Thanks to an astute commenter on my post from last week, “A Debunking of Pseudo-Historian David Barton’s Book on the Second Amendment” (which I posted on Huffington Post as well as here on FTB), we may now know the source of one of the tales that Barton has been telling to promote the idea that not just teachers — but students — should be armed in schools.
I began my post with a few quotes from Barton, one of which was a story he told on Glenn Beck’s web-based TV show 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.
This was the ‘historical’ account related by Barton told on Beck’s show on January 15:
“The great example, in the 1850s you have a school teacher who’s teaching. A guy — he’s out in the West — this guy from New England wants to kill him and find him. So he comes into the school with his gun to shoot the teacher, he decides not to shoot the teacher because all the kids pull their guns out and point it at him and say, ‘You kill the teacher, you die.’ He says, ‘Okay.’ The teacher lives. Real simple stuff. Saved the life of — there was no shooting because all the kids — we’re talking in elementary school — all the kids pull their guns out and says, ‘We like our teacher. You shoot our teacher, we’ll kill you.’”
I assumed that Barton was either exaggerating a real story or just making the whole thing up, but since he didn’t give any source for the story or enough specifics to fact check it, I thought it would be impossible to find out whether or not there was any truth to it. I didn’t even consider that it might have come from a novel, but when a commenter on my previous post noted the striking similarity between Barton’s story and a story from the Louis L’Amour novel Bendigo Shafter, I downloaded the Kindle version of the novel and checked it out.
I wasn’t about to read an entire Louis L’Amour novel, but read enough to get the gist of the story:
The teacher in L’Amour’s novel was Drake Morrell, a gambler and gunfighter who had killed five men. Morrell was sentenced to be hanged in San Francisco, but somehow escaped and ended up in a town in Wyoming, where he became a respected citizen and, of course, the school teacher. But he was still being pursued by a character named Stacy Follett. Years earlier, Morrell had exposed that Follett and his friends were cheating at cards. Two of Follett’s friends had confronted Morrell with guns, and Morrell had shot and killed them. Follett caught up with Morrell and went to the school where he was teaching to kill the now respectable school teacher, who was defended by his gun-toting students.
Here’s how the character Follett recounted the incident at the school to another character in the book when asked if he had killed Morrell:
“… And then I looked at him over my cup. “Did you kill Drake Morrell?”
He chuckled again. “Decided agin it.” He sipped his coffee. “You know somethin’? After he started that there schoolteachin’ I figured I had him dead to rights. I laid out for him, waitin’ until he was out of school, and when he come out the door, I shaped up with my old Betsy girl here” — he slapped his rifle — “right on his belly. I had him where he couldn’t move. There was youngsters all around him, and he stood there lookin’ at me and never turned a hair. He had sand, that Morrell.”
“Has. He’s still around. You want to know what happened? I nigh got myself kilt. Five or six of them youngsters, weren’t but two of them upwards of twelve or thirteen, they outs with their six-shooters and had me covered.
“They told me he was their teacher and he was a mighty good one and if I shot him they’d fill my hide.”
He chuckled again. “An’ you know somethin’? They’d of done it, too.”
“Nothin’. I pulled down my flag. Pulled her down right quick. I never seen so many youngsters with six-shooters.”
Remarkably similar to the story Barton told on Beck’s show, isn’t it?
So, did Barton get his piece of ‘history’ from Bendigo Shafter? Only Barton can prove that he didn’t. I therefore challenge David Barton to provide a source for the story he told on Beck’s show, and have sent the following email to Barton’s WallBuilders “research department” to give him the opportunity to do so:
It has been pointed out that the story you told on Glenn Beck’s show on January 15, 2013 about the classroom full of armed students in the 1850s saving their teacher from a gunman bears a remarkable similarity to a story in the Louis L’Amour novel Bendigo Shafter.
To prove that you did not present this fictional story as real history, can you please provide the source for the story you told on Beck’s show?