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Does a Briton have the right to bear arms for his or her defence?

As we see it -

Those who do NOT believe in the individual's right to bear arms include:

Many kind and moral people who despair of violence; the governments of China, Sudan, North Korea, and Zimbabwe; Hitler, Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot, Mugabe, etc.

Those who DO believe in the individual's right to bear arms include:

Those whose grandparents were first disarmed before they were murdered by the Nazis; those whose grandparents were first disarmed before they were murdered by Stalin; those Rwandans, Bosnians, and Sudanese who escaped the genocide inflicted on the unarmed; Alfred the Great, the Brits who established the Declaration of Right, and George Washington; and Americans who believe in the right as an essential freedom and who are persuaded by U.S. Justice Department statistics that 34% of captured criminals in the United States were wounded or detained by armed civilians, and 40% of criminals gave up an attack for fear of reciprocal fire.

For much of British history, British men were obliged to know how to use weapons. This was both their responsibility and their right -

The right and responsibility to defend our country from attack.

The right of every person to defend himself and his home and family from attack.

The right to defend ourselves from tyranny, and to abolish it.

In Britain John of Salisbury first described the right to overthrow a tyrant in the 12th century. Stephen Langton, Archbishop of Canterbury, who fought for Magna Carta and against a tyrant agreed. So did Simon de Montfort and the knights fighting for the Provisions of Oxford and Westminster and parliamentary representation. So did the British who struggled against Charles I and so did those who created the Glorious Revolution of 1688. So did John Locke, who wrote that men have the right to rebel when government does not protect life, liberty, and property.

So did William Blackstone who explained in his Commentaries on the Laws of England -

To vindicate the three primary rights of personal security, personal liberty, and private property “when actually violated or attacked, the subjects of England are entitled in the first place, to the regular administration and free course of justice in the courts of law; next, to the right of petitioning the king and parliament for redress of grievances; and, lastly, to the right of having and using arms for self-preservation and defence”.

And of course Americans incorporated the right to bear arms in the US Constitution as the Second Amendment.

Like their American cousins, these Britons believed that God the Creator had created a just and natural moral order - natural law. God had given them their rights and liberties,not men and not government. Civil law and government did not confer liberties. They conserved and protected them. A government that did not protect rights and liberties had to be overthrown.

But first they petitioned and remonstrated and demonstrated and protested. They were reluctant revolutionaries, and took up arms only when the government refused to protect their freedom.


Image: Purbeck Shooting School

In a world that gives the appearance of being dangerous, to be disarmed likely means that we are unable to act as a moral check against an overweening government; that we are unable to overthrow a tyranny; and we are incapable of defending ourselves against criminals or dampening their proclivities with the possibility that we are armed.

The right of self-defence with a gun creates enormous responsibilities – to know how to handle and fire a gun; to maintain control over the gun so it does not fall into young, careless or criminal hands; to discipline one’s mind and emotions so one does not misuse the weapon. It is clear that that millions of law-abiding citizens have handled guns safely.

To try to answer our original question, Parliament’s Firearms (Amendment) (No. 2) Act 1997 criminalised the possession of virtually all handguns in the United Kingdom. Natural law and common law, which are not part of statutory law but are part of the British Constitution, state that Britons have the right to arms suitable for their defence. It appears that the government does not agree.

Since the government acted, gun crime has shot up dramatically.

(This post has been revised.)