View Full Version : World History Question
01-13-2001, 11:50 AM
Was the right to keep and bear arms an unusual idea for the time our constitution was written?
Does anyone elses constitution before ours mention an armed populous?
Was disarming the people the first thing an army did when overtaking a country or were the "people" not expected to fight?
01-13-2001, 12:05 PM
Does anyone elses constitution before ours mention an armed populous?
I'm not going to research the issues of 18th century gun control laws, but I do know that the United States was the first country to have a written constitution, so there was nobody else's to compare it to.
01-13-2001, 12:52 PM
As Little Nemo pointed out there weren't really any comparable constituitions floating around to appeal to. But generally speaking European monarchies had long been in the habit of periodically disarming the lower stratas of society so as to reduce the likelihood/effectiveness of peasant uprisings. Probably with only variable success ( it being pretty easy to turn a farming implement into a makeshift weapon of some effectiveness pre-gunpowder - lack of military training and cohesion were actually the biggest impediments to successful rebellions ). But it had periodically come up. No doubt the framers were reacting in part to that old tradition. Though another good part of it may have simply been that they were members of a frontier society that had traditionally been rather better armed than, say, the country folk of England.
01-13-2001, 02:15 PM
I've read that firearms control in Europe wasn't so much as an issue of revolution prevention: pitchforks and clubs are as much use as muskets when gunpowder production is a state-run monopoly.
The real reason that guns were kept out of the peasantry's hands was to prevent poaching. This served two purposes: the nobility could have plenty of game to chase and use these occasions for diplomatic get-togethers that would be otherwise dificult (think of an analogy with today: executive A can play golf with executive B while discussing business, but he'd have hell to pay from his board of directors if he were to visit executive B's office). the second advantage this gave to the nobility was that the peasants were tied to the land for their food.
Of course, the English nobility, facing a larger number of Frenchmen in armor and on horseback, had to make a devil's bargain and arm their yeomanry. A lot of people think that it's no coincidence that England then became more a society of laws and less of enforced privilege. (Although a lot of other people say that handing out all those bows & arrows had nothing to do with it).
01-13-2001, 03:14 PM
In the late eighteenth century two things happened, coincidentally in time that made the issue of a right to bear arms politically important. One was the awakening of the masses to the understanding of the consent of the governed, as the source of the rights of government. The other was the peculiar circumstance of the colonial development of the so-called "Kentucky Long Rifle" and it's many near cousins.
There has never been a time, either before, or since when the preeminent military weapon of the age was held almost exclusively in private, and common ownership. Because of this, a nearly destitute local colonial government could field an army equipped to mount a creditable assault upon the military force of the richest nation in the world. The economics of such a situation were unprecedented.
To raise an armed rebellion before this situation, a conspiracy, or local agency would have to raise huge amounts of money to purchase swords, pikes, armor, bows, arrows, horses, and a host of skilled craftsman to maintain the equipment. Patriotism being as common as it is, money is the primary shortage for such an operation. In the colonies in America, at that time, fully a third of the adult male population could be expected to respond to a call to arms with his own weapon, if he responded at all. More to the point, the weapon in question was equal to, or in many cases the clear superior of the best in the British Army.
The point not much examined by pro gun advocates of the twentieth century is that that situation is long past its ascendancy in military terms. The social consequence of an armed population does not include the potential for creditable assaults upon Government backed military forces extant today. However much we might deplore, or support the actions at Waco, militarily there is no question that civilian use of weapons caches for defense against police arms, much less true military weaponry, is futile.
To achieve the purpose claimed on behalf of the framers for a populace able to enforce it's will upon the government and military with arms, those arms would have to include air power, anti-air power, artillery, mobile artillery, hand held rockets, hand grenades, crew served automatic weapons, mortars, and of course tanks and incendiary weapons. The possible extra-parametal effects of such a situation might be less than desirable.
Owning Saturday night specials, and Nine millimeter pistols is great for enforcing your right to your drug markets, but it doesn't mean squat if the Marines decide you are in the way. Neither does your AK, and your K-Bar.
01-13-2001, 05:07 PM
There was a book published 6-8 months ago, reviewed in the NY Times, by a historian who examined the history in the U.S. of the gun ownership and rights.
He found out (contrary to his initial assumption) that guns were actually rarely used by the citizens before & during the time of the revolution. Their inaccuracy, noise, and upkeep made them useless for frontiersmen & hunters. Surprisingly many colonies actively tried to get native americans dependent on guns, because their bows & arrows were faster and more accurate, in addition to the colonists controlling access to the ammunition.
IIRC, the right to bear arms was the right of the colonies to take up arms against the king. The colonies actively acquired and regulated the guns to produce their militias. It was illegal to sell your gun to someone who wasn't in the militia, and there were a variety of laws (depending on the colony) that regulated trade in guns.
The right to bear arms that we 'know' today is an unusual idea for that time.
01-13-2001, 07:07 PM
Originally posted by PosterChild
He found out (contrary to his initial assumption) that guns were actually rarely used by the citizens before & during the time of the revolution.
I remember reading an article in the Economist about that book.
According to it, the lack of gun ownership by Americans continued up to the Civil War, at the conclusion of which, they let the soldiers of both armies keep their weapons. Before that, ownership of guns was at best about 10% of the adult male population and much usually less. That includes frontier areas as well as cities.
01-13-2001, 07:09 PM
Originally posted by dtilque
ownership of guns was at best about 10% of the adult male population and much usually less.
Er, that should be "usually much less".
Gnarly Narly Dude
01-16-2001, 12:39 AM
The right to bear arms was common in the Western Hemisphere for centuries, while rare in Europe. But still, most of the weapons were manufactured there, and most of them remained there.
Hamilton was one of the first American colonists to manufacture firearms, and is credited with inventing the concept of standardized interchangeable parts, rather than handcrafting every flintlock.
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