Most of us have been arguing with Liberals lately about guns. We have the facts and statistics, showing how minuscule these mass-shootings are in relation to overall murders, they have the drama and emotion, choosing not to listen to or accept any of our logical constructs (I’ve come to the conclusion that, in addition to having a sharp case of cognitive dissonance, facts and statistics generally irritate them).
We also argue about the Second Amendment, the very law that sets the United States apart from all other countries on the planet; the one that protects our individual, natural right to keep and bear arms in defense of ourselves, our families and possessions and our country.
One argument my Liberal friends consistently make is the notion that “the Founding Fathers had no idea what sorts of deadly weapons we would invent when they wrote the Second Amendment.” Said another way, “The Second Amendment was written for single-shot muskets and does not apply today.” (read: abolish it)
Typically, I would respond to this lazy theory declaring that “they also had no idea we would invent television, the internet and email when they wrote the First Amendment.” The predicable return volley is that “people don’t kill other people with email messages.” While that may be technically correct, they are failing to legitimize the Second in company with the First and that all 10 of the Bill of Rights are equal. Stalemate.
But I realized today that this is the wrong way to challenge their thinking. The proper response should be to smash their original argument to pieces, rightly declaring that the Founders did have an idea of the potential for today’s “big, black, scary” rifles and handguns.
By now, most people have heard of the Puckle Gun. Patented in 1718 by James Puckle (hint: that’s about 70 years prior to the drafting and ratification of the Constitution), this crew-served weapon was one of the earliest known “machine guns”. Designed for the defense of a ship, it was a hand-cranked revolver (chambered) that could fire 9 rounds per minute, tripling the rate of a standard 18th century musket. This gun could be quickly reloaded simply by removing the cylinder and replacing it with a new one (magazine). It is interesting to note that this gun had 3 types of cartridges: a round one for Christians, a square one for Muslims (Turks), symbolically causing more damage, and a cartridge that contained shot, similar to today’s shotguns.
While this gun was never mass-produced, the technology was available and it served as an early development of modern machine guns.
Another 18th century advance was the Cookson Repeater. This breech-loaded rifle was also known as a Lorenzoni Rifle. Available as early as 1750 (about 40 years prior to the Constitution), this dual-chambered, drum-loaded (magazine), .55/.57 caliber firearm was hand-cranked and came in 12- and 28-shot variants. A 9-shot Cookson Pistol also existed.
Another example of advanced weaponry available to the Founders is the “Long Rifle“. These rifles, used as early as the French and Indian War (1754-63), had a spiral-grooved (“rifled”) bore (as modern firearms do) that increased muzzle velocity and dramatically improved accuracy. These rifles were so effective they were nicknamed “The Widow Makers”.
In case we needed any more evidence, the Kalthoff Repeater existed as early at the 17th century and had two magazines (one for ball, the other for powder). This breech-loaded rifle could be reset for firing the next round in 1 or 2 seconds, giving it a very high rate of fire.
One last example is the Girandoni Air Rifle, designed in 1779. This was a major advancement in firearms technology. Relying on a compressed air reservoir, it could fire 22 .46 caliber shots in less than a minute at effective ranges between 125 to 150 yards. This rifle was used in service by the Austrian Army from 1780 to about 1815 and was taken by Meriwether Lewis and William Clark on their Corps of Discovery Expedition in 1804, sanctioned by Thomas Jefferson.
So, the next time you find yourself arguing firearms with a Liberal (or perhaps, even the rare discussion), don’t fall into the trap of trying to equate today’s technologies with those of the Founding era with respect to the First and Second (or any other) Amendments. Simply take a stand and squash the false argument that the Founders were a group of quaint, unlearned men of an ancient period 230 years ago who only knew about muskets. Their condition was quite the opposite; they were classically trained thinkers, living in an era of reason and discovery, surrounded and fully aware of advances in technologies in many fields, including firearms.
Consider the fact that Thomas Jefferson, who drafted the Declaration of Independence, and Benjamin Franklin, who edited it, are known to have spent their entire lives immersed in science, looking for newer and better ways to do things. Any notion that these two, among others, were unaware of firearms advances is simply a feeble attempt to salvage a losing argument.
If anyone still doubts this concept, show them the series of letters from Joseph Belton to the US Continental Congress in 1777, where he proposes his newest invention, the Belton Flintlock, capable of firing 8 balls at 25-30 yards. Belton’s invention provided a foundation for a repeating Flintlock built in 1784 and another in 1821 by Isaiah Jennings.
May logic and reason (and history) prevail.