Did Ronald Reagan oppose James Brady on gun control? No, David Barton, Reagan favored the Brady Bill (UPDATED)

UPDATE and Correction (2/26/13): David Barton responded to this post on his website in an article dated 2/21/13. He (or someone – the article speaks about him as if someone else wrote it) wrote:

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. 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. 1But 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.

To get the context, here again is what Beck and Barton said about Reagan at about 3:53 into the video (embedded below):

Beck: The guy who was shot and almost died on the table, Ronald Reagan – what did he do?

Barton: Fought gun control, was not going to allow it, and it didn’t, I mean it didn’t for 15 years. So you had the press secretary of Reagan [James Brady, who was also shot during the assassination attempt on Reagan] who is for it but Reagan himself said, no, no, no, we punish the perpetrators, not taking everybody’s guns away and we just fought that.

To me, the context does not make it clear that Barton was only talking about the post-assassination attempt period. Beck asked Barton what Reagan did on gun control and the correct answer would have been he initially opposed it but later changed his mind and favored the Brady bill.

However, my post does not make Reagan’s early opposition clear and I should have done so. Reagan did sign a gun control law while governor of California and while president signed a bill in 1986 which restricted new ownership of automatic weapons. However, that same 1986 bill relaxed some restrictions previously in place and Reagan had expressed opposition to strict gun control proposals. Thus, the proper response to questions about Reagan’s position is that he changed his mind over the years and came to favor some gun control proposals.

Barton also claims that prior incidents of gun violence did not bring calls for gun control. This is simply incorrect. Perhaps the sitting president in each case did not call for gun control but such proposals have been made by other political leaders in reaction to gun violence throughout our history. A quick review of the ProQuest database of newspapers finds many such calls after the attempt on Reagan and the murder of John Lennon a year before. Earlier, the National Firearms Act of 1934 was in part a response to mob violence at the time.


(Original post begins here)

With the national conversation on the 2nd Amendment, David Barton is out talking about the Second Amendment and his version of history. In this clip with Glenn Beck, he links the formation of the National Rifle Association to KKK busting activity — something not even the NRA does. But for the purpose of this post, I want to note how he misleads viewers about Ronald Reagan’s position on gun control. First watch (transcript of section from 3:53 to 4:11):


Beck: The guy who was shot and almost died on the table, Ronald Reagan – what did he do?

Barton: Fought gun control, was not going to allow it, and it didn’t, I mean it didn’t for 15 years. So you had the press secretary of Reagan [James Brady, who was also shot during the assassination attempt on Reagan] who is for it but Reagan himself said, no, no, no, we punish the perpetrators, not taking everybody’s guns away and we just fought that.

Barton is off here. In the past couple of days, conservatives have been writing about Reagan’s views on gun control. As they point out, Reagan favored the Brady Bill and in 1991 wrote an op-ed for the New York Times advocating passage of the bill. Brady was for modest gun control and Reagan did not say no, no, no.

Writing in the Hartford Courant, Brett Joshpe reminds us that Reagan favored some gun control proposals. Joshpe notes that Reagan might be considered a traitor in his own party by today’s standards. Reagan’s op-ed in the NYT left no doubt where he stood:

This level of violence must be stopped. Sarah and Jim Brady are working hard to do that, and I say more power to them. If the passage of the Brady bill were to result in a reduction of only 10 or 15 percent of those numbers (and it could be a good deal greater), it would be well worth making it the law of the land.

In the op-ed, Reagan noted that he had signed a gun control law while Governor of CA. Furthermore, Reagan opposed the availability of assault guns. In 1994, Reagan joined former presidents Carter and Ford to favor a ban on the manufacture of assault weapons (also see these remarks on AK-47s). They wrote:

“This is a matter of vital importance to the public safety. . . . Although assault weapons account for less than 1% of the guns in circulation, they account for nearly 10% of the guns traced to crime. . . .

“While we recognize that assault-weapon legislation will not stop all assault-weapon crime, statistics prove that we can dry up the supply of these guns, making them less accessible to criminals.

“We urge you to listen to the American public and to the law enforcement community and support a ban on the further manufacture of these weapons.”

Clearly, Reagan’s views were misrepresented on the Glenn Beck show. Reagan did not oppose James Brady and did not say no, no, no.

UPDATE: Thanks to The Blaze for updating their article to reflect this post and Reagan’s actual position on the Brady Bill.

