Canadian Unlicensed Firearms Owners Association
Association canadienne des propriétaires d’armes sans permis


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"All political theories assume, of course, that most individuals are very ignorant. Those who plead for liberty differ from the rest in that they include among the ignorant themselves as well as the wisest. Compared to the totality of knowledge which is constantly utilized in the evolution of a dynamic civilization, the difference between the knowledge that the wisest and that which the most ignorant individual can deliberately employ is comparatively insignificant."

F. A. Hayek
The Constitution of Liberty
The University of Chicago Press, Chicago 1960
p. 30

"Liberty is a system under which all government action is guided by principles, but it is an ideal that which will not be preserved unless it is itself accepted as an overriding principle governing all particular acts of legislation. Where no such fundamental rule is stubbornly adhered to as an ultimate ideal about which there must no compromise for the sake of material advantage - as an ideal which, even though it may have to be temporarily infringed during a passing emergency, must form the basis of all permanent arrangements - freedom is almost certain to be destroyed by piecemeal encroachment. For in each particular instance it will be possible to promise concrete and tangible advantages as the result of the curtailment of freedom, while the benefits sacrificed will in their nature always be unknown and uncertain."

F. A. Hayek
The Constitution of Liberty
The University of Chicago Press, Chicago 1960
p. 68

"It is sheer illusion to think than when certain needs of the citizen have become the exclusive concern of a single bureaucratic machine, democratic control of that machine can effectively guard the liberty of the citizen. So far as the preservation of personal liberty is concerned, the division of labor between a legislature which merely says that this or that should be done and an administrative apparatus which is given exclusive power to carry out these instructions is the most dangerous arrangement possible. All experience confirms ... 'that the zeal of the administrative agencies to see their function out of focus and to assume that the constitutional limitations and guaranteed individual rights must give way before their zealous efforts to achieve what they see see paramount purpose of government.'"

-F. A. Hayek
The Constitution of Liberty
The University of Chicago Press, Chicago 1960
pp. 261 - 262
and quoting Roscoe Pound
the Rise of the Service State and Its Consequences
in The Welfare State and the National Welfare, ed. S. Glueck,
Cambridge, mass, 1952 p. 220

"The freedom which we enjoy in our government extends also to our ordinary life [where] far from exercising a jealous surveillance over each other, we do not feel called upon to be angry with our neighbor for doing what he likes."

Pericles general of Athens, 461 to 429 BC,
quoted by Thucydides, Peloponnesian War, Crawley trans., ii, 37
Friedrich A. Hayek, The Constitution of Liberty
University of Chicago Press, Chicago, 1960 p. 164

The Human Right of Self Defense

*** ***

“No government has the legitimate authority to forbid a person from exercising
her human right to defend herself against a violent attack,
or to forbid her from taking the steps and acquiring
the tools necessary to exercise that right.”

David B. Kopel, et al
The Human Right of Self Defense

*** ***

“When a burglar is caught breaking in, and is fatally beaten,
there shall be no charge of manslaughter.”
Exodus 22.2
c500 BC

*** ***

“If a theft be committed at night,
and the thief be killed,
let his death be deemed lawful.”

Twelve Tables
Table VIII:
Lex Duodecim Tabularum, or Duodecim Tabulae
449 B.C.

*** ***

“If a brother kill a brother
in self-defence during a civil broil,
or a citizen a citizen,
or a slave a slave,
or a stranger a stranger,
let them be free from blame,
as he is who slays an enemy in battle.”

“A man is justified in taking the life of a burglar,
of a footpad, of a violator of women or youth;
and he may take the life of another with impunity in defence of
father, mother, brother, wife, or other relations.”

c351 BC

*** ***

“If any man while violently and illegally seizing another
shall be slain straightway in self-defence,
there shall be no penalty for his death.”

Greek statesman and orator of Athens
(384 – 322 BC)

*** ***

“What is the meaning of our retinues, what of our swords? Surely it would never be permitted to us to have them if we might never use them. This, therefore, is a law, O judges, not written, but born with us—which we have not learned, or received by tradition, or read, but which we have taken and sucked in and imbibed from nature herself; a law which we were not taught, but to which we were made—which we were not trained in, but which is ingrained in us—namely, that if our life be in danger from plots, or from open violence, or from the weapons of robbers or enemies, every means of securing our safety is honorable. For laws are silent when arms are raised, and do not expect themselves to be waited for, when he who waits will have to suffer an undeserved penalty before he can exact a merited punishment.”

