Special to L. Neil Smith's The Libertarian Enterprise
First, the very term "assault weapon" is a nonsensical phrase intended to cause confusion amongst the members of the public who aren't familiar with firearms, specifically to incite fear of said firearms amongst those same people.
With that out of the way, let's talk about the inane notion that "the Founders didn't forsee today's weapons such as the AK-47 or AR-15 thus the Second Amendment only applies to single-shot muskets and flintlocks."
The fact remains that the Founders were familiar with multiple-shot firearms, as such had been developed in Europe over a century before the Revolution:
For starters, there's the
Kalthoff-type flintlock rifle (1600s) at the
The Kalthoff repeater was reportedly used in the Siege of Copenhagen (1659)
 and the Scanian War (1675-1679) between Denmark and Sweden
. That's 132 and 116 years, respectively, before the Second Amendment was ratified in 1791.
The Kalthoff never saw widespread use because it was expensive to
manufacture, maintain and repair, thus only the wealthy could afford
to obtain them. Still, it was a start. The "standard issue" magazine
for the Kalthoff appears to have been six shots, while some models may
have gone as high as thirty shots. If today's hoplophobes and
victim disarmers had been around then, the Kalthoff would have them
soiling their drawers like semi-automatic copies of the AR-15 and
AK-47 do today.
Next comes the
Volitional Flintlock Repeater, first made in 1750 in the UK
(41 years before the Second Amendment was ratified).
Cookson Volitional Flintlock Repeater at the
National Firearms Museum
(Photo from the
National Firearms Museum)
The Cookson apparently used the
System (first developed in 1680 111
years before the Second Amendment was ratified) as its internal
mechanism. As with the Kalthoff, the Cookson appears to have been
expensive to build and operate, hence it was relegated to a
historical footnote instead of taking the world by storm.
While the Founders had heard of the concept of multiple-shot
firearms, it wasn't until the idea of interchangeable parts came
about as a practical form of technology in the
1820s that they became a
So when practical, portable laser and railgun weapons become a
realistic possibility, we'll hear
and read it all over again from the hoplophbes and victim
disarmers "The Founders never foresaw these!"
I think just as Tench Coxe wanted private civilians to have ready
access to and proficiency with the military weapons of the
day, today he'd be talking about the
AR-15 / M-16 / M-4 and AK-47 / AK-74 series of weapons, and in a
hundred or so years, he would be talking about lasers and railguns.
FOR FURTHER REFERENCE
- See the
page for "assault weapon" [quotation marks added by myself – MWB]
Wikipedia page for assault rifle
- "Assault weaponsjust like
armor-piercing bullets, machine guns, and plastic firearmsare
a new topic. The weapons' menacing looks, coupled with the public's
confusion over fully automatic machine guns versus semi-automatic
assault weaponsanything that looks like a machine gun is
assumed to be a machine guncan only increase the chance of
public support for restrictions on these weapons. In addition, few
people can envision a practical use for these weapons."
Weapons and Accessories in America, by
of Columbia v. Heller backs me up here –
Some have made the argument, bordering on the frivolous, that
only those arms in existence in the 18th century are protected by
the Second Amendment. We do not interpret constitutional rights
that way. Just as the First Amendment protects modern forms of
American Civil Liberties Union,
U. S. 844, 849 (1997), and the Fourth Amendment applies to modern
forms of search, e.g.,
v. United States,
U. S. 27, 35-36 (2001), the Second Amendment extends, prima
facie, to all instruments that constitute bearable arms, even those
that were not in existence at the time of the founding.
District of Columbia v. Heller via the Legal Information Institute [LII]
at Cornell University Law School
page for the assault / siege of Copenhagen
page for the Scanian War
page for interchangeable parts
- When I took Intro to Lasers (PHOT 2005)
at CNM in 2008, the Nd-YAG laser we used would put out 3 W of
continuous-wave (CW) power, and could go up to about 20 W when in
Q-switching mode (pulsed beam). That unit had a power supply and
cooling pump about the size of WWII-type footlocker and required
2.5 gallons of water per minute for cooling purposes to be pumped
through the laser head. Fast-forward to today ...
As for railguns ...
search for "railgun DIY".
Arctic" as being about the size of a handheld flashlight, with
an output of 1-3 W. Prices range from
to ∅400, depending on beam power.
- The "Burning
& Cutting Lasers" page at Information Unlimited offers
plans, kits and assembled units of portable and desktop lasers for
cutting, engraving and other purposes.
on YouTube likes to
handheld laser pointers, jacking up the beam power on occasion.
- The power of the sword, say the minority
... , is in the hands of Congress. My friends and countrymen, it is
not so, for The powers of the sword are in the hands of the yeomanry
of America from sixteen to sixty. The militia of these free
commonwealths, entitled and accustomed to their arms, when compared
with any possible army, must be tremendous and irresistible. Who are
the militia? Are they not ourselves? Is it feared, then, that we
shall turn our arms each man against his own bosom. Congress has no
power to disarm the militia. Their swords and every terrible
implement of the soldier are the birthright of Americans.
the Pennsylvania Gazette, 20 February 1788
Copyright © 2016 Mike Blessing. All rights reserved.
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