Also, I asked gun control expert UCLA prof Adam Winkler if the NRA was started in part to drive out the KKK as Barton told Beck, and he replied briefly: “No.” See his tweet here.


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  • Bernie

    Another misrepresentation from Barton? No, you can’t be serious? (sarcasm wholeheartedly intended)

  • David Cary Hart

    I was shot point-blank with a .45 in the hands of a presumptive prohibited purchaser. In the competition of bullet and body parts to occupy the same place at the same time, the bullet always wins.

    The problem with people like Barton, Beck, Pratt, LaPierre et al is that gun violence is an abstraction. Their point of view would change instantly if they, or a family member, experienced some hot lead.

    BTW, one thing that victims never say (including me) is: “If I had only been carrying a [name a WMD], I would not have been shot.”

    I am frankly astonished that conservative Christians (arguably a generalization) do not agree with me that we need gun accountability to limit the carnage.

  • Tom Van Dyke

    Would Ronald Reagan have supported President Obama’s &/orNY Gov. Cuomo’s 2013 governmental reactions to the Newtown shootings?

    The dude shot his own mother in the face first, fer crissakes, Warren.

    With all due respect. Reagan’s post-presidential support for the 1991 Brady Bill is not an endorsement of what President Obama and Gov. Cuomo are up to in 2013.

    Exchanging half-truths with David Barton furthers the American discussion not atall.

  • Tom – What half truths are you referring to? I am not seeing anything in my post which says Reagan would agree with all of Obama’s current moves.

  • Zoe Brain

    Oceania has always been at war with Eastasia….

    I hope everyone gets the reference.

  • Richard Willmer

    No, Zoe! Oceania is at war with EURASIA. Oceania has ALWAYS been at war with Eurasia. 🙂


    David Cary Hart says: ‘ BTW, one thing that victims never say (including me) is: “If I had only been carrying a [name a WMD], I would not have been shot.” ‘

    I think this is a really good point.

  • ken

    Tom Van Dyke says:

    January 16, 2013 at 10:52 pm

    Wow. I can’t tell whether you are really that clueless as to miss Warren’s point or if you are such an apologist for Barton you have to try to divert the discussion every time some one points out Barton’s misrepresentations.

    Warren never mentioned Obama, either directly or in the text he quoted. He was simply pointing out that Barton as once again distorted an old dead white guy’s views in order to push his own political agenda.

    And I too would like to know what “half-truths” you believe Warren as said.

  • Tom Van Dyke

    Did Ronald Reagan know how the unconstitutional the Brady Bill actually was when in his post-presidency he “supported” it?


    The reader of the linked article [the “links” all harken back to the same Hartfort Courant piece] will never know.

    Well, they know now–although Reagan was OK in principle with some of the philosophy of the Brady Bill, it’s doubtful he was aware of its unconstitutionality. And this, Brother Ken, is what we might call the whole truth, not just correcting Barton’s errors.

    As for anti-gun legislation and blacks being left defenseless against the tyranny of the white mobs, I think there may be more to the whole truth than one might suspect from this discussion, although not having researched it for myself, I’m not prepared to litigate it at this time. But narrowly parsing David Barton is a hunt for error, not a search for truth, and partisans and advocates ought to learn the damn difference.


  • Tom – I don’t see what Reagan’s foreknowledge has to do with Barton’s spindoctoring. Makes my head hurt.

    Your link goes to a post about the NRA chartering Williams in the 50s. Says nothing about the founding of the NRA which is all this post is about.

    In my view Barton’s ideas about government are frequently wrong and he makes up stories to support his wrong headed notions. However, we can’t have a conversation about the substantive issues until we get a common set of facts.

  • Well, actually this post is about Brady and gun control and not Williams – that is today’s post.

  • Tom Van Dyke

    Well, there’s nothing about the germ of truth in the new one either, that a) Anti-gun laws were used to keep blacks defenseless from racism and b) That the NRA was of at least some help.

    Further that as it turned out, much of the Brady Bill was later found unconstitutional in Printz. And that Ronald Reagan also signed the 1986 Firearms Owners’ Protection Act, which likewise corrected unconstitutionalities in existing law. With only the Hartford Courant piece as the jumpoff point, the reader would unavoidably get the impression that reagan was more in sympathy with the current anti-gun nuts like Obama than the gun nuts like the NRA.


