How would you defend your home in the U.K. against a home invasion, without a firearms license?

I live in London UK and I was a victim of a home invasion a few years ago. Firstly, I'd say us Brits never use the term ‘home invasion'- it a burglary.

We owned a 2 bedroom Victorian terraced house in an up and coming area called Wood Green at the time, which we considered pretty safe.

In the middle of the night I was woken by my wife who said she thought she could hear someone downstairs, to put her mind at ease I got up and went to investigate, as I got to the top of the landing I saw man with armfuls of my stuff walking out, still half asleep (and half naked) I shouted "Oi!". As soon as he saw me he ran, I followed him up the street until he jumped into a van and drove off.

I immediately called the police, who turned up within 3mins and begin hunting the area for the robbers. They got away.* We claimed on our house insurance for £2000 worth of stolen items, which were replaced for new.

Now if we were allowed to arm ourselves in this country I honestly don't know how the situation could have been any better. Maybe in a panic I'd have tried to shoot the intruder? Or maybe he'd have tried to shoot me upon bein discovered? In fact, any weapon would have been useless. I've thought about it a lot since and keeping a weapon beside me when I sleep would only serve to reassure that irrational part of my brain that is now paranoid about it happening again.

People in this country (and I suspect in most places) don't break into your house to hurt you, they break in to take your things. Let them. Things can be replaced (you'll get brand new stuff). If we were encouraged to defend ourselves I'm pretty sure the burglars would be far more able (and willing) to cause serious harm than you or I.

*a few months later I was called by the police who said they'd caught the people responsible, robbing someone else. They were found guilty of multiple burglaries and are now in prison for a long time.

Firstly, let me note that a "home invasion" (I took this to be a peculiarly American expression, but apparently it gets used in Australia too) doesn't really enter my head as a serious possibility. It's barely above being abducted by aliens, and I haven't got any special defences against that either. Rather, what might happen (but is still pretty unlikely) is a burglary.

If someone breaks into my home, they almost certainly just want my stuff. If you're getting in situations where the Mafia are trying to whack you, you have bigger problems than UK gun laws. If they want my stuff, the odds are they will just run away when confronted. This is because escalating from burglary to GBH or attempted murder is a huge deal. Most burglars are just desperate addicts or career thieves, not stone cold killers. If they don't run away or if they mean to do me harm, I would grab a kitchen knife and try to defend myself if need be. Or grab whatever makeshift weapon was available (eg. A hammer from my tools cupboard). But that would be a last resort. My TV isn't worth stabbing someone over (and it certainly isn't worth me getting stabbed!). Possessions can be replaced. My life cannot. Frankly, the way some people on Quora seem to fetishise the idea of dealing out hot leaden justice to a burglar is a bit sick. Just deluded fantasies from people who have watched too many Death Wish movies.

The above assumes a situation where I don't have time to call the police.

Additionally, bear in mind that there is virtually zero chance of a burglar in the UK having a gun. Guns get used in organised crime hits. Last time I checked, I was not involved in organised crime.

"Home invasion"! The phrase itself emphasises the level of paranoia in the US.

An invasion? Someone wants to forceably and permanently occupy your property?! If that's the perception in the US then I can understand the paranoia that makes you feel that you need a small arsenal to ‘defend' yourselves.

Just call it what it is - a burglary - some lazy git(s) just want to take something which doesn't belong to them, so they can sell it for quick cash. That's it.

In the UK the term "Home Invasion" sounds comically melodramatic!!! To us it's a burglary, robbery, or break-in. It's an intrusion into ones personal space. It is upsetting indeed. It's an inconvenience. It's shocking. It's an unfortunate part of life in any society.

One thing it is not is an invasion, and we do not perceive it as such. We therefore do not feel the need to "defend" ourselves.

As others have mentioned, the majority of burglaries are planned to take place when no one is in. It's easier for the burglar that way, and in fact it risks a lesser sentence if caught (clever law-making isn't it?).

If someone does break-in whilst a property is occupied then they are very likely going to be left undisturbed whilst the residents call the Police. Maybe they will be taken by surprise by someone shouting "Oi! Piss off" at them!

In the UK one may only defend one's self using ‘reasonable force'. It is not, by any means, acceptable to shoot or grievously attack someone just because their path in life lead them to the situation in which they entered your property.

Therefore, the part of your question that asks about the "firearms licence" is irrelevant; If you are being burgled and you are without a firearm? Not really an issue. If you have a licenced firearm available? Well, you'd be an idiot to use it! (See reference link below). If you have an unlicensed firearm? Then you are in some serious s**t!!!

It is fair to say that from the European perspective it seems our US brethren ‘on the other side of the pond' live in perpetual fear!

Fear of losing your jobs, health insurance, etc. Fear of those who are different. Fear of murder. Fear of crime. Fear of the Police for god's sake!

As I say, it's just our perception. It seems sad to us. I therefore understand the incredulous nature of your question: How could we possibly sleep at night knowing that we can't ‘defend' ourselves when the inevitable horror happens?!!!

Trust me, we sleep perfectly well thank you. Even better knowing that every man and his dog isn't armed to the teeth!!!

Tony Martin (farmer) - Wikipedia


It's important to emphasise that in Europe we can be fairly confident that it's extremely unlikely an intruder will be armed. That is not the case in the US I'm sure.

This leads to an even bigger question: If Europeans had the same access to firearms as in the US would petty criminals begin to arm themselves as a result? I'm quite certain they would. It is merely another form of arms-race.

The result is that by not bearing arms we are safer, and there have less need to defend ourselves. Win, win!

