Firearms have historically been and remain today a significant part of America’s culture, and they have held a large role in shaping this country. When the Colonies became the United States of America, muskets and muzzle loading rifles were the most modern, technologically advanced long arms of the time. Over two centuries later and much technological development, we now have a variety of modern rifles. The intent of Modern Musket is to assert that these present day rifles are the modern equivalent of muskets. Unfortunately in recent decades, modern rifles have wrongfully come under attack by unnecessary and unconstitutional legislation and regulation. It must be emphasized that even though technology has advanced and firearms have evolved, one thing hasn’t changed: The right of Americans to keep and bear these arms as intended and protected by the Second Amendment of our Constitution.
“No freeman shall ever be debarred the use of arms.” – Thomas Jefferson
In colonial America there was primarily one type of long arm, the musket. Today there are a variety of modern rifles, but this article is going to primarily reference the AR-15. The AR-15 is a semi-automatic variant of the United States military service rifle, the M4/M16. Like the M4 and M16, the AR-15 uses a standard 30 round detachable magazine. Many people think that the AR stands for “assault rifle” but this is incorrect, it actually stands for “ArmaLite." The small arms company ArmaLite was the original designer of the rifle platform. They sold the design to Colt Manufacturing Company who released the rifle to civilian consumers in 1963. Today there are many companies that offer AR-15 style rifles and parts. It is one of the most popular modern rifles today for sporting and defensive purposes, and has developed a large following of Americans who understand the value of possessing such a firearm. It is estimated that there are over five million privately owned AR-15’s in America. The AR-15 should be seen as a symbol of freedom; however, anti-gun organizations and politicians would lead people to falsely believe it is an implement of violence and crime. We must refute this notion and protect our right to keep and bear this iconic rifle, along with all modern muskets.
The Second Amendment
“A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.” – Second Amendment, United States Constitution
The Intent of the Second Amendment
The Second Amendment was written to protect the right of individual citizens to keep and bear modern firearms. When the Constitution was ratified these firearms were muskets; today they are modern rifles like the AR-15 among many others. The Second Amendment guarantees the ability to keep and use these modern rifles not only for sporting purposes, but also more importantly for defensive purposes. This includes the defense of your life and loved ones from a criminal, to the defense of your liberty from tyrannical government. We should all hope we never have to use our firearms in these ways, but at the same time safe guard our rights in the event that someday we may be forced to.
A common misconception about the Second Amendment is the belief that it only applies to firearms with “sporting purposes.” This is completely inaccurate. Anti-gun politicians and organizations are known for taking the position that rifles like AR-15’s have no “sporting purpose.” This is not only ill-informed reasoning but is also misleading. Modern rifles such as the AR-15 are regularly used for target shooting, in competitions, and are gaining popularity for many hunting applications. However this is all beside the point. A firearm such as an AR-15 does not need a “sporting purpose” in order to be protected under the Second Amendment. First and fore most the Second Amendment protects American’s right to own modern firearms for self-defense and the defense of their liberty.
Militias and Individual Rights
Another misconception is to interpret the Second Amendment to only apply to militias, not individuals, and to view the National Guard as the “well regulated militia” in this country. This is inaccurate on both accounts. First of all, the Second Amendment absolutely applies to individuals, and secondly, the preamble of the Second Amendment is not referring to our current National Guard system.
For starters, the National Guard as we know it today wasn’t even officially implemented until over a century after the Second Amendment was ratified. Secondly, the federal government ultimately controls the National Guard. Finally and most importantly, who owns and controls the weapons stored within National Guard armories? Certainly not private citizens, as National Guard members must surrender their weapons after every deployment or training. The National Guard is a valued part of our armed forces, but it is not what the Founding Fathers were referring to within the text of the Second Amendment. Unfortunately there is no longer a system in this country consistent with the militia system back in the 18th century. However, every responsible, armed American is in essence a militiaman.
Historically militias were strictly used for domestic purposes only. Each state had its own militia found in and around nearly every town in the Americas. Every able-bodied man between the age of 17 and 45 was an active member of a militia and often possessed a privately owned musket or muzzle loading rifle. Militias were comprised of average citizens who elected their own officers, conducted their own training’s (musters as they were called), and they generally didn’t wear any type of uniform. Additionally, militia members usually received very little if any compensation for their service.
