Comparative Law

Firearms Law and the Second Amendment: Regulation, Rights, and Policy ch. 14 (2d ed. 2020).

346 Pages Posted: 5 May 2020 Last revised: 17 Jul 2020

See all articles by David B. Kopel

David B. Kopel

Independence Institute; Denver University - Sturm College of Law; Cato Institute

George A. Mocsary

University of Wyoming College of Law

Nicholas James Johnson

Fordham University School of Law

E. Gregory Wallace

Campbell University School of Law

Date Written: July 16, 2020


This chapter covers arms and resistance provisions in national constitutions, comparative studies of arms issues, and case studies of arms policies in individual nations.

Part A covers national constitutions and reviews the following topics: (1) the three nations besides the United States that have an express constitutional right to arms; (2) constitutional guarantees of self-defense; (3) constitutional affirmations of the right and duty to resist tyranny or illegitimate government; (4) constitutional support for national liberation movements in other nations; (5) a short case study of Ghana and its constitutional duty of forcible resistance to usurpation of government; and (6) the constitutional right to security in the home.

Part B excerpts studies examining the consequences of varying rates of gun ownership among a large number of countries. One purpose of Part B is for students to develop skills in evaluating statistical studies. Accordingly, Part B begins with an explanation of some basic statistical methods and terminology. The first excerpted article, by Don Kates and Gary Mauser, observes similarities and difference of the United States and Europe.

The next section introduces complex statistical analysis. It begins with a summary of statistical research methods and vocabulary. Next is an article by Professor Gary Kleck examining the strengths and weaknesses of various studies on the relationship between gun ownership levels and homicide levels. Although Kleck analyzes data within the United States, his methodological cautions provide a foundation for evaluating the international studies that follow. As Professor Kleck explains, one of the most daunting problems is accurately estimating levels of gun ownership, especially over time.

Section B.3 presents an especially sophisticated article, by John N. van Kesteren, that examines 26 countries, mostly European plus the United States, to look for relationship between gun ownership levels and violence.

Section B.4 directs attention to the importance of culture in comparative scholarship. An article by Irshad Altheimer and Matthew Boswell reports the diverse effects of higher rates of gun ownership in Western developed nations, Eastern Europe, and Latin America. A second article, by David Kopel, Carlisle Moody, and Howard Nemerov, investigates the relationship between gun density and various measures of economic freedom, economic prosperity, political freedom, civil freedom, and noncorruption in 78 nations.

Finally, in Section B.5, Nicholas Johnson describes “the remainder problem”: if social science did prove that greater gun density causes the United States to have higher rates of homicide and other gun crime than some other countries, what can be done meaningfully to reduce U.S. gun density?.

Part C presents case studies of gun control and gun rights in several nations. It begins with the United Kingdom, starting in the early twentieth century. (For earlier U.K. history, see Chapter 2.) For contrast, the next nation is Switzerland, with its thriving militia system.

The Western Hemisphere comes next, with Canada, Mexico, and Venezuela. Asia and the Pacific are covered in sections on Australia, Japan, China, and Thailand. Kenya and South Africa are the case studies for Africa. Some Notes & Questions following sections on particular countries present material about other nearby countries.

Part D considers broad perspectives in the three different ways. First, an article by Professor Carlisle Moody investigates European homicide trends over the last 800 years, and observes that growing availability of firearms that could be kept always ready for self-defense (wheel locks and flintlocks) paralleled a sharp decline in homicides.

An essay by Professor Kopel compares and contrasts homicides in the United States and Europe during the twentieth century. Europe’s homicide rate is vastly higher—once one takes into account murder by government. If one makes certain assumptions designed to produce the highest possible figure, the United States had up to 745,000 additional gun homicides in the twentieth century because the United States did not have gun control laws as restrictive as those in Europe. Conversely, Europe had about 87.1 million additional homicides by government because Europeans did not have a right to arms. The essay describes the gun control policies of dictators in Europe and elsewhere. It concludes with a pair of case studies showing the accomplishments of armed resistance to genocide: by Armenians and other Christians in the Ottoman Empire during World War I, and by Jews in Europe during World War II.

The third section of Part D investigates at length the largest mass homicide in history: the murders of over 90 million Chinese by the Mao Zedong dictatorship in 1949-76. The essay also details armed resistance to Mao, and includes a detailed description of Tibetan uprisings. While Mao adopted diverse arms control policies at different times, the objective was always the same: his political supporters would be armed and his opponents would not.

Keywords: right to arms, gun control, comparative law, Mao Zedong, Tibet, genocide, mass murder

JEL Classification: K14, K42, n40

Suggested Citation

Kopel, David B. and Mocsary, George A. and Johnson, Nicholas James and Wallace, E. Gregory, Comparative Law (July 16, 2020). Firearms Law and the Second Amendment: Regulation, Rights, and Policy ch. 14 (2d ed. 2020)., Available at SSRN:

David B. Kopel (Contact Author)

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Denver University - Sturm College of Law

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George A. Mocsary

University of Wyoming College of Law ( email )

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Nicholas James Johnson

Fordham University School of Law ( email )

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E. Gregory Wallace

Campbell University School of Law ( email )

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