This column by ACRU Senior Legal Analyst Jan LaRue was published August 13, 2011 on the American Thinker blog.
In the midst of riots, arson and looting, British citizens armed themselves with … aluminum bats.
A Louisville Slugger is no match for a mob, but when your Socialist government makes it virtually impossible to own a gun, you grab whatever you can to protect yourself, your family and your property.
Online sales of aluminum bats on Amazon.com increased by 6,000 percent during the violence, according to CNN. Most British police don’t carry guns. The situation is a far cry from the right to bear arms enshrined in the English Bill of Rights, a forerunner of our Second Amendment.
Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia provided a historical summation of our Second Amendment’s origins in English law in his brilliant 5-4 majority opinion in District of Columbia v. Heller (2008). Holding that “the Second Amendment protects an individual right to possess firearms,” Scalia wrote:
By the time of the founding, the right to have arms had become fundamental for English subjects. … Blackstone, whose works, we have said, “constituted the preeminent authority on English law for the founding generation,” … cited the arms provision of the Bill of Rights as one of the fundamental rights of Englishmen. … His description of it cannot possibly be thought to tie it to militia or military service. It was, he said, “the natural right of resistance and self-preservation,”… and “the right of having and using arms for self-preservation and defence.” … Other contemporary authorities concurred. … Thus, the right secured in 1689 as a result of the Stuarts’ abuses was by the time of the founding understood to be an individual right protecting against both public and private violence.
And, of course, what the Stuarts had tried to do to their political enemies, George III had tried to do to the colonists. In the tumultuous decades of the 1760’s and 1770’s, the Crown began to disarm the inhabitants of the most rebellious areas. That provoked polemical reactions by Americans invoking their rights as Englishmen to keep arms. A New York article of April 1769 said that “[i]t is a natural right which the people have reserved to themselves, confirmed by the Bill of Rights, to keep arms for their own defence.” … They understood the right to enable individuals to defend themselves. As the most important early American edition of Blackstone’s Commentaries (by the law professor and former Antifederalist St. George Tucker) made clear in the notes to the description of the arms right, Americans understood the “right of self-preservation” as permitting a citizen to “repe[l] force by force” when “the intervention of society in his behalf, may be too late to prevent an injury.”
Dominic Casciani, writing for the liberal BBC in Nov. 10, 2010, details the extraordinary difficulty of anyone but criminals possessing firearms in the UK:
“The UK has some of the toughest gun control laws in the world. If you want to own a gun, it is very difficult to do so. In short, it has been designed to put as many barriers in the way as possible and to assume the worst, rather than hope for the best.”
Violence in the UK has increased despite its stringent gun laws. According to the National Rifle Association:
“Licenses have been required for rifles and handguns since 1920, and for shotguns since 1967. A decade ago semi-automatic and pump-action center-fire rifles, and all handguns except single- shot .22s, were prohibited. The .22s were banned in 1997. Shotguns must be registered and semi-automatic shotguns that can hold more than two shells must be licensed. Despite a near ban on private ownership of firearms, ‘English crime rates as measured in both victim surveys and police statistics have all risen since 1981. . . . In 1995 the English robbery rate was 1.4 times higher than America’s. . . . the English assault rate was more than double America’s.’ All told, ‘Whether measured by surveys of crime victims or by police statistics, serious crime rates are not generally higher in the United States than England.’ (Bureau of Justice Statistics, “Crime and Justice in the United States and in England and in Wales, 1981-1996,” 10/98.) An English doctor is suspected of murdering more than 200 people, many times the number killed in the gun-related crimes used to justify the most recent restrictions.
“A June 2000 CBS News report proclaimed Great Britain ‘one of the most violent urban societies in the Western world.’ Declared Dan Rather: ‘This summer, thousands of Americans will travel to Britain expecting a civilized island free from crime and ugliness. . . (But now) the U.K. has a crime problem . . . worse than ours.’ (David Kopel, Paul Gallant, and Joanne Eisen, “Britain: From Bad to Worse,” America’s First Freedom, 3/01, p. 26.) Street crime increased 47% between 1999 and 2000 (John Steele, “Crime on streets of London doubles,” London Daily Telegraph, Feb. 29, 2000.) See also www.2ndlawlib.org/journals/okslip.html, www.nationalreview.com/comment/comment071800c.html, and https://www.nraila.org/Issues/FactSheets/Read.aspx?ID=78.”
Two years after the Heller decision, in another 5-4 opinion written by Justice Samuel Alito, McDonald v. City of Chicago, the Court held that “the Second Amendment right is fully applicable to the States.”
Americans should look soberly at our nearly defenseless English cousins rather than take our Second Amendment rights for granted.
It’s not like it can’t happen here. Remember when authorities went house to house in New Orleans right after Hurricane Katrina, disarming citizens and leaving them at the mercy of looters?
One more Obama appointment to the Supreme Court and we could be relying on Louisville Sluggers for self-defense.