When in its Darkest hour Britain found itself short of arms for home defense, Americans, with many NRA members leading the way, donated their guns to fight for freedom. Maj. John W. Hession of Orange, Conn. (r.) presents his championship rifle to C. Suydam Cutting, chaitman of the American Committee for Defense of British Homes. After WWII, a British government that no longer trusted those it served destroyed many of those firearms. Maj. Hession`s rifle survived, however, and today rests is a place of honor in the National Firearms Museum at NRA Headquarters.
Might it be possible for a nation to go from wide-open freedom for the right to arms to almost complete gun prohibition in just a few decades? The answer is yes. The destruction of gun rights in Great Britain during the 20th Century offers an object lesson for American gun owners. If we repeat the mistakes of our British cousins, we too will find ourselves disarmed sooner than we had imagined possible. So let's look carefully at how British gun owners lost their rights and investigate a story with ominous parallels for the United States.
The Late 19th Century
In the final decades of the19th Century, Great Britain was much like the United States in the 1950s. There were almost no gun laws and almost no gun crime. The homicide rate per 100,000 population per year was between 1.0 and 1.5, declining as the century wore on.
Two technological developments, however, began to work together to create in some minds the need for gun control. The first of these was the revolver. Revolvers had begun to achieve mass popularity when Col. Samuel Colt showed off his models at the Great Exhibition in London in 1851.
Technology advanced rapidly, and as revolvers got cheaper and better, concern arose regarding the increase in "firepower" available to the public. Compared to the seemingly more benign single-shot muzzle-loaders of the past, the revolver, to some, seemed a frightening innovation.
As revolvers became more affordable, concerns began to grow about the availability to criminals of cheap German sidearms. Cheap guns were, in some eyes, associated with hated minority groups. For example, in the late 1860s, the London Lloyd's Newspaper had blamed a crime wave on "foreign refuse" with their guns and knives. "The revolver's appearance . . . we owe to the importation of reckless characters from America. . . . The Fenian [Irish- American] desperadoes have sown weapons of violence in our poorer districts."
All of these developments have their parallels in modern America. The popularity of semi-automatic pistols with their larger-capacity magazines frightens some people who view the old six-shooter as a harmless traditional weapon. The fact that semi-automatics were invented more then 100 years ago does not stop the press from portraying them as dangerous new guns, just as the revolvers of the 1850s were portrayed as dangerous new guns in the 1880s.
Prejudice and discrimination against ethnic groups persists. While American gun control advocates don't complain much about Irish immigrants with guns, they do warn about the dangers of Blacks armed with "ghetto guns." Journalist and gun control advocate Robert Sherrill writes, "The Gun Control Act of 1968 was passed not to control guns but to control blacks." Historian B. Bruce-Briggs notes, "It is difficult to escape the conclusion that the `Saturday Night Special' is emphasized because it is cheap and is being sold to a particular class of people. "1 Bruce-Briggs writes that the very term `Saturday Night Special' is racist in lineage.
After showing his revolvers at London's Great Exhibition in 1851, Col. Samuel Colt opened a factory in London. British and American flags wave together in Thames river breezes in this 1853 engraving. Novelist Charles Dickens wrote of touring the facility.
Revolvers were one technological development that began to make Britons rethink the desirability of the right to bear arms. The second development was the growth of the mass circulation press. Newspapers, like guns, had been around for quite a while, but the late 19th Century witnessed several printing innovations that made printing of vast quantities of newspapers extremely cheap.
The Walter press, patented in England in 1866, introduced stereotype plates. Printers discovered ways to make sheets of any desired length, thereby allowing rolls of paper to be fed into cylinder presses, and greatly accelerating printing speed. Machines for folding newspapers were brought on-line; and by the late 19th Century, typesetting machines were coming into use.
All of these developments made possible the production of low-cost newspapers that even poor people could buy every day. As audiences expanded, papers became increasingly sensationalist, and the "yellow journalism" of publishers such as America's William Randolph Hearst was born.
Hearst's British counterparts were fervently devoted to sensation, and especially loved lurid crime stories. In 1883, a pair of armed burglaries in the London suburbs set off a round of press hysteria about armed criminals. The press notwithstanding, crime with firearms was rare.
Also in 1883, British Parliament saw the first serious attempt at gun control in many decades. Parliament considered and rejected a bill to ban the "unreasonable" carrying of a concealed firearm. In 1895, strong pistol controls were rejected by a 2-1 margin in the House of Commons.
Queen Victoria fired the opening shot at the British NRA's first meeting at Wimbledon on July 1, 1860. The British group preceded birth of the National Rifle Association of America by 11 years.
The developments of the British press and its attitude toward crime and guns in the late 19th Century have parallels in 20th Century America. Television news is cutting loose its last ties to traditional standards imposed from the days of print journalism. In the "infotainment" produced by organizations such as NBC News, depiction of reality is less important than the production of entertaining, compelling "news" pieces.
Thus, when the "assault weapon" panic of 1989 broke out, television journalists paid little attention to whether "assault weapons" actually were the "weapon of choice" of criminals. (Police statistics show that they're used in about 1% of gun crime.) The focus was not on the reality of gun crime, but on the sensational footage of guns firing full automatic, while the newscaster decried the availability of semi-automatics.
Rudyard Kipling (l.) and Arthur Conan Doyle each witnessed the lethal fire that Boer farmer-riflemen rained on British troops in 1899. They returned home to promote civilian marksmanship through the expansion of rifle clubs in England.
But in Britain as the 19th Century came to a close, the press had not as yet persuaded the public to adopt gun controls. Indeed, the only significant firearms law was the 1870 Gun License Act, which required a prospective buyer to purchase a 10-shilling gun license at the local post office. The bill was strictly a revenue measure.
Buyers of any type of gun, from derringers to Gatling guns faced no background check, no need for police permission to purchase and no registration. As criminologist Colin Greenwood writes, "anyone, be he convicted criminal, lunatic, drunkard or child, could legally acquire any type of firearm." And anyone could carry any gun anywhere. The gun crime rate was at its all time low.
The official attitude about guns was summed up by Prime Minister Robert Gascoyne Cecil, the Marquess of Salisbury, who in 1900 said he would "laud the day when there is a rifle in every cottage in England."
Led by the Duke of Norfolk and the mayors of London and of Liverpool, a number of gentlemen formed a cooperative association that year to promote the creation of rifle clubs for working men. The Prime Minister and the rest of the aristocracy viewed the widespread ownership of rifles by the working classes as an asset to national security. Similar views were held by men of letters such as Rudyard Kipling and Arthur Conan Doyle, both of whom founded rifle clubs after service in the Boer War.
