King's Lynn

200 Years Ago : Youths and their Weapons in King’s Lynn

Continuing on my series of posts from newspapers of exactly 200 years ago, this short article is from the Norfolk Chronicle and Norwich Gazette. The newspaper was published on 30 August 1823, although it related to an incident of the week before in King’s Lynn.

“Friday last a youth named Tooke was shooting near this town, when the piece burst, and so lacerated his hand that immediate amputation was necessary. The frequent practice of young persons carrying fire arms to shoot small birds, etc, in the vicinity of this town, cannot be too highly reprobated, as several accidents have occurred, and at times it is really dangerous to walk on the public road.”

It’s perhaps interesting that at the point when this article was published, there were no gun control laws at all in the country. Anyone could carry anything they wanted for whatever purpose. The first legislation which limited this right was with the Vagrancy Act of 1824 where former soldiers from the Napoleonic Wars were often found homeless and in possession of weaponry. The Government weren’t too bothered with the homeless bit, but they felt it sub-optimal to have too many people with guns.

The back story to this also is that the right to bear arms in the United States at that point came from the position in England. In the new United States the population wanted weapons to defend themselves from not just each other, but also from the Government. Their position on such matters has hardly changed in 200 years, leading to no shortage of guns there. I’m pleased in the UK that today we don’t have the situation of youths in King’s Lynn damaging themselves and each other with weaponry, it would make trips there feel like they had just a little too much jeopardy.