    So sure, if any of your readers actually saw the Beck/Bartonpiece, you have caught his error. Everyone else, the larger majority of your readers, are just as ignorant as they started, indeed perhaps more ignorant as they be less open to the germ of truth that lies in the middle of all this controversy–that anti-gun laws have indeed been the ally of tyranny in the United States. It can’t happen here? it already has.

    If I’m being too hard on you for solely focusing on Barton’s errors than seeking and explaining the larger truths about the current controversy, I’m sorry. But parsing Barton [and other such fish in barrels] often buries more truth than it reveals. Your extreme readers are satisfied with a narrow focus on the errors of the “other side.” I am not.

  • ken

    Tom Van Dyke says:

    January 17, 2013 at 4:47 pm

    “Did Ronald Reagan know how the unconstitutional the Brady Bill actually was when in his post-presidency he “supported” it?”

    Probably not. But that is completely irrelevant to the question at hand. which is did Reagan oppose. as Barton claimed or did he support it as Warren claimed. Your question is no more relevant than “Did Reagan agree with the SCOTUS decision on the Brady bill?” You keep trying to divert the issue with irrelevant points. Warren wasn’t giving a “half-truth” simply because he didn’t try to claim he knew what Reagan was thinking (or would have thought) if Reagan could see the future to know how the SCOTUS would rule.

  • Dave

    Hi Thom,

    My own memory of Reagan was/is that he was not always in favor of gun control. But there is obviously a more nuanced picture of Reagan than Barton and company are putting out. As for what he signed being declared unconstitutional .. I would consider that irrelevant to this subject .. the issue is what Reagan’s ( nuanced) views were. ..not whether the laws he signed were able to pass constitutional muster or not.

    As for the “anti gun nuts” as you call them .. well..with that statement you now enter culture war mentality Thom.. Here we are trying to have a civil conversation and you break into name callling. I am kind of surprised at this as this is not your usual mode of operation.

    I am not against some gun control laws .. though I question that such laws will do much to curb certain people from doing terrible things. I also doubt that the founding fathers .. when they wrote the second amendment .. were thinking of assault rifles / semiautomatic weopons They only had muskets. Times change .. technology changes .. and when that happens .. things need to be reconsidered. And .. no .. I don’t think that means I support tyranny. ..another (IMHO) extreme expression on your part. Again .. its the culture war and each side is armed with over the top expressions of their views.

    Its an important topic .. but one that requires sensible conversation ..not with a blind adherence to laws written 200+ years ago in a different time and not with the emotionaly naivety of presuming we can stop all violence with gun control .. Its a tough question and a topic that I am sure we will be wrestling with for some time.



  • Tom Van Dyke

    As for the “anti gun nuts” as you call them .. well..with that statement you now enter culture war mentality Thom.

    Well, I spoke of anti-gun nuts and gun nuts in the same sentence followed by a smiley. 😉

    As for “blind adherence” to a 200+ yr old document, we’re getting into Ezra Klein territory, that the Constitution is old and hard to understand. Bollocks!

    Actually, I’m quite in favor of “binding [potential tyrants] with the chains of the Constitution,” as someone said back in the day. The only other solution is open war, force against force.

    And I think the experience of a disarmed black America ought to give us pause that such things cannot happen in America. Google the “Deacons of Defense.” Yes, we have come a long way in the 50 years since, but in another 50 years from now, I’d rather trust our heirs with the means to resist such tyranny than trust in the good intentions of governments and men.

    As for punking David Barton, I find his critics aren’t above reproach either, and usually find some interesting germ of truth under Barton’s confusions. And we can’t let the useful idiots of liberal fascism have all the dirty fun now, can we?

  • Dave

    @ Tom .. Once again .. taking past each other .. I understand the constitution just fine .. I also understand that the right to defend one’s self and bear arms is different than the right to have a weapon of mass destruction. A crazed person with a musket is going to get off one .. maybe two shots in a school or mall or theater before someone takes them down. Give them a semi automatic weopon (converted to an automatic one) and even armed police will have trouble stopping them. Times change .. people change .. and technology changes .. When that happens things need to be re-assessed .. its a normal part of progress as culture moves forward.


  • oft


    The framers put no limits on owning guns, and James Wilson said as much in the Convention when speaking on the Bill of Rights(on my blog). No line can be drawn in a right that is unalienable besides allowing mentally challenged people to access them. That people change or Progress of any sort is irrelevant with unalienable rights. It is man’s sinful heart that is the problem, not weapons.