Sherlock Holmes' creator favored "Miniature Club" .22 rimfire or .297/.230 center-fire rifles for training, because requirements for ranges were more easily met than for highpower rifles.
But within a century, the right to bear arms in Britain would be well on the road to extinction, for reasons that would have little to do with gun ownership itself, but which instead related to the British government's growing mistrust of the British people, and to the apathetic attitude of British gun owners.
The Early 20th Century
In 1903, Parliament enacted a gun control law that appeared eminently reasonable. The Pistols Act of 1903 forbade pistol sales to minors and felons and dictated that sales be made only to buyers with a gun license. The license itself could be obtained at the post office, the only requirement being payment of a fee. Those who intended to keep the pistol solely in their houses didn't even need to get the postal license.
Attracting only slight opposition, the Pistols Act passed easily. The law had no discernible statistical effect on crime or accidents. Firearms suicides did fall, but the decline was more than matched by an increase in suicide by poisons and knives. Since the bill defined pistols as guns having a barrel of 9" or less, pistols with 91/2" barrels were soon popular.
While the Act was in the short run harmless to gun owners and useless in reducing gun misuse, it was of considerable long-term importance. By allowing the Act to pass, British gun owners had accepted the proposition that the government could set the terms and conditions for gun ownership by law-abiding subjects.
The early years of the 20th Century saw an increasingly bitter series of confrontations between capital and labor throughout the English-speaking world. In Britain, the rising militancy of the working class was beginning to make the aristocracy doubt whether the people could be trusted with arms. When American journalist Lincoln Steffens visited London in 1910, he met leaders of Parliament who interpreted the current bitter labor strikes as a harbinger of impending revolution. The next set of gun control initiatives reflected fears about immigrant anarchists and other subversives.
As the coronation of George V approached, one American newspaper, the Boston Advertiser, warned about the difficulty of protecting the coronation march "so long as there is a generous scattering of automatic pistols among the 70,000 aliens in the Whitechapel district." The paper fretted about aliens in the United States and Britain with their "automatic pistols" which were "far more dangerous" than the bomb. The Advertiser defined an "automatic pistol" as a "quick-firing revolver," and called for gun registration, restrictions on ammunition sales, and a ban on carrying any concealed gun, all with the goal of "disarming alien criminals."2
What was the "automatic pistol/quick-firing revolver" that so concerned the newspaper? In 1901, the British company of Webley & Scott began production of the Webley Fosbery "automatic revolver." The Webley-Fosbery, which used the recoil of the fired cartridge to cock the hammer and rotate the cylinder, failed to attract much interest in either the British or American military, and production was short-lived. In fact, it may be best known today for a brief appearance as the murder weapon of Sam Spade's partner in Dashiell Hammett's Maltese Falcon.
Despite alarmist media claims, the Webley-Fosbery was a dead-end in firearms development.
It has been said that the "more dangerous than the bomb" automatic revolver worked best on paper. There it couldÐlike the non-existent "plastic gun" of todayÐtake on mythic qualities in the minds of overheated newspaper editorialists.
Whatever the actual dangers of the automatic revolver, immigrants scared authorities on both sides of the Atlantic. Crime by Jewish and Italian immigrants spurred New York State to enact the Sullivan Law in 1911, requiring a license for handgun buying and carrying, and making carry licenses very difficult to obtain. (Sullivan had promised homicides would decline drastically. But instead, homicides increased, and the New York Times found criminals "as well armed as ever."3)
As in modern America, sensational police confrontations with extremists also helped build support for gun control. In December 1910, three London policemen investigating a burglary at a Houndsditch jewelry shop were murdered by rifle fire. A furious search began for "Peter the Painter," the Russian anarchist believed responsible. The police uncovered one cache of arms in London: a pistol, 150 bullets, and some dangerous chemicals. The discovery led to front-page newspaper stories about (non-existent) anarchist arsenals all over London's East End.
The police caught up with London's anarchist network on Jan. 3, 1911, at 100 Sidney Street. The police threw stones through the windows, and the anarchists inside responded with rifle fire. Supplemented by a Scots Guardsman unit, 750 policemen besieged Sidney Street.
Home Secretary Winston Churchill arrived on the scene as the police were firing artillery and preparing to deploy mines. Banner headlines throughout the British Empire were already detailing the dramatic police confrontation with the anarchist nest.
Churchill, accompanied by a police inspector and a Scots Guardsman with a hunting gun, strode up to the door of 100 Sidney Street; the inspector kicked the door down. Inside were the dead bodies of two anarchists. Peter the Painter was nowhere in sight. London's three-man anarchist network was destroyed. The "Siege of Sidney Street" turned out to have been vastly overplayed by both the police and the press.
While the Siege of Sidney Street did convince New Zealand to tighten its gun laws, the British Parliament rejected new controls. Parliament turned down the Aliens (Prevention of Crime) Bill, that would have barred aliens from possessing firearms without permission of the local Chief Officer of Police.
World War I and Its Aftermath
British resistance to gun controls finally cracked in 1914, when Great Britain entered The Great War. The government imposed comprehensive, stringent controls as "temporary" measures to protect national security during the war. Similar controls have been proposed, and in many cases implemented, as part of modern America's drug war.
When the war ended, most Britons expected that the government would give them back their gun rights, as many Americans perhaps expect that gun controls will be relaxed if the "drug war" is ever won. The British were wrong to trust their government.
"War is the health of the state" observed historian Randolph Bourne, and it was World War I that set in motion the growth of the British government to the size where it could begin to destroy the right to arms that Britons had enjoyed with little hindrance for more than two centuries.
After World War I broke out in August 1914, the British government began assuming "emergency" powers for itself. "Defense of the Realm Regulations" were enacted which required a license to buy pistols, rifles, or ammunition at retail.
As the war came to a conclusion in 1918, many British gun owners no doubt expected that the wartime regulations would be soon repealed, and Britons would again enjoy the right to purchase the firearms of their choice without government permission. The government had other ideas.
The disaster of World War I had bred the Bolshevik Revolution in Russia. Armies of the new Soviet state swept into Poland, and more and more workers of the world joined strikes called by radical labor leaders who predicted the overthrow of capitalism. Many Communists and other radicals thought the Revolution was at hand; all over the English-speaking world governments feared the end.
The reaction was fierce. In America, Attorney General A. Mitchell Palmer launched the "Palmer raids." Aliens were deported without hearings, and American citizens were searched and arrested without warrants and held without bail. While America was torn by strikes and race riots, Canada witnessed the government massacre of peaceful demonstrators at the Winnipeg General Strike of 1919.
