Feb 13 2013

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.

As we’ll see in a minute, Barton not only lies about the John Quincy Adams letter that he uses, but even the part of the letter that he selectively quotes actually contradicts his claim that there were no gun accidents in the founding era. But first, watch, or read, what Barton said about this letter:


BARTON: “Now, here’s John Quincy Adams. He’s overseas, sent there by President James Madison, and he’s got three kids being raised by his brother Thomas. They’re nine, and they’re six, and they’re three.

“‘This is what he writes back. He says, ‘One of the things which I wish to have them taught as soon as possible which no man can teach them better than you is the management of firearms. The accidents which happen among children arise more frequently from their ignorance rather than their misuse of weapons which they know to be dangerous.’ He says, ‘I want you to take George — the nine-year-old — out with you in your shooting excursions, teach him to use the musket. I want you to teach him the construction of the musket, the necessity of prudence of handling the musket, and I want him also to learn the use of pistols, and exercise him at firing at marks.’

“Now, that’s a typical education for a nine-year-old at that time.”

BECK: “And that’s not for hunting.”

BARTON: “That’s not for hunting.”

BECK: “That’s for protection.”

BARTON: “That’s for protection.”


Now, here’s the un-Bartonized excerpt from the letter, with the parts carefully omitted by Barton in bold:

“One of the things which I wish to have them taught, and which no man can teach them better than you, is the use and management of firearms. This must undoubtedly be done with great caution, but it is customary among us, particularly when children are under the direction of ladies, to withhold it too much and too long from boys. The accidents which happen among children arose more frequently from their ignorance, than from their misuse of weapons which they know to be dangerous. As you are a sportsman, I beg you occasionally from this time to take George out with you in your shooting excursions, teach him gradually the use of the musket, its construction, and the necessity of prudence in handling it; let him also learn the use of pistols, and exercise him at firing at a mark.

“In general let him have as much relaxation and sport as becomes his age, but let him be encouraged In nothing delicate or effeminate.”(3)


See how Barton chopped out the line where Adams said that his brother was a “sportsman” so that he and Beck could do their little “That’s not for hunting. That’s for protection” shtick? And firing at marks was also a popular pastime among gentlemen of the era, who typically referred to it as an “amusement” or a “diversion.” Note also that Barton omitted the sentence where Adams said that his reason for wanting his brother to teach his son to use guns was that it was “customary” to “withhold it too much and too long.” Kind of contradicts his and Beck’s claim that “everybody grew up with a gun. And they taught you how to use a gun. It was part of school,” doesn’t it?

But, the biggest contradiction is this: Barton quoted Adams as saying, “The accidents which happen among children arise more frequently from their ignorance rather than their misuse of weapons.” But Barton is claiming that there were no gun accidents at the time. Why on earth would Adams be talking about what frequently caused gun accidents if, as Barton claims, there were no gun accidents?

Not to digress too much, but I can’t help but mention something else here about the way Barton portrays John Quincy Adams and his son George. In addition to the letter about learning to use guns, Barton loves to bring up the letters that Adams wrote to George instructing him on how to read and study the Bible. But what Barton never mentions is how George turned out. What was the result of the strict regimen of Bible study and manly-man activities that Adams imposed upon his son? Well, George took to drinking and gambling, knocked up a servant girl at the home of a family friend, and eventually committed suicide at the age of twenty-eight. Barton never gets to that part of the story.

Now, back to what Barton said on Beck’s show.

After reading from the letters of Jefferson and John Quincy Adams, Barton told his tale about a classroom full of gun-toting elementary school children in the 1850s saving their teacher’s life by whipping out their guns to stop a gunman who came to their school — a story that appears to have come not from an actual historical event, but from the Louis L’Amour novel Bendigo Shafter, as I wrote last week in my post “Is David Barton Now Getting His ‘History’ From Louis L’Amour Novels?” (An update on that post: Barton never answered my email requesting a source for his story.)

At the end of “Bendigo” Barton’s gun-toting students story, he makes his ‘no gun accidents’ claim again:


BECK: “Kids did not shoot each other.”

BARTON: “Oh no. No, no, no. Again, two accidents I have seen in two hundred years of everybody having guns. It just didn’t happen.”


Barton claimed on his radio show to have “searched” and only found two gun accidents in the founding era, but his claim became even more incredible on Beck’s show. Now it’s two gun accidents in two hundred years!

