As a Matter of Fact, the Founding Fathers Did Know About Repeating Rifles

belton letter continental congress rifles

Continental Congress, Public Domain, Link

Gun control advocates love to claim that the Founding Fathers couldn’t possibly have conceived of repeating rifles when they drafted the Second Amendment to the Bill of Rights. The history of Joseph Belton, an inventor and gunsmith from Philadelphia, and his correspondence with the Continental Congress proves otherwise.

Belton claimed to have devised a new form of repeating flintlock musket that was capable of firing as many as sixteen consecutive shots in as little as twenty seconds. After the gun had fired its consecutive loads, it could then be reloaded individually like all other traditional weapons of that time.

Belton wrote to Congress about his new invention on April 11, 1777, letting them know he could be available to demonstrate it to them at any time.

Intrigued by Belton’s claim, Congress ordered 100 examples of his “new improved gun.” They authorized him to oversee the construction of new guns, or alteration of existing guns, so that they were capable of discharging eight rounds with one loading and that he “receive a reasonable compensation for his trouble, and be allowed all just and necessary expences [sic].”

On May 7, 1777, Belton replied to Congress with his terms regarding what he felt to be reasonable compensation. He wanted to arm 100 men with his invention, demonstrate the capabilities to top military officers, and see how many men the officers felt his 100 men were equivalent to.

For example, 100 specially-armed men were the equivalent of 200 regularly-armed men, or more. For his ability to double the manpower, he felt that he was entitled to £1,000 from each state that he armed 100 of their men.

Belton justified the price by claiming that a state could not raise, equip, and clothe 100 men for £1,000, making his 100 men armed as though they were 200 men a bargain. For reference, £1,000 in 1777 is the equivalent of £116,500 in 2016. If all 13 states outfitted 100 men, Belton would receive £13,000 – or a cool £1.5 million today.

Belton argued that arming 3,000 men or more with his invention created advantages beyond description on the battlefield and that, as such, his compensation was “vastly reasonable” and that if the Congress refused his terms, he wouldn’t do it.

(For those doing the math, 3,000 men armed with Belton’s repeater would mean that he’d collect almost £3.5 million if adjusted to current dollars.)

Belton must have realized immediately that his demands were more than outlandish because the next day, on May 8, he wrote a letter to John Hancock lowering his fee to £500 for doubling, £1,500 for tripling, £2,000 for quadrupling, and so forth.

On May 15, Congress read Belton’s letter to the body. They quickly dismissed it because of his “extraordinary allowance.” (No one saw that coming, right?) Congress considered the matter dropped and didn’t bother to reply to Belton, likely assuming he would take their lack of reply as a refusal.

Having heard nothing from Congress, Belton wrote them again on June 14. This time, he claimed he could make the shots accurately out to 100 yards and then, worrying that wasn’t impressive enough, said he could make the shots out to 200 yards and would be available to demonstrate this to the body on the State House Yard.

Again, he heard nothing for almost a month.

Still undeterred, Belton wrote Congress again on July 10. This time, he tried to rile members of the body by claiming that Great Britain regularly pays £500 for such services.

He also enclosed a letter signed by General Horatio Gates, Major General Benedict Arnold (written before he became a turncoat), well-known scientist David Rittenhouse, and others, all claiming that his invention would be of “great Service” and that Belton is entitled to “a hansome [sic] reward from the Publick [sic].”

Having received the letter immediately, Congress resolved that same day to refer Belton’s petition to the Board of War, made up of five delegates. Among these five delegates were future second President of the United States, John Adams, and Benjamin Harrison V, father and great-grandfather of the 9th and 23rd Presidents.

Nine days later on July 19, Congress heard from the Board of War. They dismissed Belton’s petition altogether. At this point, he must have finally gotten the hint that Congress wasn’t going to authorize such exorbitant payments for his services because the historic record turns up no more correspondence between Belton and Congress.

Despite the fact that Joseph Belton failed to convince the Continental Congress to outfit colonial soldiers with his repeating rifle, it’s still a very important story. Belton invented his repeating gun in 1777. The Bill of Rights wasn’t ratified until 1791.