  • oft – One could make a case that laws restricting all sorts of freedoms are due to man’s sinful hearts. There are restrictions on other basic freedoms (speech, religion) that we acknowledge, and the same can be Constitutional for the 2nd amendment. Your right to bear arms does not mean you have the right to bear any arm you want. I do not want my neighbor to have access to WMD.

  • Tom Van Dyke

    No line can be drawn in a right that is unalienable

    This is actually the question the nation needs to discuss. I think lines can be drawn such as those Dave limns above–you can’t have a howitzer, sorry. OTOH, the right to self-defense [incl against tyranny, not just for personal safety] is indeed in the American scheme of natural rights, which differs from European [even British] notions of social contract*.

    I see many folks these days say we give up our natural rights when we “enter” human society, but this is not exactly correct in the context of the American Founding:

    We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.

    Governments do not grant rights, they do not allow us weapons for self-defense. That right is unalienable. Governments are formed to protect such rights, not dispense them.

    As for the rest of this discussion, I find the Hartford Courant article a dishonest jumpoff point. As for David Barton, as prev noted, there’s often a real germ of truth under his confusions [I think he was trying to get at a Reagan speech which emphasized the role of the bad guys].

    To merely parse Barton facially is to hate error, but that’s not the same thing as loving truth. To love truth is to try to see what he’s getting at, and honesty requires [shudder] even helping him with his argument when necessary.

  • Richard Willmer

    I just find it very very hard to understand the idea of ‘bearing arms’ as an ‘inalienable right’, especially when some of the same people who assert this ‘right’ wish to deny others the ‘right’ to have legal recognition for ‘partnering’ with a person of their choosing.

    I just don’t get it. Period.

  • Richard Willmer

    (Furthermore, if due democratic process were to lead to the removal of this so-called ‘right’, then it would no longer be a ‘right’. That’s how democracy works.)

  • Tom Van Dyke

    Aye, Mr. Willmer. Natural rights are pre-political. Governments are instituted among men to secure them.

    But under “social contract,” all rights become merely political, conventional [by convention, agreement] and are therefore “alienable” by popular sentiment.

    This is the biggest area of miseducation in America today, IMO, the nature of “rights.” The Second Amendment was to secure an existing natural right, not to create one politically. Indeed, that’s why some opposed the Bill of Rights, as unnecessary. And the Ninth Amendment, to make sure that in enumerating certain natural rights, we did not limit them, reads:

    The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.

    IOW, the Second Amendment is not the only guarantee of the natural right of self-defense of life and liberty. That natural right is pre-political, nondependent on the 2nd Amendment. To argue that one can defend life and liberty in this day and age without a decent gun would be the real ignorance of the times a-changin’.

  • oft

    Warren wrote:One could make a case that laws restricting all sorts of freedoms are due to man’s sinful hearts.

    What does that have to do with the 2A?

    There are restrictions on other basic freedoms (speech, religion) that we acknowledge, and the same can be Constitutional for the 2nd amendment.

    Those restrictions are against actions that subvert public order. It does not pertain to the 2A.

    Your right to bear arms does not mean you have the right to bear any arm you want.

    As long as it’s a gun I do.

  • Richard Willmer

    @ Tom Van Dyke

    I understand entirely your point. The right of legitimate self-defence (of one’s personal integrity and/or personal honour) must indeed be understood as ‘pre-political’ if democracy is to ‘work’. But this does not mean that there should not be a discussion regarding the practical application of the Second Amendment in these days of automatic weapons that are arguably more than may be required for ‘legitimate self-defence’.

    In democracies, it is not unusual – indeed it is very common – that the applications of ‘rights’ are regulated by laws (‘freedom of speech’ is a classic example, with things like libel and hate speech laws existing to help people to defend their personal integrity and personal honour).

    Given that the US murder rate is around four times that of the UK, one must surely wonder if ‘bearing arms’ is the key to ‘self-defence’. (Britons were also given the ‘right to bear arms’ in the late 17th century – i.e. around a century before the Second Amendment was promulgated; this ‘right’ is now heavily regulated by statute law, and this Briton for one is happy with this state of affairs.)

    @ oft

    Does the Second Amendment specifically mention ‘any kind of gun’? I don’t think so!

