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David Barton Claims That Gun Accidents Just Didn't Happen in the Founding Era -- Yeah, Right


After a decade of debunking pseudo-historian David Barton's claims about American history, it's pretty hard for anything that comes out of his pie hole to surprise me, but even I was taken aback by the utter preposterousness of one of his latest claims -- that gun accidents just didn't happen in the founding era!

Explaining on the January 14 episode of his WallBuilders LIVE! radio show why some people just don't understand that you need good guys with guns to stop bad guys with guns, Barton said:

"That's what these guys do not see and do not look at. They're just flat scared of guns. And the solution to that is exactly what the founding fathers said and that is you start teaching kids to use guns when they're very young because gun accidents are caused by non-familiarity with guns. Once you're familiar with them, you don't have accidents with them."

He then made the incredible claim that gun accidents just didn't happen in the founding era, saying:

"I have searched and in the founding era I think I've only ever found two gun accidents, and everybody was hauling guns back then. You took your guns to church -- you were required by state law in some states to take your guns to church. We didn't have accidents because everyone was familiar with how to use them. It's not being familiar that makes it dangerous."

The next day on Glenn Beck's web-based TV show, Barton made the same claim, after first explaining that the reason people were so familiar with guns back then was that everyone was taught how to use them as part of their education.

BECK: "So, everybody grew up with a gun. And they taught you how to use a gun. It was part of school."

BARTON: "That's right"

Barton then proceeded to pull out a few letters from the founders to prove that using guns was a usual part of education back in the founding era. He first quoted a few lines from a letter written by Thomas Jefferson to his fifteen-year-old nephew in which Jefferson told his nephew to take a two hour break from his studies every day to exercise. The exercise that Jefferson recommended was long walks, and he told his nephew to take his gun with him on his walks. This letter is neither here nor there. It says nothing about teaching the use of guns being part of school. All it says is that Jefferson thought that walking and shooting were good ways to exercise and "relax the mind," and recommended them to his nephew over "games played with the ball, and others of that nature," which he warned were "too violent for the body, and stamp no character on the mind."(1)

Barton, who is certainly familiar with the rules set down by Jefferson when founding the University of Virginia, (since he cherry picked quotes from these rules when concocting his lie about Jefferson establishing theological schools at the university), seems to have forgotten that Jefferson didn't even allow students to keep guns at the university, let alone making them a part of their education. The university rules, written in 1824, stated:

"No student shall, within the precincts of the University, introduce, keep or use any spirituous or vinous liquors, keep or use weapons or arms of any kind, or gunpowder, keep a servant, horse or dog, appear in school with a stick, or any weapon ..."(2)

But it's the second letter that Barton read (or paraphrased) on Beck's show that he and Beck flat-out lie about. This letter was from John Quincy Adams to his brother Thomas. Adams had left his two oldest sons, George and John, in Massachusetts with an elderly aunt and uncle while serving as foreign minister to Russia, and was becoming concerned about George, whom he was hearing from family members was becoming effeminate, lazy, and a discipline problem. George was getting his academic education in school, but Adams wanted his brother, who also had a son, to step in and take charge of George's extra-curricular activities.