Replica cannon, cannonball, entry hole, house (Post Chronicle photos)
54-year-old William Masur, a resident of Georges Township, Fayette County, Pennsylvania (about 35 miles/56 km. southeast of Pittsburgh) is an arms collector, a historical reenactor, and an enthusiast who also builds replicas of antique arms.
Last Wednesday, Masur was testing an 80lb/36.4 k. replica of a French and Indian War cannon firing a 2 lb./.9 kg. projectile. Unhappily, the cannonball hit a rock and ricocheted into the side of a house 400 yards/366 m. away. The cannonball penetrated an exterior wall breaking a window in the process, passed through another wall inside the house, and ended up in a closet. Fortunately, no one was injured.
Masur apologized for the mishap, and promised to stop testing his replicas anywhere remotely near human habitations, but as the original story from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette indicates, official reaction was swift. The replica cannon was confiscated, and Masur was charged with reckless endangerment, criminal mischief, and disorderly conduct.
All the facile hoplophobic condemnation from the mainstream media provokes in me a certain sympathy for Mr. Masur. Doubtless the accident was a very unfortunate thing, and someone certainly could conceivably have been killed or injured (in which case Mr. Masur would have had some very serious liability problems). Realistically though, it seems obvious to me that the cannonball’s ricochet was fairly improbable. Its then actually hitting a house was even more unlikely, and so on. On the whole, I’d really rather live in a country in which eccentric people are free to do unusual things like firing off cannons, even if that involves some modest risk of misadventure, than live swaddled in so much safety that anything fun, adventuresome, and entertaining to do is utterly precluded by law.