During remarks made last week about new gun-control measures, Biden said: “And I might add: 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.”
However, some experts said that the president’s assertion is categorically false.
“Everything in that statement is wrong,” David Kopel, research director and Second Amendment project director at the Independence Institute, told The Washington Post.
Kopel noted that when the Second Amendment was ratified, there were no gun control laws in place.
“There were no federal laws about the type of gun you could own, and no states limited the kind of gun you could own,” he said.
In the 2020 presidential campaign, Biden made a similar comment relating to the Second Amendment and who could own cannons during the Revolutionary War.
The Second Amendment, which makes no mention of cannons, reads: “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.”
Washington Post fact-checker Glenn Kessler noted that regarding Biden’s recent comments on cannons, “readers might think this is a relatively inconsequential flub.” But he argued that all presidents have the “responsibility to get American history correct, especially when he’s using a supposed history lesson in service of a political objective.”
“The president’s push for more gun restrictions is an important part of his political platform, so he undercuts his cause when he cites faux facts,” he said.
Other than The Washington Post, Politifact, in a rare rebuke of Biden, wrote that his comment wasn’t accurate.
For its rating, the generally left-leaning fact-checking website cited University of Tennessee law professor Glenn Harlan Reynolds, who said, “The Second Amendment places no limits on individual ownership of cannons, or any other arms.”
Fordham University law professor Nicholas Johnson noted that the first federal gun-control law didn’t “appear until the 20th century.”
The Second Amendment was ratified because American revolutionaries and Founding Fathers felt that “force of arms was the only effective check on government, and standing armies threatened liberty,” according to a 1994 paper (pdf) written by Valparaiso law professor David Vandercoy.
The Federalists and Anti-Federalists who helped frame the Constitution also “both believed the greatest danger to the new republic was tyrannical government and that the ultimate check on tyranny was an armed population,” the paper reads.
Representatives from the White House didn’t respond to a request for comment by press time.