When people think of the causes of the American War for Independence, they think of slogans like “no taxation without representation” or cause célèbre like the Boston Tea Party.
In reality, however, what finally forced the colonials into a shooting war with the British Army in April 1775 was not taxes or even warrant-less searches of homes and their occupation by soldiers, but one of many attempts by the British to disarm Americans as part of an overall gun control program, according to David B. Kopel.
Furthermore, had the American colonies lost their war for independence, the British government intended to strip them of all their guns and place them under the thumb of a permanent standing army.
In his paper titled “How the British Gun Control Program Precipitated the American Revolution,” Kopel claims that various gun control policies by the British following the Boston Tea Party, including a ban on firearm and gunpowder importation, tells us not only the purpose of the Second Amendment, but its relevance within the context of today’s gun control debate.
“The ideology underlying all forms of American resistance to British usurpations and infringements was explicitly premised on the right of self-defense of all inalienable rights,” Kopel writes. “From the self-defense foundation was constructed a political theory in which the people were the masters and government the servant, so that the people have the right to remove a disobedient servant. The philosophy was not novel, but was directly derived from political and legal philosophers such as John Locke, Hugo Grotius, and Edward Coke.”
Kopel writes that two important things underlined the American response to the British policies. One was the practical concept of self-defense, which British disarmament measures was making more difficult. The other, and more relevant concept, was that “Americans made no distinction between self-defense against a lone criminal or against a criminal government.”
Following the Boston Tea Party in December 1773, in which the Sons of Liberty boarded three ships carrying East India Company cargo and dumped forty-six tons of tea ships of tea to prevent its landing, the British government introduced a series of retaliatory measures known as the Intolerable Acts. Among the actions was the closure of Boston’s port, effectively cutting off all trade.