“In summary, for Mason (George Mason) a “well regulated militia” consisted in the body of the people organizing themselves into independent companies, each member furnishing and keeping his own firearms, always ready to resist the standing army of a despotic state.” – Stephen P. Halbrook, “That Every Man Be Armed”
Militia members were called upon for a variety of reasons, but most notably to fight for our freedom and independence. Leading up to the Revolutionary War there was no standing army to speak of in the American colonies. Many of the Founders believed a large standing army during peacetime posed a great threat to liberty. So when the war began and tyranny came to colonial America’s shores, militias were the first to answer the call. As the Second Amendment reads, “…being necessary to the security of a free State…”
There were several factors leading to the American Revolution, but many people don’t realize the first significant battle was a direct result of the King’s attempt to disarm the Colonists. In April of 1775, approximately 700 Redcoats marched to Lexington and Concord with orders to confiscate or destroy the Colonist’s weapons and supplies. On that fateful day, members of the local Militia confronted and routed the soldiers. Thankfully the Colonists possessed arms similar to those carried by their adversary. It’s safe to say that if the Militiamen weren’t sufficiently armed and skilled in the use of these firearms, they would have been defeated in this first and crucial engagement. The rest as they say is history, and one can only hope that history doesn’t repeat itself. Back then, the Colonists realized the importance of firearms and they were intent on defending these arms and ultimately their freedom. This mentality still holds true for many Americans, except today we face a political and legislative battle in an effort to maintain our right to keep and bear Arms.
“Like other Bill of Rights freedoms, the personal right to keep and bear arms gained constitutional recognition, in great part, from the abuses of power that led to the American Revolution. Indeed, independence was attainable only because the colonists owned and were expert in the use of firearms.”- Stephen P. Halbrook, “That Every Man Be Armed”
Following the preamble, the remainder of the Second Amendment clearly states, “…the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.” For those who think the Second Amendment doesn’t apply to individuals, consider this:
How can every other Amendment in the Bill of Rights be in reference to individual freedoms, except for the Second Amendment?
This would be very contradictory and not to mention unsound in reasoning. To say the right to keep and bear arms doesn’t apply to individual citizens is like saying the right to freedom of speech doesn’t apply to individuals either. Thus the Second Amendment does apply to individuals, and the Supreme Court has upheld this fact in two separate cases. (District of Columbia v. Heller and McDonald v. Chicago)
“After all, the Second Amendment is in the Bill of Rights, the part of the Constitution explicitly designed to secure individual rights. And the text of the amendment refers to the “right of the people" – the same people mentioned in the First, Fourth, Ninth and Tenth Amendments. It is inconceivable that the framers – seeking to provide Americans with a means to resist tyrannical government – would fashion a right that can be exercised only in the context of a militia that is under government control.” – Robert A. Levy, “Fighting for Our Right to Bear Arms”
The only gun control laws that should exist are those that effectively deter gun related crime while limiting infringement upon Second Amendment rights. This being said, very few of the existing gun control laws accomplish this task. The fundamental flaw of gun control is that criminals choose not to follow laws in general, so why would they abide gun laws? Thus gun control laws have very little affect at deterring gun related crime. Unfortunately the only thing most gun control laws do accomplish is infringement upon the rights of law-abiding Americans. So if it is proven most gun control laws do very little to deter gun related crimes, why do some state and federal legislators along with anti-gun organizations continue pushing for more gun control? The answers to this question can be very concerning.
“If I could have gotten 51 votes in the Senate of the United States for an outright ban, picking up every one of them—Mr. and Mrs. America, turn them all in—I would have done it.” – Dianne Feinstein, California Senator
So-called “Assault Weapons"
Modern Musket’s primary focus is on modern rifles. Many present day rifles have been affected by gun control, most notably by the Federal Assault Weapons Ban (AWB) signed by former president Bill Clinton in 1994. This piece of legislation was touted as “reasonable” or “sensible” gun control and placed restrictions and prohibitions on many modern semi-automatic firearms including the AR-15 rifle. Just to emphasize and make this point very clear, so-called “assault weapon" bans ONLY involve and affect semi-automatic firearms.