In Britain, the government worried about what would happen when the war ended and the gun controls expired. A secret government committee on arms traffic warned of danger from two sources: the "savage or semi-civilized tribesmen in outlying parts of the British Empire" who might obtain surplus war arms, and "the anarchist or `intellectual' malcontent of the great cities, whose weapon is the bomb and the automatic pistol."
At a Cabinet meeting on Jan. 17, 1919, the Chief of the Imperial General Staff raised the threat of "Red Revolution and blood and war at home and abroad." He suggested that the government make sure of its arms. The next month, the Prime Minister was asking which parts of the army would remain loyal. The Cabinet discussed arming university men, stockbrokers and clerks to fight any revolution.
The Minister of Transport, Sir Eric Geddes, predicted "a revolutionary outbreak in Glasgow, Liverpool or London in the early spring, when a definite attempt may be made to seize the reins of government." "It is not inconceivable," Geddes warned, "that a dramatic and successful coup d'etat in some large center of population might win the support of the unthinking mass of labour." Using the Irish gun licensing system as a model, the Cabinet made plans to disarm enemies of the state and to prepare arms for distribution "to friends of the Government."
Although popular revolution was the motive, the Home Secretary presented the government's 1920 gun bill to Parliament as strictly a measure "to prevent criminals and persons of that description from being able to have revolvers and to use them." In fact, the problem of criminal, non-political misuse of firearms remained minuscule.
Of course 1920 would not be the last time a government lied in order to promote gun control. In 1989 in the United States, various police administrators and drug enforcement bureaucrats set off a national panic about "assault weapons" by claiming that semi-automatic rifles were the "weapon of choice" of drug dealers and other criminals. Actually, police statistics regarding gun seizures showed that the guns accounted for only about 1% of gun crime.
Most Americans swallowed the 1989 lie about "assault weapon" crime, and most Britons in 1920 swallowed the lie about handgun crime. Indeed, the carnage of World War I (in part the result of the outdated tactics of the British and French general staffs) had produced a general revulsion against anything associated with the military, including rifles and handguns.
Thus the Firearms Act of 1920 sailed through Parliament. Britons who had formerly enjoyed a right to bear arms were now allowed to possess pistols and rifles only if they proved they had "good reason" for receiving a police permit. Shotguns and airguns, which were perceived as "sporting" arms, remained exempt from control.
In the early years of the Firearms Act, the law was not enforced with particular stringency, except in Ireland, where revolutionary agitators were demanding independence from British rule. Within Great Britain, a "firearms certificate" for possession of rifles or handguns was readily obtainable. Wanting to possess a firearm for self-defense was considered a "good reason" for being granted a firearms certificate.
The threat of Bolshevik revolutionÐthe impetus for the Firearms ActÐhad faded quickly as the Communist government of the Soviet Union was spending its energy gaining full control over its own people, rather than exporting revolution. Ordinary firearms crime in BritainÐthe pretext for the Firearms ActÐremained minimal. Despite the pacific state of affairs, the government did not move to repeal the unneeded gun controls, but instead began to expand the controls further.
In 1934, a government task force, the Bodkin Committee, was formed to study the Firearms Act. The Committee collected statistics on misuse of the guns that were not currently regulated (shotguns and airguns) and collected no statistics on the guns under control (rifles and handguns). The Committee concluded that there was no persuasive evidence for repeal of any part of the Firearms Act. Since the Bodkin Committee had avoided looking for evidence about how the Firearms Act was actually working, it was not surprising that the Committee found no evidence in favor of decontrol.
In 1973 and 1988, when the government was attempting to expand controls still further, gun control advocates claimed that the Bodkin Committee report was clear proof of how well the Firearms Act of 1920 was working, and why its controls should be extended to other guns.
Spurred by the Bodkin Committee, the British government in 1934 enacted new legislation to completely outlaw (with a few minor exceptions) possession of short shotguns and automatic firearms. The law was partly patterned after the National Firearms Act in the United States (with taxed and registered, but did not prohibit, such guns).
As a result of alcohol prohibition, America in the 1920s and early 1930s did have a problem with criminal abuse of automatic weapons, particularly by the organized crime gangsters who earned lucrative incomes supplying illegal alcohol. The repeal of Prohibition in 1933 had sent the American murder rate into a nosedive, but Congress went ahead and enacted the NFA in 1934 anyway.
In Britain, there had been no alcohol prohibition, and hence no crime problem with automatics (or other guns). Yet the guns were banned anyway, since, as the government explained, automatics were crime guns in the United States, and there was no legitimate reason for civilians to possess them.
The same rationale is used today in the drive to outlaw semi-automatic firearms in the United States. Since some government officials believe that people do not "need" semi-automatic firearms for hunting, they believe that such guns should be prohibited, whether or not the guns are frequently used in crime.
Starting in 1936, the British police began adding a requirement to Firearms Certificates requiring that the guns be stored securely. As shotguns were not licensed, there was no such requirement for them.
While the safe storage requirement might, in the abstract seem reasonable, it was eventually enforced in a highly unreasonable manner by a police bureaucracy determined to make firearms owners suffer as much harassment as possible. In one l990s case, a person traveling from a range to his home left ammunition in a locked car for an hour. When the ammunition was stolen, the man was convicted of not keeping the ammunition in a secure place.
World War II
After the fall of France and the Dunkirk evacuation in 1940, Britain found itself short of arms for island defense. The Home Guard was forced to drill with canes, umbrellas, spears, pikes, and clubs. When citizens could find a gun, it was generally a sporting shotgun Ð ill suited for military use because of its short range and bulky ammunition.
Prime Minister Winston Churchill inspecting a No. 4 Enfield which the British adopted after Dunkirk, because the rifle could be mass produced.
British government advertisements in American newspapers and in magazines such as The American Rifleman begged Americans to "Send A Gun to Defend a British HomeÐBritish civilians, faced with threat of invasion. desperately need arms for the defense of their homes." The ads pleaded for "Pistols, Rifles, Revolvers, Shotguns and Binoculars from American civilians who wish to answer the call and aid in defense of British homes."
Pro-Allied organizations in the United States collected weapons; the National Rifle Association shipped 7,000 guns to Britain. Britain also purchased surplus World War I Enfield rifles from America's Department of War.
Prime Minister Winston Churchill's book Their Finest Hour details the arrival of shipments of .300 caliber rifles and .75 caliber artillery pieces from the U.S. government in July 1940. Churchill personally supervised the deliveries to ensure that they were sent on fast ships and distributed first to Home Guard members in coastal zones. Churchill thought that the American donations were "entirely on a different level from anything we have transported across the Atlantic except for the Canadian division itself." Churchill warned his First Lord that "the loss of these rifles and field-guns would be a disaster of the first order."
