You cannot understand the Second Amendment to the US Constitution without some practical experience firing a muzzle loading musket in the context contemplated by a “well regulated militia.”
I’ve owned and fired a Model 1983 Enfield Rifled Musket, the primary tool used by the British Empire from the end of the Napoleonic Wars until the late 19th Century. It was imported and used by both sides during the American Civil War. It’s the rifle used by the troops in the Movie Glory. The Springfield rifle used by most Federal soldiers during the American Civil War is similar. It weighs about nine pounds. It’s five feet long. It comes with a bayonet and it’s solid and heavy enough to serve as a club.
While your history book may tell you that a well trained soldier can get off three aimed shots a minute with such a weapon, my personal best was 34 seconds for a properly seated, aimed and fired round. I might have improved with practice, but actually historic reports tell us that the number of rounds fired by military units in the American Civil War never seem to reach the theoretical three shot per minute rate, which requires the soldier to be standing still, which isn't a way to live very long on a battlefield. Civilian hunting weapons of the period, which were more accurate, took longer to load. The reenactor in the video here isn't firing bullets, which adds a lot of time to the process. He's just pouring loose powder down the barrel, which is the only safe way to do such demonstrations.
I was a Civil War reenactor for several years, Confederate and Federal. Our reenacting unit functioned much like a traditional colonial militia. We had day jobs. Most of us were over 30. The organization had social and political issues. However to get anything done, we had to get together. We had to work out where and when. We had to pack up and transport equipment and supplies. We spent a lot of time waiting around and walking. I never fired more than 20 rounds in a day.
Most importantly we had to drill and apply the tactics of the period. Even without bullets, muzzle loaders are dangerous things. You can’t just run around shooting at things with them by yourself. It’s easy to burn or injure other people. Any hope of accomplishing anything important required massed firepower and coordinated action. You can’t wander off and be a loner. There were no cell phones, radios or PA systems to advise people at a distance that the unit needed to form line and march off somewhere. You had to stay connected to the group.
In the Civil War if you wandered off and didn’t get back, you could be shot for desertion. If you discharged your weapon without orders, you would be punished. In many circumstances, individual soldiers had no ammunition and marched with empty guns and cartridge pouches. Paper ammunition spoiled easily in wet weather. During the Colonial and Revolutionary war era, with even crankier Flintlocks, all of these things were even more true.
In Towns and Cities of the period, militia units were fully integrated into the social life of the community. Local leaders often served as offices and were elected. In the City of Charleston today you can still find several buildings where these organizations met. Many of the organizations still exist today, largely as hereditary social organizations now. In the South, these organizations existed to suppress the possibility of slave insurrections. Charleston had over 20 companies, including an artillery unit.
It is impossible for a person using a weapon like the Enfield or a Flintlock to shoot up a school or theater. After the first shot and long before the second could be loaded and fired, a solitary, socially alienated gunman would have been wrestled down and brought under control. If you were obsessed with weapons and killing innocent people and showed up at a muster, your neighbors in the militia would have figured out something was wrong with you.
Even in the “wild west” people didn’t walk around in town with loaded weapons after an area had been settled for a while. Shootouts were uncommon.
If the community needed to deal with a threat, such as when Francis Marion led my ancestors in a swamp war against the British, you needed help, coordination and recognized leadership.
The development of fixed cartridge ammunition and repeating rifles such as the Henry (like the Winchester) and the Spencer utterly changed combat and the capacity of a lone person to attack the community as the Civil War drew to a close. I’ve faced men armed with repeating rifles in simulations. A lone man with a single shot muzzle loader is completely ineffective against them. 34 seconds is a very long time when your opponent can fire two shots a second. It has been over 100 years since ignoring the original meaning and intent of the second Amendment has become dangerous.
The militia mustering on a colonial square within walking distance of their homes has little in common with a group of socially marginal nut jobs driving into the woods with automatic weapons, far from their communities and neighbors. However it's interesting to note that even the extreme, modern version of the right wing militia hasn't been responsbile for many mass shootings. Most people shot in America are killed by a single person who is making mistakes faster then their weapon is firing. That's true for most drive by shootings as well. Even a really bad group of people exercise restraint one troubled person can lack.
The men who framed our constitution understood a well regulated militia and the weapons people had access to in their technical and social context. The second Amendment they drafted preserved the capacity of the community to defend itself with coordinated action by citizens using the weapons available at the time. Most communities didn’t have a police force at the time.
The founding fathers could not possibly have imagined that the purpose of such a law would be to enable a single person, acting alone to fire fifty rounds into a peaceful group of people in less than a minute. The terror and oppression of such power in the hands of a person acting outside the sanction of the community would have been as offensive to them as masses of Hessian mercenaries ravaging the Pennsylvania countryside. Confronting such a reality, they would change the second Amendment with the same willingness they applied to changing so many other things.