I really have to wonder just where the eminent historian Barton actually “searched” to only find two gun accidents in two hundred years when I was easily able to find countless reports of gun accidents in just a few minutes with nothing more than a quick search of Newsbank’s historical newspapers archive. All it took was simply searching on a few combinations of words that you’d expect to find together in articles about gun accidents.

I found a plethora of articles about hunting accidents and other accidental shootings among adults, but what I primarily want to focus here on the accidents involving children, since Barton’s claim is that all children were taught to use guns and that is why there were no gun accidents.

This is a just small sampling of the articles I found, many of which, as you’ll see, sound just like the articles you see today — most of them ending with warnings to parents about leaving guns around children or letting children play with guns, and many of them noting that gun accidents were a very frequent occurrence:

From the Pennsylvania Packet, Philadelphia, December 16, 1783:

“We hear from Weymouth, that last week the following melancholy accident happened there: As a number of young men were out a hunting, a musket accidentally went off, by the discharge of which, one person was considerably wounded, and another by the name of Lovell, instantly killed: In which event, a promising youth of about 17, was torn from the enjoyment of his parents and friends, who pungently feel the loss.”


From the Vermont Gazette, Bennington, Vermont, September 3, 1787:

“Monday last a daughter of Mr. Ichabod Allen of this town, aged eleven years, was instantly killed with a pistol, by her brother, who is about six years old. The particulars of the unhappy catastrophe, as related by the distressed family, (the parents being absent when the accident happened) are, That the pistol had been loaded, extremely heavy a few evenings before, by a young man of the family, with intent to shoot an owl; that he laid the pistol upon a shelf near the chamber floor, but the little boy finding where the pistol was laid, and having been frequently indulged in snapping and playing with it, found means by setting a chair against the wall and climbing upon the back of it, to get the pistol down, unknown to the family, and went out to play with it as usual. At the time the girl was killed she was sitting in a sleigh box before the door, holding an infant in her arms; the whole charge of the pistol lodged in her body just above the left breast, which put an immediate period to her existence. It is supposed the boy must have been very near her, when the pistol went off, as there was nearly forty shot holes in a space but little bigger than the circumference of a dollar.

“A solemn warning this to all parents and guardians of children not to teach them to use, or even so much as to suffer them to play with such weapons before they arrive to years of discretion.”


From the Massachusetts Spy, Worcester, Massachusetts, October 1, 1789:

“At Capeelizabeth, on Saturday the 5th inst., James Mayo, a child of two years old, was shot through the head by his brother, a boy about 12, who was playing with a loaded musket — The jury were of the opinion that the child’s death was accidental.”


From the Herald of Freedom, Boston, February 2, 1790:


“We learn from Shaftsbury, in Vermont, that a number of small boys were lately hunting there when one of them, named Ebenezer Bottom, was pushing a wad into his gun with his finger at the same time that another boy was priming it, the gun discharged, by which accident Bottom was badly wounded in the hand, and John Welsh, son of Mr. Ebenezer Welsh, of Norwich, was shot in the body and died in a few days after. — This affords a melancholly caution to parents not to trust their children with guns till they have discretion to know how to use them.”


From the Litchfield Monitor, Litchfield, Connecticut, August 17, 1791:


“Saturday last, the following melancholy accident happened in the parish of North-Hampton. — A son of Mr. John Page, about 12 years of age, went into the house of a negro family, in his father’s neighbourhood, (the negro man and his wife were absent, and had left three or four children at home, the eldest about 7 years old) and observing a loaded gun in the corner of the room, he immediately took it into his hands, cocked it, and drew it by the muzzle to the door, when by some accident it went off, and discharged its contents of powder, shot, and wadding into his breast and out at his back, which put an immediate period to his existence.

“We hope the above will serve as a caution to parents how they leave implements of destruction in the way of their children.”


From the Weekly Register, Norwich, Connecticut, March 13, 1792:

“The following accident happened in this city last Saturday — A loaded musket being left standing in the corner of a room in the house of Mr. Charles Jeffry, jun. a neighouring boy came in and took the musket to the door, where he discharged it; a girl of Mr. Jeffry’s about seven years old, at the same instant coming in the door, the charge went through her arm, which took it off.”


