The current raft of “Gun Red Flag” laws that have been flooding the states in the past year or more have Second Amendment supporters up in arms – as the mass demonstration in Virginia on January 20th 2020 showed. The supporters can be rallied to oppose the passing of such a law but once passed it becomes a war of legal attrition.
But are these laws a threat to gun owners and to the constitution? Most people I have seen posting or who have written to me express their disquiet at the laws seem to have their opposition somewhat muted by their firm conviction that any of these laws that are passed are, prima facie, unconstitutional in two distinct ways. The pro-active abridgment of the right to bear arms is, they claim, a glaringly obvious violation of the second Amendment. The idea of taking private property on an accusation and without the right to due process equally seems to violate the basic law on due process. Most of those seemed to signal to me that they are not really that bothered because they figure it is going to get slapped down by SCOTUS.
If you are one of those people who thinks that this current drive will be nipped in the bud by a quick trip to the Supreme Court I have some bad news. REALLY bad news.
But to illustrate exactly WHY this is of prime importance I need to conduct a bit of a history lesson.
Before I begin the lesson I must put in place a shout out to Joyce Lee Malcolm and the book To Keep and Bear Arms. If you have any feeling for the importance of the second amendment you MUST buy and read, this book. It is not an easy read – it is a historical text written by a historian. But there is a reason why Justice Scalia and Justice Thomas relied heavily on Malcolm’s work when crafting the monumental DC v Heller decision. Please invest some time in reading this work.
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I was actually re-reading a part of the book again – the afterword section – and I noticed it made reference to a famous episode in British Hisotry – The Peterloo Massacre. The massacre occurred outside of Manchester at St. Peter’s Fields in August 1819. It was a very large protest and demonstration called by several agitator organizations at a time when unemployment was high, the economy was bad. The Napoleonic Ware had concluded in 1815 ( the appellation of “Peterloo” is reference to the battle of Waterloo in 1815 that had ended the final spasm of Napoleonic war dreams.) and the government had downsized the vast military that had been built up over 2 decades. Soldiers returned home, sailors left their ships and it was an unhappy period indeed.
The crowd was loud and boisterous. A local magistrate had the Riot Act read out and when the crowd failed to disperse Dragoons for the local Yeomanry were told to break up the crowd. They did so by charging on horseback, firing on them and attacking them with swords. 12 people died and the country erupted.
The government of England feared revolution – having seen what happened to France the aristocracy and ruling classes had a well justified feeling that things could easily get out of hand.
And here is where it starts to look eerily familiar.
The reaction of the Government was to start drafting anti gun/weapon legislation. Not for the Yeomanry or the government but for the people who were the target of the massacre! Yep. Seriously. An out of control magistrate unleashes armed troops on an unarmed crowd and the response of the ruling class? Make damned sure the unarmed classes didn’t find it easy to arm themselves.
Here is a useful link to a summary of these acts:
And below is a summary of Wikipedia’s view.
And you will note that the universal judgment being rendered is on that the Act were not really serious, only hard core lefties raise a ruckus about them, they were “sensible” measures taken by a caring government.
But! When I mention Freedom to own weapons – what is your current view of the United Kingdom? The idea of that question probably made you laugh out loud. This is a country where they have moved on to regulating cutlery. But 200 years ago in 1819 before Peterloo the law was very clear the English subject had a right to have firearms both for personal protection and for protection of personal property.
Of the Six acts mentioned above the one I am zeroing in on today is the Seizure of Arms Act. In part this stated that a Magistrate could issue an order to seize firearms belonging to an individual, inside their home, on the deposition of one person, Sound familiar?
And there was a great outcry against it in Parliament and in the activist press. Malcolm does a very good job of describing this in her book.
And according to the two cites I put above- it was mild, it was only occasionally employed and had minimal effect. Ahem.
By 1920 those rights had gone.
By 2020 the British government is attempting to control public use of cutlery.
Let me repeat this – desperate opportunistic legislation was introduced and passed to deny specific rights guaranteed to Subjects. It was opposed, it was a condemned and there was not really some universal attempt to rigidly apply it all – and yet now the United Kingdom is so supine one wonders how the hell they manage to conquer a cheese roll. In the UK, should you use a gun to defend yourself against an attacker you will be arrested and you will , in all likelihood, go to jail. Even if you are a citizen of spotless record and the person you have shot is a lowlife convicted violent criminal.
WE must – MUST take every one of these oppressive efforts seriously, each legislation needs to be challenged in the jurisdiction, it needs to be pursued to the point where it is declared unconstitutional by State and Federal Courts. The people the passed these laws need to be voted out of office and they need to be continually identified as people who are eager to abrogate the constitutional rights of Citizens.
Please – do your bit – and then do a bit more. If you do not these rights will disappear and our children and grandchildren will reduced to fighting off attackers by trying to pee on them.