Archive for the 'Second Amendment' Category



Woodburn Police Chief: “We Will Never Take Your Weapons”

BY Herschel Smith
2 days, 13 hours ago

WLFI.com:

WOODBURN, Ind. (WANE) — The chief of the Woodburn Police Department pledged to never take away city residents’ guns in the improbable event martial law would be declared.

In a Facebook post late Monday, Chief Randall Duhamell posted on the Woodburn Police Department’s Facebook page that his department has fielded requests for information about martial law.

“LET ME BE CLEAR….We Will NEVER take your weapons…no matter who tells us too!” Duhamell wrote in the post.

“All of our officers swore an oath to protect our community against all enemies. We may use those citizens that legally carry as helpers in times of emergency.”

As of 10 a.m. Tuesday, the post was shared more than 2,200 times.

[ … ]

“We will never come and take your guns from your house or your vehicles,” the chief told News 18’s sister station, WANE, in an interview. “That’s not what we’re about, and I just wanted to share that with the community and let them know that we support the Second Amendment.”

I want to state up front that I appreciate the sentiment, and I also appreciate Chief Duhamell’s stated commitment to the second amendment.  I also appreciate the fact that he came out and said something to the community when he knew it was a salient issue and needed to be addressed.  I don’t want to be a jerk in the things I’m about to say.

The second amendment doesn’t justify my right to own weapons.  It is a covenant by which men agree to live together under certain stipulations.  They presence or absence of bearing arms in that covenant doesn’t affect in its essence the real basis for my bearing of arms.

That comes from God alone.  Furthermore, the intended use of carriers for times of emergency by the Chief is affirming, but irrelevant.  If gun owners are never any use to anyone but themselves and their families, that doesn’t affect one iota the real justification for the bearing of arms.

Finally, while I note that the Chief was probably speaking about intent rather than action, I would rather he had said that he and his officers would never attempt to confiscate weapons because that would be immoral.  Or more to the point, no sir, you never will take my weapons, and you don’t get the last say-so in the matter.

I would have been more affirmed and much more approving if the Chief had said not only would his officers never attempt to confiscate weapons, he would expect justified resistance if his officers attempted to do so.

Idaho Constitutional Carry

BY Herschel Smith
2 weeks, 3 days ago

Boise Weekly:

Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter signed SB 1389 into law in March, and on July 1, it officially became legal to carry concealed firearms without a permit in Idaho—but during at a July 1 rally on the Capitol Mall, Idaho Second Amendment Alliance President Greg Pruett said there’s more work to be done.

Pruett told the crowd of 75-100 people the next step is lobbying lawmakers to remove the residency requirement from the permitless—or constitutional—carry law and strengthen Idaho’s “castle doctrine,” the law which defines homicide as justifiable if it is, among other things, “committed in defense of habitation or property.”

“When someone breaks into your house, that should be the end of it for them,” Pruett said. He went on to express disappointment at the years of work it took to enact the law and at the lack of credit given to ISAA for the rise of strong Second Amendment advocate candidates in the Republican Primary.

In his remarks to the crowd, U.S. Rep. Raul Labrador (R-Idaho) praised the group for securing legislation in four years and suggested not to turn against lawmakers for a single vote.

“I don’t want you to leave disappointed because it took four years,” Labrador said. “You need to judge politicians based on their body of work.”

Pruett wasn’t having it.

“For us, you’re either all in or you’re not,” he said.

This is a strange article and I don’t understand it.  Perhaps an Idahoan can help interpret what we’re reading here.  First of all, it takes a very long time to work the collectivist system down to something more tolerable.  If the man named Labrador was saying that the entire system should be exonerated because they finally did something good, then I have to disagree.

But on the other hand, if Pruett is disparaging the very one who helped to secure that bit of legislation that makes the system more tolerable, then I have to wonder if the collectivists are our betters when it comes to strategy.  I’ve pointed out before that they are very good incrementalists and we’re not.  They will accept something that isn’t to their liking in order to work towards the end result that is to their liking.

Are we as strategically savvy as that?  I doubt it.

Former ATF Agent On Why The ‘Us Versus Them’ Mentality?

BY Herschel Smith
2 weeks, 3 days ago

SSI posted a very interesting guest article from a former AFT agent on why the “Us versus them‘ mentality?  I have to confess that I’m in the camp that doesn’t see the constitutionality of federal gun laws or the ATF to begin with, but the former agent has an answer for that.  The comments are also very interesting.  I commend this article to your reading.