"When the ships from America approached our shores with their priceless arms special trains were waiting in all the ports to receive their cargoes," Churchill recalled. "The Home Guard in every county, in every town, in every village, sat up all through the night to receive them.... By the end of July we were an armed nation.... a lot of our men and some women had weapons in their hands."
At his New York City shop, Maj. Anthony Fiala (l.), of the American Committee For Defense of British Homes, crates .45-70 trapdoor carbines, as chairman Cutting watches. Committee efforts led to more than 25,000 guns and two million rounds of ammunition being sent to defend Britain against Nazi invasion.
Before the war, British authorities had refused to allow domestic manufacture of the Thompson submachine gun because it was "a gangster gun." When the war broke out, large numbers of American-made Thompsons were shipped to Britain, where they were dubbed "Tommy guns."
As World War II ended, the British government did what it could to prevent the men who had risked their lives in defense of freedom and Britain from holding onto guns acquired during the war. Troop ships returning to England were searched for souvenir or captured rifles, and men caught attempting to bring firearms home were punished. Guns that had been donated by American civilians were collected from the Home Guard and destroyed by the British government.
And yet, large quantities of firearms slipped into Britain, where many of them remain to this today in attics and under floor boards. At least some British gun owners, like their counterparts in today's gun-confiscating jurisdictions such as New Jersey and New York City, were beginning to conclude that their government did not trust them, and that their government could not be trusted to deal with them fairly.
The 1950s and 1960s
Having implemented a licensing system for handguns and rifles in the 1920s, and having banned automatic weapons entirely in the 1930s, and having confiscated guns which Americans had donated to the British Home Guard in the 1940s, the British government in the 1950s left the subject of gun control alone. Crime was still quite low, and issues such as national health care and the Cold War dominated the political dialogue.
As in most of the Western world, the late 1960s in Great Britain was a time of rising crime and civil disorder. In 1965, capital punishment was abolished, except for treason and piracy.
Gun crime did not seem to be a problem. Scotland Yard stated "with some confidence" that the objectives of eliminating "the improper and careless custody and use of firearms.... and making it difficult for criminals to obtain them.... are effectively achieved." In June 1966, Home Secretary Roy Jenkins told Parliament that after consulting with the Chief Constables and the Home Office, he had concluded that shotgun controls were not worth the trouble. Yet six weeks later, Jenkins announced that new shotgun controls were necessary, because shotguns were too easily available to criminals.
Had there been a sudden surge in shotgun crime in the six-week period? Not at all. What had happened was that three policemen at Shephard's Bush had been murdered with illegal revolvers. Popular outcry for capital punishment was fervent, and Jenkins, an abolitionist, responded by announcing new shotgun controls, in an attempt to divert attention from the noose.
Jenkins' shotgun controls made no logical sense. Regulating shotguns would obviously have no impact on criminal use of unlicensed revolvers, the guns used to murder the three policemen.
Jenkins claimed that "criminal use of shotguns is increasing rapidly, still more rapidly than that of other weapons." But the "rapidly" increasing crime associated with shotguns involved mostly poaching or property damage, rather than armed robberies or murders.
Nevertheless, by showing that he was "doing something" about crime by proposing shotgun controls, Jenkins effectively achieved his main goal, which was to divert public attention from the death penalty. The Jenkins tactic has been used by many other politicians since then, including former New York Gov. Mario Cuomo, a proponent of gun prohibition and an opponent of the death penalty.
At Jenkins' request the British government began drafting the legislation that became the Criminal Justice Act of 1967. The new act required a license for the purchase of shotguns.
Like the Gun Control Act of 1968 in the United States, Britain's 1967 Act was part of a comprehensive crime package that included a variety of infringements on civil liberties. The British Act abolished the necessity for unanimous jury verdicts in criminal trials, eliminated the requirement for a full hearing of evidence at committal hearings, and restricted press coverage of those hearings.
Under the 1967 system, which is mostly still in force, a person wishing to obtain his first shotgun would obtain a "shotgun certificate." The local police could reject an applicant if they believed that his "possession of a shotgun would endanger public safety." The police were required to grant the certificate unless the applicant had a particular defect in his background such as a criminal record or history of mental illness.
An applicant was required to supply a counter signatory, a person who would attest to the accuracy of the information in the application. During an investigation period, which might last several weeks, the police might visit the applicant's home. In the first decades of the system, about 98% of all applications were granted.
Once the £12 shotgun certificate was granted, the law allowed a citizen to purchase as many shotguns as he wished. Private transfers among certificate holders were legal and uncontrolled.
As is typical with many gun control laws, the shotgun certificate system was enforced in a moderate and reasonable way by the government in its first years.
Similarly, the rifle and handgun licensing system, introduced in 1921, had been enforced in a generally moderate way in the 1920s and 1930s. But as the public grew accustomed to the idea of rifles and handguns being licensed, it became possible to begin to enforce the licensing requirements with greater and greater stringency.
Severe enforcement of the rifle and handgun licensing system would not have worked in 1922. Too many gun owners would have been outraged by the rapid move from a free society to one of repressive controls. By enforcing the 1921 system with moderation, at first, and then with gradually increasing severity, the British government acclimated British gun owners to higher and higher levels of control.
The British government used the same principle as do people who are cooking frogs. Throw a frog in a pot of boiling water, he'll jump out. But put him in a pot of moderately warm water, and gradually raise the temperature, he'll slowly lose consciousness, and be unable to escape by the time the water gets to a boil.
The frog-cooking principle helps explain why Handgun Control, Inc., and the other anti- gun lobbies are so desperate to pass any kind of gun control, even controls that most observers agree will accomplish very little. By enacting, for example, the Brady Act, HCI establishes the principle of a national gun licensing system. Once a lenient national handgun licensing system is established, the licensing system can gradually be tightened, so that, as in New York City today, only wealthy or extremely persistent people are as a practical matter able to obtain handgun licenses.
The British "firearms certificate" system of 1921 had required that a person who wished to possess a rifle or handgun prove he had "a good reason." (In Great Britain, "firearms" refers only to rifles and handguns, and not to shotguns, but this booklet follows American usage, in which shotguns are also considered "firearms.") In the early years of the system, self-defense had been considered "a good reason." But by the 1960s, it was well established police practice that only "sporting" purposes, and not self-defense could justify issuance of a rifle or handgun license.
In practice, being a certified member of an approved target shooting club was the only way a person could legally obtain a pistol. The shooting clubs, being jealous guardians of their government-granted "privilege," usually required a person to become a probationary member of six months, and regularly attend club matches during that period, before being accepted into full membership (and thus becoming eligible for a handgun license).
