...I used my best 'mum' voice and said, 'Stop that now or I'll call the police'.
No one was more surprised than me when they actually stopped.
...many people had rang them [police] about it but had been too scared to go out.
I still chuckle at the memory of me in my nightie yelling at two blokes who were much larger than me.
If they are just rough lads, poorly disciplined (perhaps due to overindulgence at the local libatory establishment), then it is amazing what an angry TinkerBell can do.
But if they are the sociopathic sort, then they have departed from civilization, and force must be met with force.
You live where nearly no one is "allowed" to have guns. But if someone is willing to transgress the law to murder, such a one will not care that it is "illegal" for him to possess a gun. Those laws only prevent decent law-abiding people from protecting themselves. The criminal doesn't care that it's illegal.
The reason hoodlum events are infrequent here in hilljack country is not because of a dearth of people with an evil bent, but rather because those evil people know that good men can -and will- rain down hellfire and brimstone on them if they commit evil acts. Come to think of it, my sister has challenged interlopers (suspiciously eyeing her husband's plow blade) with a 12 gauge riot gun in hand.
An armed society is a polite society. As the song goes, We say grace, and we say "Ma'am"...