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not just an american notion

Did you know that Poland acknowledges and protects a human’s right to self-defense, up to and including defense of property? Neither did I, until I noticed this incoming link in my referral logs (translated from Polish here). In short,

Defense against unlawful attack (attack) is guaranteed by the law in force in Poland, the Criminal Code of 1997 year. This right is, however, one of the fundamental human rights of individuals.

The source of that quote and the full breakdown of this protection seems to be here, and while Google Translate did an absolutely fantastic job mutilating the text, I am under the impression that Poland ascribes to the "reasonable person" test of self-defense (in that a "reasonable person" must agree that force was necessary to keep you safe/alive), limits you to no more force than the person is levying against you, requires you to stop defending yourself once the attack is repulsed, and, of course, confines the notion of "self-defense" exclusively to defending yourself against unlawful, immediate actions against you or someone else.

The rest I am not so sure about from the broken translation, and I could even be getting these parts wrong – I would be very interested in hearing from someone who can explain these laws in somewhat better English, if they are willing.

I do love that last phrase, though… 

[Update]  According to this comment from kawador, I may have been a little too optimistic. Well that sucks. [/Update]

18 comments to not just an american notion

  • MAJMike

    Doesn’t sound like a Polish joke.

  • Sendarius

    I have never understood this concept.

    “Yes, you may defend yourself, but only with reasonable force.” Where reasonable force is defined as equivalent to the force used against you.

    For me, reasonable force means overwhelming, devastating force that ends the threat with the least possible further risk to me and mine.

    I am NOT going “mano a mano” with some meth-head monster simply because he doesn’t have a weapon – more fool him.

  • dave w

    As long as you dont get some dummy say why did you shoot them when he was only punching you, to the 5’1 girl vs the linebacker its good. reasonable has to include that and any effects as Sendarius said, such as drugs.

  • Gabriel

    Cheaper than dirt and Dick’s have just done what Ruger did a decade ago. Because they’re jackasses and they’ve forgotten who their customers are.

  • kawador

    Hi, everybody

    I’m from Poland, I’ve read this blog for a long time so let me explain the specificity of the Polish law and practice.

    First of all this is bull shit. In my country, You are strictly prohibited to have a firearm. You know, “because guns kill people, we’ll be like USA, where everyday is shooting in schools, etc.” Seriously – in Poland most of the people see guns in USA that way. It’s stipid like hell but it is what it is.

    It’s even worse. Gonna tell you a story about what I’m dealing with.

    In February 2010 in Warsaw, capital of Poland, about 10AM a bus stopped at bus-stop. Drunken teenager picked up a trashcan and threw it into bus’ window. The glass shattered. One man stood up – a policeman after duty. He showed badge and called the teenager to calm down. On the bus-stop, there was also second teenager. He had knife, he killed that police man. This kid was 18.

    Now the best bit: policeman had no gun, because in Poland law forbids policeman to carry a weapon after duty. They have to leave it at police station.

    My point is: like Teller says – “it’s all bull shit”

    Poland till 1989 was communist country. In 89 opposition and regime sat together and created new deal and democracy kicked in. Since then, ALL parties in parliament are leftist. And they hardly work on gun permission – this means as little guns as possible.

    I’m writing this to explain you the psychology of ours. If you have population like this, guns are considered as threat. Journalists, politicians, artists – they pointing USA as a argument against gun-free policy.

    Sad but true.

  • @ MAJMike: Sadly, I do not know many… never got my grandfather to write his down.

    @ Sendarius: I do not grok “reasonable force” either, but at least it would be better than the situation kawador is describing…

    @ dave w: But, by the same token, you cannot just go say “any self-defense shooting is A-OK”. In this kind of case, there does have to be some kind of control.

    @ Gabriel: Wrong post, I dare say, but I do not say you are wrong ;).

    @ kawador: Thanks for stopping by and thanks for providing some clarifying, first-hand information on the situation! I do not mean to sound like I am calling you a liar or anything, but given what you say, what is the story with the “Criminal Code of 1997″ thingie? Or does the Polish government treat that like “progressives” here would like to treat the Second Amendment?

    In any case, that situation, as I am sure you are well aware, frankly sucks… It even more sucks that they are holding up my country as an example of why guns are evil while simultaneously ignoring all of the good those firearms do in my country on a yearly basis, much less the fact that violent crime is going down while gun ownership is going up.

    Oh well :(. Facts never matter much to politicians, no matter what country they are serving in.

  • kawador

    “Or does the Polish government treat that like “progressives” here would like to treat the Second Amendment? ”

    Exactly the same. Passage that you quoted – “Defense against unlawful attack is guaranteed by the law in Poland bla bla bla” – these are empty words, they mean nothning.

  • Hitch

    Yep, Kawador’s right. I’m also from Poland and I will only say that we are totally disarmed society. If someone wants to kill you or rob you – you will get worse sentence than that someone if you kill’em during self-protection. We are handed on a plate to murderers, rapists, thieves, robbers and any other kind of bully. Our government wants us to be permanent scared, they have no slightest idea what freedom is.