Having, through administrative interpretation, delegitimized gun ownership for self defense, the British government was able to enact a variety of other laws, which met with little opposition, outlawing other defensive items. For example, non-lethal chemical defense sprays, such as Mace, are illegal, as are electric stun devices.
Having control over rifle and handgun owners through a licensing system, the police began inventing their own conditions to put on licenses. The police practice was not entirely legal, but it was generally accepted by a compliant public. Similar practices occur in American jurisdictions such as New York, where licensing authorities sometimes add their own, extralegal, restrictions to handgun licenses.
When the safe storage requirement was introduced for rifles and handguns in the 1930s, it was enforced in a reasonable manner by the police. Leaving your handgun on the front porch wasn't acceptable, but keeping it on a dark closet shelf was perfectly fine. Similarly, in the few American jurisdictions that have imposed storage requirements in recent years, the law is usually enforced in a reasonable mannerÐat least for now.
But the safe storage law that British gun owners once accepted as "reasonable" (and whose extension to shotguns was generally supported by gun owners in the 1989 gun control law), is now being interpreted in a highly unreasonable manner.
In many jurisdictions, police will not issue or renew a shotgun certificate or a firearms certificate (necessary for rifles and handguns, before the 1997 handgun ban) without an in home visit to ensure that police standards for safe storage are being met. The police have no legal authority to require such home inspections, yet when a homeowner refuses the police entry, the certificate application or renewal will be denied.
The actual law does not specify detailed standards of how guns are to be stored. And the actual law clearly does not mandate that putting a gun in a hardened safe is the only acceptable storage method. But that is what the police in many jurisdictions require anyway. In fact, many gun owners who bought safes that the police said were acceptable are now being forced to buy new safes, because the local police have arbitrarily changed the standards. In many districts, an acceptable safe is now one that can withstand a half-hour attack by a burglar who arrives with a full set of safe-opening tools, and who even has time to take a short rest if his first efforts to pry open the safe do not succeed.
The police decision to require such safes is completely unlawful. But Parliament has no interest in investigating police abuses of the gun licensing laws, and the courts are submissive to police "discretion." The only practical way that British gun owners could have avoided such ridiculous storage requirements would have been to resist the first proposed laws that allowed the police to determine who could get a gun license. But the gun owners never would have dreamed of resisting, because such a law seemed so "reasonable."
Sometimes the police require the purchase of two safes, the second one for separate storage of ammunition.
A man buying a low-powered, £5 rimfire rifle may have to spend £100 on a safe. A person with five handguns (before the 1997 ban) might be ordered to add a £1000 electronic security system. The net effect of the heavy security costs is to reduce legal gun ownership by the less wealthy classes.
Police abuses appear in every aspect of gun licensing. Police departments have told hunters, incorrectly, that certain legal restrictions on hunting with semi-automatics also apply to hunting with pump-action guns. A certificate for rifle possession often includes "territorial conditions" specifying exactly where the person may hunt. Persons who do not like the territorial conditions have no practical redress.
Today, even expensive, single-shot .22 target pistols like those that are used in the Olympics are banned in Britain.
While it is not legally necessary for shooters to have written permission to hunt on a particular piece of land, police have been stopping shooters, demanding written proof, and threatening to confiscate guns from persons who cannot produce the proof. And the police have, again without legal authority, required applicants for shotguns capable of holding more than two shells to prove a special need for the gun.
Without legal authority, the police have begun to phase out firearms collections by refusing new applications. Gun licensing fees have been repeatedly raised far above the actual cost of administering the licensing system and have been used as a mechanism to discourage gun ownership.
If a policeman has a personal interest in the shooting sports, that interest will generally disqualify him from being assigned to any role in the police gun licensing program. Policemen who know virtually nothing about guns, but who can be counted on to have a hostile attitude toward gun owners, are often picked for the gun licensing jobs.
As a technical matter, applicants may appeal police denials of permit application, but the courts are generally deferential to police decisions. Hearsay evidence is admissible against the applicant. An appellant does not have a right to present evidence on his own behalf.
Having meekly accepted the wishes of the police and the ruling party for "reasonable" controls, British rifle and handgun owners by the early 1970s found themselves in a boiling pot of severe controls from which escape was no longer possible. British shotgun owners, ignoring the fate of their rifle and handgun-owning brethren, jumped into their own pot of then lukewarm water when they accepted the 1966 shotgun licensing proposals.
Momentum for Prohibition
Although gun crime is not as common as in the United States, gun crime incidents inevitably attract sensational media attention that becomes the basis for further tightening of controls. In the fall of 1989, for example, a person who had been rejected for membership in a firearms club stole a handgun from the locked trunk of a club member and shot a Manchester policeman. A probationary member of a different firearms club, learning that he had a fatal disease, killed one club member, stole a gun from the club, and shot a personal enemy. The Home Secretary, at the urging of the Manchester police department, issued a new set of restrictions on new firearms clubs, the most severe being that members would no longer be able to bring guests to the firing range to shoot a firearm.
Under new "safety" regulations regarding explosives, persons who possess modern gunpowder or blackpowder are now subject to unannounced, warrantless inspections of their home at any time, to make sure that the powder is properly stored. The government, of course, promises (for now) that its inspections will not be unreasonable.
The police leadership has made it clear that it views civilian gun ownership as something that should be abolished. One method of abolition is to prevent the entry of new generations into the world of shooting sports. Hence, it is illegal for a father to give even an airgun as a gift to his 13-year-old son.
And thanks to decades of such restrictions aimed at constricting entry into the shooting sports, the vast majority of the public has no familiarity with guns, other than what media propagandists choose to let them learn. Legal British gun owners now constitute only 4% of total households (with perhaps another 4% possessing illegal, unregistered guns).
Given that many Britons have no personal acquaintance with anyone whom they know is to be a sporting shooter, it is not surprising that 76% of the population supports banning all guns.
Thus, the men who used long guns in the field sportsÐwho confidently expected that whatever controls government imposed on the rabble in the cities who wanted handguns, genteel deer rifles and hand-made shotguns would be left aloneÐhave been proven disastrously wrong.
On the morning of Aug. 19, 1987, a licensed gun owner named Michael Ryan dressed up like Rambo and shot a woman 13 times with a handgun at the Savernake Forest. After killing a filling station attendant, he drove to his home in the small market town of Hungerford, where he killed his mother and his dog. In the next hour, he went into town and slaughtered 15 peopleÐseven with his handgun, and eight with his Chinese-made Kalashnikov rifle. Ryan disappeared for a few hours, reappeared at 4 p.m. in a school, and killed himself three hours later. A few days later, another mass murder took place at Bristol, this one with a shotgun.
