Attitude Media Crime and Punishment

Justice for an Unjust World

by, John F Groom

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Punishment Based on Where, rather than When

      People have spent years in US prisons for marijuana possession, which is now legal in many states. Prostitution is illegal in most of the United States, but legal in many other countries. Even at the most basic level, the right to defend oneself from intruders to one’s home, there are huge differences among countries that are otherwise very similar. The US and England are both advanced first world democracies with similar levels of economic development, and they share a language and a culture. Yet their treatment of gun crimes is very different. In most US states, if an intruder has crossed the threshold of one’s house, the occupant has the right to repel that intruder by any means he or she deems necessary, including killing the intruder with a firearm. The situation in England is very different.
      Even within a single country, laws can vary quite widely. Some states such as New York have more European systems, with harsh penalties for possessing a gun; in other states, such as Arizona, one can carry a gun openly. Plaxico Burress, a New York Giants football player, spent almost two years in jail simply for carrying a gun into a nightclub, which was discovered when he accidentally shot himself. One might think he had been punished enough, but New York City mayor Mike Bloomberg urged that Burress be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law, arguing that any punishment short of the minimum 3½ years for unlawful carrying of a handgun would be "a mockery of the law”, despite the fact that carrying a handgun is perfectly legal in many US states, and many people who actually shoot someone serve less prison time than Burress.

       Myleene Klass, a 31 year old broadcaster, was home alone with her 2 year old daughter when 2 youths attempted to break into her garden shed; she brandished a knife to scare them away. She then called the police who told her “she should not have used a knife to scare off the youths because carrying an "offensive weapon" – even in her own home – was illegal” according to an article in the Guardian. (http://www.telegraph.co. uk /news/ celebritynews/ 6957682/Myleene-Klass-warned- by-police-after- scaring-off-intruders- with-knife.html) Her agent said "Myleene was aghast when she was told that the law did not allow her to defend herself in her own home.”       This was not an isolated incident; In September of 2012, British

couple Andy and Tracey Ferrie were arrested on "suspicion of causing grievous bodily harm," after using a registered shotgun to fight off a pair of home invaders. The incident took place in the early morning at the Ferries' secluded cottage, after the couple was awakened by the sound of breaking glass. To defend themselves, Mr. Ferrie retrieved his wife's clay shotgun, while Mrs. Ferrie picked up a nearby crowbar. When the Ferries encountered intruders Joshua O'Gorman and Daniel Mansell, Mr. Ferrie fired, wounding both criminals. It was at least the fourth time burglars have broken into the Ferrie residence. Records reveal O'Gorman to have 16 previous criminal convictions, while Mansell has eight, including a conviction for wounding with intent that landed him a six-year sentence.
      Following their arrest, the couple spent 66 hours in police custody. Mr. Ferrie told the media that police threatened him with an attempted murder charge, adding, "I just crumpled. I saw myself being sent to prison for a long, long time. I was offered food but didn't eat for the whole 66 hours we were held." Mrs. Ferrie described the scene around her home as "something out of CSI." And Mrs. Ferrie's mother summed up the ordeal by stating, "They put Tracey and Andrew through hell." (http://www.nraila.org/247266)

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