The Historical English Right to Keep and Bear Arms
Retired British policeman, author of Firearms Control (Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1972)
In his response to Pierre Lemieux’s article Thank You Commissar published in the Ottawa Citizen, Mr David McConnell makes facetious comment on the English Bill of Rights of 1688 (lWm & M Sess 2 c2) ...This statement must also be taken in the context of its day. The right to keep arms was a long established part of English Common Law but, because the Common Law is capable of change by various mechanisms, the right was not absolute and Charles II had modified it through his Militia Act of 1662 which continued the practice of requiring subjects to keep arms of a particular type according to their ‘condition and degree’ -- that is their rank in society and their wealth.
The rights and liberties of Englishmen continued to expand under Common Law. In the 17th century, many of the supposed rights did not, in practice, extend to the bottom of the social ladder but by the 18th century, Common Law rights were well established. and of such a nature that Sir William Blackstone, in his Commentaries on the Laws of England (1765) was in no doubt that the right to keep arms was a vital part of the Common Law. Blackstone listed the rights or liberties of Englishmen
and showed that to vindicate these rights when attacked, the Common Law provided that the subject was entitled to justice in the courts, the right Of petitioning the king and parliament for redress of grievance and, “the right of having and using arms for self preservation and defence.”