A gentleman, I recall the Oxford English Dictionary says, is distinguished by the right to bear arms. The kind of arms they mean are symbolic--that is, heraldic arms. That symbol arose from a genuine, historic right to bear real arms, however: a right, and in fact, a duty. Swords in particular were a symbol of free men in England, such that even the Normans did not disarm the free Saxon Yeomanry--and wisely not, as they later relied upon the Yeomanry heavily for their successes in war, such as at Crecy.

So it is with some real sadness that I note the new law in Australia to ban all swords, and confiscate them from existing owners. It happens to be a consequence of their tremendously successful gun-eradication program which has also led to spiraling crime rates, particularly against women, the elderly and the very young, as well as an increase in shootings. There must be some reduction in the availability of guns, though, as the ban has led to an explosion of swordfighting. Street gangs roving about with clattering steel--it is like Alexandre Dumas' Paris in The Three Musketeers.

New Zealand's police show better sense. Asked about a similar measure there--only to register, not to ban and confiscate all swords--they said this:

Police say they are not looking at seeking laws requiring owners of samurai swords and similar weapons to register them.

Inspector Joe Green, of Wellington, said yesterday one problem was that people unlikely to pose a threat were likely to comply with such requirements, but people most likely to pose a threat were unlikely to fall into line.

Well, indeed, that was always the problem, wasn't it? The Normans couldn't make it work either. Instead, they turned the armed yeomanry into allies in the defense of the state and the common peace. That is still the function of the armed citizen today: to defend himself, his family, his community, and the common peace of the Republic. It is sad to see Victoria so intent on the degradation of her citizens.

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