On a somewhat unrelated topic, SSI has a piece up remembering Mike Vanderboegh’s participation in a “we will not comply” rally.  It’s touching and also worth your time.

Dianne Feinstein’s Plans For Guns And The “Terrorist Watch List”

BY Herschel Smith
1 month ago

Remember when we said this:

They will go after you by the terrorist watch list, the no-fly list, and any other assortment of executive powers and decisions and regulations and rulings.  They will never confiscate your guns.  They will prevent you from renewing your driver’s license, your hunting license, your fishing license, your professional license, your bank cards, your concealed handgun permits, and in short, all the framework you have built your entire life as a law abiding, peaceable citizen.  Then they will go after your wife and children and their ability to enroll in education.  They will go after what matters most to you.

Scott Shackford and Jacob Sullum reporting at Reason do some very good investigative work on this very subject.

Under Feinstein’s 2015 bill, the attorney general can stop the transfer of a firearm if he “1) determines that the transferee is known (or appropriately suspected) to be or have been engaged in conduct constituting, in preparation for, in aid of, or related to terrorism, or providing material support or resources for terrorism” and “(2) has a reasonable belief that the prospective transferee may use a firearm in connection with terrorism.” The amendment Feinstein introduced last Wednesday, by contrast, lets the attorney general block a sale if he “determines, based on the totality of the circumstances, that the transferee represents a threat to public safety based on a reasonable suspicion that the transferee is engaged, or has been engaged, in conduct constituting, in preparation for, in aid of, or related to terrorism, or providing material support or resources thereof.”

In the revised version, there is no additional requirement that the attorney general have reason to believe the weapon the suspect is trying to buy will be used in a terrorist attack. Hence an old lady who cut a check to a Hamas-affiliated charity (thereby “providing material support” to terrorism and arguably threatening public safety) could be stopped from buying a handgun for self-defense even if there was no evidence that she planned any sort of attack with it. Feinstein’s amendment also expands the dragnet beyond the FBI’s so-called Terrorist Watchlist, which is believed to include more than 1 million people, to cover anyone who was under investigation for “conduct related to a federal crime of terrorism” during the previous five years. The Justice Department would be notified of attempted gun purchases by people who fit that description, giving it a chance to block the sales.

Frankly I’m not concerned about the little old lady who wrote a check to a Hamas-affiliated charity.  What concerns me much more is that there is no due process, no chance for trial by jury.  The federal executive is the only sovereign, the singular potentate behind these decisions.

That means that if you’re an NRA member, or a patriot, or you believe in the second amendment and your God-given rights to own firearms, or believe that gun ownership is the best surety against tyranny, the executive might just label you a terrorist or low-level extremist, and prevent gun purchases.  He might also garnish your wages, prevent driver’s license renewal, prevent renewal of your professional license, or remove your children from the home and place them in the custody of DSS.

Do you get the impression that someone wants you to be disarmed and controlled?

Idaho Goes Constitutional Carry

BY Herschel Smith
3 months, 3 weeks ago

NBC:

Beginning July 1, Idaho residents age 21 or older will be allowed to carry a concealed firearm without a permit inside city limits.

Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter has signed Senate Bill 1389 into law. It will relax the state’s gun policy and remove permitting requirements for concealed carry. Prior to SB 1389, residents age 18 or older could carry concealed firearms without a permit outside of city limits. Open carry is already legal within city limits.

Beginning July 1, Idaho residents age 21 or older will be allowed to carry a concealed firearm without a permit inside city limits.

Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter has signed Senate Bill 1389 into law. It will relax the state’s gun policy and remove permitting requirements for concealed carry. Prior to SB 1389, residents age 18 or older could carry concealed firearms without a permit outside of city limits. Open carry is already legal within city limits.

“While S1389 is consistent with the U.S. Constitution, Idaho values and our commitment to upholding our constitutional protections from government overreach, I am concerned about its lack of any provision for education and training of individuals who choose to exercise the right to concealed carry,” the Republican lawmaker wrote.

“Such a safeguard would seem to be part of the Second Amendment’s ‘well-regulated’ standard. What’s more, the addition of a simple training requirement in this bill could have addressed the concerns of our valued law enforcement leaders and others who cherish both the shooting culture and the safety of shooters and non-shooters alike.”

