President Joe Biden last week gave a speech on gun violence and gun control, and, as is typical for Democrats, made numerous false claims. The biggest of these whoppers, however, was Biden’s claim that Americans couldn’t buy a gun at the time the Second Amendment was drafted.
During his speech, Biden said:
This doesn’t doesn’t violate anybody’s Second Amendment right…You couldn’t buy a cannon when this amendment was passed. There’s no reason why you shouldn’t be able to buy certain assault weapons.
This isn’t the first time Biden has made this false claim. In June 2021, he made a similar statement, saying “The Second Amendment, from the day it was passed, limited the type of people who could own a gun and what type of weapon you could own. You couldn’t buy a cannon.”
Back then, The Washington Post’s fact checker gave Biden’s statement four pinocchios, the most a statement can receive. Biden has apparently changed his claim over the years, but has never gotten it right. In 2020, he people “weren’t allowed to own a cannon during the Revolutionary War as an individual,” which also isn’t true. At the time he made the claim, historians told PolitiFact that no evidence existed to support Biden’s claim, and Biden’s campaign couldn’t provide any.
One year later, Biden changed his claim to 20 years after the Revolutionary War, but that also is incorrect. As the Post explained:
In fact, you do not have to look far in the Constitution to see that private individuals could own cannons. Article 1, Section 8, Clause 11 gives Congress the power to declare war. But there is another element of that clause that might seem strange to modern ears — Congress also had the power to “grant Letters of Marque and Reprisal.”
What’s that? These were special waivers that allowed private individuals to act as pirates on behalf of the United States against countries engaged in war with it. The “letter of marque” allowed a warship to cross into another country’s territory to take a ship, while a “letter of reprisal” gave authorization to bring the ship back to the home port of the capturer.
Individuals who were given these waivers and owned warships obviously also obtained cannons for use in battle.
Flash forward another year – to last week – and Biden is still making this claim that has been debunked multiple times.
National Review’s David Harsanyi explained that Americans “absolutely could buy a cannon.”
“There is zero historical evidence that Americans were barred from purchasing or constructing any type of weapon they pleased. Not only are there numerous accounts of the American military using, or purchasing, private cannons; privateers — as the name strongly suggests — relied on their own cannons, as well. (For their expedition, Lewis and Clark bought a privately owned small-bore cannon and Girardoni air rifle, which could shoot 30 or more times without reloading,)” Harsanyi continued.
Charles C. W. Cooke, also with National Review, added some information about purchasing a cannon today.
“If the cannon you want to buy was manufactured before 1898 (i.e., it’s a muzzle loading model), you can do so without regulation. If it’s a “saluting cannon,” it’s also exempt. And if it’s neither a “saluting cannon” nor a pre-1898 model, you need to pay a $200 tax stamp, fill in some forms, wait a bit, and . . . well, that’s it. Cannon are categorized as “destructive devices” under the 1934 National Firearms Act, and they’re legal under federal law and in most states. You may have to jump through a few hoops to get one, but get one you assuredly can,” Cooke wrote.