It is true that the judgement in the recent so called ‘Metric Martyrs’ (2001/2) case appeared to create two levels of law and sanctioned the idea that later ‘ordinary’ Acts do not implicitly repeal through simple contradiction, the earlier, superior constitutional’ Acts. However, I believe that the judgement was a literal absurdity. As stated previously, in Britain there is no such thing as a constitutional Act in the sense that it has any superior status to any other Act. What we have are Acts that deal with constitutional matters. Consequently, I cannot see that judgement has any basis in law or customary British practice.
It is also argued by some people that a Common Law right to bear and own weapons exists because in the past men were permitted to own and bear arms and a Common Law right developed accordingly. Whether this is true or not is irrelevant. A Common Law right can be removed by statute and indeed the vast majority of our law today is Statute law. Our present gun laws are all statute based.
The position with regard to history is dearly confused and contradictory. Resting a claim for a right to bear arms on it is pointless because those who resist such a thing will simply point out the lack of certain evidence and the evidence that contradicts the idea. Much better to rest the argument on the twin reasons of self-defence and the means to resist an intolerant and oppressive state should one arise.
What the Position Should be in a Free Society
In my perfect world, a man would be able to purchase a gun and ammunition in England as easily as he might buy a pound of potatoes. Similarly, a man should be able to carry any other weapon or implement he chooses. He should have the right to keep and carry weapons not merely for self-defence, but because otherwise arms are left in the hands of governments and criminals and denied to the ordinarily law-abiding citizen. Not only should a man be able to own a gun (or any other weapon) he should be able to do so without accounting for it to the police.
What, you say, anyone able to own a gun and no licences to boot? Would not that result in Britain being turned into the Wild West? The answer is no. Consider this, at present there are plenty of guns in private hands in Britain, whether held illegally or legally, yet gun crime remains pretty rare: less than 100 gun murders in 2001.
Even if all guns were made illegal, there would still be a large and by all accounts increasing number of illegally held guns in private hands. Now comes the clincher. The vast majority of gun crime is committed with illegally held guns. In other words the present wearisome system of licensing and the penal conditions of security under which guns must be stored on private premises have next to no effect on solving gun crime.
If guns were allowed to everyone without restriction, the situation would be essentially the same as it is today. Gun crime would be committed with weapons that were unregistered. But would not more guns mean more gun crime? ‘That presumes there would be a massive increase in gun ownership. This is far from being certain. Before serious legal restrictions on gun ownership in Britain were enacted, gun ownership was not the norm. Nor does the ownership of a gun mean the owner will habitually carry it any more than the near universal ownership of lethal knives has meant that most people carry such knives. It is also worth reflecting on the fact that even criminals in Britain rarely use guns, despite their widespread availability in our larger cities. If criminals do not routinely use them to kill and wound, why should we believe the law-abiding citizen will?
Generally, it does not matter if people are not policed because Man, being a social animal, will not normally act in a fatally harmful way to others. Moreover, in a very law abiding society such as ours, there is less chance of seriously socially disruptive behaviour than in most, perhaps all, other societies.
As mentioned previously, the English have a remarkably low murder rate generally (about 800 a year in a population of 60 million) and always have done. The paucity of English murder is not the result of a careful control of weapons through the ages, especially guns, for as mentioned above for much of our history weapons were available. The only rational explanation for it is that there is something in the English character and society, that has made extreme personal violence rare. If any people can be trusted to own weapons the English can.
That guns do not equal mass homicide can also be seen from the example of Canada where seven million guns are owned legally in a population of 30 million. They have a higher rate of gun killing than England, but it is still very low. Switzerland with its citizen army with all males of military age having a gun at home is another example of widespread ownership with a low gun crime rate.
What weapons should people be allowed?
Should private individuals be allowed to have anything from a revolver to nuclear bombs (as Michael Moore suggested in Bowling for Columbine)? Well, there is a compromise that is self-policing. The individual should have any weapon that the state is willing to use against the individual.
If you want a lethal weapon you can always get one quite legitimately because there are so many things which will do. The Government bans commando style knives? No problem, you just go to your local hardware store and buy a decent 6 inch blade cook’s knife. Or why not make yourself an old-fashioned cheese cutter out of cheese wire with a couple of pieces of wood to act as grips and Bob’s your uncle once you have the wire wound around someone’s neck. The state trying to outlaw lethal weapons is like the state trying to outlaw pornography in the age of the internet.