Christoph Kohring, a 39-year-old Swiss, introduced me to the audience while loading a Schmidt Rubin M-1931 7.5 mm carbine — also called the Mousqueton 1931 in French Switzerland — the rifle of the Swiss army during the Second World War. And before I started my speech, he also brought out a .357 Magnum and put it on the table in front of me, cylinder open, with a box of 50 cartridges. I know these revolvers: in Canada, I have owned a similar one for more than 25 years, which the state is now intent on confiscating.
In my speech, I talked about the symbolism of the right to keep and bear arms (“Armes for their defence”, as the 1689 Bill of Rights said), a right that historically belonged to the free man and was denied to slaves. I spoke of how just 100 years ago the right of ordinary individuals to own and, in many cases, to carry guns was generally recognized in the civilized world. I stressed the instrumental value of this right for self-defence against both common-law criminals and tyranny.
My speech was given in a Swiss wine cellar just a few days ago. I had been invited by Ruben Begert, 29, a captain in the Swiss army, to give an informal talk to, and to animate a discussion among, a small group of mostly young fans of the right to keep and bear arms. My long out-of-print little book, Le Droit de porter des armes (Paris: Les Belles Lettres, 1993), which was the first contemporary French book advocating this old individual right, has gained a small following as much in French Switzerland as in France.