How often do audiences hear that “the Second Amendment was only meant for muskets” from journalists and gun control advocates?
It seems it would make sense if the audience ignores two factors: the Founding Fathers had seen that technology continually change, and that advanced weaponry besides muskets had already been invented.
The first idea is pretty easy to debunk. Technology in general had made life easier, from communication (via word of mouth to writing with quill and ink to the Gutenberg printing press), to transportation (via walking, domesticating horses, to horse drawn buggies), to housing (huts made of mud and rock to log cabins to buildings made of brick and mortar).
When discussing warfare, mankind has made extraordinary changes. Wooden clubs became spears and swords, slings and stones became bows and arrows, crossbows and bolts, and eventually firearms. From here, the second notion (that no advanced technology beyond muskets could be covered by the Second Amendment) can be addressed.
Advancements in firearms have occurred since their invention. The american long rifle itself is an advancement on the musket, making it more deadly than the musket.
The musket is what is known as a smoothbore, meaning the inside of the barrel is smooth. The musket ball, once the trigger was pulled and the black powder was ignited, the ball would be projected forward, but because the ball was smaller than the barrel, the ball would bounce around the inside of the barrel, making it inaccurate after 25 yards.
Rifling, a series of grooves ingrained into the inside of the barrel, makes a firearm more accurate. When the projectile comes out of the barrel, it spirals; when it’s spirals, it’s able to fly straighter for a longer period of time. Rifles could hit their targets up to 150 yards, noted for their successful usage at the Battle of Saratoga, New York in 1777, as well as the Battle of Cowpens, South Carolina in 1778. This innovation, if put up against the verbiage used by the anti-gun community, would not be protected under the Second Amendment.
Then there are varying types of multi-shot firearms, not very common during the Revolutionary era, but known by the Founding Fathers and the Continental Army. Such firearms include the Puckle gun, the Belton Flintlock, both of which acted as an early Gatling gun which can fire several rounds in under a minute. Then there’s the Girandoni air rifle, which was used to equip the Lewis and Clark expedition during the Jefferson Administration in 1803. The Girandoni rifle had a detachable, 20 round magazine, and can empty that magazine in 30 seconds. Then there is the Pepper-box revolver. These firearms had up to 20 barrels, each one holding a single projectile, and could be fired in rapid succession. All of these arms being known by the Founding Fathers, and not outlawing them in the Constitution, would leave one to believe that these weapons are protected by the Second Amendment.
Even if there were not these multi-shot firearms at the time, the American people have the ability to own artillery. In 1812, a privately-owned ship called the Prince of Neufchatel wrote to President Madison’s administration, asking if they had permission to own cannons to defend themselves against possible enemies on the high seas. The president wrote a letter of Marque and reprisal, stating that the ships of course had the ability to own cannons.
The American firearm’s evolution did not cease at the end of the 18th century, however. As far as pistols go, there was not a whole lot of innovation of different types of guns, however mechanics were revolutionized throughout the 19th and 20th centuries. Until the mid-19th century, the flintlock pistol was the most popular handgun. In 1836, Samuel Colt patented his six-chamber, single-action revolver, which allowed the shooter to fire six shots before reloading the sidearm. About 40 years later, in 1877, the first double-action revolver was manufactured. By 1909, Colt came out with with its 1911 pistol (.45 ACP). Since then, gun manufactures have switched between calibers: the 9mm; .40 Smith&Wesson; and .45 ACP being the most popular.
As far as rifles go, innovation has changed different types of actions, mechanics, and calibers. In 1860 and 1861, respectively, gun manufacturers Spencer and Henry unveiled their own lever action repeating rifles, allowing the shooter to fire up to 15 rounds before reloading. Both were used in combat during the Civil War as well as the American-Indian Wars of the 1870’s. In 1874-1875, the Edge rifle became the first U.S. manufactured bolt action rifle, the box magazine that would complete the firearm would come in 1879. In 1903, Springfield Armory took the German Mauser rifle design and later presented the Springfield 1903 bolt action rifle, which became the premier rifle for the U.S. military during World War One. In 1934, John Garand manufactured the M1 Garand rifle, a semi-automatic rifle that was the most iconic American rifle in World War Two. In 1942, the M1 Carbine was invented, and it became the most mass produced American rifle in the war. The Garand had an eight round magazine, firing a .30-06 round, the Carbine holding a ten round box magazine, firing a .30 round. In 1957, the M14 was adopted by the U.S. military, the civilian version being the Springfield M1A. Both rifles having a 10 round magazine and firing a 7.62x39mm round. In 1956, the U.S. gave a bid to Armalite arms to create a military grade version of a civilian rifle, the AR-15.
In 1861, John Gatling invented the famous Gatling gun, which had ten barrels that rotated via hand crank, simulating machine gun fire. In 1885, the Maxim machine gun was invented, and adopted by the U.S. military two years later. In 1912, the Browning 1917 machine gun was produced and adapted by the United States. In 1918, Browning Arms invented the Browning Automatic Rifle, a portable machine gun that can be used by one man, rather than previous machine guns which were crew operated. In 1921, John Thompson came out with the Thompson sub-machine gun, a rapid fire, compact machine gun, firing a .45 ACP. In 1961, the United States Air Force purchased 8,500 M-16 rifles (the military version of the civilian AR-15).
As time passes by, our rights remain intact. We have seen innovation, invention, and betterment of life due to technological advancements. Even so, the gun community is told that the technology is too dangerous to handle. Imagine the insanity if someone said that the right to free speech does not apply to social media. Millions of people would be up in arms, and for good reason. Just because humanity gains technological strides does not mean that our rights do not keep up with us.
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