The media's reaction, especially the print media's, was intense. The tabloid press ran editorials instructing the public how to spot potential mass murderersÐadvising suspicion of anyone who was a loner, who lived alone, who lived with his mother, or who was a bit quiet. The tabloid press and the respectable press both pushed heavily for stringent gun laws. Pressure also mounted for tighter censorship of violent television.
Semi-automatic center-fire rifles, which had been legally owned for nearly a century, are now completely banned. Pump-action rifles are banned as well, since it was argued that these guns could be substituted for semi-automatics. Practical Rifle Shooting, the fastest growing sport in Britain, vanished. Shotguns that can hold more than two shells at once now require a "firearms license." All shotguns must now be registered. Shotgun sales between private parties must be reported to the police. Buyers of shot shells must produce a shotgun certificate. Applicants for a shotgun certificate must obtain a countersignature by a person who has known the applicant for two years and is "a member of Parliament, justice of the peace, minister of religion, doctor, lawyer, established civil servant, bank officer or person of similar standing." Most important, an applicant for a shotgun certificate must demonstrate to the police that he has a "good reason" for wanting a gun. Self-defense is not a good reason. As a technical matter, the police have the burden of showing that the applicant does not have a good reason. In practice, the police have already been requiring the applicant prove that he has a good reason, such as membership in a shooting organization.
On March 13, 1996, a pederast used handguns to murder a kindergarten class and its teachers in Dunblane. The man, well known as mentally unstable, had been refused membership in several gun clubs. Citizens had written to the police asking them to revoke the man's gun license. Under Great Britain's very restrictive gun laws, the police easily could have taken away this man's guns. Instead, they did nothing, and a mass murder resulted.
As has been the case in Great Britain since the days of the witch hunts, innocent people became the target of a raging mob. Great Britain's law-abiding, severely regulated handgun owners were among the most law-abiding people on earth. But that fact meant nothing to politicians and hate-mongers.
The tabloid press went wild with angry stories about gun owners, portraying anyone who would own a gun as sexually inadequate and mentally ill.
The Tory government, headed by John Major, convened a Dunblane Enquiry Commission. The Commission received presentations on firearms policy from groups and experts on all sides of the gun issue. But the most powerful submissionÐbased on what the report concludedÐcame from the British Home Office. The Home Office presented fabricated information which claimed that high gun ownership ratesÐeven legal, regulated gun ownershipÐ caused high rates of criminal violence. This claim was completely false. From region to region within Great Britain, within the United States, within Australia, and within continental Europe, those with the highest rates of legal gun ownership tend to have the lowest violence rates.
But the Dunblane Commission, misled by the Home Office, came back with a report that recommended dozens of ways to tighten the already-restrictive gun licensing system, and impose more controls on licensed gun owners.
The Commission did not, however, recommend banning all handguns. Prime Minister John Major, with one eye on the polls, accepted the Commission's recommendation to make the licensing laws more severe, but insisted that there also be a handgun ban. He allowed an exception for single-shot .22 handguns which were stored at licensed shooting ranges. The new gun laws went into effect in February 1997.
A few months later, Labour Party leader Tony Blair was swept into office in a landslide. One of his first acts was to complete the handgun ban, by removing the exemption for single shot .22s. Since 1921, all lawfully-owned handguns in Great Britain have been registered with the government, so handgun owners have little choice but to surrender their guns, in exchange for payment according to government schedule.
The handgun ban by no means has satisfied the anti-gun lobbies in Great Britain. While British gun owners gracefully gave away the right to own guns for protection, they are now finding that their privilege to own guns for sports is under greater attack than ever. Britain's leading anti-hunting group, the League Against Cruel Sports, points to the "hundreds" of people killed by guns and "thousands" of guns used in robberies and demands a ban on all guns.
Nor will a ban on all guns satiate the prohibitionist appetite.
Many British gun owners now own deactivated "replica" guns that cannot be fired. For some gun owners, deactivation was the only way they could retain possession of a prized semi automatic. Other gun owners simply found the hassles of the police licensing system too much to overcome, and had their family heirloom guns deactivated. With deactivation, at least, the family could retain the non-firing gun without need to spend vast sums on police security requirements.
But this last "loophole" in the British gun laws may be closed in a few years, as the police are now lobbying to require that owners of deactivated or replica guns get the same license that would be required for guns that can fire bullets.
The Campaign Against Self-Defense
Have all these controls and abusive enforcement of controls actually made Britain safer? Armed crime in Britain is higher than it has been in at least two centuries. Armed crime is literally a hundred times more common than at the turn of the century, when Britain had no weapons controls.
Yet even as the government increasingly fails in its duty to protect the populace, the government puts increasing effort into punishing persons who dare to protect themselves. Syndicated newspaper columnist Sam Francis, commenting on the same phenomenon in the United States, dubbed the governmental policy "anarcho-tyranny."
With gun ownership for self-protection now completely illegal (unless you work for the government), Britons have begun switching to other forms of protection, which the government considers an intolerable affront.
For example, some citizens are turning to guard dogs. Unfortunately, dogs (unlike guns and knives) have a will of their own and sometimes attack innocent people on their own volition. The number of people injured by dogs has been rising, and the press is calling for bans on Rottweilers, Dobermans, and other "devil dogs." Under 1991 1egislation, all pit bulls must be neutered or put to death.
Other citizens choose to protect themselves with knives. But carrying a knife for defensive protection is considered illegal possession of an "offensive weapon." One American tourist from Arizona found this out the hard way. After she used a pen knife to stab some men who were attacking her, a British court convicted her of carrying an offensive weapon. Her intention to use the pen knife for lawful defensive purposes converted the pen knife, under British law, into an illegal "offensive weapon."
Early one evening in March 1987, Eric Butler, a 56-year-old executive with B.P. Chemicals, was attacked while riding the London subway. Two men came after Butler and, as one witness described, began "strangling him and smashing his head against the door; his face was red and his eyes were popping out." No passenger on the subway moved to help him.
"My air supply was being cut off," Butler later testified, "my eyes became blurred and I feared for my life." Concealed inside Butler's walking stick was a 3-ft. blade. Butler unsheathed the blade. "I lunged at the man wildly with my swordstick. I resorted to it as my last means of defense." He stabbed an attacker's stomach.
The attackers were charged with unlawful wounding. Butler was tried and convicted of carrying an offensive weapon. The Court gave him a suspended sentence, but denounced the "breach of the law which has become so prevalent in London in recent months that one has to look for a deterrent." The government immediately outlawed possession of swordsticks.
