightforward as once it was ...Costs a LOT to Train Eqip and Service SAS/SBS so ... on the Cheap given that the Yanks are Whimpering about our problems in supplying them with more Super Soldiers ..err r, hows about SUPPORT from similar elite troops that are almost the same but ... Cheaper ? BUSH - who be HE? - is bound to go for that and by the time it occurs to the American Cousins that this isn't quite the same, then ..we will be onto the next POTUS ...who can keep track of them?

" 4 PARA was re-formed on 1 April 1967 as a Territorial Army Battalion from a merger of the 12th/13th (Yorkshire and Lancashire) Battalion (this had been formed in 1956 from an amalgamation of the 12th and 13th Battalions) and the 17th (9 DLI) Battalions of The Parachute Regiment.

All of the TA Parachute Battalions formed part of the 44th Parachute Brigade (V) which was disbanded on 31 March 1978. After this 4 PARA came under the administrative command of North-East District with an operational role to reinforce an armoured division in the British Army of the Rhine (BAOR).
10 Para Battalion (V) DZ Flash

In 1982, 4 PARA became part of 15 Infantry Brigade.

In 1999, 4 PARA (Merseyside) was disbanded therefore moving to Pudsey in Leeds, however it moved back to Merseyside (Jubilee Barracks, St Helens) in 20 "


or " C Company (North of England)

Pudsey, Leeds
Hebburn, Tyne & Wear
St Helens, Merseyside "

The British /American Pattern Politicians Dream of Tomorrow is that of TA - part time whilst working full time as accountants and lawyers and such like middle class persons who, are not US but who DO Know their Duty - will serve as specialist Special Forces whilst doing their Duty as part of The BIG Society for FREE !!! Hurrah, and Cluthu Save the King...as who would not in the Politicians Dream of Perfection?

" joining the Army as a Territorial means that you do all your training and military duties in your spare time. It makes it possible to get many of the benefits of Army life and combine them with your civilian life and career. You’ll be paid for all the time you spend with the Army, and you’ll also have the chance to go on operations. "


What could possibly go wrong?

162:

Back when I was a toy soldier in the TA we could not look forward to actually do exciting stuff like fighting on an Afghan holiday. The most interesting thing I did was a course on lock picking and safe breaking at BAOR HQ

163:

Next time try the sappers.

I had the fun of explosives training. One thing is, if you set a charge and it doesn't go off, for some reason it's not the instructor who has to make it safe.

(Hey, if it had gone off while I was defusing it, it probably wouldn't have done anything more than redistribute my limbs around the crater.)

164:

Cheeky :)

The British infantry is as tribal as it comes - the Paras reckon everyone else is a "hat", the Guards pride themselves on steadiness, the Scottish regiments (or these days, "Regiment") reckon themselves second to none... Congratulations to your nephew.

Archaeopteryx@161 - go and look up 21 and 23 SAS; there have been "TA Special Forces" since the 1950s (Charlie even mentions the southern mob in his Laundry novels - 21SAS are also known as the "Artists Rifles"). 4 PARA(V) are line infantry, typically reinforcing 2 and 3 PARA, and are not SF support (the SF Support Group was formed around 1 PARA, but includes personnel from the other two services). There is a debate about the increased use of the TA in future - do a search for "Future Reserves 2020"

Two facts about my old Regiment - it reckoned Monck's regiment to be rather youthful (it was raised in 1633), and it stayed loyal to James during the Glorious Revolution (which made it unusual). The HAC is older, but the urban myth is that they lost seniority to The Royal Monmouthshire Militia because they backed the "wrong" side in the English Civil War.

The Guards and Paras are the two largest contributors to the SAS (after all, the SAS was founded by a Scots Guards officer). However, in these times of Afghanistan, every infantry battalion is doing/has done fighting that twenty years ago would have been reserved for the specialist doorkickers - at an intensity that hasn't been seen since Korea, or the last big mistake.

A couple of other points for the interested; if you want to learn more about the SRR (in its earlier, less formally established, existence) you could do a lot worse than the following, even if they are ten to fifteen years out of date:
"Big Boys' Rules" by Mark Urban
"The Operators" by James Rennie

165:

And now the oldest part-time regiment in history, the Mobile Party, are having their moronic fun in London. Soon to be Dragooned.

167:

"But when he called the rioters “a bunch of criminals” and said they would “face punishment they will bitterly regret,” some in the crowd confronted him, saying that the rioters had a free run of the area for hours, with no sign of police intervention.

“Where were they when we needed them to protect us?” asked Onelia Giarratano, the owner of a wrecked hairdressing salon. She said the crowd that destroyed her business included boys as young as 12, and said they had turned Clapham High Street into “a war zone”. "

168:

Years ago I read the men who ruled England could count. They did not what to make England a military state. They saw how costly it would be to make the military the size of the Armies it may have to fight. And pay for the always costly new arms.
So they made a very good small Army and kept the old arms. When war came they called up the Territories, as the regular army held back the enemy. Till the needed kind of new weapons could be made. It worked for a long time.
Here in the US we are trying to pay for a Army that could have two World Wars at the same time. One in the East at the same time as having another one in the West. With up to date arms. We can't do it.
Sawed off shotguns and rifles are gangster weapons under a 1920's Federal law. And penalties are heavy and enforced. Outside of assassinations they are not good weapons.

Sawed Off Shotgun

169:

By "called up the territories", I presume you mean "called up the Territorials" (aka the Territorial Army, the TA, or the Terriers)? If so, then they're a standing reserve in training but not full-time service, similar to the US states' "National Guard" units.

170:

right.

171:

Use enough C-4 in explosives training. Then it will be fast and you will never know what was wrong.

172:

Emphasis added:

You only need a reason [...] if the blade locks (this classes it as a fixed blade)

Leatherman/Gerber owners take note.

173:

Or even something as seemingly innocuous as an Opinel.
(I say 'seemingly' because, while they're cheap-and-cheerful pocket knives, they've got a really good carbon steel blade, which I at least did not expect for the price, and have the scar to prove I made a bad assumption.)

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