Trying to play both ends against the middle, huh Governor?  This is just rich.  He admits that the new law is consistent with the provisions of the second amendment, but then essentially says that he doesn’t think the second amendment goes far enough because of the need for education and training.

Then he switches back and reverses his position, saying that a requirement to get training and education is consistent with the notion of “well regulated.”

“Well regulated” has nothing to do with governmental control via regulations, it has to do with accurate and effective fire control.  Furthermore, I’ve warned about the dangers of seeing the second amendment as a political treatise on the foundation of liberty.

The governor is just frightened.  He’ll be better once this has time to soak in and become the standard.  It works in other constitutional carry states, and it’ll work in Idaho too.

Guns In The Work Place And In Parking Lots

BY Herschel Smith
5 months, 1 week ago

This issue has special interest for me, since my own employer prohibits the carrying of weapons in the work place, but also knows that it cannot prohibit the carry of weapons in the public parking lot adjacent to my place of work.

On a personal note, I’ve pressed this issue up the chain of command, to no avail.  They want to maintain, how do they say it, “a safe work place.”  So in order to effect this end, they prohibit self defense and show us those idiotic active shooter videos where they enact an active shooter event and show you what to do.

It’s embarrassing to watch it, and it’s even more embarrassing to work for a company where they show such juvenile rubbish.  So the recommendations?  Hide under desks and be very quiet.  If the shooter sees you, throw potted plants at him.  Run.  Run very fast.  Wait for law enforcement to show up 15 minutes later – after 100 people have already perished.  Then when the dust settles but people are still in mourning, the company gets to go to court or negotiate with lawyers over those 100 preventable deaths, and give away a billion dollar class action settlement.  That’s the way that would work out.  Only lawyers could dream up something so stupid.  All in the interest of a safe work place.  A jury will know what I’m talking about, because most of them have seen the same idiotic video.

So this case interests me.

A Universal Orlando worker who was fired after someone stole a gun from his car at work has sued his former employer.

Dean Kumanchik’s lawsuit was filed in Orange County Circuit Court on Thursday. According to a copy of the complaint sent by his attorney, Universal fired Kumanchik the day before Christmas. A ride technician who earned more than $30 an hour, Kumanchik had worked at Universal more than 20 years.

The lawsuit gives this account: A licensed concealed weapons holder, Kumanchik regularly took his gun to and from work and kept it locked in his vehicle. He parked in an area accessible to both employees and the public. In December, someone broke into his vehicle and stole the gun. He reported it to police. Upon learning what had happened, Universal immediately fired him.

Kumanchik’s lawsuit asserts that Universal violated an eight-year-old law allowing Floridians with concealed-weapons permits to keep firearms locked in their cars at work.

A Universal spokesman said the company does not comment on pending litigation.

Orlando’s big theme parks have previously claimed they are exempt from the law, however.

After the law went into effect, Universal cited an exemption for school property as a justification for its ban. Orange County Public Schools runs an alternative education program called the Universal Education Center on the property.

Claiming that exemption is “nonsense,” Kumanchik’s attorney Richard Celler said. “In our opinion the school they claim is some little building way out of the way, nowhere near the premises or parking lot where he was performing work.”

After the law went into effect, Walt Disney World cited an exemption for property owned by an employer who has a permit for explosives. Disney has such a permit for the fireworks used in its theme parks.

The notion of a “school” on the property is an accidental feature of the decision to fire the employee, and not the reason Universal has a policy against guns.  They reflexively fired him because of discriminatory policies, and then the lawyers hunted for some justification for what they did in the law.  They landed on the fortuitous wording of a “school” on the property (in some cataloged training literature or procedures, or maps they give employees), which is likely nothing more than a training center, something all corporations have.  A jury will know what I’m talking about.  I can guarantee you that the legislature didn’t have corporate training centers in mind when they used the word “school.”  My own state prohibits weapons on school property and playgrounds as well.  Do you think “playgrounds” includes pick-up games of football after work in the nearest open field?

One commenter has this to say:

Florida is an at-will employment state without the Covenant of Good Faith Exemption. That means employers do not even have to pretend to be fair when they fire you. You can do everything right, follow orders to a T, excel in every way, and the boss can give you the axe with no justification at all. Sucks to be employed in Florida, but Universal is within its legal rights.

