Under the last Stuart king, James II, the question of who has the rights to have the guns came to a
Arms Against Catholics and Their Stuarts
Changes in technology and manufacture had increased the tension between Protestant and Catholic England. By James II’s 1685
accession, guns had become more than a rich man’s curiosity. 1
England was on the verge of the industrial revolution. 2
The flintlock musket (or later the rifle) began to be mass-produced with interchangeable parts. Unlike a sword or bow,
which takes time to learn to use effectively, a gun is relatively
easy to use. Although becoming a marksman takes time and
practice, in an afternoon a person could learn to effectively fire
a musket. 3
But at this very time of manufactured firearms, King James II was
working to reduce all weapons in private hands, which meant
mostly Protestant hands. He did so by using loyal militias to suppress and disarm political dissidents. Using the 1671 Game Act,
for example, James II systematically disarmed parts of England
where his Protestant enemies lived. 4
Eventually, the Glorious Revolution of 1688 deposed James II
replacing him with his daughter, Mary Stuart, and son-in-law,
William of Orange. 5 During the change of monarchy, London
crowds stormed Catholic churches and the mayor ordered the
disarming of all Catholics.
When William arrived in London on Dec. 28, 1688, he called a
Convention to work out his taking the throne as co-ruler with
Mary. 6 This convention provided the basis for the English Bill of
1. These pistols are beautiful and not mass
produced. Only a rich man could afford such
craftsmanship. This contrasts with the stark
efficiency of a modern gun such as a Glock
3. Indeed, gun technology has increased to the point
where today any fool can load and fire a gun with
devastating effect. A drive-by shooting, for instance,
requires no skill at all. This reality is the main impetus
for modern gun control laws.
Several video games revolve around drive-by
shootings including the Grand Theft Auto series, which
allows the player to shoot his sub-machine gun out his
4. See MALCOLM at 31–53, 103–06, cited in Heller,
128 S. Ct. at 2798.
6. Bogus, Hidden History, at 381.
7. In fact, the militia still exists, and if you are an
American male reading this book you may be part of
it. The U.S. still has a national “general” militia of all
able-bodied men between 17 and 45 who are not
members of the National Guard or Naval Militia but it
has no role in defense today. 10 U.S.C. § 311 (2006).
See Fields & Hardy at 428 n.168.
2. The Industrial Revolution happened in the late 18th
and early 19th centuries, bringing major changes in
agriculture manufacturing, and transportation. The Watt
steam engine, for example, propelled the manufacture
of any number
of commodities, in-
cluding arms. It cre-
ated a very different
world from that
which produced the
sword. Making a
sword takes time,
which is part of the
reason a sword can
have mythic status.
modern guns, do not
have this quality.
Sir Bedivere casting the sword Excalibur back to
the Lady of the Lake. Excalibur was King Arthur’s legendary sword with magical powers.
5. William of Orange
8. Churchill, Gun Regulation, at 145–46. Generally,
public officers, clergy, and certain key professionals
were exempted, but they still had to turn out for
service during an alarm.
The only colony that did not have a compulsory
militia until the Revolution was Pennsylvania with
its pacifistic Quakers.
9. Field & Hardy at 413–14. The English practice at
the time of the American Revolution was different.
When England modernized its militia during the
Seven Years War (the French and Indian War) with the Militia Act of 1757, it ordered the listing of all men
from 18–50 to report except public officers, teachers, clergy, mariners, and apprentices. This was probably
over a million men but only 30,000 were chosen by lot to serve in the militia for three years and these could
provide substitutes, usually paid. This militia trained 18 days a year and the crown provided the arms and
uniforms, which the militiamen drew from central stores for training days only. Churchill, Gun Regulation, at
145 (citing 30 George II, c. 25 (1757) (Eng.)).
The American militias, however, were still the heirs to Cromwell’s New Model Army, and this model led to
the force that stood at Lexington and Concord. See Bachmann at 231.
10. Churchill, Gun Regulation, at 147.