I’m no math whiz, but even I know that means our Founding Fathers not only knew about repeating rifles 14 years before the creation of the Second Amendment, but that they thought highly enough of the design to pursue further development and implementation of such technology.

So the next time someone claims the Second Amendment was never designed to protect the right to own a repeating rifle, or that it was only meant to apply to flintlock muskets, you can tell them the story of Joseph Belton and his repeating flintlock musket.

 

Logan Metesh is a firearms historian and consultant who runs High Caliber History LLCClick here for a free 3-page download with tips about caring for your antique and collectible firearms.

comments

  1. avatar Rubiconcrossed says:

    Sounds like a scam to me. No rifles ever surfaced and no contemporary people of that era ever claimed to have even seen this miracle weapon of the day much less ever owned one. No specimens have ever surfaced. No drawings have surfaced. A weapon like that would have made a sensation among the ever advancing white population hell bent on wiping out the Indians if the rifle existed and worked and did not weigh what several elephants would have weighed. Multi barreled rifles existed during that time but they did not shoot 16 times.

    While it is true Lewis and Clark had a multi shot air rifle it was long, long after 2A was written. It obviously must have had its shortcomings because it too was never adopted by any military or any marauding Indian killers.

    1. avatar MouseGun says:

      But there was the Ferguson rifle, and breech loading flintlock rifle, that could fire 10 shots a minute. There was even a British unit equipped with them during the revolutionary war, and let’s not forget that there were also wheel lock firearms that used removable, preloaded chambers as well. The idea of rapid (for the time) reloading was not an unknown, inconceivable concept in the 18th century.

      1. avatar FedUp says:

        According to Major Ferguson’s journals, he actually encountered Gen. Washington on the battlefield, moments before one of Washington’s rebels shot him (in the elbow IIRC). He was leading a unit equipped with his breechloading rifles at the time.

        1. avatar Ogre says:

          With regard to Maj Patrick Ferguson’s sighting of Gen Washington (and an accompanying officer) on the Brandywine battlefield: Ferguson was concealed and had ample time to fire an accurate shot at Washington, who was within range of Ferguson’s breechloading rifle. He did not fire, however, because he considered it ungentlemanly to kill an officer who was honorably acquitting himself of his duty. Shortly thereafter, Ferguson suffered a disabling wound from one of Washington’s riflemen. By the time he returned to duty, his rifle company had been broken up and his breechloading rifles had been put into storage. Ferguson was never able to re-form his rifle unit or get his rifles (which he had provided at his own expense), and he was later killed at the Battle of King’s Mountain, ironically by American frontier riflemen.

    2. avatar Chris says:

      Chambers flintlock “machine gun”. It was a little after this Belton thing, but still in the right time frame (1790s). It’s a big boy, but if scaled down (and/or a single barrel) it could be made a personal shoulder fired weapon. Also no reason it couldn’t have had a second flintlock at the rear to be used traditionally after the “machine gun” fire finished it’s thing.
      Shoutout to Gun Jesus!

      1. avatar M1Lou says:

        Don’t forget stuff like this from Gun Jesus. It’s a 1625 dated breech loading cartridge wheelock.

    3. avatar Blkojo says:

      Girandoni air rifle was designed 12 years BEFORE the Second was written. You know, the Lewis & Clark rifle. Man, with ‘facts’ like yours no wonder anti-gunners keep coming.

      1. avatar Andrew Lias says:

        Don’t forget it was fielded by the Austrian Military too and was a 20 shot repeater.

    4. avatar Green Mtn. Boy says:

      You are wrong,however you are aware of that fact and seem to revel in it.

    5. avatar 10x25mm says:

      Belton’s rifle almost certainly had a sliding lock with multiple flash holes in the barrel. Multiple charges were loaded, one on top of another with their powder adjacent to individual flash holes. The shooter started with the lock at the foremost flash hole and slide the lock back by one flash hole after each shot. The lock usually was held in alignment at each flash hole by a notch system.

      Quite a number of inventors played with this concept, but chain firing was always a problem. Also, after you fired your 5 to 10 shots, reloading took forever.

      The Kalthoff repeaters from Century XVII Denmark were true breech loading repeaters which metered loose powder and shot from individual magazines by a lever operated mechanism. They were capable of genuine rapid fire. A few were made, but their cost was too extravagant in a day of cheap mercenaries. Several Kalthoff examples survive.