“The law very wisely, and in a manner silently, gives a man a right to defend himself…the man who had used a weapon with the object of defending himself would be decided not to have had his weapon about him with the object of killing a man.”

Marcus Tullius Cicero
Speech in Defence of Titus Annius Milo
52 BC

“Though all the world exclaim against me, I will say what I think: that single little book of the Twelve Tables, if anyone look to the fountains and sources of laws, seems to me, assuredly, to surpass the libraries of all the philosophers, both in weight of authority, and in plenitude of utility.”

Marcus Tullius Cicero
De Oratore, I.44
c44 BC

*** ***

“All peoples who are governed by laws and customs use law which is partly theirs alone and partly shared by all mankind. The law which each people makes for itself is special to itself. It is called ‘state law’ [jus civile], the law peculiar to that state. But the law which natural reason makes for all mankind is applied the same way everywhere. It is called ‘the law of all peoples’ [jus gentium] because it is common to every nation.”

Roman jurist
Commentaries on the Twelve Tables
130–180 AD

*** ***

“The Law of the Twelve Tables permits one to kill a thief caught in the night, provided one gives evidence of the fact by shouting aloud, but someone may only kill a person caught in such circumstances at any other time if he defends himself with a weapon, though only if he provides evidence by shouting.”

“If someone kills anyone else who is trying to go for him with a sword, he will not be deemed to have killed unlawfully; and if for fear of death someone kills a thief, there is no doubt he should not be liable under the lex Aquila.

“If I kill your slave who is lying in ambush to rob me, I shall go free; for natural reason permits a person to defend himself against danger.”

“Persons who bear weapons for the purpose of protecting their own safety are not regarded as carrying them for the purpose of homicide.”

Corpus Juris
534 A.D.

*** ***

“If a thief should be killed in the daytime, while defending himself with a sword, no responsibility shall attach to anyone on account of his death

“If a thief should be surprised at night, and should be killed while he is attempting to remove stolen property, his death shall under no circumstances be punished.”

“ Where anyone takes the property of another by force, and is wounded, or killed in the act,” there shall be “no legal responsibility for the same.”

The Visigothic Code
642/643 A.D.

*** ***

“Whoever slays a thief must swear an oath that the thief was slain while offending.”
Ine King of Wessex
688 – 726 A.D.

*** ****

“The human race is ruled by two things, namely natural law and usages.”

“Natural law is common to all nations because it exists everywhere through natural instinct, not because of any enactment.”

“For example: the union of men and women, the succession and rearing of children, the common possession of all things, the identical liberty of all, or the acquisition of things which are taken from the heavens, earth, or sea, as well as the return of a thing deposited or of money entrusted to one, and the repelling of violence by force. This, and everything similar, is never regarded as unjust but is held to be natural and equitable.”

Johannes Gratian
Professor of Theology at the University of Bologna.

*** ***

“It is always lawful to meet force with force.”

Raymond of Pennaforte
Catalan Dominican friar
Decretals of Pope Gregory IX

*** ***

“What is reason for the law of breaking in?
Because it is certain that no man is inactive
where his property is concerned;
therefore this one [the thief] must have reasoned,
“If I go there, he [the owner] will oppose me and prevent me;
but if he does, I will kill him.”
Hence the Torah decreed
‘If he come to slay thee, forestall by slaying him.’”

The Talmud

*** ***

“Self-defense proceeds from natural law,
and not from positive law, civil or canon.”

Giovanni da Legnano
Italian jurist
De Bello, De Represealiis Et De Duello

*** ***

“Any one,
even a private person,
can accept and wage a defensive war.
This is shown by the fact that
force may be repelled by force.
Hence, any one can make this kind of war,
without authority from any one else,
for the defense not only of his person,
but also of his property and goods.”