  • Tom Van Dyke

    In democracies, it is not unusual – indeed it is very common – that the applications of ‘rights’ are regulated by laws

    Regulated, OK. Especially by the states, not by the central gov’t, but “federalism” is an alien concept to you Brits. Although your Scots are about sick of you English and vice-versa and I don’t blame any of you.


    I’m sick of all of you, esp telling us Americans what’s what, you pathetic bastards and that goes for you too, Piers Morgan.

    Some rights are “political,” like trial by jury, but some rights are natural and therefore unalienable. You poor bastards. You gutless bastards. Not only do you surrender your guns to your government time after time after time, you even let your king take over the church!

    Bollocks, man. Bollocks!

  • Richard Willmer

    Calm down, dear!

    All I am saying is that the genuine discussion on gun laws now taking place is right and proper in a democracy.

  • Richard Willmer

    (I would also say that your characterization of the relationship between the English and the Scots is somewhat simplistic: considering my great grandparents, I’m part Scot, part English, part Welsh, part American and part ??? [for reasons with which I won’t bore readers of this blog], so tend not to like to indulge in ‘racial stereotyping’ – it never ‘works’ for me!)

  • Richard Willmer

    @ oft

    You have said (entirely correctly, I’m sure) in response to Warren’s comment about ‘restriction’ on exercising ‘rights’: “Those restrictions are against actions that subvert public order.”

    Surely inappropriate firearms in the hands of at least people is a masive threat to public order, as well as to the lives of children? Surely the precise manner in which this ‘right to bear arms’ may be exercised is something that needs honestly to be addressed? (I find the apparently ‘this cannot be discussed’ line on the part of ‘second amendmentists’ very difficult to understand.)

  • Richard Willmer

    Whoops … should have said: “Surely inappropriate firearms in the hands of at least certain/some people is a massive threat to public order …”

  • Michael C

    Hi Tom, If I am interpreting your string of comments correctly, you are defending Barton’s “truth” despite his factual errors. While I understand that a broad understanding of (in this case) Reagan’s views on gun control is important to the discussion, Barton has a history of fabricating facts to support his own personal and often subjective truth.

    I think the reason behind Warren’s post has less to do Reagan’s politics than with Barton’s misuse of facts to support his position. If the actual truth supports Barton’s assessment, he has no need to misrepresent facts.

  • Tom Van Dyke

    I cannot explain the mind of David Barton. He gets some stuff extraordinarily wrong, for example reading John Adams’ mockery of the Holy Ghost in politics as an endorsement of it.

    However, I have noticed his critics punt a few too, or frame the issue at hand so narrowly that Barton’s errors and not what he happens to get right are all one is told about.

    Frankly, I don’t give a damn about him or what he says on Beck’s little cable channel that fewer people watch than Al Gore’s. It’s only when this stuff is posted at my home blog [American Creation] do I even notice.

    So while looking up the latest refudiations of Barton, I usually run across interesting things that aren’t in the refudiations [such as the Brady Bill’s unconstitutionalities, or the rest of Reagan’s gun record or the role of race in gun control] and post them in places such as this, since I’ve already taken the trouble to look them up.

    Make of it what you will. Quis custodiet ipsos custodes? Who watches the watchers?


    Barton does get some things right–or nearly right–and Beck has tres credible historians such as Thomas Kidd from Baylor on as well. But anyone who consumes only a diet of Barton criticisms would never know that. It’s not all fish in a barrel.

  • oft


    Christians will always win this debate:

    “The great object is, that every man be armed. […] Every one who is able may have a gun.”

    — Patrick Henry, speech of June 14 1788, VA Ratifying Convention.

    There were mental hospitals around at that time. Henry knew if you fail to immediately execute anyone–as GW did with Nathan Hale, who didn’t murder anyone– that committed murder or other sick crime the framers enumerated in Law, combined with discarding the principles in the Northwest Ordinance, Columbine is what will be.

  • Richard Willmer

    @ oft

    What has any of this got to do with Christianity?

  • Richard Willmer

    (Just in case anyone was about to claim that some kind of ‘gun control’ might be somehow ipso facto ‘anti-Christian’, I would say that it is IMO extremely difficult to use the teachings and example of Christ, who, according to the essential doctrine of orthodox Christianity, embodies inter alia the Fulfilment of the Law and the Prophets [and thus the essential thrust of Scripture in its entirety], to make a case for the ‘right’ to bear any firearm of one’s choosing. And it is Christ we must worship, not selected utterances of Patrick Henry, however worthy an individual he [Henry] might have been.)