The federal AWB significantly infringed upon American’s Second Amendment rights, and it has been proven that the ten year ban was largely symbolic and did very little to reduce or prevent gun related crimes. To begin with, so-called “assault weapons” are used in a very small percentage of gun related crimes in America. Of these crimes, as with all gun related crimes, the vast majority are committed by repeat offenders with illegally obtained firearms. Clearly the AWB was not “sensible” and was a solution in search of a problem. One thing is certain, law abiding gun owners who possess modern muskets are NOT the problem.
The contrived term “assault weapon” is used by anti-gunners to describe various semi-automatic firearms that possess certain features that they have deemed “evil features.” The term is based on appearance, not function, and is intended to demonize many modern firearms while creating confusion and manipulating those who are not informed. A perfect example of this is demonstrated below. The rifle on the top is the popular Ruger Mini-14 “Ranch Rifle," and on the bottom is an AR-15 style rifle. Both are semi-automatic, both use detachable magazines, and they even fire the same ammunition. Even though the two rifles are very similar, the AR-15 has been labeled an “assault weapon" for no other reason than it’s appearance and that it possesses certain cosmetic and ergonomic features. It must be understood that neither of these firearms are so-called “assault weapons," they are simply modern semi-automatic rifles.
There is an old saying, “control the language, control the debate." It is imperative we use proper terminology. With this being said, the term “assault weapon” is not to be confused with “assault rifle.” The term “assault rifle" is sometimes used in reference to fully-automatic rifles because of historical ties to the German Sturmgewehr, but the term should never be used to reference a purely semi-automatic rifle such as an AR-15. Since 1934, firearms capable of fully-automatic fire have been heavily regulated under the National Firearms Act (NFA). A lot of people think fully-automatic firearms are illegal, however in many states, a select few of these types of firearms can still be obtained by law abiding Americans, yet there is a much more extensive and costly process one must go through. The NFA is seen as the first significant form of federal gun control in America. The main point being made here is that the ant-gunners and the uniformed incorrectly use these terms interchangeably to label and demonize modern rifles. We need to combat this, neither term should be applied to modern semi-automatic rifles such as the AR-15. Again, they are NOT “assault weapons," they are NOT “assault rifles," they are simply modern muskets.
Now back to so-called “assault weapons" bans. The Federal AWB had a sunset clause and it expired in September of 2004. There have been multiple attempts to pass another unnecessary Federal ban but they have failed. There will inevitably be more attempts in the future and they will likely be more restrictive than the 1994 ban. Future legislation could easily be expanded to include ALL semi-automatic firearms. Americans must realize this type of legislation is an unnecessary attack against their Second Amendment rights and should not tolerate anti-gun policies from politicians.
“As President Obama indicated during the campaign, there are just a few gun-related changes that we would like to make, and among them would be to reinstitute the ban on the sale of assault weapons." – Eric Holder, United States Attorney General
In several states, similar bans are still in effect with no sunset clause. These permanent state level bans affect approximately 25% of the American population, restricting and in some cases prohibiting law-abiding citizens in these states from purchasing many modern, common, semi-automatic firearms. So-called “assault weapons” bans are usually accompanied by prohibitions on “high capacity” magazines. The term “high capacity” is generally in reference to any magazine that holds more than ten rounds. This anti-gun term is also misleading and is intended to carry a negative connotation. Many modern firearms including the AR-15 are designed to use standard magazines that hold greater than ten rounds. They are not “high capacity," rather they are standard capacity.
The false reasoning of some legislators and that of anti-gun organizations is that if “assault weapons” and “high capacity” magazines are legal, there will be an increase in crime and violence. This is flat out wrong and factually inaccurate. The reality is, the rights of millions of good, responsible, law-abiding citizens should not be infringed upon because of the actions of deranged individuals who choose to use firearms to commit criminal acts.
“Those who would give up essential liberty, to purchase a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety.” – Benjamin Franklin
As discussed earlier, the Second Amendment is intended to protect citizen’s rights to keep and bear modern arms and their essential accessories for defense of their life and liberty. During the Revolutionary War era this firearm was the musket, today it is a rifle like the AR-15 amongst many others. Make no mistake; prohibition of these types of arms and their corresponding essential accessories are a direct infringement upon a Constitutional right. All Americans, in all 50 states are entitled to this RIGHT.