He thinks he’s smart, but this isn’t even nearly right.  I’m an at will employee too, but the company cannot discriminate against, for example, the elderly, or black workers, or women, and claim that something like that is justifiable due to at-will employment contracts.  That’s why corporations offer attractive separation packages to workers in their 60’s rather than firing them outright and claiming the existence of at-will contracts.  The jury will know exactly what I’m talking about.  Universal fired this worker because of discriminatory attitudes concerning self defense and the second amendment.  Counsel had better be ready for this strategy during trial.

Associated court documents.

Essay Writing As A Requirement For Concealed Carry

BY Herschel Smith
5 months, 4 weeks ago

News from Massachusetts:

Critics are blasting a Massachusetts city’s new law that they claim requires residents applying for a license to carry handguns to write “an essay” and pay upwards of $1,100 for training.

The new laws take effect this week in Lowell, a city of 110,000 that lies 35 miles north of Boston. Pushed by Police Superintendent William Taylor and passed by the City Council, they require applicants for unrestricted handgun licenses to state in writing why they should receive such a license. Taylor, who was unavailable for comment on Monday, has sole discretion for approving or denying the applications.

“It is absurd that people should have to write an essay to the town to explain why they should be able to exercise their constitutional rights,” said Jim Wallace, executive director of Gun Owners Action League of Massachusetts. “We already have a very strict set of gun laws in the state, but this is way over the top.”

State law sets guidelines and requirements, but gives local chiefs of police broad discretion in implementation. While other cities and towns in Massachusetts have tough licensing regulations, Lowell’s new requirements, which also include taking a gun safety course over and above one already required by the state, prompted complaints at a public hearing last week.

“I will never write an essay to get my rights as an American citizen,” resident Dan Gannon told the City Council.

The new policy was prompted in part by a year-old federal lawsuit brought by Commonwealth Second Amendment, a Bay State gun-rights group. Attorney David Jensen said the suit stems from Lowell’s history of denying qualified applicants permits to carry handguns without what the plaintiffs consider a legitimate rationale.

Lowell Police spokesman Capt. Timothy Crowley said characterizing the written requirement as an “essay” is not accurate.

“If you want a license to carry a firearm unrestricted wherever you want and whenever you want, the superintendent is just looking for some documentation as to why,” Crowley said. “That is not unreasonable to most people.”

Local attorney Richard Chambers, who often represents applicants who have been turned down, said calling the new requirement an “essay” is right on target.

“An essay when you’re in school is when you write something, you turn it in and they grade it,” Chambers said. “This is an essay. And it’s also just another layer of bureaucracy they’ve tacked on to block people from exercising their rights.”

Despite the criticism, the new rules were adopted unanimously and are set to take effect this week.

“We’re no longer taking a cookie-cutter approach to issuing firearms licenses …”

Here’s the top cop in Lowell who is in charge of reviewing your essay.

Lowell_Top_Cop

A cookie cutter approach, huh?  That’s what they call exercising a right.  A cookie cutter approach to allowing people to do something that we take to be axiomatic and righteous, i.e., the right to self defense.

I have a better idea.  Rather than applicants writing an essay to get their rights recognized, I want the top cop in Lowell to read the essay I’ve already written, and then write me an essay that explains why anyone has a right to force applicants to write an essay in order to engage in the free exercise of their rights.

If this seems to difficult for the top cop, we can start at a remedial level.  Write me an essay on the meaning of this phrase: ” … shall not be infringed.”

Knives And The Second Amendment

BY Herschel Smith
6 months, 2 weeks ago

Smithsonian.com:

Last week, a divided Washington Supreme Court ruled 5-4 that carrying a paring knife is not a protected right under the Second Amendment. In the court’s majority opinion, Justice Charles Wiggins wrote that a pairing knife “is a utility tool, not a weapon” and so does not qualify as a constitutionally protected weapon.

The question was brought before the Supreme Court after a man pulled over for a speeding infraction​ ​informed a Seattle police officer that he was carrying a paring knife in a plastic sheath in his pocket, according to the ruling.​ Seattle prosecutors initially charged the man with the unlawful use of weapons, ​based on a city ordinance that declares it illegal for someone to “carry concealed or unconcealed…any dangerous knife.” The city’s law defines any knife with a fixed blade longer than 3 ½ inches as dangerous, Levi Pulkkinen reports for the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. The defense argued that posession of the paring knife was constitutionally protected under the Second Amendment.