  • Richard Willmer

    @ oft again

    BTW, I don’t see the logic in your statement about Martin Hale and the tragedy at Colombine. Hale undertook a dangerous mission, and paid the ultimate price for it. I don’t think that GW had anything to do with his execution – surely it was the British who executed him? And what has any of this to do with Colombine?

  • oft


    Yes, the Bible affirms the right to bear arms. That is where the framers got it from. GW executed Hale when Hamilton and others begged him not to.

  • Dave

    @ oft .. Really!! Chapter and verse please..

  • ken

    oft says:

    January 22, 2013 at 11:58 am

    “GW executed Hale when Hamilton and others begged him not to.”

    What?!?! I think you’ve been getting to much of your history from Barton. Nathan Hale was executed by order of General William Howe of the Britsh army.

  • oft


    I meant Andre. Our rights are unalienable from God. The framers’ God was Jesus Christ.

    “You do well to wish to learn our arts and ways of life, and above all, the religion of Jesus Christ. These will make you a greater and happier people than you are. Congress will do every thing they can to assist you in this wise intention.”

    –GW, speech to the Delaware Indian Chiefs (May 12, 1779)

    “”I now make my earnest prayer that God would have you and the States over which you preside in his holy protection; that he would incline the hearts of the citizens to cultivate the spirit of subordination and obedience to government …; and, finally, that he would be most graciously pleased to dispose us all to do justice, to love mercy, and to demean ourselves with that charity, humility, and pacific temper of mind which were the characteristics of the divine Author of our blessed religion, and without an humble imitation of whose example in these things we can never hope to be a happy nation.

    –GW, Governors of the several States in June, 1783,

    The Founding’s religion was Christianity

    The sword was the finest offensive weapon available to an individual soldier—the equivalent then of a military rifle today.

    Luke 22:36–38 (NKJV)

    36 Then He said to them, “But now, he who has a money bag, let him take it, and likewise a knapsack; and he who has no sword, let him sell his garment and buy one.

    The Philistines tried to prohibit the Israelites from getting weapons:

    1 Samuel 13:19 (NKJV)

    19 Now there was no blacksmith to be found throughout all the land of Israel, for the Philistines said, “Lest the Hebrews make swords or spears.”

    Again, to demonstrate the Biblical heritage of individuals bearing and keeping arms, during David’s time in the wilderness avoiding capture by Saul, “David said to his men, ‘Every man gird on his sword.’ So every man girded on his sword, and David also girded on his sword” (1 Sam. 25:13).

    Some States mandated if you DIDN’T carry a gun, you paid a fine or if you didn’t carry a gun into church!

    “[T]he militia shall always..include, according to the past and general usage of the States, all men capable of bearing arms.”

    –Richard Henry Lee- Letter XVIII Jan. 25, 1788. Ratifier of the Constitution, Framer of the Bill of Rights. [bold face mine]

  • Richard Willmer

    @ oft

    One verse from Luke MIGHT (with a good deal of imagination) be interpreted in that way. Pretty tenuous, I’d say. (It could have been a piece of practical advice in the particular situation that transpired. And some commentators suggest that this ‘sword bit’ was an addition to the original text – after all, it does sit very oddly with the main thrust of all four of the Passion narratives, which shows clearly that Christ offered no resistance to those who would kill him. Furthermore, in the Holy Gospel according to Saint John, the Lord rebukes Peter for using a sword to wound a slave of the High Priest. And in Saint Luke’s account, the Lord heals the slave.)

    One really cannot base an entire political outlook on just one verse of Scripture taken totally out of context.

    (As for 1 Samuel 25 : 13: for goodness sake, man, David was miffed with someone who was rude to him … and, in my view, David [who, despite his greatness, was no ‘angel’] was, on this occasion, behaving like a spoilt child! Context!!!)

    @ ken

    I’m sure you’re correct about Hale … General Howe ordered his death.

  • Richard Willmer

    (Just a bit more on Luke 22 : 36 – 38. In v. 38, Jesus said that two swords were ‘enough’. That would mean that all but two of his followers were NOT ‘bearing arms’. Just a little detail! But I thought it worth mentioning …)

  • Dave

    @ oft .. Your use of scripture to support gun rights is IMO as a Nazarene Pastor .. one of the worst cases of bible eisegesis I have ever seen. FYI: Eisegesis is putting a meaning into the text that is not there based on your own biases and agenda. I would love to see what you do with verses that speak of beating your swords into plowshears or that say that those who live by the sword will die by the sword.

