The first time I shot a gun, an M4 assault rifle, I didn’t want to pick it up — I was scared of the unexpectedly giant death machine I’d agreed to shoot with. As it happens, I probably shouldn’t have picked it up — a stray shell casing burned my leg and left a bullet-shaped scar, along with a story that has gotten me through many a bad date. But pick it up I did, and goddamn, was it fun. I felt so cool, the metal in my hands, my eye on the target, the little red light telling me exactly where to shoot so I felt like a crack shot even though I was hitting the target only because that little red light was telling me exactly where to shoot. Go ahead. Make my day.
Annie, get your single-shot musket and dueling pistol.
It’s no wonder people love guns. They make you feel like a superhero — or a ruthless villain. Nearly 300 people have died in U.S. mass shootings so far this year, according to the nonpartisan Gun Violence Archive, and most of those deaths involved weapons the country’s founders could never have imagined: automatic and semi-automatic ones. It’s time to rethink all this, starting with what the founders would have wanted: Let’s honor the Second Amendment in all its glory and agree that the right to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed, so long as the arms in question were in use in 1791, the year the Bill of Rights was ratified. That’s right: Annie, get your single-shot musket and your dueling pistol.
Revolution-era muskets were accurate at 50 meters and held only one round — meaning getting off three to four rounds a minute was ambitious, but possible. Compare that with an AR-15, which fires 45 rounds per minute and is accurate at 10 times the range of a musket. As it turns out, plenty of people still love shooting muzzle-loaders. Among them is Dennis Glazener, who operates AmericanLongrifles.org. He describes the experience of shouldering the rifle and hearing the powder ignite; his belief is that the guns help him connect to history and to his North Carolina ancestors, who were gunmakers. “[It] gives a better idea of what our forefathers had to use to keep food on the table and to keep their families safe,” he says.
Alas, the antique-gun enthusiasts I spoke to emphatically do not think muzzle-loaders should be the only game in town. “That’s got to be the most dim-witted argument I’ve ever heard,” says historical re-enactor Jim Daniel. He points out that the First Amendment doesn’t apply only to the technologies available in the 18th century, so why should the second? Indeed, gun-rights advocates like to insist that the founders would of course have foreseen the technological advances that brought us the semi-automatics and automatics, and probably even weapons of mass destruction. Meanwhile, Glazener points out that there’s no way to put the bullet back in the gun on modern technology. A black market could easily pop up for super-accurate modern guns even if law-abiding gun enthusiasts were forced to stick to muskets.
And, of course, our amendment of the Second Amendment would make it difficult for all those civilians with guns trying to stop mass shootings — which does occasionally happen. Five of 160 mass shootings cataloged by the FBI between 2000 and 2013 saw an armed non-officer open fire on a shooter in defense. However, given that 21 of those shootings were stopped by unarmed civilians — again, according to the FBI — maybe the muskets wouldn’t make a difference.