As someone who has spent a lot of time over the years defending the Second Amendment, I’ve seen a lot of arguments about guns, from both sides of the aisle. They come in many forms and entire books have been written addressing them, but one of the most bizarre to me is the attempt to rewrite history.
Take this recent tweet from Democrat Marianne Williamson:
When the Founders wrote the Second Amendment, the largest guns they had were muskets.
The modern bullet had not yet been invented.
They could only shoot one bullet at a time.
Today’s assault weapon would be like the power of a cannon to them.
The Second Amendment is NOT a…
— Marianne Williamson (@marwilliamson) April 12, 2023
There’s…well, there’s a lot to unpack, so let’s get to work.
When the Founders wrote the Second Amendment, the largest guns they had were muskets
Now, I’m not sure where she’s going here. The “largest” gun isn’t exactly a useful nomenclature, to say the least, but so what?
The typical long gun of the era ranged in caliber from .25 to .62 caliber. As she later brings up so-called “assault weapons,” it should be noted that all of these are larger than the .223/5.56 round you’ll typically find an AR-15 chambered in.
Yet, again, “musket” isn’t a size. It’s a type of firearm, a smooth-bore muzzle-loading long gun and yes, they were common during the 18th century.
The problem here, though, is that our Founding Fathers weren’t relegated to just muskets, as many people claim. Rifles–firearms with rifling inside the barrel that increases accuracy over distance–were common as well and used heavily during the American Revolution.
So, on this, Williamson’s tweet doesn’t make a lot of sense.
The modern bullet had not yet been invented
It hadn’t, but so what? Projectiles were still in existence, after all, and while I can’t speak from first-hand experience, I don’t think being shot with a ball is any more pleasant than being shot with a modern round.
Further, why does it matter what was invented when? The Fourth Amendment was written at a time before cell phones were invented, yet it still protects your right to privacy if the police want to see what’s in your phone.
They could only shoot one bullet at a time
To be a little pedantic, guns today can only shoot one bullet at a time.
Of course, she likely means repeating firearms weren’t in existence, which is a common talking point among those who want to advance gun control. It’s also terribly wrong.
The Puckle gun, for example, existed.
Invented in 1718, the Puckle Gun was basically a flintlock, crew-served revolver. It wasn’t even a new design when the Second Amendment was written, which means there’s a high likelihood that at least some of the Founding Fathers were familiar with it.
Further, it wasn’t the only repeating gun of the era.
The Girardoni air rifle was an air-powered, 20-shot rifle that accompanied Lewis and Clark on their famous expedition. The weapon also saw service with the Austrian Empire.
The Girardoni fired a .46 caliber round at roughly 500 feet per second, more than enough to kill a person, and could do so quickly, not unlike what you’d see with a modern semi-automatic rifle. As it was invented in 1780, it too existed when the Second Amendment was written.
So…so much for that talking point.
Today’s assault weapon would be like the power of a cannon to them
That’s…that’s quite a suggestion.
It’s not remotely true, of course, but it’s still quite a suggestion.
The 5.56 round has about 1,311 foot-pounds of energy when it’s fired. It sounds like a lot, and while it’s not exactly a tickle, it’s not even remotely close to the kind of energy released from a cannon when it’s fired.
Yet even if it was, it’s important to remember that cannons were often in private hands during the time of the Second Amendment’s writing. In fact, privately-owned warships could be had if one had the funding for such a thing, especially if one wanted a letter of marque.
If something as universally dangerous–and, it should be noted, absolutely useless for hunting–was permitted during the early days of our nation, it’s kind of hard to convince anyone that an AR-15 or other “assault weapon” is so powerful that our Founding Fathers would support gun control.
The Second Amendment is NOT a legitimate reason not to ban assault weapons
That’s quite a take from a constitutional scholar.
Except, Williamson isn’t, and that’s probably a good thing. After all, if an actual constitutional scholar argued that an amendment that expressly prevents the government from passing gun control doesn’t actually prevent the government from passing gun control, we’d have major problems.
Yet it does.
Further, that right has generally been upheld by the Supreme Court. While they do say there are limitations, the Bruen decision outlined what those limitations are. As we’ve noted, the existence of repeating and “dangerous” weapons were known and permitted by the Founding Fathers, though, which means under Bruen, the Second Amendment actually is a legitimate reason not to ban assault weapons.
Ban them now?