Defending your castle

The sacredness of property as a right is nothing new – in his Second Treatise on Government, John Locke wrote, “the reason why men enter into society is the preservation of their property,” and laws going back to Hammurabi’s Code address rules governing conduct in property-related disputes. Obviously, this right has eroded over the past few years Kelo vs. New London but for the most part, your fellow citizens can’t destroy or take your property (well, unless the government says they can).

But when others threaten their property, how far can individuals go to protect it?

In Chicago this week, a 68-year-old woman made the news for fighting back against two boys who had terrorized her and vandalized her property for over a year. Margaret Matthews came home to find broken windows, and when she investigated, was hit in the chest with rocks by the culprits – so she got a gun from inside her home and shot one of the boys. The boys have been charged with aggravated assault; Matthews has not been charged.

A similar story comes out of Britain, where a homeowner used a catapult  (seriously) to fire ball bearings at a group of teenagers who had harassed him and his neighbors for two years. The teenagers sued him for damages, but the lawsuit was thrown out (although the man still must carry out 150 hours of community service for causing bodily harm).

In both instances, the police didn’t make much of an impact on repeated criminal behavior – which isn’t necessarily an abdication of responsibility, but damages the community all the same. The Chicago Tribune says there’s a thin line “between vigilante justice and the right to personal defense.”

Obviously, nobody wants high crime rates, but current policies don’t seem to be working as well as they should. According to John Lott (author of More Guns, Less Crime), knowing that homeowners can fight back has a deterrent effect, because it drives up the cost of criminal activity. If you don’t know whether the person you’re robbing has a gun, you’re going to think twice about sticking them up.

Meeting violence with violence isn’t an ideal situation – but maybe it should be judged on a case-by-case basis. The discretion exercised by the police in Chicago and the courts in Britain is a small, but important step. If a man can’t credibly defend his castle, private property becomes meaningless.

Bay Area NewsNEP

If you find our journalism valuable and relevant, please consider joining our Examiner membership program.
Find out more at www.sfexaminer.com/join/

Just Posted

San Francisco Police Officer Nicholas Buckley, pictured here in 2014, is now working out of Bayview Station. <ins>(Department of Police Accountability records)</ins>
SF police return officer to patrol despite false testimony

A San Francisco police officer accused of fabricating a reason for arresting… Continue reading

Disability advocates protested outside the home of San Francisco Health Officer Tomas Aragon. (Courtesy Brooke Anderson)
Vaccine rollout plan for people with disabilities remains deeply flawed

On February 13, disability activists paid a visit to the house of… Continue reading

Mayor London Breed and Supervisor Shamann Walton announced that funding would be diverted from the police budget toward the black community in June 2020. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)
City directs $60 million toward Black community services and housing support

San Francisco released new details Thursday for how it plans to spend… Continue reading

The Stud, The City’s oldest gay bar which is vacating its longtime home at Ninth and Harrison streets after more than 50 years, on Thursday, May 21, 2020. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)
City’s nightlife recovery fund approved but struggling business owners fear relief may come too late

As San Francisco’s nightlife scene approaches nearly a year of a complete… Continue reading

Riordan Crusaders versus St. Ignatius Wildcats at JB Murphy Field on the St. Ignatius Prepatory High School Campus on September 14, 2019 in San Francisco, California. (Chris Victorio | Special to the S.F. Examiner)
State allows high school sports to resume, but fight is far from over

For the first time since mid-March 2020, there is hope for high… Continue reading

Most Read