Archive | Defense of Property

Knives and the Second Amendment

That’s the title of my forthcoming article in the University of Michigan Journal of Law Reform. My co-authors are Clayton Cramer and Joe Olson. The abstract:

This Article is the first scholarly analysis of knives and the Second Amendment. Knives are clearly among the “arms” which are protected by the Second Amendment. Under the Supreme Court’s standard in District of Columbia v.  Heller, knives are Second Amendment “arms” because they are “typically possessed by law-abiding citizens for lawful purposes,” including self-defense.

Bans of knives which open in a convenient way (bans on switchblades, gravity knives, and butterfly knives) are unconstitutional. Likewise unconstitutional are bans on folding knives which, after being opened, have a safety lock to prevent inadvertent closure.

Prohibitions on the carrying of knives in general, or of particular knives, are unconstitutional. There is no knife which is more dangerous than a modern handgun; to the contrary, knives are much less dangerous. Therefore, restrictions on the carrying of handguns set the upper limit for restrictions on knife carrying.

The Article is just the beginning of long overdue scholarly analysis of laws about knives. Not all households own firearms, but almost every household owns a knife, even if we do not count table knives. Issues involving knife carrying come up quite frequently in state criminal courts, but the legal academy has thus far failed to provide the courts with useful guidance. Persons who are interested in writing on Second Amendment issues, and who wish to make an original contribution, will find that there is plenty to write about.


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More on the English Wire Mesh Story

A couple of weeks ago, I blogged about English police allegedly telling people not to use wire mesh in their windows, because it could injure burglars.

Some readers expressed doubt about the accuracy of the news stories on which I relied, so I e-mailed the Surrey Police Department for more information. Here’s what I learned.

1. The Surrey Police Department reports that it recommends against the use of “certain crime prevention measures such as the use of barbed wire,” which includes “anything with spikes or jagged edges.” “[I]f injury results on the premises [from the spiky or jagged material], the owner could conceivably be faced with claims for damages under the Occupier Liability Acts.” I assume that their advice relates to protection against burglars, since that was the context of my question. I quote the entire e-mail below.

2. The Department says that it does not recommend against the use of wire mesh. This is inconsistent with the news stories on the subject. (See, for instance, the Daily Mail story that I linked to, and the Sevenoaks Chronicle story on which the Daily Mail story seemed to be based.)

3. So as to wire mesh, we have at least two possibilities. First, it’s possible that the news stories misreported the views of the police officers who were quoted or paraphrased in the story, and that in fact the police department doesn’t counsel against the use of wire mesh (but only counsels against “anything with spikes or jagged edges”); this seems to be the view of Don Arthur (Club Troppo).

Second, it’s possible that the news stories were accurate, and that different police sources give different advice on the subject — some police officers did urge people not to put up wire mesh, because of the risk of lawsuits [...]

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English Police: “Remove Wire Mesh from [Your] Windows as Burglars Could Be Injured”

[UPDATE: For a somewhat different account of this, from the Surrey Police Department, see this follow-up post.]

So reports the Daily Mail (UK):

Residents in Surrey and Kent villages have been ordered by police to remove wire mesh from their windows as burglars could be injured….

Locals had reinforced their windows with wire mesh after a series of shed thefts but were told by community police officers that the wire was ‘dangerous’ and could lead to criminals claiming compensation if they ‘hurt themselves’….

Here’s the extended quote from “[c]rime reduction officer for Tandridge PC John Lee,” followed by another from a “police source”:

We are constantly advising homeowners to protect their property and the contents of their shed or garage, however, a commonsense approach needs to be taken.

To properly secure your sheds, Surrey Police strongly advises people to invest in items such as good-quality locks and bolts, and not to resort to homemade devices, as this could cause injury….

Homemade devices can cause injury and there have been cases where criminals have sued for injuries they have suffered while committing a criminal act.

We are advising people to do whatever they can to protect their property, but wire mesh is not one of the suggestions we would make.

It’s not clear whether indeed the police ordered residents to remove the wire mesh — in the sense of threatening them with arrest or prosecution if they failed to comply — or just advised residents about the possible risk of tort liability. But in any case, something appalling is going on, either in English tort law, or in English police practices, or both.

I recognize that many American jurisdictions limit the use of unattended deadly spring guns to protect property, and my vague sense is that England does as [...]

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