Charles Richardson's informative column on Macon and Bibb County crime statistics points out that while aggravated assaults have declined in the city and county, residential burglaries are up 6% over last year. These burglaries are associated with drugs and violence. The reality is that police cannot be everywhere all the time to protect our homes. Roadblocks and visible police presence may deter crime briefly, but unless we turn society into a police state even those measures will not suffice. Citizens must take some responsibility for their own safety.
Firearm training and safety courses and general awareness that responsible citizens would be willing to defend their families in their homes do deter crime without turning communities into a police state or fomenting vigilantism.
Burglary and auto theft are crimes that have steadily risen in Great Britain, a country with strict gun control laws where citizens have virtually no legal right to protect themselves from vicious criminals. In England, people are nearly twice as likely to be robbed, assaulted, or have a vehicle stolen than in the United States. Burglaries continue to be a problem in most communities in Great Britain but have declined in many small communities in the U.S, where criminals know that a large proportion of citizens are armed. Ditto for motor vehicle theft, it has risen in England because criminals know Britons are unarmed in their homes as well as in the streets.
In the early 1980s, Professors James D. Wright and Peter Rossi conducted a study funded for by the U.S. Department of Justice. In addition to other interesting statistics, their crime and violence research found that felons feared armed citizens more than the police. In the 1990s, Professors John Lott and Gary Kleck substantiated the findings of Wright and Rossi, whose research continues to be confirmed by a mounting body of data and experience to the present day. Despite the tremendous increase of gun sales and gun availability in the U.S., gun crimes have steadily fallen in the last two decades. The truth is that guns in the hands of the law-abiding citizens deter crime, encouraging a respectful community. Criminals do not know who in the public is armed, and they must be wary of citizens.
Several years ago, Georgia enacted a "shall-issue" concealed carry law. Unfortunately, many good citizens still do not avail themselves of this law because the media and some politicians continue to demonized guns and associate crime rates with "easy gun availability," despite the accumulating evidence to the contrary.
In Georgia, as in other states, citizens are legally protected by the “Castle Doctrine” that defines a man's home as his "castle,” where no one can enter without his consent, and he may use deadly force to protect it. According to Georgia statue, a person may use deadly force in defense of habitation and has a right to "stand his ground," with "no duty to retreat from the use of such force and shall not be held liable to the person against whom the use of force was justified or to any person acting as an accomplice..."
Moreover, in Georgia, a car is an extension of a person's home, an extension that he also has a right to defend. Again, self and family protection by law-abiding citizens is not vigilantism, but a duty of citizenship, and a desirable expedient for home and self protection against the increasing rate of burglaries, and potentially more dangerous crimes, such as rapes and aggravated assaults, crimes committed and remaining at rates still too high for comfort.
The truth is the police, despite their motto “to protect and serve,” cannot be everywhere. Let's remember that courts have ruled the police do not have a legal obligation to protect individuals; the police owe a duty to protect the community at large (Bowers v. DeVito; 1982) but not individual persons, homes, or businesses.
One way to decrease this cycle of violence is for the Bibb County Sheriff to announce and publicize the availability of gun training and safety courses for all interested citizens and business owners, so they can more safely do their part toward home, self, and family protection.
Written by Dr. Miguel Faria
Miguel A. Faria Jr., M.D. resides in Middle Georgia. He served in an Injury Research Committee of the CDC, 2002-2005. Originally submitted to the Macon Telegraph for publication on February 17 2012 and published on March 4, 2012 under the title "A citizen's solution for the problems of burglaries and forced entries."
Copyright ©2012 Miguel A. Faria, Jr., MD