From the Litchfield Monitor, Litchfield, Connecticut, May 1, 1793:

“Winchester, April 10, 1793:

“On Tuesday the 9th inst. William Case, aged 18, son of Mr. William R. Case, of this town, died of a wound received in his right arm by the accidental discharge of a musket. The Wednesday preceding his death, the deceased, in company with a young man of the neighbourhood, went in pursuit of ducks: On their way to the pond, the unfortunate, being forward of his companion, whose gun unhappily went off, the contents was lodged as above; and notwithstanding every means and effort of the faculty and his friends, he died a few days after the accident. He was a promising youth, much endeared and lamented by his parents, and all his acquaintance. — It is hoped that this accident, among others, will be a lesson of caution to those who either for sport or exercise make use of fire arms.”


From the Rising Sun, Keene, New Hampshire, October 6, 1795:


“Last week, at Chesterfield, a young man by the name of Johnson, about 16 years of age, was handling a loaded musket, it accidentally went off and discharged the contents into his throat, which killed him instantly.”


From the Philadelphia Gazette, September 12, 1795:


“On Tuesday last, a daughter of Mr. Thomas Davis, formerly of this place, was at a Mr. Strutton of Amherst, near Buffaloe river, and no person being present but children, a little son of Mr. Strutton, took up a loaded rifle, and while handling the piece, unfortunately discharged the ball through the head of Mr. Davis’ daughter, at which instant she fell, and lay a considerable time before any grown person arrived. — A lesson to the incautious heads of families.”


From the Rural Repository, Leominster, Massachusetts, June 2, 1796:

“ACCIDENT. — In Hopkinton, last week a boy, about 14 years old, was shot by accident, as follows: another boy who was with him, not knowing the gun to be loaded, pointed at his side, and snapping it, the gun being charged, its contents entered one side — medical assistance was called; but, alas! too late — Death had seized him.”


From the New-Hampshire Gazette, Portsmouth New Hampshire, May 15, 1798:

“A very unfortunate accident happened in Orford on the 13th of April last. A son of Mr. Platt’s and a son of Mr. Hogan’s, were accustomed to play with an unloaded musket; it being loaded, unknown to the boys, when the parents were gone out, they took the gun as usual, it went off, and the contents went through the head of the latter, which put an instant period to his existence. — This is a warning to all who own muskets, to keep them secure from children when loaded.”


From Greenleaf’s New York Journal, New York City, June 10, 1796:


“Last Sunday se’nnight as two lads were playing with a gun, which was very imprudently laft in their way, loaded, at a house in Chatham street, the contents discharged into the bowels of the youngest (about 6 years old) and he expired in a few hours. How many fatal accidents proceed from carelessness.”


From the Independent Chronicle, Boston, May 17, 1798:


“On Saturday last at Malden, the following unfortunate event took place: — As Mr. John Hancock, was sitting in a chair after dinner, sportively instructing a young man, who had taken up a gun, which had been charged the day before, in the manual exercise; when Mr. H. directed him to take aim and fir, he received the contents into his head, which instantaneously put an end to his existence, Æt. 37. Let this be a warning to all young people, how they sport with arms, and heedlessly trifle with instruments of death.”


From the Farmer’s Cabinet, Amherst, New Hampshire, January 3, 1804:

“On Sunday, the 18th inst. Abigail Underwood, a deserving woman, æt. 24, was killed by a discharge of a musket loaded with shot, at the house of Messrs. Wiswall and Moore, paper makers, in Waltham. — A youth came into the room where she was cutting the hair of an acquaintance, took up a gun, and snapped it twice, when it went off, and carried one half of her head with it. — The verdict of the jury — Accidental death. It is much to be lamented that the frequent repetition of similar disasters to the above, does not prevent persons suffering loaded guns to be in dwelling houses.”


From the Albany Gazette, Albany, NY, September 17, 1804:

“Melancholy Accident. — On Friday last, Henry Selden, aged 13 years, son of Mr. Joseph D. Selden, of this village, left home for the purpose of hunting pigeons. Not returning in the evening, his parents were much alarmed; but flattered themselves that he had fallen in company with a young man who was also absent, and that they had tarried the night, that they might be on the ground for hunting in the morning. The latter, however, returned at about noon on Saturday, without having seen the former. The people then collected and commenced a search for him. — The had not proceeded far, before he was discovered on the side of a ledge of rocks about half a mile east of the village, and lifeless. From the situation in which he was found, it is presumed that he had discovered some game at the top of the ledge, which is so steep as to be almost inaccessible, and was endeavoring to approach near enough to make a shot. To facilitate his ascent, he had left his shoes a little distance below. His gun was standing several feet above where he was lying, and in an erect position against the side of the ledge; which renders it possible that he first climbed up the rock, and while in the act of drawing his gun after him it went off. The contents entered the side of his head, and must have put an immediate period to his existence.