Protect your freedom and contribute in the fight against excessive infringements and bogus legislation by supporting organizations such as the National Rifle Association (NRA), The Second Amendment Foundation(SAF), and Gun Owners of America (GOA) among many others. Also, please help spread the Modern Musket message.
“A free people ought…to be armed…” – George Washington
We Cannot Pick and Choose
A very relevant present day comparison would be protection of television and the Internet under the First Amendment. These modern forms of media weren’t around back in the late 18th century, just as modern firearms such as AR-15’s weren’t around either. Why should these modern forms of media be protected by the First Amendment, and modern muskets be excluded from protection under the Second Amendment? They shouldn’t. Television, the Internet, and modern rifles have all been developed through technological advancements and should receive the same amount of protection under the Constitution.
This argument could also be applied to many other modern day advancements and practices that weren’t in existence or practiced in the late 18th century. This concept also goes along with the fact that all of the Amendments in the Bill of Rights absolutely apply to individuals. If we want to live in a free country we must apply this reasoning to all of our liberties regardless of our individual ideologies. It is essential that we do not pick and choose our freedoms; if we start doing this we could head down the path of a very dangerous slippery slope.
Back in the 18th century, firearms and particularly muskets were commonly used for many things including hunting, personal protection, and to defend liberty. If the American Colonists weren’t well armed and skilled at the use of these arms, history would have surely played out very differently. Present day rifles serve the same purpose. Modern rifles have evolved from muskets and they remain an effective and essential tool for protecting Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. Any firearm in the hands of a good, responsible, law-abiding person will be used for sporting and defensive purposes ONLY. Unless this person’s life or liberty is threatened, they as well as their firearm(s) will be of no danger to anyone.
There are differing opinions of firearms and the reasons we each choose to own or not own them. However lets all remember that the Second Amendment was incorporated into the Bill of Rights for a very important reason; this being the ability of individuals to privately own firearms as an essential component to liberty. If we want to remain a free and unified country, we must protect and uphold ALL of our rights, especially the right to keep and bear arms, as this right ultimately safeguards the rest.
“The right to keep and bear arms is the one right that allows rights to exist at all.” – Charlton Heston
Note: The information contained in this article is factually accurate, however it is not intended to be a research article.
Glossary of terms
Colonist: In the context of early America, a colonist was someone of who traveled to North America to settle and live in the British Colonies.
“Evil features”: Under the 1994 “assault weapons” ban, “evil features” included the following cosmetic/ergonomic features on any semiautomatic rifle that has the ability to accept a detachable magazine:a folding or telescoping stock, a pistol grip that protrudes conspicuously beneath the action of the firearm, a bayonet mount, a flash suppressor or a threaded barrel designed to accommodate a flash suppressor.
Firearm or Arm(s): A device, especially a pistol or rifle, capable of firing a projectile and using an explosive charge as a propellant.
Founding Fathers: Political leaders and statesmen who participated in the American Revolution by creating the United States Declaration of Independence, taking part in the American Revolutionary War, establishing the United States Constitution, or by some other key contribution.
Fully automatic: A fully automatic capable firearm is a firearm that fires continuously when the trigger is pulled, rather than firing a single shot per trigger pull.
Long arm: A firearm that is intended to be shoulder fired and that has a longer barrel and a butt stock. A rifle is considered a long arm, as is a musket.
M4: A gas-operated, air-cooled, magazine-fed, selective fire, shoulder-fired weapon with a telescoping stock. The M4 is a shortened variant of the M16 rifle.
M16: The M16 is based on the same platform as the M4 except with a fixed stock and a longer barrel.
Magazine: A compartment in some types of firearms, often a small detachable box, in which cartridges are held to be fed into the firing chamber.
Musket: A heavy, large-caliber, muzzle loaded smoothbore firearm introduced in the 16th century: the predecessor of the modern rifle.
Redcoat: A term describing a soldier of the British Army derived from the historic uniform formerly worn by most regiments.
Rifle: A firearm with a rifled bore designed to be fired from the shoulder.
Round(s): Another word for ammunition cartridges. A single round would be the same as one cartridge.
Semi automatic: A semi-automatic firearm is a firearm that fires only one round every time the trigger is pulled.
Sturmgewehr: A fully automatic capable rifle developed by Germany during WWII.