    As for the founders being Christian .. some of them were Christians .. some of them were deists .. and some of them were theists .. All of them were politicians .. which means they used the language that the people (who were predcominantly Christians) would best receive and support.


  • oft


    I am in seminary right now and would caution you making statements without properly sourcing your claims. There were not “some” deists, rather, based on the 18th century definition of the term, there was probably one deist and not more than you could count on your right hand.

  • Richard Willmer

    @ Dave

    It was a desperate throw (and maybe my fault, because I had said that it would be very difficult to construct an argument for ‘bearing arms’ as a ‘right’ from the Gospel accounts – i.e. the most important parts of the Canon of Scripture) … I doubt even ‘oft’ is daft enough to think anyone would actually swallow it! If they agree with ‘oft’ over guns, it is probably for reasons other than his theological … (can’t quite find the word)!

  • Richard Willmer

    @ oft

    Obviously, both Dave and I have been somewhat dismissive of your claim re. the verse from Luke.

    With respect to your ‘snippet’ from Samuel, a general (and more serious) point: it is not the case that, just because certain portions of biblical narrative relates instances of ‘arms being borne’, we should conclude that it is a ‘God-given right’ to ‘bear arms’, or even that it is right (as in ‘not wrong’). There are plenty of instances in the O.T. of ‘how NOT to do things’ and ‘how people got it wrong about God’ (this point was well made by a preacher I heard recently in an avowedly ‘bible-based’ church in CT) – instances from which we can learn useful lessons as people of the New Covenant. Yes, all Scripture is useful and instructive, but not always ‘exemplary’ in what is recounted therein. (Of course, God does not desire the kind of slaughter one can read about in the O.T.; if he did, then the Christ who said “Forgive!” was surely misrepresenting him!)

  • Richard Willmer

    Well, the Crime Survey for England & Wales for 2012 was published yesterday.

    In Inner London (pop. c. 7 million), the number of persons that were victims of (alleged) murder was 99 (the first time in over 40 years, a period which has seen a number of ‘gun control’ measures be introduced, that it was fewer than 100).

    Six of these (alleged) victims lost their lives in a situation involving a firearm – which is six too many, of course.

  • Dave

    @ oft.. Seminarian or not, your scripture quotes hardly support the alleged right of every human being to bear arms. Along with the verses I gave you I suspect you would have considerable difficulty with what Paul says in Romans 13 .. re: that government gets its authority from God and thus .. government does not bear the sword in vain. This biblical directive would throw a pretty major monkey wrench in the ideology that people should have arms so that they can rise up against government if it becomes oppressive. I would add that I have never heard anyone try to use scripture to justify the right to bear arms. Any discussion on this or questions of the role of government would be complex especially when you consider that there were no democracies in scripture… all they knew were kingdoms.

    As for our forefathers.. whether they were deists or theists it is not the same as being a Christian. Just because someone uses the word “God” in a sentence does not make them a Christian. And .. since they were politicians .. what they said in public and what they believed in private can be two different things. This is why, for example, Jefferson kept his “Jefferson Bible” hidden. He knew it would not sit well with Christians. Our forefathers were brilliant men in their time period who created and moved forward a type of government / nation that had never been seen before. But they weren’t all followers of Jesus Christ.

    Back to the topic at hand ..

    I don’t know if a reasonable discussion is possible with you. Gun control would IMO fall under a discussion of ethics. The assumptions you are making from scripture and the assumptions you are making about the forefathers of America are secondary to that discussion. All rights .. whether the right to bear arms .. the right to free speech .. or even the right to pursue happiness are limited by how the exercise of those rights interferes with the rights of others. This is where the meat of the discussion lies. Is the right of people to have health insurance and emergency health care trumped or limited by the moral views of your employer .. whether that be a Catholic Church run hospital or Hobby Lobby. Does your right to free speech (which does give you the right to question govt. without penalty) include the right to slander and threaten government officials and their families and/or does it include yelling fire in a theater. Does the right to bear arms include the right of your mentally unstable neighbor to have a semiautomatic weapon? These are all ethical questions. Simplistic assumptions or conclusions are not going to work here.