“Thus has been cut off, in the morning of his days, by one of those accidents to which we are every day liable, a promising youth, the eldest hope of his fond parents! And thus are their expectations blasted in a moment! — Scarce a week passes without bringing us accounts of lives being lost through the careless use of fire-arms. We wish the publication of them might produce the proper effect. But although we have little expectation, still we indulge a hope, that this melancholy event will operate as a warning to parents and others; that it will be productive of caution, and in some measure prevent the occurrence of similar accidents.”


From the Weekly Visiter, Kennebunk, Maine, January 6, 1810:


“On Monday the 23rd of October last. Mr. Ira Sweet, being in the house of George Tuttle, of Winchester, who was he neighbor and intimate friend, took a musket in to his hand, which was in the room, and having sat down in a chair, laid the musket across his knees, he then opened the pan, as he says, and seeing no powder therein, imprudently cocked and snapped the piece, which discharged its contents (being loaded with common shot) through the neck and lower part of the head of a sprightly little boy, three years and five months old, the son of Mr. Tuttle, and who sat within a few feet of the muzzle — An instant period was put to his life.

“On the recital of such shocking occurrences, it is the duty of all people to consider the consequences of the common heedless use of fire arms. View the scene which took place in the above case, and similar the too frequent cases of like nature — There were several persons in the house; the mother in an adjoining room, hearing the tremendous roar of a gun in the midst of her family, succeeded by shrieks of those present, exclaimed, “somebody is killed, who is it?” She was answered in a frantic tone, “It is your son.” She was met in a cloud of smoke by the agent, with the lifeless boy in his arms; his head hanging down with large streams of blood pouring therefrom. The parental agonies in such cases, will admit of no description or consolation.

“The actor of this tragic scene, tho as free as any man from any evil design, cannot acquit himself from gross imprudence, and must feel agonies, perhaps equally keen with parental, tho’ of another kind, and which may not forsake him until his dying day. The relations, neighbors, and intimate connexions of the bereaved, must feel the most poignant grief, and the community at large must sympathize therein, and regret the loss on such occasions. And as fire arms, those instruments of death, are promiscuously in the hands of children, and men, of the imprudent, as well as the prudent, the intemperate as well as others; whoever, after such repeated warnings, presumes to use them in a heedless manner, so as to endanger or take the life of man, would do well to remember that they must be accountable to God the judge of all, and who will suitably punish such outrageous conduct.”


Gun accidents among adults were, of course, also frequent. Many were hunting accidents, but a surprising number were the result of grown men doing incredibly stupid things like this:

From the Weekly Oracle, New London, Connecticut, April 29, 1797:

“Philadelphia, April 15.

“On Friday, the 7th inst. a sea-faring man, who had bought an old pistol at Gonaives, arrived at his lodgings near Almond-street, and seeing a man snapping a musket at different persons in a jocular way, bethought himself of his pistol, which, taking from his chest, he primed, and affixed to it a new flint — when, melancholy to relate, after he had snapped at several persons, it went off, and took from society a worthy young man, about 19 years of age, of the name of David Harrington.

“It is to be hoped, this, with the many other instances of a like nature, may prevent the foolish custom of wantonly playing with those dangerous machines.”


There were also numerous accidents on militia training days. A good number of these accidents happened during actual training, but many more happened before and after the actual training, and were caused by militiamen playing with their guns and showing off. A frequent cause of these training day accidents was the practice of a group of militiamen going to an officer’s house to “give him a gun” or “give him a morning gun,” which meant showing up early in the morning to “salute” the officer by waking him up with loud gunfire.

From the Herald of Freedom, Boston, October 23, 1788:

“Portsmouth, (N.H.) October 18.