Francisco de Victoria
University of Salamanca, Spain
De Indis; On the Law of War

*** ***

“If any person do attempt to break any mansion-house in the night time, and shall happen to be slain by any person or persons, etc. (tho a lodger or servant) they shall upon their trial be acquitted and discharged.”

Stat. 24, Hen. VIII, ch. 5

*** ***

“Surely nature teaches us to oppose force with force,
and arms with arms.”

“And inasmuch as it is permissible to fight on one’s own behalf,
much more may we do so to save the state,
in defence of liberty and fatherland.”

Pierino Belli
military advisor to the Holy Roman Emperors Charles V and Philip II
De re militari et de bello

*** ***

For to kill in self-defence is just,
even though the one who kills may flee without danger and to save himself …
These views have been admitted in the case of private individuals,
and I consider them still more valid with regard to states …
And it is a necessary right;
for what can be done against violence, says Cicero,
without resort to violence?
This is the most generally accepted of all rights.
All laws and all codes allow the repelling of force by force.
There is one rule which endures forever,
to maintain one’s safety by any and every means.

Alberico Gentili
Italian lawyer
On the Law of War, Book Three

*** ***

Neither …
would have been possible to do away
with the right of self-defence
- springing from the law of nature - against a criminal charge, …
for it would not be permissible that the Emperor should abolish
those things which proceed from the natural law.

I hold that defensive war not is permitted,
but sometimes is even commanded.
This first part of this proposition …
holds true not only for public officials,
but also for private individuals,
since all laws allow the repelling of force with force.
(Decretals, Bk. V, tit. Xxxix, chap. Iii).

The reason supporting it is that
the right of self-defence is natural and necessary.
Whence the second part of our proposition is easily proved.
For self-defence may sometimes be prescribed,
at least in accordance with the order of charity…
The same is true of the defence of the state,
especially if such defence is an official duty…

Francisco Suárez
University of Salamanca, Spain
Tractatus de legibus ac deo legislatore

*** ***

We have before observed,
that if a Man is assaulted in such a Manner that his Life
shall appear in inevitable Danger,
he may not only make War upon,
but very justly destroy the Aggressor;
and from this Instance which every one must allow us,
it appears that such a private War may be just and lawful.
It is to be observed that this Right of Self-Defence,
arises directly and immediately from the Care of our own Preservation,
which Nature recommends to every one … .

There are two ways of investigating the law of nature:…
either by arguing from the nature and circumstances of mankind,
or by observing what has generally been approved by all nations.

The former is the more certain of the two:
but the latter will lead us, if not with the same certainly,
yet with a high degree of probability to the knowledge of this law.

For such a universal approbation must arise from some universal principle;
and the principle can be nothing else than the common sense of mankind.

Since, therefore,
the general law of nature may be investigated in this manner,
the same law as it is applied particularly to nations as moral agents,
and hence called the law of nations,
may be investigated in the same manner.

Hugo Grotius
Dutch jurist
The Rights of War and Peace

*** ***

“’Tis true,
Man was created for the maintaining of Peace with his Fellows;
and all the Laws of Nature,
which bear a Regard to other Men,
do primarily tend towards the Constitution and Preservation
of this universal safety and Quiet.”

“So that,
upon the whole to banish Self-defence though pursued by Force,
would be so far from promoting the Peace,
that it would rather contribute to the Ruin and Destruction of Mankind.”

“But what Possibility is there of my living at Peace
with him who hurts and injures me,
since Nature has implanted in every Man’s Breast
so tender a concern for himself,
and for what he possesses,
that he cannot but apply all Means to resist and repel him,
who either respect attempts to wrong him.”

“For Example,
if a Man is making towards me with a naked Sword
and with full Signification of his intentions toward me,
and I at the same time have a Gun in my Hand,
I may fairly discharge it at him whilst he is at a distance….”

“It is scarce possible that a Man under so terrible Apprehension
should be so exact in considering and discovering all Ways of Escape,
as he who being set out of the danger can sedately deliberate on the Case.”

“As if the Aggressors were so generous,
as constantly to give notice to the other Party of their Design,
and of the Arms they purpos’d to make use of;
that they might have the Leisure to furnish themselves
in like manner for the Combat.”
“Or if these Rencounters we were to act on our Defence
by the strict Rules of the common Sword Plays and Tryals of Skill,
where the Champions and their Weapons are nicely match’d
and measur’d for our better Diversion.”