    6. avatar AD says:

      Of course, it was totally legal to take my fleet and load it with as many cannons as possible. I’m sure you’ve got it, though. Yeah, thats it. The 2nd was written to infringe on the smallest of arms.
      No way. Not me. Not now. Not neva. Who are you? King of the rivers? The rivermeister? Get real.

      1. avatar Rincoln says:

        Not my river, not my problem

    7. avatar Geoff says:

      The Lewis and Clark Expedition was in 1804, 13 years after the Bill of Rights ratification, but the Girandoni air rifle was invented in 1779 and was used by the Austrian Army from 1780 to 1815, so the Founding Fathers may have actually known of it.

    8. avatar Scott says:

      Scam? There’s a simpler explanation, you know. Maybe you’re just an idiot.

    9. avatar Silence Dogood says:

      No surviving copies of the Belton rifle remain but in 1821 Reuben Ellis of New York received an improvement patent on the Belton design. Ellis and Isaiah Jennings made and sold 521 improved Belton rifles — then called Ellis-Jennings repeating flintlock rifles — to the New York State Commissary General for $25.21 each. There are surviving examples of the Ellis-Jennings rifles so even if the Boltons were pure vaporware, Ellis-Jennings proves the viability of the design.

      But before that, in 1750 an English gunsmith named John Shaw moved to Boston and went into business selling his version of the Lorenzoni-Berselli Volitional Flintlock Repeater rifle. Shaw was killed by lightning while demonstrating the weatherproofness of his design in a thunderstorm but only after managing to get off two shots.

      And if you want to go back further than that, the CONCEPT of a repeating firearm goes all the way back to the Fire Arrows illustrated in the Huolongjing, a military treatise from the mid-14th Century Ming dynasty of China. They depict multiple gunpowder-propelled arrows — numbering from dozens to hundreds — to be fired from a woven basket in a fashion similar to a recoil-less rifle or an RPG anti-tank weapon.

      Which is proof that repeat fire has been a goal for firearms since they first were conceived. The rest was just a matter of waiting until chemistry and metallurgy advanced to the point when they could support such a device.

      But more to the point, whether the Founding Fathers could have conceived of an “assault weapon” is beside the point. Because if the 2nd Amendment doesn’t apply to the AR-15, then it necessarily follows that neither does the 1st Amendment apply to electronic media.

      1. avatar John N says:

        I love your last sentence. I guess the 1st Amendment and computers shouldn’t be mixed together because of the danger to society. That kinda explains the B.S. we’re dealing with every day…

      2. avatar David says:

        The Chinese had a hand cranked semi-automatic crossbow which, with the cranking of the handle, cocked the crossbow, dropped a bolt from a bin above onto the track, and released the bolt. As long as the bin was refilled the crossbow could continue to fire bolts at the enemy.

        While this was not a firearm, it did demonstrate the concept of multi-shot instruments of war was not unknown or even new.

        NFA 1934 banned short barreled, smoothbore arms as not being suitable as an implement of war. However, British Marines stationed aboard British Navy ships were armed with the blunderbuss which was a short barreled, smoothbore arm, loaded with all manner of scrap, and used to “sweep the decks clear of resistance”.

    10. avatar Jonathan-Houston says:

      Lewis and Clark’s expedition was from 1804 to 1806, which was subsequent to the drafting and ratification of the Bill of Rights. I wouldn’t call it “long, long after”, but that’s a moot point because the rifle they carried was the Girandoni rifle. What matters isn’t when Lewis and Clark carried it, but rather when the rifle was was developed and could reasonably be assumed to have been known to the Framers.

      The Girandoni rifle qas invented around 1779 and was put into service with the Austrian army from 1780 to 1815.

      I’m no math whiz–except that I am–but doesn’t 1780 predate 1791? A decade+ seems like plenty of time to have heard about this rifle.

      1. avatar David says:

        The Puckle gun (also known as the Defence gun) was a primitive crew-served, manually-operated flintlock revolver patented in 1718 by James Puckle (1667–1724) a British inventor, lawyer and writer. It was one of the earliest weapons to be referred to as a “machine gun”, being called such in a 1722 shipping manifest, though its operation does not match the modern use of the term. It was never used during any combat operation or war. Production was highly limited and may have been as few as two guns.