“We hear from Concord, that on Tuesday last, (it being parade day with one of the company’s there) several young men went to the house of one of their officers, to give him a gun, as it is termed. For this purpose, they loaded their pieces very heavy; one of them, a Mr. Scales, put in a very extravagant charge, and upon being cautioned that the gun would burst, he replied, I will venture it. Being arrived at the door, Scales discharged his piece, which immediately burst, the force of which whirled him round opposite to the muzzle of one of his companion’s piece, which being discharged in the confusion, the contents were lodged in his body, and wounded him in such a manner as to occasion his dissolution before the close of the day. May his fate serve as a warning to others, how they persevere in a practice which has often proved fatal to the lives of many.”


Yeah, Mr. Barton, I know you have your own personal library of over 100,000 old books and documents that you’re always bragging about, but maybe you might want to invest in a subscription to Newsbank’s old newspaper archive the next time you’re gonna “search” for something.


1. Albert Ellery Bergh, ed., The Writings of Thomas Jefferson, vol. 5, (Washington D.C.: The Thomas Jefferson Memorial Association, 1907), 85.
2. Ibid., vol. 19, 447.
3. Worthington Chauncey Ford, ed., Writings of John Quincy Adams, vol. 3, (New York: The Macmillan Company, 1914), 497.


Skip to comment form

  1. 1

    Impressive article…which I accidentally reported as “spam” on Facebook. Why on earth are they using an “x” for “report” placed where you would usually hit an “x” to close a window? Sorry about that. I also can’t figure out how to unreport my accidental report. Why not just a box with “report” on it?

  2. 2

    Barton’s audience is begging to hear those sorts of lies. He (and Beck and others) will never stop telling them because that’s what makes them rich – and if they are being rewarded then they must be doing good…

    When they are laying on their deathbed, they will be utterly convinced that they are leaving the world a better place than it was before they arrived.

  3. 3
    Kilian Hekhuis

    Apart from the fact that accidents indeed happened in those days, we must also not forget that modern weapons are probably far easier to discharge, especially more than once, and are much more acurate as well.

  4. 4

    Do all those reports of firearms accidents prove that the lieberal media has been with us longer than previously suspected, or that George Soros has used his time machine to plant more than just Hawaiian birth notices?

    Also, slightly off topic, but in context this appears to be said with some approval:

    You took your guns to church — you were required by state law in some states to take your guns to church.

    So Barton’s in favour of government regulation of religious practice then?

  5. 5
    RW Ahrens

    A great uncle of mine, in 1917 or thereabouts, was killed at the tender age of 17, two days before reporting to the Navy, which he had just joined. He and a friend had gone into his dad’s office over the garage, and just goofing off, took up a pistol his dad had left in his desk. His friend pointed the pistol at my great uncle, and said, “if you were a burglar, this is what I would do!” And pulled the trigger. The bullet hit the young man in the head, killing him instantly.

    A more modern incident that puts the lie to accidents only happening to the ignorant is the video of the cop giving the lesson to a room full of children in a local school, who shot himself in the foot upon putting his pistol back in its holster! Yeah, familiarity with guns prevents accidents, riiiiiight…

  6. 6
    Tsu Dho Nimh

    It is much to be lamented that the frequent repetition of similar disasters to the above, does not prevent persons suffering political delusions to be in broadcast studios.

  7. 7
    Kevin, 友好火猫 (Friendly Fire Cat)

    Is it just me, or were newspapers back in the later 18th century just really really dramatic?

  8. 8

    I love the language of old newspapers

    “The actor of this tragic scene, tho as free as any man from any evil design, cannot acquit himself from gross imprudence, and must feel agonies, perhaps equally keen with parental, tho’ of another kind, and which may not forsake him until his dying day.”

  9. 9

    Is it just me, or were newspapers back in the later 18th century just really really dramatic?

    If not dramatic, at least melancholy.

  10. 10

    Not the colonial era, but Mark Twain thought these kinds of stories were common enough that he made fun of them in “Advice to Youth” in 1882:

    ” Never handle firearms carelessly. The sorrow and suffering that have been caused through the innocent but heedless handling of firearms by the young! Only four days ago, right in the next farm house to the one where I am spending the summer, a grandmother, old and gray and sweet, one of the loveliest spirits in the land, was sitting at her work, when her young grandson crept in and got down an old, battered, rusty gun which had not been touched for many years and was supposed not to be loaded, and pointed it at her, laughing and threatening to shoot. In her fright she ran screaming and pleading toward the door on the other side of the room; but as she passed him he placed the gun almost against her very breast and pulled the trigger! He had supposed it was not loaded. And he was right — it wasn’t. So there wasn’t any harm done. It is the only case of that kind I ever heard of. Therefore, just the same, don’t you meddle with old unloaded firearms; they are the most deadly and unerring hings that have ever been created by man. You don’t have to take any pains at all with them; you don’t have to have a rest, you don’t have to have any sights on the gun, you don’t have to take aim, even. No, you just pick out a relative and bang away, and you are sure to get him. A youth who can’t hit a cathedral at thirty yards with a Gatling gun in three quarters of an hour, can take up an old empty musket and bag his grandmother every time, at a hundred. Think what Waterloo would have been if one of the armies had been boys armed with old muskets supposed not to be loaded, and the other army had been composed of their female relations. The very thought of it make one shudder.”

  11. 11
    Raging Bee

    … It’s not being familiar that makes it dangerous.”

    And that’s why criminal gangs are no threat at all to their neighbors, and no one ever complains about them except gun-shy liberal peacepussies.

    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 …

    Mr. Jefferson was an Ivy-League nanny-state commie?!! Say it ain’t so, you fat socialist poopyhead! How can anyone be free if students can’t use guns to protect themselves from foreign ideas or too much homework?! IS NO ONE THINKING OF THE (OVERGROWN) CHILDREN??!!

  12. 12
    Raging Bee

    Is it just me, or were newspapers back in the later 18th century just really really dramatic?

    Compared to today’s “news” papers’ use of bland euphemisms to downplay dramatic stuff like torture and war crimes, yeah, newspapers were pretty dramatic back then.

  13. 13

    I can’t afford to but Nielson ratings but I do want to know what Barton’s numbers are for the past five years.

  14. 14

    …gun accidents just didn’t happen in the founding era!

    Technically, if this were somehow true, it would be a pretty good argument for limiting weapons to late 17th-century flintlocks and whatnot. Because gun accidents sure happen now (not even counting intentional incidents). I don’t think that’s what he was going for though.

    Now, must finish reading.

  15. 15

    I might have meant 18th-century flintlocks and whatnot (whistles to self, looks around, shuffles feet). I’ve been parked in Medieval reading mode and apparently have lost ability to count much beyond the beginning of the early modern.

  16. 16

    Yeah, it’s an anecdote, but still, I took an important lesson from it:

    A friend of mine taught me to shoot and is an excellent, respected instructor. Has taught countless adults and kids how to use firearms safely and appropriately. Very nice guy, but also very calm, sober and serious. One day (I’ll skip identifying details), he injured himself seriously with a gun. To do this he made at least three very obvious mistakes, and some less-important but probably relevant peripheral ones. When I heard about it I was in stark disbelief; he just wouldn’t DO those things. He felt the same way. But he did.

    Thankfully surgery mostly repaired the damage, but we both took it as a lesson that NO ONE is immune from accidents and mistakes. And while proper instruction and good habits absolutely help, I think he’d agree with me that Barton’s talking out of his ass, as usual, to suggest they can virtually eliminate accidents.

  17. 17

    …the result of grown men doing incredibly stupid things…

    Wait just a minute. That’s unpossible. Stop the hate – are you nuts? :)

    On a serious note, this is a great rebuttal against Barton’s imaginary research and the magical thinking that it supports and I hope it gets wide circulation. I’ve bookmarked this page for future reference.

  18. 18
    Pierce R. Butler

    … you were required by state law in some states to take your guns to church.

    Which states, Barton, which laws?

    Did you read that in a Longarm story?

  19. 19
    Chris Rodda

    @ Pierce R. Butler … I answered that question in my first post about Barton’s Second Amendment lies. There were laws requiring people to bring guns to church, but they all had something to do with the militia — like in Virginia where the militia had mandatory target practice on Sundays, and in Georgia where all militia age men had to bring their guns to church for inspections to prove that they had what was required by law for militia service.


  20. 20
    Chris Rodda

    brucegee1962 @ 10

    LOVE the Twain satire! If I had known about it I would have added it to my post!

  21. 21
    Pierce R. Butler

    Chris Rodda @ # 19: … the militia had mandatory target practice on Sundays…

    Thanks for filling me in on what I skimmed too hurriedly before.

    Was the target practice before or after the potato salad, lime Jello casseroles, and Bingo games?

