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The Second Amendment protects Americans against government infringement on the right to keep and bear arms. The term “arms” covers all types of guns (including machine guns), swords, knives, crossbows, pepper spray, TASERs, flame-throwers – anything that can be used as a weapon. When the current POTUS and his civilian disarmament allies rail against “military grade weapons on our streets” we point out that…hello? Cannons. Not only did our forefathers own their own private cannons, but cannons remain, thankfully, blissfully uncontrolled. Well, not always blissfully . . .

A Google search for “cannon accidents” reveals a wealth of often horrific negligent discharges. chronicles more than a dozen cannon-related mishaps from 1996 to 2009. Over in New Zealand, reports that Derek Kelly paid the ultimate price for exercising his [remaining gun rights] by failing to observe one of the four gun safety rules:.

The firearms collector was unloading equipment off his ute when what police say is a “cannon-style” firearm accidentally discharged and fatally struck him at his home in Mahuta, west of Dargaville, about 4.30pm on Sunday . . .

The partner of one of Mr Kelly’s daughters, Phil Freeman, said the death was a very tragic accident that had left his family reeling.

“He was routinely unloading equipment of the back of his utility.

“A round unexpectedly exploded. It was very sudden and comes as an absolute shock,” Mr Freeman said.

“He was no stranger to dealing with firearms and took all the precautions he could. We are at a loss to explain how this happened.”

A negligent discharge can happen to anyone. That’s why muzzle discipline is the The One Rule to Rule Them All. As in this case, people pay for their failure to observe this rule with their lives.

I regret that this incident occurred. I hope that Mr. Kelly – a man loved by his family and community, a man who spread the gospel of responsible gun ownership – rests in peace. May his death serve as a warning to us all, whether we fire .22-caliber handguns or “cannon-like” firearms. [h/t DrVino]

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  1. I guess when you’re playing with a cannon you only need to break ONE of the rules instead of two, eh?

  2. Just sayin, there’s no reason to keep the cannon loaded if it’s not in a safe area to discharge it…
    I guess he managed to forget it was loaded, place himself in front of the muzzle and fire the cannon.

  3. Given the range of a cannon only two of the safety rules work. No matter where you point it a cannon will always have a target and knowing your target and what’s behind it is difficult since your target may be beyond your line of sight. That makes it imperative that you make sure that cannon is unloaded and your hand is off the lanyard or your flame is away from the primer hole at all times.

    By the way New Zealand’s firearms laws are the closest to the United States in the Anglosphere.

    • “No matter where you point it a cannon will always have a target and knowing your target and what’s behind it is difficult since your target may be beyond your line of sight.”

      Yeah, ask MythBusters about this. While recording one of their episodes, they fired a cannonball out of cannon that skipped over their substantial earthen backstop and plowed into a home far away from the shooting location. Oops.

      Actually, their earthen backstop had plenty of dirt to stop the cannonball. The problem was that the dirt was fairly flat. They needed an almost vertical dirt wall to reliably stop a cannonball.

    • The other thing that wasn’t specified was if it was even loaded with an actual projectile. When these cannon owners do demonstrations, they are often just shooting blanks. Even so, the gas pressure alone at point-blank range is enough to be instantly fatal.

  4. “He was no stranger to dealing with firearms and took all the precautions he could. We are at a loss to explain how this happened.” Obviously not true if he died. Cannon had to be loaded and it sounds like he placed himself in front of it and then discharged it somehow. Guessing that several safety procedures were violated, in spite of what his family thinks.

    • I don’t know he discharged it, since I’m not privy to the state of firearm safety the last time a cannon was built for private use. Maybe it “went off”!!

  5. My youngest son used to build and shoot small, black powder cannons. One day he was out in the garage with his stuff and had sort of an ND. He has never actually said just how it happened, but the upshot was that the double doors were blown out into the street and he was black from head to toe. Nobody was harmed, and the doors were the only actual damage… well, until his wife got hold of him anyway.

    The fire department was not amused either, but glad there was no fire. 🙂

    • A guy down the street used to make the best fireworks you ever saw, had the most magnificent displays you could imagine several times a year. One day he needed a spot to rest a piece of work that he was welding …

      He survived, but decided to give up his fireworks hobby, especially since his keg of black powder turned up missing, along with part of his house. The neighborhood’s loss, I had actually given him a $100 bill once to help his expenses. When I asked what happened, his 14-year-old son said “My Dad blowed hissef up.”

    • Is your son Wile E. Coyote? That story made me laugh far more than it should have. Sorry.

      • Oh, I have enough stories about my sons to write a book. Their grandmother got T-shirts made for them when they were toddlers. Bright red, with black letters front and back that said: US Wrecking Team.

        Was the truth. The younger one liked best to take things apart. Learned to put them back together when he was a little older and is mighty handy now at age 45. The elder boy was built like a tank and was mostly the backup for his brother. They were rough on each other, but suffered no rivals. 🙂

  6. Robert,
    Where does “A round unexpectedly exploded. It was very sudden and comes as an absolute shock,” Mr Freeman said.” equate to “muzzle discipline”?
    This sounds as if a round went off outside of the chamber……

  7. I had to go to a call once where a guy had recovered a civil war era cannon ball and decided to clean it in his driveway with a wire brush. Well he detonated the cannonball and blew himself into about a dozen pieces…

    I felt bad for the family playing basketball in their driveway across the street

    • My father said that when he was in the Army in 1946-47, people got casual with handling tank ordnance, tossing them instead of carefully handing them up–until someone dropped one on the tank. No, it wasn’t pretty.

    • Wow, I had no idea that cannonballs could detonate. I always thought that they were just solid pieces of metal. I could have ended up being like this guy too if I found a cannonball.

  8. Wasn’t there a civil war era canon on display in a town square somewhere recently discovered to have “live” ordnance in it?

  9. I wonder if static electricity could be a serious problem for a cannon filled with black powder? We have all walked across a floor and gave up a pretty substantial shock to an electrical switch plate or metal door knob. I wonder if the guy happened to simply touch the cannon and discharged static — which detonated the powder?????

    Then again, the steel cannon itself should act like a Faraday cage and conduct any electricity around the powder charge inside. In other words you might discharge into the steel cannon and create a spark between your hand and the cannon barrel but that should not cause a spark inside where the powder resides.

  10. Author Michael Z.Williamson points out that the “letters of marque and reprisal” clause of the Constitution recognizes the right to own crew-served weapons, such as cannon, under the Second Amendment. I believe he is correct.

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