Central View: King Charles I and the Second Amendment
According to the Sunday Times of London, the murder rate in London now exceeds that of New York City. How can that be? The people in London are not supposed to have guns. In fact, only a limited number of police officers are allowed to have guns. Answer: Knives. More people in London are being stabbed to death with knives than people in New York are being murdered with guns.
Ironically, the 2nd Amendment in our Bill of Rights (the right to keep and bear arms) had its origin in Merry Olde England. The British ruler, King Charles I (1600-1649), did not believe his subjects should be able to speak out against his tyrannical rule. To stifle any dissent, Charles ordered his male subjects to assemble carrying their very best weapons. Once they assembled, King Charles confiscated all their weapons, leaving them defenseless and speechless. Apparently, that did not go over well with his subjects who wanted to have their weapons so they could defend their right to free speech. Charles I was executed at age 49.
We know this about King Charles due, in part; to the scholarship of Professor Joyce Lee Malcolm whose research into 16th and 17th England produced To Keep and Bear Arms, Harvard University Press, 1994. According to Dr. Malcolm, America’s Founders had the duplicitous and tyrannical King Charles very much in mind when they penned the 2nd Amendment to the U.S. Constitution
In 1689, the English Bill of Rights granted Protestants the right to “have arms for their defense.” According to Dr. Malcolm, “The English felt a need to put this in writing because the king had been disarming his political opponents…This is the origin of our Second Amendment.”
There is, however, a second school of thought that contends individual Americans have a “natural right” to defend themselves and their loved ones. Some legal scholars refer to “Natural Law” as the basis for this and certain other unalienable “rights.” Religious scholars use the term: “God-given rights.” Take your pick.
But, either way, the “right” to self-defense is not a “right” invented by government and then granted to individuals. The “rights” found in Natural Law existed before governments were invented. According to some religious scholars, Natural Law existed before Eve partook of the Apple. Therefore, while a government might try to codify the “rights” that flow from Natural Law by attempting to write them into constitutions and statutes, the role of government is merely secretarial.
Some, but not all, legal scholars, claim the Second Amendment grants a collective right for states to have armed “militias,” but individuals do not have the “right” cited in the 2nd Amendment. In 1995, when Dr. Malcolm testified before Congress, then Representative Charles Schumer (D), said, “The pro-gun arguments we will hear today are as flaky as the arguments that the earth is flat.” Dr. Malcolm started the hearing as a registered Democrat; however, she says Rep. Schumer was so nasty to her that she is now a Republican.
In 2008, the U.S. Supreme Court, in District of Columbia vs. Heller, ruled Americans have an “individual right” to keep and bear arms. King Charles I must be rolling in his grave.
Nationally syndicated columnist, William Hamilton, is a laureate of the Oklahoma Journalism Hall of Fame, the Nebraska Aviation Hall of Fame, the Colorado Aviation Hall of Fame, and the Oklahoma University Army ROTC Wall of Fame. In 2015, he was named an Outstanding Alumnus of the University of Nebraska. Dr. Hamilton is the author of the Wit and Wisdom of William Hamilton: the Sage of Sheepdog Hill, Pegasus Imprimis Press (2017).
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