“Weapons of war” were commonly owned civilian weapons when the Second Amendment was ratified in 1791.
This is an important point for many reasons, not the least of which is the decades long contention that AR-15s and other commonly owned semiautomatic firearms are excluded from Second Amendment protections because the left has labeled them “weapons of war.”
Suffice it to say, they are not “weapons of war.” Rather, they are semiautomatic rifles that fire one round with each pull of the trigger. On the hand, an M-16 and M4 are designed for warfare and each is equipped with a select fire switch that allows the gun to shoot in full-auto mode. This means the M-16 and M4 can shoot as many bullets as are in a magazine with one pull of the trigger.
Regardless of these stark differences between AR-15s and M-16s/M4s, news commentators like Joe Scarborough and leftist politicians like Robert France “Beto” O’Rourke continue to describe AR-15s as “weapons of war.” And Scarborough–and others of his ilk–then go on to say the Second Amendment does not protect “weapons of war.”
Hmm. The left has a problem. Namely, that “weapons of war” were civilian firearms when the Second Amendment was ratified on December 15, 1791.
Keep in mind–another long-running leftist diatribe is that the Second Amendment only protects muskets because muskets were the firearms in common use when the Second Amendment was ratified. Well, guess what? Muskets were in common use for civilians and military alike. And when James Madison wrote Federalist 46, celebrating the fact the Americans possessed arms with which they could bind themselves together and repel a tyranny, the arms they would use were muskets; i.e., “weapons of war” in the late 1700s.
Former SEAL Team 3 member Eli Crane put it this way:
[Democrats today] push to ban certain firearms on the mere basis that they resemble military weapons. But you will never hear this same crowd of leftists compare the weaponry held by our military in the 1700s to the weaponry they have today. And that is because a thorough look at the weaponry of the 1700s—whether civilian or military—shows that the farmer and the soldier were using similar guns and weapons at the time the Second Amendment was ratified.
If you contrast the firearm that a soldier carried in the late 1700s with the firearm that a citizen of that same time was allowed to own, you will see a pretty level playing field. You would most likely see both soldiers and citizens armed with muskets, cannons, and swords. If you did that same comparison today, juxtaposing the weaponry that is inventoried in our military arsenals versus the firepower that private citizens can legally possess, you will notice how much this gap has widened in favor of our government.
In summary, the guns owned by civilians at the time the Second Amendment was ratified could aptly be described as “weapons of war.” But the AR-15s Americans use for hunting, sport, and plinking are simply semiautomatic firearms that shoot one round each time the trigger is pulled. The contemporary “weapons of war” moniker goes to M-16s, M4s, and the like.
Yet the fact remains that the guns being carried and used by civilians in the late 1700s were in many cases the same “weapons of war” being employed by organized armies. And those commonly-owned firearms enjoyed Second Amendment protections.
AWR Hawkins is an award-winning Second Amendment columnist for Breitbart News and the writer/curator of Down Range with AWR Hawkins, a weekly newsletter focused on all things Second Amendment, also for Breitbart News. He is the political analyst for Armed American Radio. Follow him on Twitter: @AWRHawkins. Reach him directly at firstname.lastname@example.org. Sign up to get Down Range at breitbart.com/downrange.