The jury ruled in favor of the prosecutor, and the superior court and the Court of Appeals affirmed the decision. Though the Supreme Court upheld the ruling, it did so on different grounds. Wiggins wrote that because a cooking knife isn’t designed to be a weapon, it shouldn’t be protected as one, rendering the defense’s argument, whether or not the ordinance was constitutional, invalid, Munchies reports.

Washington state law does, however, consider things like police batons, billy clubs, dirks and switchblades as “arms.” While Wiggins’ ruling doesn’t specifically mention whether the Second Amendment extends to concealed carrying of these items, it does reinforce that the right to bear arms includes the “right to carry a weapon,” Eugene Volokh writes for the Washington Post.Still, a knife doesn’t necessarily need to be designed as a weapon for someone to use it as one. And while most people might not think to carry a paring knife with them when they leave home, this could be concerning for some professional cooks, many of whom take their personal knife kits with them to and from work.

Other than briefly lampooning the idiotic officer who started all of this and the idiotic jury who allowed it to begin with, we may observe the following about this case.

First step: man is charged with unlawful use of a weapon and concealment of a weapon by police.  Second step: Lawyer argues that it’s protected by the second amendment as a weapon.  Third step: Judge decides that knife isn’t really a weapon so it isn’t protected by the second amendment.  Fourth step: Thus the conviction that the man was carrying a concealed weapon is upheld.

Good Lord.  Do lawyers have to take classes in classical logic?  No, I’m not even talking about the hard stuff like modal logic.  Just simple schoolchild level classes to teach them how to think?  If not, they need to.

Notes From HPS

BY Herschel Smith
8 months, 3 weeks ago

David Codrea:

“Question 1” referred to in the docket means the Court is only taking on the “recklessness” question. They will not rule on whether a firearm ban due to a domestic violence conviction violated rights under the Second Amendment.

Unannounced at this writing is an even more eagerly anticipated question, whether the Court will grant cert in the case of Friedman v. City of Highland Park, a challenge to the city’s ban on militia-suitable firearms and standard capacity magazines. The docket notes the case was “DISTRIBUTED for Conference of October 30, 2015” on Monday, so word of whether or not the case will be heard was expected.

Let’s forget the issue of how or why the statute was broken (or in other words, the issue of “recklessness”).  This is a trivial question compared the databank of second amendment rulings, and the fact that they refuse even to consider the issue means that they are running scared on the issue of rights to gun ownership generally, not specific to this case.

Via Mike Vanderboegh, Marco Rubio’s new billionaire backer is a top funder of open borders.  Of course he is, because Rubio is an open borders freak.  Count me out as far as the elections go if the choice is Rubio.  I’ll walk the dog, grill steaks, clean my guns, and catalog my ammunition.

Via Mike Vanderboegh, Georgia becomes a border state for violent illegal immigrants.  Of course.  It’s all by design.  It’s all as it was intended to be.  You understand that, right?

Bear spray is harder to transport through the TSA than firearms.  Not surprising.  I’m no fan of use of bear spray anyway – or at least, not without firearms as a backup.

Firearms records languish at national tracing center.  Good.  Very good.  Let’ keep it that way.

This is what happens when you hate yourself and your heritage.

David Kopel And Joyce Malcolm Versus Priya Satia On Carry Of Guns In England

BY Herschel Smith
9 months ago

An interesting exchange occurred between David Kopel, Joyce Malcolm, et. al., and another professor on carry of guns in England.  The first volley appeared at The Washington Post, and while I won’t quote in its entirety, I will quote at length and send you to the article for the conclusion.

Should D.C. residents have the same right to the licensed carry of defensive handguns as the people in most states? That is the issue currently before the D.C. Circuit, in Wrenn v. District of Columbia. The D.C. government lost on this issue in federal district court. D.C.’s brief to the D.C. Circuit argues that “For as long as citizens have owned firearms, English and American law has restricted any right to carry in populated public places.” According to the brief, the pre-existing right to arms, which was protected by the Second Amendment, “did not encompass carrying in densely populated cities.” Further, D.C. says that in the 19th century, carry prohibitions were widespread in the United States. An amicus brief on behalf of Michael Bloomberg’s organization “Everytown” makes similar claims.

