Micheal Moore and the Musket Fallacy

In 1789, the best available military technology was the musket. It was a cumbersome weapon by today’s standards, and had an involved process to load and fire.

However, it was not quite as slow to load as it would appear to modern eyes. A trained soldier, commiting the steps of the process to muscle memory, could be quite a quick shot.

This weapon is the Brown Bess Musket, the standard British infantry weapon for centuries. It had an effective range of about 50 yards, hence the need for volleyed fire. Rifled muskets could be much more accurate at longer distances, but they were comparatively rare until industrialization, and they did not come equipped with a bayonet, which was needful to fight at close distances. So this was the best available military technology of the day.

In writing the Second Amendment, the Founders certainly had in mind that citizens should own what was the best available military technology. That was the whole point of the Second Amendment: that the citizens should be armed, that they may defend their liberty from the grasping state, as the Founders had done themselves.

So Michael Moore is wrong: if James Madison looked into a crystal ball and saw an AK-47 in the hands of a citizen, he would only ask whether the weapon was comparable to that of the US Army. This technology fallacy that gun-control advocates offer relies upon two incorrect premises:

  1. The weapons of the 18th century were not that dangerous, indeed comical in their rate of fire.
  2. The Founders did not intend that citizens should be well-armed, only sort-of armed.

Both of these proceed from ignorance about 18th century warfare.


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