        While the Puckle may never have been used, is does serve as another example of a repeating firearm which existed well before the existence of the 2d Amendment, and that is what matters regarding findings of the Supreme Court.

    11. avatar vorkosigan says:

      You obviously did not do even the Wikipedia level of research on the Girandoni air rifle , or you would be aware that the rifle was in service with the Austrian military from 1780 to about 1815. Also, the Constitution,(and it’s Second Amendment) was written in 1787 and ratified in 1788. So the Founders were certainly aware of this rifle, along with many other flintlock, multi shot rifles. Do some research.

      1. avatar Rattlerjake says:

        Wikipedia level of research? If you rely on Wikipedia for your information/facts you’re the stupid one, much like relying on google for your searching.

    12. avatar ITSa341 says:

      “Sounds like a scam to me. No rifles ever surfaced and no contemporary people of that era ever claimed to have even seen this miracle weapon of the day much less ever owned one. No specimens have ever surfaced. No drawings have surfaced. A weapon like that would have made a sensation among the ever advancing white population hell bent on wiping out the Indians if the rifle existed and worked and did not weigh what several elephants would have weighed. ”

      Well, actually here is one of them that has the removable magazine for quick reloads.

  2. avatar Stateisevil says:

    Irrelevant. The kourts don’t care. The tree of liberty thirsts

    1. avatar David says:

      You’d think the Tree of Liberty would be well nourished considering the bodies left in the wake of Killary Klinton and the Democrat Party.

  3. avatar moreadventuresonotherplanets says:

    Since we are bringing up wild and fantastic stories here is one that just might be true. About a decade ago one of the major Gun Magazines (I cannot remember which one) ran a big article claiming that the U.S. Military did indeed adopt the German Luger before the 1911 was even invented. The magazine article claims that after testing the .30 Caliber Luger the U.S. Military went so far as to order a first batch of 200 guns. The order was lost by the import company (I think Abercrombie and Fitch) and when the U.S. Military never got the guns they soon after that lost interest in the purchase and later ran more trials resulting in the adoption of the then new 1911 pistol.

    1. avatar Merle 0 says:

      That story was on Tales of the Gun, and is for the most part true. However I don’t believe the Luger was ever officially adopted. They were on their way to adopting it, but the small caliber (If I remember correctly it was 6mm) left many unimpressed. Luger then offered and made .45 model Lugers for testing, but the military had already moved on to the 1911.

      1. avatar Rubiconcrossed says:

        Actually the Lugers tested were .30 cal. There never was a 6mm Luger. And George Lugers .45’s only did poorly in the second tests because Mr. Luger made the fatal mistake of not bringing German ammo with him which his guns were designed to work with and he tried to rely on American made ammo which would not work in his guns.

        1. avatar BlueLightning says:

          Objectively the .45 ACP Luger pistols were documented to have been better performing overall, but the costs for specialized tooling and with a war coming in Europe there was no way that was going to happen. The biggest issue the Luger has mechanically is lack of slide (bolt/toggle) overtravel that helps in reliable cycling and ejection. Mostly that just manifests itself in the Luger being far less tolerant of improper shooting technique. The Luger is also not practical for military issue due to it’s high cost and high skill needed for production and assembly. The original military 1911 pistols were designed so that basically any three guns could be disassembled, all the parts thrown in a bucket and all three pistols reassembled with the random parts with no issue. The tolerances were generous and purpose built in to allow this semi modularity. It is a very common false belief that 1911s were always super tight precision pieces, they were not. They did (do) require more steps in manufacture and hand assembly than many modern military sidearms, but by those days standards they were simpler.

        2. avatar David says:

          Actually, there was a 6mm Luger, however, it was a rifle. George Luger is known today for just one firearm: the Luger pistol. however, he actually spent significantly more time during his career working on rifles than he did on that iconic handgun. One project in particular that he tackled for the DWM concern was a series of improvements to the Gewehr 88 rifle.

          The 1895 US Navy Small Arms Report state that there was a Luger rifle submitted for tests with a case capacity that was slightly larger than the .236 (0.059944mm) US Navy round the rifle an improved Mauser design. The Bureau of Ordinance, US Navy also state that these cases were developed in Europe and is loaded with a CNCS bullet.