“For what an age of Torments should I undergo,
if another Man were allow’d perpetually to lay
upon me only with moderate Blows,
whose Malice I could not otherwise stop or repel,
than by compassing his Death
Or if a Neighbour
were continually to infest me with Incursions
and Ravages upon my Lands and Possessions,
whilst I could not lawfully kill him,
in my Attempts to beat him off?
For since the chief Aim of every human Socialness
is the Safety of every Person,
we ought not to fansy [fancy] in it such Laws,
as would make every good and honest Man of necessity miserable,
as often as any wicked Varlet should please
to violate the Law of Nature against him.
And it would be highly absurd to establish Society
amongst Men on so destructive a Bottom
as the Necessity of enduring Wrongs.”

“But Defence is a thing of more ancient date than any Civil Command …”

“It is clearly evidence that the Security and Peace
of Society and of Mankind could hardly subsist,
if a Liberty were not granted to repel by the most violent Courses,
those who come to pillage our Goods…”

“But Defence is a thing of more ancient date
than any Civil Command…”

“As if Defence were the Effect of Jurisdiction!
Or, as if he who sets himself to keep off an unjust Violence,
which threatens his Life, has any more need of a particular Call,
than he who is about to fence against Hunger
and Thirst with Meat and Drink!”

Samuel Pudendorf
counselor to the King of Sweden and the King of Prussia.
Of the Law of Nature and Nations

*** ***

“That the Subjects which are Protestants may have Armes for their defense … .”

English Declaration of Rights

*** ***

“It is lawful to kill a Thief, who in the night offers to break our Houses, or steal our Goods, even though he defend not himself, because we know not but he designs against our Life; and Murder may be easily committed upon us in the night, but it is not lawful to kill a Thief who steals in the day time, except he resist us when we offer to take him, and present him to Justice.”

George Mackenzie
The laws and customs of Scotland, in matters criminal

*** ***

“Care of defending one’s Life is a Thing to which we are obliged,
not a bare Permission.”

“We have as much Right to defend ourselves against
(a self-indulgence violent prince),
as if he acted in cold Blood.”

“The People have as natural and unquestionable a Right
to defend the Religion by Force of Arms…
as to defend their Lives, their Estates, and Liberties…”

Jean Barbeyrac
French jurist
translator of Pufendorf & Grotius

*** ***

All people have a
“right of endeavoring to provide for their safety and happiness,
and of employing force and arms
against those who declare themselves their enemies.”

“Necessity can authorise us to have recourse to force
against an unjust aggressor …”

“[W]ar is nevertheless permitted in certain circumstances,
and sometimes necessary both for individuals and nations.
This we have sufficiently shewn…by establishing
the rights which nature has invested mankind
for their own preservation.
The principles of this kind,
which we have established with respect to particulars, equally
and for stronger reasons, are applicable to nations.”

“ The law of God no less enjoins a whole nation
to take care of their preservation than it does private men.”

“For the right of making war is,
properly speaking,
the most powerful means of maintaining peace.”

“When the people are reduced to the last extremity,
there is no difference between tyranny and robbery.
The one gives no more right than the other,
and we may lawfully oppose force to violence.”

Subjects are
“not obliged to wait until the prince has entirely riveted their chains,
and till he has put it out of their power to resist him.”
(may initiate an armed revolt)
“when they find that all his [the prince’s] actions
manifestly tend to oppress them,
and that he is marching boldly on the ruin of the state.”

“In fine
though the subjects might abuse the liberty which we grant them,
yet less inconveniency would arise from this,
than from allowing all to the sovereign,
so as to let a whole nation perish,
rather than grant it the power of checking
the iniquity of its governors.”

“Every one has a natural right to take care of his
preservation by all possible means”
(if) “the state can no longer defend and protect the subjects,
they…resume their original right of taking care of themselves,
independently of the state, in the manner they think most proper.”

“The bad use of a thing does not hinder it from being just.
Pirates navigate the seas,
and robbers wear swords,
as well as other people.”

