Paul Jacob

The police are there to protect us. Maybe.

Unfortunately, a dominant strain of contemporary police culture wants citizens to limit their involvement in their own protection. Just call the authorities. Don't do anything else. Certainly, don't defend yourself.

This strain is most obvious in Britain. That country has strict gun control laws. And sword control laws. And knife control laws. Cooks have been prosecuted for carrying their specialty knives in public. People who have defended themselves against violent criminals with knives and other "illegal weapons" have been prosecuted ? and have even received harsher penalties than their criminal attackers.

The latest story to appear in the news tells of a Mrs. Jean Collop, grandmother, who awoke one weekday morning to the sound of an intruder on the roof. It was not Christmas, and this fellow wasn't St. Nick. She went outside, looked up, and "grabbed the first thing" that came into her hand ? a garden gnome ? for a weapon. She "politely" told him not to move, and hurled the gnome at him. The gnome, a member of a great traveling race ? according to Am?e, Travelocity, and urban japery ? found its destination and hit the man.

The intruder lost his footing, fell, and lay still on the roof. She screamed for help. (The neighbors called the police.) But she wasn't helpless. She ambled back into her house and got a rolling pin. "I didn't want to break another gnome."

So runs the story ? as near as I can piece it together from various sources. A bizarre, even amusing tale of self-defense.

My first take on Mrs. Collop's adventure was that a gun might have worked better. Point a gun, tell the criminal to stay put, and call the police. Guns are most often used to threaten, not shoot. And, because guns can be more deadly and more easily targeted than gnomes and rolling pins, they work more effectively as threats.

But innocent subjects of the British crown and modern welfare-state nannyism don't really have that option.

They must make do, apparently, with gnomes.

Paul Jacob

Paul Jacob is President of Citizens in Charge Foundation and Citizens in Charge. His daily Common Sense commentary appears on the Web and via e-mail.