Cumberland Times-News

Editorials

April 21, 2013

Right to bear arms not unconditional

Speaking as a gun owner, the U.S. Senate vote today (April 17) defeating West Virginia U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin’s bill to require the same background checks at gun shows that “over the counter” gun sales require, is an abomination.

The senators who voted against it should be sent home at the earliest voter opportunity.

It has been pointed out, correctly, that the auto is a killing machine. However, before I can operate an auto I must get a license. To do so I must; 1. demonstrate certain physical abilities; i.e. vision and mobility. 2. I must demonstrate my knowledge of the laws by passing a written test. 3. I must demonstrate my ability to control the vehicle by passing a driving test. Where is the parallel to guns? In some jurisdictions I’m not allowed to talk on my cell phone or text. (Wonder what the Founding Fathers thought about that?)

Now, off my soap box. Much has been said and written about the English Bill of Rights of 1689 and its relevance to the U.S. Bill of Rights, Second Amendment. Let’s examine the history behind the English Bill of Rights.

It followed out of the “Assize of Arms, 1181” in the Reign of Henry II. It proclaimed that;

1. “Let every holder of a knight’s fee have a hauberk, a helmet, a shield and lance. And let every knight have as  many hauberks, helmets, shields and lances, as he has knights fees in his demise.”

2. “Also, let every freeman, who holds chattels or rent to the value of 16 marks, have hauberk, a helmet a shield, and a lance. Also let every freeman who holds chattels or rent worth 10 marks have an aubergel and a  headpiece of iron and a lance ...”

4. “Moreover, let each and every one of them swear before the feast of St. Hilary he will possess these arms and will bear allegiance to the lord king Henry, namely the son of empress Maud, and he will bear these arms in his service according to his order and in allegiance to the lord king and his realm ...”

Contrary to what appears to be popular thought, the English Bill of Rights was regulated according to your status in life!

In the era before standing armies, the only way lords and kings could raise an army was by relying on the arms of their subjects. Later, King James II was a Roman Catholic. Among other grievances, he declared that Protestants were not allowed to bear arms to protect his throne and ensure a continued Catholic line.

The English Bill of Rights was primarily to allow the Protestants to protect themselves from the Catholics. First, the grievance, and second, the remedy related to bearing arms was;

1. “By causing several good subjects being Protestant to be disarmed at the same time when Papists were both armed and employed contrary to law. “

2. “That the subjects which are Protestant may have arms for their defense suitable to their condition and as allowed by law”

Thus, the right to bear arms was not unconditional. There were rules and restrictions. We need to be cautious in applying 16th century reasoning to 21st century problems. We now have standing armies and I don’t believe the Protestants fear attack from the Catholics any longer.

Medieval society could not, in their wildest imagination or dreams, envision all the problems facing our 21st century society.

Let’s be rational about gun control and direct our emotions to urging voters to exercise their voting privilege on all matters that affect us.

Ron Personett

Romney W.Va.

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