Proponents of stricter gun control have a problem with the Second Amendment: “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.” One of their arguments is that our Founding Fathers could not have imagined the rapid fire weapons of today. But, in fact, during the time of the American Revolution there were at least two weapons that could fire much faster than the standard muzzle-loading flintlock rifle of the time. (h/t Syver More).
In 1718, James Puckle invented and patented what was essentially a machine gun. According to Wikipedia, the Puckle gun “had a pre-loaded cylinder which held 11 charges and could fire 63 shots in seven minutes [9 shots per minute]—this at a time when the standard soldier’s musket could at best be loaded and fired three times per minute.” The gun was intended for use aboard British ships to repel boarders. Although the Puckle gun was never widely used, it was known at the time of the American Revolution, and the concept was certainly known since Leonardo da Vinci designed a rapid fire weapon in 1481 (see here).
Another relatively rapid fire weapon was the Ferguson Rifle invented by British officer, Major Patrick Ferguson. The Ferguson Rifle was a flint lock, but it was breech loading rather than the standard muzzle-loaded rifle. It could fire up to seven rounds per minute, two to three times faster that the muzzle-loading weapons of the day. This rifle was used by the British against the Americans in 1777. For more information and a video of a re-enactment firing of the Ferguson Rifle, go to this link.
The “failure of imagination” argument falls to the facts of history.