Gun Control – What the Founders Thought


Shortly after the December 2012 mass shooting of children and teachers at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut, many began calling for severe limitations on private gun ownership and even a complete repeal of the Second Amendment, with its constitutional guarantee for citizens to “keep and bear arms.”

David Barton was invited on a one-hour national television program to provide an historical perspective on the issue of gun ownership and gun control. In that one hour show, he presented colonial laws, early state constitutional provisions, statements from the Founding Fathers, positions of various presidents, and court decisions on the issue from both past and present.

In one part of the program, David specifically noted that even in the aftermath of the shootings of Presidents Abraham Lincoln, James Garfield, William McKinley, John Kennedy, and Ronald Reagan, there were not calls for gun control – that even Reagan (while lying in the hospital recovering from the wound) voiced opposition to such efforts. 1

None of these shootings was used as a reason to immediately call for increased regulation of guns, as was done by President Obama in the aftermath of Sandy Hook (thus applying Rahm Emanuel’s axiom to never let a crisis go to waste). But several of David’s obsessive critics, being more concerned with opportunism than truth or context, quickly took to websites and blogs claiming that his statement concerning Reagan was erroneous – that Reagan did support gun control. 2

But David’s statement was completely accurate, for it was ten years after Reagan was shot, and three years after he left office before he declared support for the Brady gun control bill. David had made very clear that his context was presidential responses in the aftermath of shootings; and President Reagan, unlike President Obama, had not used an emotional national crisis to call for gun control.

In another part of the program, David pointed out the Founding Fathers’ emphasis on young people being taught the use of guns from an early age, believing that early training increased gun safety and decreased gun accidents and injuries. This view was clearly articulated by John Quincy Adams.

When he was dispatched by President James Madison as America’s official Minister to Russia, he left his three sons in the care of his younger brother, Thomas. Arriving in St. Petersburg, Adams wrote with specific instructions regarding the education and training of his boys (George, age 9; John, age 7; and Charles, age 3), telling his brother:

One of the things which I wish to have them taught – and which no man can teach 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 arise more frequently from their ignorance than from their misuse of weapons which they know to be dangerous. 3

Expressing similar views, Founding Father Richard Henry Lee, a signer of the Declaration of Independence and a framer of the Bill of Rights, declared:


Thomas Jefferson likewise advised his young fifteen year-old nephew:

In order to assure a certain progress in this reading, consider what hours you have free from the school and the exercises of the school. Give about two of them, every day, to exercise; for health must not be sacrificed to learning. A strong body makes the mind strong. As to the species of exercise, I advise the gun. While this gives a moderate exercise to the body, it gives boldness, enterprise, and independence to the mind. Games played with the ball, and others of that nature, are too violent for the body and stamp no character on the mind. Let your gun therefore be the constant companion of your walks. 5

Having established the early American view of training children with the use and handling of guns, David explained that this practice continued for generations thereafter, even citing an example of students in the Old West who drew their guns at a school house in order to protect their teacher from a potential shooter.

But David’s critics, being unfamiliar with that story and finding it inconceivable that previous generations could possibly think different about guns than they themselves do today, once against took to websites and blogs, claiming that David had made up this story, or that it was completely fictional. 6 They were again wrong.

The account comes from noted western historian, Louis L’Amour, one of the most famous writers of both historical western fiction and non-fiction. L’Amour amassed a personal library of as many as 17,000 rare books/diaries/journals/documents 7particularly focusing on the American west, including numerous handwritten journals of frontier pioneers and settlers. Additionally, he personally interviewed many personalities who had lived in the waning days of the Old West, including gunfighters, cowboys, lawmen, outlaws, and many others. 8 For his outstanding body of work across his lifetime, he received the Congressional Gold Medal and then the Medal of Freedom from President Ronald Reagan. 9

Later in life, L’Amour recorded a number of interviews, relating interesting practices and incidents he had found in his research. In one such interview, he related the specific account (what he called “a true incident”) 10 that David cited – a real-life story that he also included in one of his historical novels 11 (he regularly included numerous true stories and anecdotes from the Old West throughout his stories). So not only did David not make up the anecdote, it actually came from one of America’s most celebrated western historians, who personally attested to its authenticity.

Proverbs 18:17 reminds us that one side sounds right until the other side is presented. The critics presented their side; David presented the truth. Proverbs 18:2 states that “A fool has no delight in understanding, but in expressing his own heart,” and several of David’s fixated critics have certainly done this, raising objections and expressing the hate in their heart without adequately researching their claims. For this reason, we always encourage folks to be thorough in their research and get the rest of the story before reaching a conclusion.

You can also listen to David Barton and Rick Green discuss the topic of gun control on Wallbuilders LIVE!

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I loved the experience that the Patriot Academy gave me. I definitely want to return to the Academy again.



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