  4. avatar Ranger Ric says:

    The Founding Fathers never imagined the internet, television, cellphones, fax machines or radio but somehow are all 1st Amendment qualified……yet repeating firearms are the world’s great mystery?

    1. avatar captainlouisrenault says:

      I would have to say that your response is only partially correct. With the advent of instant fake news on the internet the 1st Amendment may end up being somewhat restricted as it is in many democratic countries. In Germany you cannot say anything you want or publish pictures of anything you want either. Its not done to control the minds of the people but its done to prevent far right people from promoting violence against minorities. Germany never wants to see a the rise of another far right racist leader like Hitler was. With our own fake news still too prevalent and the Russians poised to hit us hard again during the 2020 elections there is serious talk about more control over what goes on the internet. The survival of our country may depend on it but its a delicate balancing act because if we go too far down the slippery slope we could end up with a one party dictatorship which the far right would fall in love with. Trump himself hinted he may not step down after the end of his 2nd term which would make the far right ecstatic if he appoints himself for life. Don’t laugh its not as far fetched as one might think. Hitler destroyed democracy in Germany in a very short period of time.

      I might add that our 1st Amendment rights are less than that of France’s freedom of speech. With our defamation law suits which are legal news papers are often restricted in what they say about people as compared to France. Also publishing extreme hate speech that gets people killed or hurt will also land you in jail. Remember the conspiracy loud mouth that claimed the Sandy Hook tragedy was fake. He ended up in court. So there are indeed restrictions on the 1st Amendment already.

      1. avatar Merle 0 says:

        You’re a very stupid person.

        1. Actually Senator Harry Reid (D) of NV during the 2nd term of Obama drafted an amendment to the Constitution that would have permitted Congress to determine what constituted Free Speech under the First Amendment. It was referred to the Senate Judiciary Committee and then down to the Committee on the Constitution, where thank God it got shelved and never acted on.

      2. avatar jwm says:

        Your bigotry is on display, jerry. And your game plan is also on display. restrict freedom and end democracy and claim you’re protecting us from the evil right wing while shilling for the evil left.

        Fortunately the tide has turned. Trump will get a second term and it will be thanks to guys like you and miner49er. Can you say irony?

        1. avatar captainlouisrenault says:

          Don’t make me laugh JW

          It was reported on the news tonight that the Lobster fisherman’s business is down a full 50 per cent because of Trumps idiotic trade war and the farmers are only getting token Government subsidies and those interviewed said they were not going to vote for him again. It was reported 73 per cent of the female voters are going to vote against him in 2020 as well. With those many groups against him he doesn’t stand a chance of being reelected. Blacks hate trump with a passion as well because of his attacks on Obama. The Latino’s hate Trump because of his racism. The 6 million U.S. Muslims hate him with a passion because of his Islamophobia and his attack on a gold star Muslim family and 6 million votes is nothing to sneeze at during a close election.

          Trumps crooked ass is grassed and he knows it. Right now he is just trying to figure out a way to stay out of jail after the election is over. His heart troubles last week sure prove the pressure is getting to him. He will be lucky to still be alive by next fall as his heart is failing. Too many pizza’s and cheese burgers.

        2. avatar jwm says:

          yada, yada, vlad. hillary was supposed to be our president. Didn’t happen. You haven’t been right yet. The next couple of years will be bitter, angry years for you.

      3. avatar AD says:

        Hello! Anyone home? I dont give a FF what they’re not allowed to say in Germany. Not my chair. Not my problem. That’s what I say.
        You sound like Captain Obvious on board of the HMS Asshole. Get real.

      4. avatar Dude says:

        A bigger problem than outright fake news is downplaying or not reporting on important news they don’t like, and doing the opposite for anything that fits the agenda. You know, like they did and are still doing for the most coddled president in the history of this country.

        https://nypost.com/2019/11/20/when-the-villain-is-obama-not-trump-news-suddenly-becomes-not-worth-reporting/

      5. avatar In for a Penny, In for a pound says:

        “Trump himself hinted he may not step down after the end of his 2nd term which would make the far right ecstatic if he appoints himself for life. ”

        WE White men would remove both parties if that happened, which would allow for the restoration of the White cultural construct known as the Constitution.
        Then, of course America would be returned to a White ethnic nation like the Founders intended. Red, brown, black, and blonde haired Whites is the diversity that made America exceptional. The good part about multiculturalism being the historic executioner of empires, is when the empire falls the individual groups can restore their own group, which means Whites will be able to take are of our own, which tends to leave all others in our dust.

