imagined conversations

What the Founders Said About 100-Round Assault-Rifle Magazines

1787: American general George Washington (1732 - 1799) presides over the Constitutional Convention, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, May 25 - September 17, 1787. (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
George Washington ruthlessly mocks Benjamin Franklin at the Constitutional Convention. Photo: Hulton Archive/Getty Images

On Fox News Sunday yesterday, freshman Wisconsin senator Ron Johnson claimed that 100-round magazines of ammunition —  like the one used by Aurora gunman James Holmes when he killed and wounded dozens of people in the span of just a couple of minutes last week — were a constitutionally protected right. Coincidentally, Daily Intel has just come across a previously undiscovered transcript of a June 12, 1787, debate on the Second Amendment at the Constitutional Convention. It reads as follows:


Jacob Broom (Delaware): Very good, then. We are all agreed that — and I quoteth — “the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.”

[The delegates murmur in agreement.]

Benjamin Franklin (Pennsylvania): Just to clarify, gentlemen — does this right extend to a musket capable of firing 100 musket balls in quick succession without the need to reload?

[The delegation erupts into a bout of hearty laughter.]

Charles Pinckney (South Carolina): Good heavens, Dr. Franklin, are you drunk again?

David Brearley (New Jersey): Such a weapon is quite fantastical, Dr. Franklin.

Rufus King (Massachusetts): Quite fantastical indeed!

Alexander Hamilton (New York): Let us not construct our great and noble Constitution around your cider-fueled hallucinations, Dr. Franklin. 

[The delegation once again erupts into a bout of hearty laughter.]

Benjamin Franklin (Pennsylvania):  My esteemed colleagues, I beg of you, in complete seriousness, what if such a musket were to exist some day long into the future? Would the right of the people to keep and bear arms extend even unto such a weapon?

George Washington (Virginia): Yes, of course it will, Dr. Franklin, thank you for your input. [Makes the “glug glug glug” gesture with his hand as the delegation erupts into a third bout of hearty laughter, its heartiest yet.]

The Constitution Protects 100-Round Magazines?