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Self-defense and Liberty

            There may be several levels or planes on which we express, develop, and defend ourselves.  The most commonly mentioned are the spiritual, mental, emotional, and physical.  We need to protect ourselves on the physical plane with proper diet, exercise, situational awareness, and material tools like buildings, furnaces, automobiles, and firearms.  Without physical security, the other non-tangible planes of existence would be immaterial.  Likewise, without the second amendment, which acknowledges our right to keep and bear arms, all the other rights in our constitution could be rendered meaningless by those with power.  Our founding fathers addressed their fear of this possibility throughout their writings as they likened the right of self defense to the cornerstone of liberty.  Too often in history, when populations have been disarmed, tyranny and genocide have followed.  And today, areas in our society with the strictest gun control have the highest crime rates.

            Civil rights, and a society governed by laws, never applied to the masses while the privileged wealthy could hire, train, and arm soldiers to enforce their whims.  The English long bow could penetrate armor, but the skill to master it was beyond the means of the common man.  However, the crossbow was effective in defeating the knights without requiring lengthy training.  It was an equalizer feared by the nobility and was universally banned.  It was too late.  Now freemen and barons wouldn't stand for abusive oppression, and great civil unrest forced Englandís King John to recognize individual sovereignty by signing the Magna Charta, a list of laws all must obey.  This great charter is considered to be the foundation of our modern legal system.  Without easy to use tools for self defense in the hands of the populace, we may never have had personal liberty and justice under law in the early 1200ís.

            Tools for defense became lighter and more powerful after Marco Polo introduced black power to Europe from China just before 1300 AD.  By 1400 a hand gonne is mentioned that had a small bore and a short barrel affixed to a wooden stick.   A glowing ember had to be held at a touch hole to fire it, and aiming would have been difficult to do at the same time. Often these dangerous contraptions were operated by convicts in lieu of prison.  The invention of the pan, or small depression filled with powder over the touch hole, made ignition easier.  Aiming was made possible by the invention of the slowly burning match, or thin rope soaked in gunpowder and lye, the jaws of an "s" shaped cock to hold it, and the trigger to release the cock to put the match into the pan.  By 1500 the matchlock was being carried to the new world.

            After 100 years, the matchlock was replaced by the more reliable flintlock which included a pan cover to keep the wind from blowing away the priming charge.  By eliminating the smoky, sputtering match, a flintlock gave it's user the element of surprise.   The era of the flintlock spanned over 200 years, longer than any other type of firearm in history.  It still had difficulty in wet conditions, and the percussion caplock replaced it in the early 1800ís.  The short era of the caplock ended with the civil war, and self contained metallic cartridges designed in the 1870ís are still in use today.  Now, compact, lightweight handguns serve us for sport, hunting, self-defense, and a guaranty of liberty for those who practice with and carry them.

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Gunthorp  Duluth, MN email: info@gunthorp.com