        1. avatar Dude says:

          Try to stay on topic Vlad. Off your meds again?

        2. avatar captainlouisrenault says:

          Hey Penny brain. Spoken like a true Hitlerite. If you knew anything about history you would know that immigrants and the mixing of Nationalities (notice I did not use the word race as we are all of one race) has always benefited a Country not been a detriment to it. The son of a Syrian Refuge (the people Herr Drumpf banned from even visiting here) invented the cell phone which brought billions in prosperity to the U.S. George Washington Carver invented over 300 uses for the peanut, 100 uses for the sweet potato and 70 uses for the pecan which brought millions of profit to the farmers. I could go on but since you flunked history why bother. Your more happy in your ignorance and would need a straight jacket if you stumbled upon any more evidence that refutes your post.

  5. avatar Darkman says:

    Once again You are trying to confuse liberal sycophants and acolytes with facts. It has been well proven that facts are an irreverent factor in the liberal mindset. The use of them is tantamount to. Trying to teach a pig to sing…It wastes your time and annoys the pig.
    Keep Your Powder dry.

    1. avatar moreadventuresonotherplanets says:

      To Darkman.

      “Once again You are trying to confuse liberal sycophants and acolytes with facts. It has been well proven that facts are an irreverent factor in the liberal mindset.”

      Yes and according to Republicans if you try to commit a crime (like robbing a bank) and do not succeed its not a crime. Of course that is as ridiculous as the Republicans claiming since Trump did not succeed in getting the Ukraine to publish a fake inquiry and fake news about Biden that that also is not a crime simply because he did not succeed.

      1. avatar jwm says:

        Your TDS has caused you to leave reality and dwell in fantasy land.

        1. avatar moreadventuresonotherplanets says:

          JW you need some one to explain to you the televised impeachment inquiry rantings of the Republicans. They did indeed boldly claim that since Trump did not succeed in his illegal activities then he committed no crime. If the Republicans went to drug rehabilitation even they would realize what fools they made of themselves during the hearings. I am sure right now every criminal who tried to robbed a bank and did not succeed are all demanding they be released immediately from prison, either that or they want Trump in jail next to them if fair is fair. They do have a point.

        2. avatar jwm says:

          vlad. How many personalities are you running here today? Schizo is putting it mildly. You’re even arguing with yourself upstream. Damn. Mental illness is a bitch.

      2. avatar Ing says:

        Come on man, stop it. You’re just embarrassing yourself.

      3. avatar Voeckler says:

        “It’s not whataboutism when we do it.”

      4. avatar AD says:

        Robbery itself implies the threat, dumbass. Why give up the loot otherwise?
        There’ll be some hungry zombies who come for your brains.

      5. avatar Dude says:

        If it’s illegal (show me the law by the way) to investigate a political rival, then all of the top folks of the Obama admin need to be locked up pronto. The major difference between the two is the corrupt Obama admin made up the false claims, while Biden literally bragged about it, and his son got rich off of it. Double standard anyone?

  6. avatar Green Mtn. Boy says:

    “Gun control advocates love to claim that the Founding Fathers couldn’t possibly have conceived of repeating rifles when they drafted the Second Amendment .”

    As civilian disarmament proponents care not for facts or truth,they would have little need to learn what history teaches.

    The 2 nd. amendment for muskets only,asked no moron ever

    1. avatar AD says:

      Continental Navy, I say! Yes! Americans are allowed to have their own private warships. Rifles and pistols only come into play during a boarding attempt.
      Not my law. Not my problem. No way.

  7. avatar enuf says:

    A magazine fed repeating firearm was first used in war, so far as we know, nearly 120 years before the American Revolution. That was the Kalthoff Repeater, 100 of them were used by Denmark in the 1658-1659 Siege of Copenhagen. It was a breechloader, either wheellock or later a flintlock, using separate magazines for powder and ball. It worked, but was limited in use to wealthy men or elite troops. Capacity was 6 to 30 rounds.

