A Maryland historian and author, who used to live in Berks County, fired off an angry letter to a Lancaster newspaper recently, and it ran Monday. Patrick Hornberger — a member of the Pennsylvania Antique Gun Collectors Association, the Kentucky Rifle Association and the Arms and Armor Club — believes the recently signed proclamation naming the Pennsylvania long rifle the official state gun is riddled with errors.
Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett signed the bill into law recently. It originally designated the Piper J-3 Cub the state’s official aircraft, but was amended to add on the state gun designation. It passed the house 157-39 earlier this year. Hornberger says House Bill 1989 makes a mockery of history.
What a shame Pennsylvania — the nationally recognized home of the American long rifle — would celebrate one of its finest artifacts by passing a proclamation in which the history as written is fundamentally wrong. The bill rambles with platitudes containing unproven attributions, historical errors and opinionated statements.
For example, the long rifle did not play an important role in the early years of the industrial revolution — it was handmade — not part of a trend toward manufacturing. The Pennsylvania rifle is not the first American firearm — the New England musket holds that title. It was not developed solely by those gunsmiths in Northampton County as this bill implies.
The bill also designates “artistic riflemaker Martin Meylin” as one of the first to make the Pennsylvania long rifle, but Hornberger says he has not been proven to have been a gunsmith at all. “As no rifle has ever been positively attributed to Meylin,” he writes, “how can his rifles possibly be called ‘artistic’?” A good point.
Hornberger wants the bill to be rescinded and re-written with correct information.