In an amicus brief filed this week, several legal historians, including me, dispute the D.C. and Bloomberg claims. Besides me, the amici are Joyce Malcolm (George Mason Law; the leading historian on the history of English gun control and gun rights), Robert Cottrol (co-appointment at George Washington in Law and in History; a specialist in the history of race, including the racial aspects of gun laws),  Clayton Cramer (author of three books and many articles on the history of firearms law in Early America and the 19th century) and Nicholas Johnson (Fordham Law; most recent book is Negroes and the Gun: The Black Tradition of Arms). Our attorneys were Stephen Halbrook and Dan Peterson. Halbrook has a 5-0 record in the U.S. Supreme Court, all on firearms law cases, and is himself a leading scholar on the legal history of the right to arms.

The claim that there was a general prohibition on the carrying of arms is based on the 1328 Statute of Northampton, which D.C. characterizes as a public carrying ban. As our brief explains, the case law is contrary to such a broad interpretation of the 1328 Statute.  For example,  Sir John Knight’s Case (1686) said that the statute applies only to people who go armed to terrify the King’s subjects.” There was a lot of weapons-carrying in England, partly because of public duties, such as keeping “watch and ward,” as well as required target practice (in longbows and muskets) at the target ranges that every village was required to maintain. The peaceable carrying of arms was an ordinary thing to see, not a terrifying one.

In the American colonies, nobody appears to have thought that they could not carry arms because of a 1328 English statute. Rather, the colonies mandated gun carrying in certain situations, such as when traveling or when going to church. To the extent that a few early states (and later, D.C.) enacted statutes expressing common law restrictions on arms carrying, the statutes (like the common law) only applied when a person did so “in terror of the country.” (D.C. 1818 statute; similar language in the states). In the colonial period, and in the first 37 years of independence, there were no restrictions on concealed carry. Several states enacted concealed carry bans thereafter, but of course these did not limit open carry. Moreover, our first “four Presidents openly carried firearms.” The notion that they, or anyone else, thought Americans were prohibited from doing so by a 1328 English statute is implausible.

To this, Priya Satia responds at Slate.

Oddly enough, medieval English laws matter in legal debates about gun control in the United States today. The Supreme Court’s landmark 2008 Second Amendment decision, District of Columbia v. Heller, determined that sufficiently “long-standing” firearms regulations are constitutional. This means that in Second Amendment cases, we have to get our English history right.

Doing so is crucial in a gun case now before the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals: Wrenn v. D.C. The case is critical for Washington residents but also more broadly as the pro-gun lobby challenges laws in cities across the country. The District of Columbia argues that English and American law has always permitted restrictions on the right to carry guns in populated public places, tracing this tradition to the 1328 Statute of Northampton, which generally prohibited carrying guns in public. The District argues that the Second Amendment and its English precursors did not allow unfettered public carrying in densely populated cities, and thus the District may restrict it.

A group of legal historians has disputed this interpretation in an amicus brief filed this month, followed by an essay in the Washington Post by David Kopel, adjunct professor at Denver University’s law school. They claim the English Bill of Rights of 1689 superseded the 1328 statute and that, “There was a lot of weapons-carrying in England.” Thus, they conclude, D.C. residents have the right to carry guns in public. But their English history is wrong, as are their conclusions about public carry in the nation’s capital.

The Glorious Revolution of 1688–89 established a Protestant monarchy in England under William and Mary, ending the reign of the Stuarts. The Bill of Rights codified the constitutional limits on the new monarchy, including a provision guaranteeing Protestants (but not Catholics or Jews) the right to bear arms. But political realities overrode this provision. The new monarchy remained vulnerable to “Jacobites” seeking to restore the Stuart dynasty, with French and Spanish backing. This danger meant the British state could not permit widespread gun ownership.

The new monarchy’s disarmament laws built on laws passed after the Restoration of 1660, when the Stuarts returned to power after 11 years of republican rule and were similarly concerned with political stability. A 1670 statute had limited firearms possession to the noble and rich, although even their arsenals were subject to search and seizure at sensitive moments. A series of game laws from 1671 through 1831 dramatically reduced the number of people permitted to hunt, empowering gamekeepers to search for and seize unauthorized firearms. Smuggling laws also made carrying arms grounds for arrest. An armed militia was active through the 1680s, but not the 80 years that followed. Through the 1740s, its arms were locked in royal arsenals and distributed only at assembly. The government’s success at disarming the population made the militia superfluous, since its entire purpose was to prevent an armed rising against the government.