    The Continental Congress was made up of men who were either well educated or well read on their own, or both. As the Kalthoff was but one of many early repeating muskets and rifles it is likely they knew about it. Efforts to improve on repeaters had continued over the years. The problem of the cost of making them prevented their use in large numbers.

    So, hell yes, the Continental Congress tried to buy repeating arms. This was not an isolated event though, as they would have been aware that repeating arms had been around for over a century and other governments had bought them and used them in warfare.

  8. avatar Dude says:

    Joseph Belton forgot the most important part. Grease their palms first. Or maybe they weren’t as corrupt back then.

  9. avatar sparkyinWI says:

    Does not matter if such repeating firearms existed or not. The 2A does not say a right to bear firearms, or muskets, or pistols, etc. It says the right to “Bear Arms” which is any kind of arms. So firearms, swords, pikes, artillery, etc. would all have been common arms by the definition. No where does the 2A limit the type of arms as a citizen I may bear.

  10. avatar LasVegasBret says:

    The specifics are irrelevant, the protection found in Amendment II is general: arms.

    Doesn’t matter if it is a musket, revolver, semi or full automatic handgun, rifle, laser, phaser, or pea-shooter.

    The right to keep and bear *arms* shall not be infringed. Trying to tie it to what was known at the time is building a false foundation that can be subsequently eroded.

    Arms. Remember that. Arms.

  11. avatar Alan says:

    There are both historical and mechanical facts. Those that render the Anti Gun set less than joyful are simply ignored. Such has long been the case, and likely will so remain.

  12. avatar AC says:

    Listen people;

    If you truly want to kill the anti-gun/anti-Second Amendment movement in America then here is a way in which one could contest all anti-gun legislation and assert that all of this type of legislation was dead on arrival even before the ink was dry because it can be shown that the government lacks the authority to regulate the firearms industry.

    Government claims its authority to regulate firearms by its use of both the Supremacy Clause (Article VI, Sec 2) and the Commerce Clause (Article I, Sec 8 (3)). However, both are being misapplied and misinterpreted. For example, Article VI, Sec 2 is a conditional statement as it clearly says with regard to U.S. law being the supreme law of the land; “This Constitution, and the Laws of the United States which shall be made in Pursuance thereof;” – meaning of course that all US law must be made “in Pursuance thereof” with respect to the Constitution in order for any such laws to hold a place together with the Constitution as being the supreme law of the land. But without belaboring this and setting aside for now what is contained within the original document, let’s just consider the following. The Constitution is a “compact” meaning a contract or agreement. And under recognized and accepted contract law, an amendment to the original document bears more weight and exerts more force because the terms and the conditions of an amendment always “supersede” the terms and conditions of the original document as the amendment acts to, and has the effect of, permanently altering and changing the original document. And so regardless of what is in the original document, the Second Amendment makes clear that, “the Right of the people to keep and bear arms Shall Not be infringed” is the supreme law of the land and that it shall continue to be the law of the land until such time as a change occurs via the passage of another constitutional amendment that specifically addresses this provision. As a case in point, the 18th Amendment banned alcohol beverage consumption and made Prohibition the law of the land. And even after finally recognizing this to have been a horrible mistake, it could not be undone via any act of the Congress nor with a presidential executive order. And so it was not until with the passage of the 21st Amendment that the era of Prohibition finally came to an end. The Rule of Law is clear…Neither the Congress nor the President nor the US Supreme Court have the authority to alter or to change any of the provisions of the Constitution except via the amendment process… And with respect to “the Right of the people to keep and bear arms” this has NEVER been done and so “the Right of the people to keep and bear arms Shall not be infringed” remains as the Supreme Law of the Land throughout the United States of America… PERIOD!!!

    There are several other examples and also a number of US Supreme Court cases that clearly recognize the argument I am briefly making here. You and I and we all together need to challenge what they are doing using the “Rule of Law” which they are obligated to follow but which they are clearly not following. STOP this constant renegotiation of your Rights and continuing to accept watered down versions of what the Founding Fathers intended you to have.

