By Roger Haynes
Of the many arguments put forth by the anti-gun crusaders, such as the original intent of the Second Amendment or the definition of an “assault rifle”, one attack seems to have been left insufficiently addressed. That is the supposition that the Founders could not have conceived of the technological improvements in the lethality of modern weapons. The argument is mostly presented along the lines of, “But at the time, the soldiers’ weapons of war were muskets, and they could never have conceived of machine guns and other modern improvements in war implements”. While I doubt scientists and inventors (Ben Franklin, Thomas Jefferson) weren’t capable of envisioning new technologies and advancements, I suggest we look at what they did know . . .
First, the drafters of the Constitution were children of empire. They were citizens of a country whose dominance reached across the globe. It was said, of course, that “The sun never sets on the British empire”. That empire relied on the ability of Britain to project force, and that projection relied heavily on the capability of their navy . So for the framers of the Constitution, one of the most powerful military tools was the naval battle ship.
Now take a quick gander at Article I, section 8 of the Constitution where the powers of Congress are delineated and we see:
To declare War, grant Letters of Marque and Reprisal, and make Rules concerning Captures on Land and Water….
Ok, so what’s a Letter of Marque or Reprisal? As Wikipedia informs us:
In the days of fighting sail, a letter of marque and reprisal was a government license authorizing a person (known as a privateer) to attack and capture enemy vessels and bring them before admiralty courts for condemnation and sale.
So, in the very body of the Constitution itself we see that the Founders recognized the private ownership of weapons of empire. We’re talking about friggin’ battleships here people, not just muskets and cannons.
So when anyone suggests that “military-grade” weapons weren’t what our founders were referring to in the Second Ammendment, maybe point them to the Barbary War where congress did indeed hire privateers to use their personal Ships of the Line to assist in the naval war against piracy. This, I think, clearly shows that the concept of limiting what a private citizen can own was not at all limited to hunting or self defense.