The amicus brief by Kopel et al. paints a picture of widespread gun carrying incongruous with this well-established history. The authors invoke the 1686 acquittal of the gun-toting Sir John Knight as evidence that the 1328 statute was inconsistently applied, but Patrick J. Charles, the award-winning historian for Air Force Special Operations Command, has shown that Joyce Malcolm (one of the brief’s authors) created this finding “out of thin air.”  In fact, Knight was acquitted because he was armed while cloaked with government authority. In an era of rapid urban growth, before state provision of police, the wealthy and noble fulfilled the role of informal police.

And I think you see where this argument is going, i.e., justifying law enforcement use of weapons to the exclusion of everyone else, even the military.  I wrote to Dave Kopel for a rejoinder, and he declined saying he had too many “irons in the fire,” but that “among its errors are conflating anti-hunting laws (which continued after 1689) with laws against defensive gun ownership.”

He also sent me to Joyce Malcolm, who is also busy but reminded me of her piece in Financial Times (I cannot locate the URL except at Free Republic).

Self-defence, William Blackstone, the 18th century English jurist, wrote, is a natural right that no government can deprive people of, since no government can protect the individual in his moment of need. The English Bill of Rights of 1689 affirmed the right of individuals “to have arms for their defence”. It is a dangerous right. But leaving personal protection to the police is also dangerous, and ineffective. Government is perilously close to denying people the ability to protect themselves at all, and the result is a more, not less, dangerous society.

I won’t rehearse the details of the debate.  But one thing stands out to me in this exchange, and it’s Kopel’s statement that “The notion that they, or anyone else, thought Americans were prohibited from doing so by a 1328 English statute is implausible.”  This is an important observation, so let’s unpack it a bit.

From my pedestrian point of view (from my coursework in philosophy, history and apologetics in seminary), I’ve always claimed that the best way to understand what the founders intended was to observe their lives and understand what they did or didn’t think their words meant.  Look to the culture, context and milieu which created these men and their views.  I have cited the public and open carry of weapons to which Kopel refers.

In the colonies, availability of hunting and need for defense led to armament statues comparable to those of the early Saxon times. In 1623, Virginia forbade its colonists to travel unless they were “well armed”; in 1631 it required colonists to engage in target practice on Sunday and to “bring their peeces to church.” In 1658 it required every householder to have a functioning firearm within his house and in 1673 its laws provided that a citizen who claimed he was too poor to purchase a firearm would have one purchased for him by the government, which would then require him to pay a reasonable price when able to do so. In Massachusetts, the first session of the legislature ordered that not only freemen, but also indentured servants own firearms and in 1644 it imposed a stern 6 shilling fine upon any citizen who was not armed.

When the British government began to increase its military presence in the colonies in the mid-eighteenth century, Massachusetts responded by calling upon its citizens to arm themselves in defense. One colonial newspaper argued that it was impossible to complain that this act was illegal since they were “British subjects, to whom the privilege of possessing arms is expressly recognized by the Bill of Rights” while another argued that this “is a natural right which the people have reserved to themselves, confirmed by the Bill of Rights, to keep arms for their own defense”. The newspaper cited Blackstone’s commentaries on the laws of England, which had listed the “having and using arms for self preservation and defense” among the “absolute rights of individuals.” The colonists felt they had an absolute right at common law to own firearms.

And further:

Their laws about children and guns were strict: every family was required to own a gun, to carry it in public places (especially when going to church) and to train children in firearms proficiency. On the first Thanksgiving Day, in 1621, the colonists and the Indians joined together for target practice; the colonist Edward Winslow wrote back to England that “amongst other recreations we exercised our arms, many of the Indians coming amongst us.”

The ownership and carry of weapons was virtually ubiquitous in colonial America.  It was so for the purposes of hunting, defense against animals, and defense against men.  As my own professor C. Gregg Singer has pointed out, news reports, primary source literature and eyewitness accounts are the best information on colonial America.  All information and data points to the expectation of the duty of self defense, rather than a prohibition of such.

Moreover, while I concede that it’s interesting what English law had to say about ownership and carry of weapons, it isn’t determinative.  We follow the constitution, and in particular, I have asserted before that rights to ownership and carry of weapons follows God-given stipulations, the constitution flowing from it’s basis in this moral history.

If Satia’s goal was to persuade me that I could look to England to find basis to reject ownership and carry of weapons, the goal wasn’t met.  The attempt was an abject failure.


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