Liberty takes a heck of a beating when a farmer can’t defend his family and property from thieves. In an upside legal world — the victim becomes the criminal.
In 2012, young farmer Bill Edwards, 21, Scarbrough, England, caught two metal thieves stealing scrap and tools from his land and loading the material onto a moving van. (This was the second theft on the Edwards farm in a 24-hour period.) One of the thieves, David Taylor, hopped into the van and tried to escape, but was stopped when Edwards, along with his 50-year-old mother, stood before the van and blocked the path. As Edwards told the BBC, “We stood in front of the van so he could reverse out down a narrow lane. He drove forwards instead of backwards. He drove forward and knocked my mother to the ground. He then reversed back and drove forward again.”
Edwards, armed with a 12-gauge shotgun that was never far from his side, leveled the gun and shot out the passenger side window and windshield with lightweight rabbit shot. Edwards then followed the van and called the police. After a high-speed chase, the police (thanks to Edwards) were able to catch Taylor, who brazenly claimed he fled only because Edwards shot at him.
The police promptly arrested Edwards and his mother, and frog-marched them to jail, keeping them in a cell overnight. They initially accused Edwards of attempted murder, but held back from an official charge. Incredibly, Taylor escaped court with a $150 fine after telling authorities he was actually the one who had been “traumatized” by the ordeal. Apparently the police agreed with Taylor. They seized Edwards’ firearms permit and confiscated his guns — four shotguns and two rifles (they even carted off a pellet gun) — kicking off a long legal affair.
After a month of wrangling, Edwards has finally been cleared of any crime, with the Crown Prosecution Service issuing this statement: “People are entitled to use reasonable force and self-defense to defend themselves, their family, their property. The evidence appears to support the suspects’ version of events and that they feared for both of their safety.”
(Note that in the CPS statement, Edwards and his mother are referred to as the “suspects.”)
Edwards has been cleared of any crime, but his firearms permit has been revoked. He says guns are essential to protecting his land. From USA-UK Online: “… I could not have lambs this year without controlling vermin.”
The British Association of Shooting and Conservation has backed Edwards: “A gun is absolutely essential to a farmer. There is nothing like having your own gun to control the land,” said Senior Firearms Officer Matt Perring.
Edwards’ guns have finally been returned by the police — but the “right” to use them has not.
“I’m the victim in this and they’re treating me as the criminal. I spent nearly four months on bail and the thief has walked off with a £100 fine,” Edwards told the BBC. “If I hadn’t taken action, my mother would certainly be dead and quite possibly me as well.”
When the BBC interviewer tried to play the blame-game with Edwards, he was having none of it: “I’m not really sure where else I could have aimed it. I could have shot him or the van. I chose to shoot at the van instead. The alternative was to get run over along with my mother.”
The Edwards affair carries two glaring lessons:
1. Thieves stealing from your property? Sorry, just call the police. You may ask them politely to stop; but do not use force.
2. Criminals threatening your mother’s life? Sorry, again, just call the police. Any resistance cannot involve firearms. Use a stick or a large spoon instead.
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