January 22, 2013
the issue of gun-control is raised, you can, with absolute certainty,
count on some poorly educated liberal to trot out the "our forefathers
could not have possibly foreseen the destructive potential of future
weapons" argument. That is to say, the Second Amendment means we may
constitutionally own only muskets (and that only if we are part of a
is an affirmative statement that the speaker ought to be capable of
supporting. Yet, as is so often true of the liberal worldview, no
liberal will offer any support for it -- because he cannot, and he
cannot because it is simply not true that the Founding Fathers lacked
imagination when it came to weapons. In fact, all they had to do was
examine weapon development within their own lifetimes.
the time of the Revolutionary War, the American long rifle, one of the
earliest guns to stabilize a projectile with a rifled bore, had really
only come into its own a half century before, although its first use was
in the very early 1700s. Achieving a longer range than the usual
infantry-issue musket of the day, the American long rifle was used to
harass British troops during their retreat through New Jersey, assured
more favorable conditions for the Continental Army during the Battle of
Saratoga, and proved decisive during the Battle of Cowpens, when
Morgan's Riflemen fired three volleys before the British muskets came
within range. Morgan and his sharpshooters then undertook a planned
retreat to another position and fired another three volleys. By the
time Morgan's company joined the main force, the British were
disheartened by their losses and inability to respond and quickly fell
But the Americans weren't the only ones inventing and adapting.
The Ferguson Rifle was developed by Patrick Ferguson for the British Crown and given an English patent
in December 1776, the same month when Washington crossed the Delaware
and took Trenton. It was a breech-loading rifle, one of the first that
the British military tested, and
was said to be capable of firing six to ten rounds per minute in capable
hands. It was used at the Battle of Saratoga in Ferguson's
Experimental Rifle Corps and at the Battle of Brandywine. Although
production problems and high cost plagued the development of the
Ferguson Rifle, its unique design
allowed for a rate of fire at least twice that of the Brown Bess, with
an effective range of 200 to 300 yards. By comparison, the Brown Bess,
which was used by both the American and British military forces, was accurate between 50 and 100 yards.
British were also involved in an arms race with some Continental powers
for purifying and improving gunpowder mixtures. In France, the work of
Antoine Lavoisier as the Commissioner of the Royal Gunpowder and
Saltpeter Administration led to improved understanding of the nature of
gunpowder and its potency.
Technological advances were not limited to the field of firearms, either.
Bushnell was a Yale College freshman in the 1770s. A young inventor,
he had turned his attention to underwater explosives after he had proved
that gunpowder could be detonated inside a sealed device. He is best
remembered as the inventor of the first submersible vessel, the American
Turtle, which was intended to attach such a device to the hull of an
enemy ship and then be detonated with a clockwork trigger, another of
Bushnell's inventions. It was
undergoing field tests in the Connecticut River in November 1775,
although the British had been informed that it was about to be deployed
in Boston Harbor.
cork saturated with a bioluminescent fungus illuminated the Turtle's
interior, but this light would fail at low temperatures. Benjamin
Franklin was asked to provide some alternative light source, but when
none was brought forward, the Turtle was dry-docked for the winter. By
the time it was ready to be deployed, General Howe had removed his fleet
from Boston Harbor. Bushnell then offered the Turtle to General
Washington, who, although skeptical, continued to fund the project.
After a failed attempt to sink the HMS Eagle off Governors
Island, the Turtle was sunk while sitting on its tender vessel.
Bushnell, however, continued his work with underwater mines.
these advancements in weapon technology, it simply cannot be believed
that the men who wrote the Second Amendment were unaware that firearms
would change over time. They knew as part of their war effort that guns
would increase in range, speed of discharge, and power, and that
submarines, mines, and mechanically operated triggers were coming. They
may not have been able to draw an AK-47 or design its operation, but
they knew that somebody would. To believe that they couldn't imagine
such developments can be attributed only to a modern arrogance and our
own lack of imagination.