  22. 22

    While they weren’t exactly founding fathers, Wild Bill Hickock and Wyatt Earp are pretty famous for their respective pistol usage. Of course, Wild Bill accidentally shot his good friend Mike Williams to death in the middle of a gun fight because he shot without checking to see whom he was shooting at. And Earp accidentally shot himself in his ass or leg (accounts vary) when his pistol fell out of his pocket.

    But real gun experts never have accidents.

  23. 23


    Is there any way I might submit a cartoon to you that I have created. Subject: Barton & Beck. I would send it with no strings attached. you could use it, or not, however you may see fit. It expresses in graphic form my feelings about those characters, which I have a harder time expressing verbally. I have no other potential outlet for it. Please let me know if you are at all interested, and how I might send it to you. Thank you.


  24. 24
    Chris Rodda

    @ gfeltham …

    Sure … just friend me on Facebook and you can post it on my wall (friends can post new posts; friends of friends can only comment). There are lots of anti-Barton and anti-Beck people on my FB page who will see it and probably share it.


  25. 25
    Marcus Ranum

    Napoleon Bonaparte shot out Marshall Massena’s eye during a hunting accident. While the situation may, at first, seem Dick Cheney-like, there are several differences: Napoleon was not shooting at caged birds and Napoleon acknowledged his mistake and apologized profusely.

  26. 26

    For some reason my comments on Barton’s Facebook page about Chris Rodda were deleted.

  27. 27

    Chris, very well done and thanks so much for all the effort you put into revealing Barton’s misrepresentations. Several years ago when I was first “growing out” of my faith, I attended a church where the pastor used Wallbuilders for a July fourth sermon. I was told sometime later that that sermon was the most requested sermon (on tape or cd) for the entire year. I’m still a little surprised as to how eagerly everyone lapped it up.

    Fight the good fight,

  28. 28
    Stan Ulrich

    Another great foray into the swamp, Chris! One thing that is true-ish about Barton’s claim — it was far more difficult to accidentally blow off your friend’s head with a flintlock than with a modern automatic or revolver. But that doesn’t support Barton’s point, since he simply doesn’t ever have any facts to prop up his faith-based history, as you demonstrate time after time!

  29. 29

    One of the problems with muzzle loaders is that it is difficult to tell whether or not they are loaded. When doing restoration work on antique firearms it is frequently necessary to remove the breech plug, which is screwed in place. Sometimes it is required that the barrel be heated with a torch to free it. The restorer is well advised to push a dowel down the barrel to make sure it bottoms on the breech plug to ensure that the gun is not loaded. Many still are.

  30. 30

    I’ve always stuck a bullet puller down the barrel just to be sure.

  31. 31

    There are two sources of error that I see in Barton’s statements.

    The first is that, as he openly states, is that “everybody was hauling guns back then”. In a previous statement he told a story that showed that he thought it was entirely probable that children in schools would have guns. This is BS. Guns were expensive to buy and costly to fire. Most frontier families only had one. Often this was a large-bore muzzle loader that could be loaded with a lead bullet for large game or shot for small game. Farmers commonly substituted small stones or bits of glass for the much more expensive lead when shooting at varmints and pests. Accuracy was emphasized to save of the cost of shot and powder. A common assertion of a person’s worthlessness was the comment that they weren’t ‘worth the cost of powder and shot it would take to kill them’.

    As understand it the vast majority of people went the forth unarmed the vast majority of the time. The exceptions were people with specific reasons to carry a gun. According to at least one recorded account by a cowboy the main reason they carried a gun was to shoot the horse if they were dismounted and being dragged. Evidently, this was a major concern. Farmers kept a gun around primarily to shoot pests and kill livestock but it also might be employed to defend the family. Assuming the farmer had the time to get back to the house and load it. The photographs and drawings of the time seldom depict farmers carrying a bulky long gun while working away from the house, and pistols were considered unsuitable for what a farmer did.

    The evidence, contrary to what we see in movie westerns, seems to be that only a small proportion of people routinely carried a gun.

    The second error is that Barton is assuming that because they don’t often show up in the literature accidental discharges and shootings didn’t happen. There are two obvious explanations. First is that nobody wrote about it because it didn’t happen. The second is that accidents were so common that they were not seen as exceptional, or worth mentioning.

