On Thursday, President Biden gave public remarks where he renewed his calls to ban “assault weapons.” (A vague term that generally refers to scary-looking guns.) To justify this ban, Biden argued that the Second Amendment isn’t absolute—and in doing so, the president falsely claimed that the Second Amendment banned cannons in early American history.
“[Banning assault weapons] doesn’t violate anybody’s Second Amendment rights,” he said. “There is no amendment that is absolute.”
Then Biden got into historical analysis that was… interesting.
“When the amendment was passed it didn’t say anybody can own a gun and any kind of weapon,” Biden claimed. “You couldn’t buy a cannon when this amendment was passed, so there’s no reason you should be able to buy certain assault weapons.”
Biden on the Second Amendment: "When the amendment was passed … you couldn't buy a cannon … and so there's no reason why you should be able to buy certain assault weapons." pic.twitter.com/eCDmaZyE9L
— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) February 3, 2022
This bizarre aside is more than a non sequitur. It’s actually false. As Washington Post fact-checker Glenn Kessler noted in September 2021:
“You do not have to look far in the Constitution to see that private individuals could own cannons. Article 1, Section 8, Clause 11 gives Congress the power to declare war. But there is another element of that clause that might seem strange to modern ears — Congress also had the power to ‘grant Letters of Marque and Reprisal.’
What’s that? These were special waivers that allowed private individuals to act as pirates on behalf of the United States against countries engaged in war with it. The ‘letter of marque’ allowed a warship to cross into another country’s territory to take a ship, while a ‘letter of reprisal’ gave authorization to bring the ship back to the home port of the capturer.
Individuals who were given these waivers and owned warships obviously also obtained cannons for use in battle. We have no idea where [Biden] conjured up this notion about a ban on cannon ownership in the early days of the Republic, but he needs to stop making this claim.”
That’s right: Biden’s wrong about the history of the Second Amendment and the facts. Don’t forget that guns are used more times in self-defense annually than in violent crimes. Oh, and don’t forget that we already had a ban on “assault weapons” for over a decade and even liberal-leaning outlets like Vox have admitted it didn’t work.
So, it’s easy to see why Biden keeps stretching the truth to push his anti-gun policies. None of the facts are on his side.
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