Martial arts weapons have also been banned. And now police administrators are lobbying to bring crossbows under the same "reasonable" licensing system that currently applies to firearms.
No prosecution for defending oneself is too absurd. Consider a report from the Evening Standard newspaper in London, dated Oct. 31, 1996:
"A man who uses a knife as a tool of his trade was jailed today after police found him carrying three of them in his car.
"Dean Payne, 26, is the first person to be jailed under a new law making the carrying of a knife punishable by imprisonment.
"Payne told .... magistrates that he had to provide his own knife for his job cutting straps around newspaper bundles at the distribution plant where he works ... .
"Police found the three knivesÐa lock knife, a small printer's knife, and a Stanley knifeÐin a routine search of his car .... The court agreed he had no intention of using the knives for 'offensive' purposes but jailed him for two weeks anyway.
"[The magistrate said] 'I have to view your conduct in light of the great public fear of people going around with knives .... I consider the only proper punishment is one depriving you of your liberty.'"
At the dawn of the 20th Century, Great Britain was the great exemplar of liberty to continental Europe. But the sun has set on Britain's tradition of civil liberty. The police search people's cars routinely. Public hysteria against weapons is so extreme that workingmen are sentenced to jail merely for possessing the simple tools of their trade.
The Causes of British Decline
The people of Great Britain fought for their right to keep and bear arms in the l7th Century, but let the right vanish during the course of the 20th Century. How could a democratic nation, in less than a century, "progress" from having no gun laws, and almost no gun crime, to having draconian gun laws and soaring gun crime? What happened in Britain could easily occur in the United States, and many of the same factors that helped destroy the right to arms in Britain are at work in the United States and other democracies today.
1. Misunderstanding Nature of Right -Sports vs. Freedom
The British gun owners must accept much of the blame for their current predicament, because of their concession that guns were only appropriate for sports.
When the Home Office in the 1980s began complaining that some people were obtaining guns for protection, the British Shooting Sports Council joined the complaint: "This, if it is a fact, is an alarming trend and reflects sadly on our society." One hunting lobby official condemned "the growing number of weapons being held in urban areas" for reasons having nothing to do with sport. The major hunting lobby, the British Association for Shooting and Conservation, defended the right to bear arms, but only, in its words, "the freedom to possess and use sporting arms."
This may appear to be a "reasonable" position, which demonstrates that gun owners are not bloodthirsty nuts wanting to shoot people, but are simply harmless sportsmen. But in fact, the concession that guns are only for sports critically undermines defense of the right to bear arms. If guns are not to be owned for defense, then guns make no positive contribution to public safety. And while sportsmen may wish only to shoot game and clay pigeons, guns do sometimes fall into the hands of criminals, who use them to shoot people.
So as the public evaluates the issue, it sees the gun control advocates talking about public safety and the gun owners talking about sports. Given the trade-off, who wouldn't trade lots of damage to sports in exchange for even minimal gains in public safety?
In the United States, many gun owners are much more vocal about the importance of firearms for protection. But there is a very large segment of hunters, clay pigeon shooters, and even IPSC competitors who self-righteously insist that they only want guns for sports. These sportsmen act as if they are morally superior to people who need handguns for protection. The anti-defense sportsmen are in some ways more effective at undermining the right to bear arms than any gun control lobbyist could ever be.
2. Failure to Organize
Unwilling to support the right to keep and bear arms for defenseÐas opposed to the privilege to use sporting weaponsÐBritish gun owners have also been unwilling to band together for defensive purposes.
While Britain has a large number of groups that promote particular shooting disciplines, such as the Clay Pigeon Shooting Association, the National Small-Bore Rifle Association, and the U.K. Practical Shooting Association, most of these organizations content themselves simply with running their own competitions. Getting involved in legislative affairs would hardly occur to them. And they would never dream of getting involved in legislative affairs on an issue that did not affect their own discipline. The clay pigeon folks pay no attention to how the government is restricting handguns, nor did the handgunners care much about what the government was doing to the rifle shooters. In all of Great Britain, there are less than half a dozen people with full-time jobs resisting the further expansion of gun control laws.
Partly as a result of historical accident, American shooting sports are more closely unified, with many disciplines under the banner of the National Rifle Association. And while the majority of NRA's income is not spent on legislative affairs, a good fraction is. That is why the gun control lobbies and their media lapdogs are so vituperative toward NRAÐthe organization is a major impediment to their objective of disarming the American people.
But in a nation of more than 70 million gun owners, less than 3 million belong to NRA. And even some NRA members are all too willing to throw other shooters to the wolves. Some hunters complain when NRA defends semi-automatic rifles used by target shooters. Some target shooters complain that NRA is too involved fighting for people who want to carry handguns for protection. And almost everybody is willing to let the already over-regulated machine gun shooters get regulated out of existence.
American Art Cook won Olympic gold medal in smallbore rifle in London in 1948. Today, British pistol marksmen can not even train on home soil due to the gun laws they and their countrymen have allowed to be passed.
The British experience should teach Americans the importance of the NATO doctrine for gun rights. Adopted as a resolution at the Gun Rights Policy Conference every year since 1988, the NATO Doctrine affirms that an attack against one form of gun ownership is considered an attack against allÐjust as the original NATO doctrine affirmed that an attack on one NATO country would be considered an attack against all. Only a self-destructive blindness would have allowed the United States or the United Kingdom to ignore a Soviet invasion of Turkey or West Germany simply because Soviet tanks were not rolling through London or New York. Even if the Soviets solemnly had promised that they only wanted to capture Berlin or Ankara, and had no interest in London, diplomatic realists understood that to allow the piecemeal conquest of small democratic nations would eventually put even the most powerful democratic nations in mortal danger.
The people who own the firearms that are currently still considered "politically correct" (such as bolt or lever-action rifles, and pump-action shotguns) are making a tragic miscalculation by their callous indifference to persons who want to own small handguns (so called "junk guns"), or semi-automatic firearms. Once the gun control lobby gets done destroying the more vulnerable gun owners, the lobby will be all the stronger to take on the gun owners that remain.
If you are not a part of the unified defense of all shooting disciplines, you are part of the problem.
Even when British gun owners have gotten politically involved, they have far too often been willing to assent to ever more restrictive controls to make the government happy. When the Home Office (similar to the U.S. Department of Justice) imposed stringent new restrictions on gun clubs, the Chief Executive of Britain's National Rifle Association [no affiliation with the U.S. NRA] affirmed his assent by simply noting that "the Government saw a need."
The theory of appeasement is that by making concessions, pro-gun groups will prove their reasonableness and good faith, thereby convincing the government not to take even more privileges away from gun owners.