    I think that what was happening is that accidents infrequent simply because most people didn’t carry guns around. But also, for those commonly walking around with loaded guns, not so infrequent as to be something ‘to write home about’. Everyone needs to remember that death was pretty common in the past. Even a minor injury could kill you if it got infected, neither sterile technique nor antibiotics were used. Many surgeons only washed their hands AFTER the operation, to get the blood off. There were few standards for food or water and diseases, because they didn’t understand the cause, appeared out of nowhere, swept across the population, and disappeared for no known reason. Sickness and death by disease or accident was so common that it was unremarkable if not associated with a crime or historic event.

  32. 32

    As an erstwhile professional in the security industry, and with a 23 year career in the Marines prior to that, I have to say that there is no such thing as an “accident” when it comes to handling guns. Many years ago, the terminology was updated to change “accidental discharge” to “negligent discharge” (ND). Anyone handling a gun who uses the tripe “it wasn’t loaded” after they have had an ND deserves whatever punishment can be meted out – it should never be dismissed as an accident. Anyone who leaves a loaded weapon where a child can get to it and subsequently shoot someone also deserves punishment.

    All that aside, Barton and Beck are morons, and I wouldn’t trust either with a loaded weapon anywhere near me, for fear of a negligent immediate period to my existence.

  33. 33
    David Dougherty

    ‘Once you’re familiar with them, you don’t have accidents with them.’

    Tell that to US Rep. Jim Langevin (D-RI) who was paralyzed in a shooting accident:

    ‘As a 16-year-old, Langevin was critically injured while working with the Warwick Police Department in the Boy Scout Explorer program. A veteran officer handling a .45-caliber semiautomatic pistol, not realizing a round rested in the chamber, pulled the trigger, bouncing a bullet off a metal locker and striking the teenager in the neck, severing his spinal cord.’

    Yes, accidentally shot while in the locker room of a police station.

  34. 34
    Raging Bee

    …Napoleon acknowledged his mistake and apologized profusely.

    Yeah, and where did being politically correct get him? WATERLOO! True story. That’s what you get when you take surrender-monkeys for role models.

  35. 35
    Raging Bee

    … I have to say that there is no such thing as an “accident” when it comes to handling guns.

    I sort of agree, but I think one might re-word that, more in line with what we say about cars: “Accidents don’t happen — they are caused.”

  36. 36
    Pieter B, FCD

    @jaranath #16

    To do this he made at least three very obvious mistakes, and some less-important but probably relevant peripheral ones.

    Familiarity breeds carelessness. I suppose that’s a form of contempt, or at least disrespect.

  37. 37

    Yeah, Mr. Barton, I know you have your own personal library of over 100,000 old books and documents that you’re always bragging about, but maybe you might want to invest in a subscription to Newsbank’s old newspaper archive the next time you’re gonna “search” for something.

    You don’t even need to that subscription. Google has a book search. From the advanced search, one can filter by year.

    Results with the words gun and accident prior to 1801

    Yes there are many false positives, but appropriate hits are there.

  38. 38

    I don’t watch Beck so the ending of the first video really surprised me. Beck’s studio is a replica of the Oval Office? Really? That’s waaaaay beyond hubris.

  39. 39

    While clearly this is not from the founding era, here is some more evidence that concern about guns is hardly new. Years ago I listened to a collection of old radio shows, it included:

    Dragnet — “.22 Rifle for Christmas” (Aired on NBC radio on December 22, 1949)

    I did not know until searched for it that the same story was remade for TV a few years later.

    One generally thinks of 1940s police as being conservative and likewise Jack Webb. But I guess they are now liberal hippies according to the gun nuts.

  40. 40

    Barton: “Once you’re familiar with (guns), you don’t have accidents with them.

    Then why did this policeman teaching a GUN SAFETY CLASS shoot himself?

  41. 41

    All this “putting an immediate period to his existence” business sounds awfully final. I’m a little surprised that there isn’t the occasional consoling mention of the afterlife.

    Perhaps journalists were more professional in those days.

  42. 42

    FYI, more info about gun accidents in the 1860s: http://blog.pennlive.com/gettysburg-150/2013/02/gettysburg_150_patriot_union_-_13.html#incart_mrt

  43. 43

    That’s what you get when you take surrender-monkeys for role models.


  44. 44

    There are two sources of error that I see in Barton’s statements.


    the real source of Barton’s errors, is that Barton deliberately lies.

    end of story.

Leave a Reply