Yesterday the Instapundit linked to a post by Michael Moynihan at Reason Online's Hit & Run blog. It is mostly concerned with the effects of gun control in Britain on gun crime (it's been counterproductive) and links to a much more extensive 2002 article by Joyce Lee Malcolm that details the chronology of the gradual disarming of the law-abiding British populace, starting in the1920's and continuing to the present day.
In the 1950's, while he was at medical school in the UK, my father was introduced to the sport of marksmanship by a friend. He decided to acquire his friend's .22 caliber bolt-action sport rifle (said friend probably wanted to get a better/fancier one for himself), the kind I could walk into any Wal Mart and buy without any problem today. Before he could complete his acquisition, he had to get the permission of the Chief of Police and so he dutifully went down to the police station where he spent several hours being questioned by a detective about why he needed a firearm, what he would do with it, etc. Eventually he convinced the detective that he wasn't about to stage a coup and he was allowed to complete his purchase. This was around 1954/5. In 1957 he emigrated to the US, making the trip on the ocean liner Ile de France. He disembarked the ship in lower Manhattan, carrying the same rifle, slung over his back and no one even questioned him about it. I still have the rifle.
As the Malcolm article points out, not content with disarming the people, the British Government has not only disarmed them, it has steadily eroded the people's rights to any meaningful right of self-defense. She presents this mostly in terms of its effects on crime. What she doesn't talk about though, and to be fair it's a subject for another article, is the potential for an armed uprising by an organized minority that could stockpile guns and use them to take control. It takes relatively few armed men to control a large number of disarmed people. And if those people have been conditioned to wait for someone else to help them, it is easier still because they have lost the basic instinct hard-wired into the brains of every creature on the planet to fight back when threatened.
Going back to 2002 again, perhaps Bill Whittle said it best in one of his epic essays, "Freedom":
"Ask yourselves why intellectual elites so love totalitarian states where people are unarmed and dependent sheep. Look at the examples of Hitler, Stalin, Pol Pot, Mao, and Saddam, and the horrors they have inflicted at will on their own people. And when contemplating your ever-so-sophisticated foreign policy, ask yourselves what compassionate and non-violent options you are left with when facing a determined, heartless bastard like Hitler, Napoleon, Ghengis Khan or Attila.
Some say that the time for real evil like that has finally gone. I hope you are right, I really do. I don't want to go fight those bastards; I'd rather barbeque and watch the Gators. I'm sure the Jews in 1930 Germany thought such things could never happen again, not in the heart of European culture and civilization. I'm sure every bound and beaten musician, surgeon, philosopher and painter being lined up at the side of a ditch thought exactly that.
Freedom is preserved by free people. Our 40th President wrote that “no weapon in the arsenals of the world is so formidable as the will and moral courage of free men and women.”
I believe gun ownership is the truest form of freedom, and here's why: It says you are your own person, responsible for your own actions. You are, in other words, expected to behave as an adult. It says, furthermore, that you should not be collectively punished for the misdeeds of others. In fact, those that abuse this freedom by committing crimes are thought of and dealt with much more harshly by gun owners, as a rule, than Hollywood celebrities, precisely because a free person understands the responsibility that comes with freedom.
This, to my mind, is the fundamental difference between the Europeans and the U.S.: We trust the people. We fought wars and lost untold husbands and brothers and sons because of this single most basic belief: Trust the people. Trust them with freedom. Trust them to spend their own money. Trust them to do the right thing. Trust them to defend themselves. To the degree that government can help, great -- but TRUST THE PEOPLE. "
I only hope that the British people will find again their collective will to live as free people before it's too late.
Update 9/9: Glenn Reynolds links to an article in The Times that reinforces the point that if you outlaw guns, only outlaws will have them:
Maybe it's not too late for Britain to wake up after all?
".....Why is it, even after the Virginia Tech massacre, that Americans still resist calls for more gun controls?
The short answer is that “gun controls” do not work: they are indeed generally perverse in their effects......"