Thanks to Adey Hill for the suggestion.

Who has heard of Oscar Pistorious? He's a South African Paralympic sprinter, and later the first amputee to be given permission to compete in the Olympic Games against able bodied athletes. He progressed to the semi-final at the 2012 London Olympics in the 400m breaking down many barriers for disabled athletes in the process.

Unfortunately, Pistorious's sprinting career was brought to an abrupt end just six months later, after he shot his girlfriend, South African model and TV presenter Reeva Steenkamp, dead on Valentine's Day, 2013.

Pistorious was arrested and a year later stood trial for murder. The prosecution argued that he killed Ms Steenkamp in a fit of rage and jealousy. His defence was that he believed there was an intruder in the house and shot through the locked bathroom door in a panic, only finding his mortally wounded girlfriend when he broke the door down with a cricket bat.

Unfortunately for Pistorious, while the trial judge found there was no evidence that Pistorius had wanted to kill Steenkamp, she found him guilty of the lesser crime of culpable homicide, as he had acted "too hastily and used excessive force". After initially being sentenced to five years, he was retried and is now serving six years in prison having been found guilty of murder.

My point here is that neither version of events would have occurred in a society where guns were not profligate.

If we believe Pistorious, it is clear that he killed his girlfriend due to living in a society where people go to bed every night fearing that an armed intruder will attempt to break in and potentially use a gun on them or a loved one, leading people to believe that the only sensible course of action is to sleep with a loaded gun on the bed side table. This course of action, and a healthy dose of paranoia, has led to a man spending time in prison for the accidental, paranoia driven murder of someone he loved.

If we believe that Pistorious shot his girlfriend in a fit of rage, then it might be reasonable to assume that, had Pistorious not had ready access to a firearm, the police and courts would not have been dealing with a murder, but with perhaps a case of domestic assault. This is conjecture, but there is no doubt that a loaded firearm makes it far easier to commit a crime in the heat of the moment which a person will regret for the rest of their life.

I can only say that I will always be thankful that I live in a (practically) gun free society where I don't go to bed each night paranoid that an armed intruder will break into my house and potentially murder me or a member of my family. Having to live with accidentally killing a member of my family while trying to protect them doesn't bear thinking about. Could you live with it? Thankfully I live in the UK so I won't have to.

EDIT. A couple of people have pointed out I haven't actually answered how I would defend myself without a firearm. As many have pointed out before me, our burglars generally try to break into unoccupied properties, and the vast majority are unarmed. Domestic armed robberies in this country are usually very well planned and often involve forcing wealthy homeowners to give access to an on-site safe. Not something an average citizen needs to be concerned about. In this situation installing a panic button would probably be the best option.

The only time I thought my flat was being burgled I was woken by my then girlfriend and immediately picked up a golf club as my golf bag was in the bedroom. Upon going into the hall I was relieved to discover it was just the next door neighbours arriving home late in the shared lobby.

Otherwise best to let the police deal with it. Stuff is not that important, and most burglars are not looking to harm a homeowner unless cornered.

Honest answer .. frying pan. Or a rolling pin. Actually, the rolling pin would probably would better, as I could jam the bedroom door handle with it. If it sounds comedic, you must understand the very premise of the question also sounds comedic to us.

I realise there's a very common trope that if guns are outlawed, only outlaws will have guns. But the reality is the British public weren't heavily armed in the first place. The era of arming the public in order to raise an army upon requirement (as per the 2nd), was the era of archery practice on the village green, and resolutely ended when we began to field a standing army after the Restoration (1660).

Between this low prevalence of firearms in the first place, and mandatory minimum sentences for firearms offenses, it's very rare that criminals will use firearms even if they have access to them. (That is, a criminal with a firearm is most likely to use, or threaten to use it against another armed criminal. There's no point bringing it to your mums house, it'll just add 5 years to the sentence). No matter how many comparisons people go fishing for, it just never works - we don't just have an entirely different "gun culture", but we always have had.

If you had the same firearms laws as the UK, you would not get the same results as the UK, because we started in different places. It doesn't prove that our laws are unsuitable for us, and it doesn't prove they'd work for you either. We have entirely different cultures in this respect, and they'll each require entirely different solutions.

Q:How would you defend your home in the U.K. against a home invasion, without a firearms license?

Ahh Yes another of those questions probably originating from the USA.

Although I do not live in the UK now, I did spend the first thirty years or so of my life there. I never felt insecure or vulnerable to invasion at any time, the second world war had ended just before I was born. But even if invasion had occurred it would have been fairly difficult to break into our home for various reasons.

As I am sure you are aware most UK homes come equipped with a moat and a single drawbridge, unless you live in a flat which, under local council regulations, should have a communal moat and multiple draw bridges.

If said "home invader" gets past these there is the famed boiling oil which can be poured on them in the gate area behind the portcullis, and does not need a license. But because of the increased prices in oil since the 17th Century boiling water is often substituted .

We also had a team of archers ( people with bows and arrows ) waiting in the first courtyard to annihilate the invaders. This neatly gets past the "firearms license " problem.

There were obviously many other obstacles used before gaining access to the main family area, most of which remain secret for obvious reasons.

But one of the most fearsome would have been my mother brandishing a loaded dachshund...No home invader would have relished that challenge.

To be serious ...anyone who meets certain qualifications can own guns in the UK, but we tend not to defend our homes with armour but with alarm systems , dogs and, occasionally, super violent gerbils..As most burglars, and those breaking into homes, tend not to be carrying guns, most run away when disturbed rather than get into a gun battle with an angry house owner...Mostly it works with few deaths...

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