Just as British gun owners have attempted to appease their government, the British government attempted to appease the Nazis in the years before World War II. All that appeasement accomplished was to embolden the Nazis. And when the war finally came, the Allies were all the weaker because their appeasement policies had allowed democratic, pro-Allied Czechoslovakia and other parts of central Europe to be swallowed by the Nazi war machine.
While there are particular gun control advocates who might be appeased for a while with concessions from the gun rights movement, the gun control lobby as a whole cannot be appeased. No concession you can offer will satisfy them for longer than it takes them to digest their gains, and prepare the next offensive. Although individual anti-gunners vary in their motivation, in the long term the moral imperative of the anti-gun movement can be satisfied by nothing less than the prohibition of all weapons, all replica weapons and of the right to self-defense.
4. Willingness to Stand and Fight
Almost every time the British government has demanded more power, the great mass of British gun owners placidly have accepted the government's action without protest. (The 1996 97 push for handgun confiscation saw the first significant display of gun-owner solidarity, with tens of thousands of law-abiding gun owners and supporters rallying in the streets.) The result of the "reasonable" approach of the gun owners has not been a reasonable treatment by the British government. Instead, the government has pressed down restriction after restriction upon the British people, and as every restriction fails to halt the rising tide of crime, the British government invents still more "reasonable" gun controls to distract the public from the government's inept efforts at crime control.
As armed crime grows worse and worse, despite nearly a century of severe firearms controls, the British government expends more and more energy "cracking down" on the rights of the British people. The right to arms, the right to jury trial and the right to grand jury indictment having been almost entirely destroyed, and even the right not to be compelled to incriminate oneself has disappeared.
And the British example is the American gun control intelligentsia's role model.
But not all Americans have considered the repressive practices of Great Britain a model for a free society. The men and women who fought for American Independence, and who later placed the right to bear arms in the Second Amendment were such people. Are you?
Will you begin to stand and fight for your rights today? Or do you think it will be easier to defend your gun rights after you have let President Clinton, Vice President Gore and the anti gun lobbyists have their way for a few more years? Will defending
your rights be easier when handguns and semi-automatics have been outlawed, or when guns and gun owners are registered in a federal computer, or when carrying a gun for protection has been made into a federal crime with a mandatory prison term?
Patrick Henry's words from 1775 speak to us today: "They tell us we are weakÐunable to cope with so formidable an adversary. But when will we be stronger? Will it be next week, or next year? Will it be when we are totally disarmed?"
Handgun Control, Inc.'s Sarah Brady has already unveiled her plans for what she wants to follow the "Brady Bill" (a proposal which could easily have been stopped in Congress, had enough gun owners cared to speak up). As she told the New York Times, her ultimate goal is a "needs-based licensing" system. Under her plan, all guns, and all gun transfers would be registered. And possession of any gun would require the gun owner to satisfy the local police chief that he has a "need" for the gun.4
What about people who need a gun for protection? "To me, the only reason for guns in civilian hands is for sporting purposes," says Brady.5 Her "educational organization," the Center to Prevent Handgun Violence (CPHV) is one of several groups that belong to the "HELP" networkÐHandgun Epidemic Lowering Plan. The stated goal of the HELP network is to "work toward changing society's attitude toward guns so that it becomes socially unacceptable for private citizens to have guns."
Once the government has confiscated handguns, and it has disarmed all the people who think they need any kind of gun for self-defense, how long will the shooting sports survive? What will remain of target competition, after draconian taxes on guns and ammunition have decimated the ranks of target shooters? What will remain of hunting, after animal rights advocates have confined hunting to a few faraway preserves, so that the number of licensed hunters falls further every year?
What will remain of gun collectors, if they must pay hundreds of dollars a year for an "arsenal" license, as Handgun Control proposes, and must "consent" to several unannounced police inspections of their home every year? How much political clout will the dwindling number of gun owners have in a few years, if millions of schoolchildren are subjected to HCI's political propaganda against guns and the Second Amendment as part of their school curriculum? Who will be the next generation of shooters, if teenagers are forbidden to learn how to use guns even with parental consent, as is the current law in Massachusetts and New York?
How long will it take, if you wait 5 or 10 or 15 years to begin fighting, simply to retake the ground that was lost in the interim while you sat on the sidelines? Will you ever regain it?
Or will you stay forever on the sidelines, too busy or too self-important to join the fray?
You cannot content yourself with a thought that you will hide your guns if you have to. Gun detection technology is advancing very rapidly. In the not-distant future, it will not be possible to hide an illegal gun or gunpowder in a home.
American gun owners face the same choice that Winston Churchill posed to the British people when they wondered how to face the Nazis during the 1930s: "If you will not fight for the right when you can easily win without bloodshed, if you will not fight when your victory will be sure and not so costly, you may come to the moment when you will have to fight with all the odds against you and only a precarious chance for survival. There may be a worse case. You may have to fight when there is no chance of victory, because it is better to perish than to live as slaves."
Today in Great Britain, the few remaining gun owners fight alone, with only a precarious chance of survival. Will you follow their path of appeasement, and surrender the rights which your ancestors gave their blood, toil, tears, and sweat in order to preserve for you? Do you want your children or grandchildren to face the awful choice of being brutalized by a criminal or going to prison for defending themselves?
Stand idle like the British, and be destroyed, or use your rights of free speech, petition, assembly, voting, and jury service to defend your rights, and together we will prevail. The choice is yours.
1. B. Bruce Biggs, "The Great American Gun War," The Public Interest 45 (Fall 1976), p. 50.
2. Reprinted in J.W.G., "The Menace of the Pistol," 2 American Institute of Criminal Law 93 (1911).
3. New York Times, May 23, 1913, p.9.
4. Erik Eckhom, "A Little Gun Control, A Lot of Guns," New York Times, Aug. 15, 1993, p.B1.
5. Tom Jackson, "Keeping the Battle Alive," Tampa Tribune, Oct. 21, 1993.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
The British history in this booklet is adapted in part from chapter two of David B. Kopel's award-winning book The Samurai, the Mountie, and the Cowboy: Should America Adapt the Gun Controls of Other Democracies? The book was named Book of the Year by the American Society of Criminology Division of International Criminology.
The author of numerous magazine, newspaper and law review articles, Dave Kopel also is editor the book, Guns: Who Should Have Them? He co-wrote with Paul H. Blackman No More Wacos: What's Wrong with Federal Law Enforcement and How to Fix It.
A former assistant district attorney in New York City, Kopel presently serves as an adjunct professor of law at New York University Law School and Research Director of the Independence Institute, a free-market think tank in Golden, Colo. The Institute's website is http://i2i.org.
t battles lost rights David B. Kopel David Kopel