  • dave w

    but that keeps you dependent on them and keeps them in a cushy overpaid job

  • Some things here need clarification.

    According to the newest version of the self-defence law, passed some four years ago, you may stop anyone violently attacking anything protected by law (live, property, even somebody else’s honour) by whatever means you deem necessary. Any attack on a person conducting such a defence is considered assault on a public official performing their duties. You may even use illegaly owned weapons for legal self-defence. You should stop once the attack ceases, but failing to do so is not subject to punishment if you are acting under fear or indignation.

    Policemen may carry their weapons while off duty, it has always been so. Some choose not to.

    Getting a permit to legally own modern firearms is dificult, yet not impossible. Takes several months at least, requires club membership, medical and psychological examination, passing a test (legal issues and firearm handling, with or without shooting test, depending on the type of the permit). It costs at least ca. 500 USD, not counting actual shooting training.

    Pre-1885 non-cartridge firearms and their replicas as well as black powder are legal to own and carry without any paperwork.

    Knifes, other edged weapons and low-energy (below 17 J) airguns are virtually unregulated. However, for some reason crossbows are treated almost like firearms.

  • *life, not live. Sorry.

  • @ kawador: How… disappointing. I guess we can file that as yet another thing that sounds awesome on paper and does not work out so well in reality :(.

    @ Hitch: Sounds pretty much exactly like what the “progressives” want for us.

    @ dave w: Exactly.

    @ Iulius: I kind of get crossbows being regulated almost as much as firearms, given they typically have significantly greater penetration capabilities than their firearm equivalents… jus a significantly slower reload speed :).

    As for the rest, how common are carry/ownership permits over there? And how common are cases where self-defense is not only defended in court, but supported in society? California has much the same permitting requirements for carry permits over here, but if you live in San Francisco or Los Angeles, your chances of actually getting a permit are somewhere between “zero” and “none”.

  • Hitch

    Iulius wrote:

    According to the newest version of the self-defence law, passed some four years ago, you may stop anyone violently attacking anything protected by law (live, property, even somebody else’s honour) by whatever means you deem necessary. Any attack on a person conducting such a defence is considered assault on a public official performing their duties. You may even use illegaly owned weapons for legal self-defence.

    Nope. If you will hurt or kill the attacker in Poland, you’re going to jail. Make no mistake about it. If you will use illegal weapon for self-defence, you’re twice as screwed. Polish government doesn’t give a shit about it’s citizen’s freedoms or security.

  • Hitch

    Linoge wrote:

    As for the rest, how common are carry/ownership permits over there? And how common are cases where self-defense is not only defended in court, but supported in society? California has much the same permitting requirements for carry permits over here, but if you live in San Francisco or Los Angeles, your chances of actually getting a permit are somewhere between “zero” and “none”.

    You can get permit only if you’re gun-club member, hunter, wealthy businessman or if you can prove that you need gun for protection. By “prove” I mean “show police your death certificate”. Of course if you’re sport marksman or hunter you’re not allowed to carry your weapon in ready to fire condition all the time. And shooting it in self-defense will be categorized as “use against purpose” wich is one way ticket do jail. Even if you by miracle got the gun permit for protection, you still go to jail for shooting the attacker.

    Poland and it’s law is one, big bullshit. I would move to States a long time ago if I had any money…

  • “I kind of get crossbows being regulated almost as much as firearms, given they typically have significantly greater penetration capabilities than their firearm equivalents…”

    I have heard it was about their usefulness as a poaching weapon.

    “As for the rest, how common are carry/ownership permits over there?”

    Very rare.
    Hunting permits are the most common, but it is still only some 100 000 people in a population the size of California. Other non-carry permits amount to less then 20 000. Carry permits are virtually non-existent at just few thousands, basically reserved for politicians.

    “And how common are cases where self-defense is not only defended in court, but supported in society?”

    In last twenty years there were many cases of people going to jail for self-defence. It lead to public outrage and changes in law discussed above. Many, like Hitch here, remain pessimistic.

  • Hitch

    I’m not pessimistic, just realistic. Few days ago 18 year old was sentenced to 15 years in prison for killing a robber in a fight. Few months ago 60 year old got the same punishment for killing man who broke into his house. Polish government protects only itself and bandits.

  • kawador

    @Iulius

    “Policemen may carry their weapons while off duty, it has always been so. Some choose not to.”

    You’re right. My bad. But let’s get the facts straight: in Poland if you used a gun like this guy did, you would get a life sentence without the possibility of parole: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YkI3ddNQkH4

  • @ Hitch: It is unfortunate to see the law and the application so wildly disparate, especially given how wonderfully-worded the law in question actually is. Unfortunately, that does not appear to be a singularly American “feature” of politics either.

    @ Iulius: In other words, Poland is about as bad as the worst of our “may issue” states over here with regards to permits and the like – if you are well-connected or in a high position of society/politics, you are good to go, but otherwise, you are screwed. That is definitely unfortunate.

    @ kawador: So much for a “fundamental human right”, huh?