  13. avatar John Lychwick says:

    The 2nd Amendment mentions that the State must have an army to maintain its sovereignty. Because of that fact, the writers of the 2nd amendment knew it was possible that this army could be turned on the people. Therefore, the citizens of this State must be able to protect themselves from this army if this State turns against the people. This had happened many times in the past so our founding fathers knew only an armed citizenry could prevent that from happening in the newly formed United States. So the 2nd amendment wasn’t written for hunting, personal protection or sports shooting. It was written because they knew that when ballets are ignored, bullets are the people’s only hope.

    1. avatar Rubiconcrossed says:

      I am afraid you have history completely backwards. The Founders of the Country were the Government and what they feared most was the people rising up against them and demanding a Democracy which they denied to them. The Founders feared Democracy and called it “mob rule” and denied a democratic parliamentary government to the people. Remember the laws passed by them only let “them” vote not the common man. The Second Amendment was only double speak to stay in power as it was deliberately written in the vaguest of terms so it could be interpreted either way. Ever since then the courts time after time have chipped away at the Second Amendment. Even the much ballyhooed Saclia decision was mostly double speak if you care to read it in its entirety.

      1. avatar AC says:

        The Second Amendment is I believe the only amendment that states the reason for its existence right up front. Furthermore, I don’t consider it to be vague. I believe the Founding Fathers were wordsmiths and chose their words carefully. The word “Shall” for example is a commandment word that in a legal contract compels one to either take an action, or in this case, bars and prohibits the government from taking any action that would “infringe”… But also, consider my earlier comment on why I believe government lacks the authority to regulate the firearms industry. – The Constitution being a compact, its amendments just like any other contract act to “supersede” and permanently alter and change the original document. “The Right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed” overrides all other terms and conditions in the original document and remains as the Supreme Law of the Land.

      2. avatar John Lychwick says:

        Apparently they didn’t fear the people that much or instead of adding the 2nd amendment they would have tried to disarm the populace. The wiser among them were more afraid of an autocracy than they were of the people.

  14. avatar John McDougald says:

    PUCKLE GUN!!!!!!!

    In all this time, I’ve only seen one mention of Mr James Puckle, who happened to have died, roughly, 80 years prior to the American Revolution. He, not only designed, he built, patented, and sold his invention of a repeating firearm. Granted, it was not a shoulder mounted firearm, but it was a repeating firearm, none the less. Even so, during the Revolutionary war, there were such things as Volley Fire weapons that also fired multiple rounds at, or near, the same time.

    https://youtu.be/GPC7KiYDshw

    https://youtu.be/VCFaboVrgHA

  15. avatar Chris T in KY says:

    Thank you to TTAG and everyone who provided very useful commentary on the history of rapid fire weapons. Now we need to teach this stuff in schools all over the country.

    “Firearm Education: Teaching the Second Amendment in Kentucky school system grades K through 12”
    http://digitalcommons.murraystate.edu/bis437/149

  16. avatar mark s. says:

    In regard to the post here and those who argue against it.
    It’s never been a sound argument by gun controllers or gun confiscators, but apparently who needs sound arguments, right?
    The article here is a good example of why gun rights advocates need to maintain our history but also how we waste time in these arguments.
    It is a better argument for them (gun controllers) to make, that the constitution specifically refers to a well armed and regulated militia, implying that it is not referring to the average citizen at all, but an organized Army, or national guard in the 2nd amendment.
    This is where we need to focus our attention. The citizen army, it’s purpose, it’s history, it’s, it’s function and it’s equipment are the elements of education that need addressed.
    If the AR 15 or even the AK 47 had been presented to George Washington in the present day sophistication, is there ANY reasonable person on earth who could argue that these weapons would have been passed over for any of the weapons the citizen army used in the war of independence?
    The fact is, only the very best weapons would have been chosen by any reasonable person, when going into war and the fact is, we have allowed an erosion of our rights as citizens and potential citizen militias by permitting the federal government to dictate what is in my right to build, purchase or own and to impose a tax or fee that could infringe my rights.
    These taxes and fees open widely a door for people like the Pocahontas to propose such excessive fees and taxes that only the upper class financial elite could partake in their constitutional rights.

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