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Fact-check: Does the Second Amendment place limits on individual ownership of cannons?

Austin American-Statesman logo Austin American-Statesman 4/19/2022 Yacob Reyes, PolitiFact.com
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Joe Biden: “You couldn’t buy a cannon when, in fact, the Second Amendment passed."

PolitiFact's ruling: False

Here's why: President Joe Biden announced new regulations to curb the proliferation of so-called "ghost guns," unserialized firearms made from kits.

Biden spoke of codifying a prohibition on manufacturing these firearms without serial numbers, requiring sellers to conduct a background check on prospective buyers, among other rules. He also detailed his desire to see assault weapons and high-capacity magazines banned.

President Joe Biden speaks in the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington, Monday, April 11, 2022, to announce a final version of his administration's ghost gun rule, which comes with the White House and the Justice Department under growing pressure to crack down on gun deaths. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster) ORG XMIT: DCCK328 © Carolyn Kaster, AP President Joe Biden speaks in the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington, Monday, April 11, 2022, to announce a final version of his administration's ghost gun rule, which comes with the White House and the Justice Department under growing pressure to crack down on gun deaths. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster) ORG XMIT: DCCK328

Then the president invoked history to support his stance. 

"From the very beginning, the Second Amendment didn’t say you can own any gun you want, big as you want," Biden said at the press conference. "You couldn’t buy a cannon when, in fact, the Second Amendment passed."

This isn’t the first time Biden made such an assertion about the Second Amendment. Or even the second.

More: Brooklyn subway shooting suspect was traced to firearm. Is it a case for Biden's ghost gun regulations?

During his presidential campaign, he made a similar claim about cannon ownership in the Revolutionary War. We rated that False

Then, in 2021, Biden said the Second Amendment "limited the type of people who could own a gun and what type of weapon you could own." False again.

Replay Video

The Second Amendment did not place limits on individual ownership of cannons.

The text of the amendment is brief: "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."

Though the rights endowed in the amendment are a point of contention for most Americans, the U.S. Supreme Court has maintained that it does confer an individual’s right to bear arms.

"Biden's statement is completely false," said David Kopel, the research director and Second Amendment project director at the Independence Institute. "Neither in 1791 nor in the preceding centuries was there any American law against owning particular types of arms."

Historians have previously told PolitiFact that Biden mischaracterized the history of gun regulation and its ties to the Second Amendment.

The White House did not return PolitiFact’s request for comment. 

While there are robust regulations dealing with gun ownership today, federal gun regulation came in 1934, decades after the Second Amendment was introduced into the U.S. Bill of Rights. That regulation did not rely upon the Second Amendment. 

For Biden, the third time isn’t the charm. We rate this claim False.

Sources

  • Email interview with David Kopel, the research director and Second Amendment project director at the Independence Institute, April 12, 2022
  • White House Briefing Room, Remarks by President Biden Announcing Actions to Fight Gun Crime, April 11, 2022
  • White House Briefing Room, The Biden Administration Cracks Down on Ghost Guns, April 11, 2022
  • PolitiFact, Joe Biden’s dubious claim about Revolutionary War cannon ownership, June 29, 2020
  • PolitiFact, Joe Biden gets history wrong on the Second Amendment limiting gun ownership, June 25, 2021
  • The Washington Post, Biden’s false claim that the 2nd Amendment bans cannon ownership, June 28, 2021
  • National Archives, The Bill of Rights: A Transcription, accessed April 12, 20212
  • Oyez, D.C. vs. Heller, June 26, 2008
  • U.S. Government Printing Office, National Firearms Act - House Ways and Means Committee hearings, April-May, 1934

This article originally appeared on Austin American-Statesman: Fact-check: Does the Second Amendment place limits on individual ownership of cannons?

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