The Second Amendment has yet again found itself in the sights of Democratic lawmakers as well as the current President of the United States, and not due to their admiration for it. In a recent speech he gave on the matter, Biden appears to have incorrectly claimed that the Second Amendment, from the time it was written has always limited the type of weapon one could own.
“There has always been the ability to limit — rationally limit the type of weapon that can be owned and who can own it.”
The President continued.
“The Second Amendment, from the day it was passed, limited the type of people who could own a gun and what type of weapon you could own,” Biden said. “You couldn’t buy a cannon.”
Biden made this claim in reference to the Revolutionary War and how if one wanted to “take on the government” that you would “need F-15s and maybe some nuclear weapons.” This has been a common tactic on the left to claim that when the Second Amendment was written it did not actually mean one could own whatever type of firearm they so choose. However, that isn’t historically accurate.
When one takes a deeper look into history, evidence mounts that this claim begins to break down. As a matter of fact, during the Revolution, there were actually instances of privateers, or privately owned vessels, setting sail with cannons during the period.
Privateers were privately owned and operated ships that in wartime captured enemy ships for profit. While privateers received a license from the government that allowed them to avoid being prosecuted for piracy, they were not a part of the official navy. So any cannons they set sail with (or that they seized from the enemy) would be private property, not the property of the government or the regular military.
The 1899 book “A History of American Privateers” by Edgar Stanton Maclay notes several cases in which privateers during the Revolutionary War set sail using cannons in order to join in the Revolutionary efforts.
It is important to note that this was before the Constitution was actually written, but shows that there was Colonial permitted ownership of cannons.
In a fact-checking piece done by the website, Poynter, it was determined that the claim Biden made stating that from the start, the Second Amendment “limited the type of people who could own a gun and what type of weapon you could own,” was false.
In the determination, they quoted University of Tennessee law professor Glenn Harlan Reynolds who plainly states, “The Second Amendment places no limits on individual ownership of cannon, or any other arms.”
It is the consensus by such experts that the amendment “limited government action, not people.”
The piece goes on to point out that the first gun control law didn’t appear until the 20th century in the form of the National Firearms Act, which came about in 1934. The law was aimed at automatic weapons that were the favorite of gangs in the Prohibition Era. Arguing the case for the law was U.S. Attorney Homer Stille Cummings had to play towards the government’s ability to tax and regulate interstate commerce, not the Second Amendment.
Within the National Firearms Act, Attorney General Cummings stated, “If we made a statute absolutely forbidding any human being to have a machine gun, you might say there is some constitutional question involved,” he continued. “But when you say ‘We will tax the machine gun’ and when you say that ‘the absence of a license showing payment of the tax has been made indicates that a crime has been perpetrated,’ you are easily within the law.”
This is an example of the early form of gun control did not rely on the Second Amendment itself, but instead the lack of paying taxes on the firearm.
All of this is to highlight that Democratic arguments against the Second Amendment and private gun ownership are often disingenuous and factually incorrect. Their undying goal to relieve law-abiding American citizens of their right to bear arms has been increasingly becoming a hot-button issue and Conservatives as well originalists of the constitution have been its more ardent defenders.
One need not look far back in the pages of history to see what type of atrocities have been committed against populations that could not defend themselves against the predations of a tyrannical government body. These pages of history should serve as a cautionary tale, supporting the necessity for such rights enshrined in the Constitution.
Democrat or Republican, the right to bear arms is not a right is given to us by the government but rather our creator. Every human being has the right to self-defense, and contrary to what President Biden says, guns, for better or worse, are our greatest defense against those who might do us harm. Governments included.