I had a conversation with a coworker a while back that explored the idea that the 2nd Amendment referred to single shot flintlock weapons. Weapons like the ones available to the people at the time the Constitution was written. His point of view was that, since he only wanted reasonable restrictions, as a citizen, I should only be allowed to own single shot rifles, pistols and shotguns. They could be modern designs, use a cartridge and all that, but only load one round at a time, since that was all that the Founders could possibly have meant.
Ignoring the question of cannons and sabers, buckets of boiling oil, tomahawks and spears, I decided to see if he meant what he was saying. I asked him if he really thought it would be acceptable for me to “keep and bear” a single shot pistol. He said yes. Interesting, I said, and you support a movement that would allow a citizen, in every state to keep and bear such a weapon? Yes, he agreed.
Great, I said. I accept. Everywhere, all the time, airplanes, courthouses, Washington, D.C., bars, schools. I’m willing to be limited to a one shot pistols, as the Founders were, as long you make no law infringing on my right to keep and bear arms.
Sadly, no, he didn’t really mean it. At the logical conclusion of his thinking process, he decided that even a single shot pistol was too dangerous to allow citizens to carry without infringements.
I go further and affirm that bills of rights, in the sense and to the extent in which they are contended for, are not only unnecessary in the proposed Constitution but would even be dangerous. They would contain various exceptions to powers which are not granted; and, on this very account, would afford a colorable pretext to claim more than were granted. For why declare that things shall not be done which there is no power to do? Why, for instance, should it be said that the liberty of the press shall not be restrained, when no power is given by which restrictions may be imposed? I will not contend that such a provision would confer a regulating power; but it is evident that it would furnish, to men disposed to usurp, a plausible pretense for claiming that power. They might urge with a semblance of reason that the Constitution ought not to be charged with the absurdity of providing against the abuse of an authority which was not given, and that the provision against restraining the liberty of the press afforded a clear implication that a power to prescribe proper regulations concerning it was intended to be vested in the national government.
–Alexander Hamilton, Federalist Papers, Number 84