“A gunsmith sells arms to a man who has the appearance of a sensible,
sedate person, and does not seem to have any bad design.
And yet this man goes instant to make an unjust attack on another person,
and kills him. Here the gunsmith is not at all chargeable,
having done nothing but what he had a right to do;
and besides, he neither could nor ought
to have foreseen what happened.”

Jean-Jacques Burlamaqui
Professor of Natural Law at the Academy of Geneva.
The Principles of Natural and Politic Law
1747 - 1751

*** ***

“On all these occasions where the public authority
cannot lend us its assistance,
we resume our original and natural right of self-defence.”

“Thus, a traveler may, without hesitation,
kill the robber who attacks him on the highway;
because it would, at that moment,
be vain for him to implore the protection
of the laws and of the magistrate.”

“Thus a chaste virgin would be praised
for taking the life of a brutal ravisher
who attempted to force her to his desires.”

“A subject may repel the violence of a fellow-citizen
when the magistrate’s assistance is not at hand
and with much greater reason may he defend himself
against the unexpected attacks of foreigners.”

A tyrant
“is no better than a public enemy against whom
the nation may and ought to defend itself.”

Emmerich de Vattel
Swiss scholar
The Law of Nations

*** ***

“The fifth and last auxiliary right of the subject, that I shall at present mention, is that of having arms for their defence suitable to their condition and degree, and such as are allowed by law ... and it is indeed a public allowance under due restrictions, of the natural right of resistance and self preservation, when the sanctions of society and laws are found insufficient to restrain the violence of oppression.”

William Blackstone,
Commentaries on the Laws of England

*** ***

“The roman law ought to be considered as the subsidiary law in Germany, Switzerland, Holland, France, Italy, Spain, Portugal, Polon, and in some of the tribunals in Great Britain.”

George Frederick von Martens
German jurist and diplomat
The Summary of the Law of Nations Founded on the Treatie
and Customs of the Modern Nations of Europe.

*** ***

“For a chief object of society is that each person may enjoy
peaceably all that belongs to him,
with the assistance of the power of his whole body.
Therefore the law of society cannot justly prevent a man
from defending and enforcing his own rights,
unless society will undertake that task for him.”

“Every man has a right to defend himself or his property,
or even to defend others,
where there is not time or opportunity to call in aid the civil power.
The reason is obvious;
for if it were not so, men would find themselves in
a worse condition in those cases, under civil government,
than they would be in if they were living in a mere natural society
without any civil government.”

George Bowyer
eminent English writer on jurisprudence
Commentaries on Universal Public Law

*** ***

“Nothing in the present Charter shall impair the inherent right of individual or collective self-defence if an armed attack occurs against a Member of the United Nations, … .”

United Nations Charter
26 June 1945

*** ***

“Any law, international or municipal,
which prohibits recourse to force,
is necessarily limited by the right of self-defense.”

International Military Tribunal for the Far East, Tokyo

*** ***

“Whereas it is essential, if man is not to be compelled to have recourse, as a last resort, to rebellion against tyranny and oppression, that human rights should be protected by the rule of law....”

Article 8:
“Everyone has the right to an effective remedy.”

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights
10 December 1948

*** ***

“Vattel (in The Law of Nations) noted that ‘All antiquity has praised Hercules for delivering the world from an Antaeas, a Busiris, and a Diomede.’ The characters from the Hercules myth are fictional, of course, as Vattel knew.
“But can it be disputed that there are monstrous rulers in the modern world, at least as wicked and bloodthirsty as Busiris, Amphidamus, and Diomedes?
“Those ancient rulers killed innocents one a time, but never perpetrated genocide.”

“Pufendorf repeated with approval Grotius’s analysis that a people would never enter into a social compact if the price were to surrender their right of resisting an unjust and violent government.
“It would be better to suffer the ‘Fighting and Contention’ of a state of nature than to face ‘certain Death’ because they had given up the right to ‘oppose by Arms the unjust Violence of their Superiors.’”

David B. Kopel, et al
The Human Right of Self Defense

all quotations from:
David B. Kopel, Paul Gallant & Joanne D. Eisen, The Human Right of Self Defense
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