To be able to defend yourself
When the Declaration of Right was adopted by a convention of the English people and William and Mary in 1689, the people were reaffirming their 'ancient rights and liberties'. Subsequently the Declaration of Right was mirrored in the English Bill of Rights. That Bill is still operational according to Eirian Walsh Atkins, Head of United Kingdom Constitutional Policy. The English Bill of Rights includes the traditional right to have arms to defend yourself. Where has that right gone?
In 1783 Americans established their own Bill of Rights, which affirmed every individual's right to the rights and liberties which they had inherited from their British forebears. Those rights included the right to bear arms. Over several centuries that right was whittled away by British and American governments intent on increasing their power over the people. Of course they claimed they were protecting the people by depriving them of their ability to defend themselves.
Yesterday the Supreme Court of the United States reaffirmed that it is a fundamental human right to be able to defend yourself. The Court also affirmed that this right belongs to every citizen of the United States no matter who they are or where they live. The case was brought by a black Chicago resident by the name of Otis McDonald, who had found himself and his community victimized by gun-toting thugs. Bear in mind that Chicago has the strictest gun control laws in the United States. Predictably these have resulted in only criminals having guns and the law-abiding population being disarmed and helpless. Mayor Daley struts around the city surrounded by a phalanx of armed police officers. He's safe, but his citizens are not, and he has been one of the biggest opponents of allowing citizens to defend themselves. This is a pattern repeated in Britain.
The crimes and violence that do not occur due to responsible, armed citizens able to defend themselves can be difficult to see. But Thomas Sowell points out that -
'The vast amount of evidence, both from the United States and from other countries, shows that keeping guns out of the hands of law-abiding citizens does not keep guns out of the hands of criminals. It is not uncommon for a tightening of gun control laws to be followed by an increase - not a decrease - in gun crimes, including murder'.
It's vitally important that the Supreme Court ruled that no state, city or county could take away the rights that belonged to every American under the U.S. Constitution. In effect the Court reaffirmed that there is one law common to every person and that it belongs to each of us. Common Law was established by Alfred and it is a principle which Brits have been defending ever since.
Based on recent evidence from U.S. municipalities, we anticipate that crime in Chicago will fall. Criminals will no longer be able to rely on unarmed citizens unable to defend themselves. In Britain in the 19th century there were very few gun regulations, and there was almost no gun crime. (James Bartholomew's The Welfare State We're In provides considerable evidence of this.) In Switzerland, where there is widespread compulsory gun ownership, there is almost no gun crime. The Swiss are taught responsible gun safety and marksmanship.
Americans have not allowed their Constitution to be ignored and disregarded by powerful governments - at least not so far. They have recognized that the mass killings that occurred in Nazi Germany, Turkey and Armenia, China, Cambodia, Rwanda, the Sudan, the Ukraine and Russia all depended on the people first being disarmed.
We would argue that British subjects have a right of self-defence, which has been affirmed in their Constitution. This is a God-given or, if you like, natural right that belongs to them. It is not a right given to them by government, and cannot be taken away if they defend it.