I recently purchased David Barton’s book on the Second Amendment and had planned a mini-series on it. However, Chris Rodda beat me to it with several detailed posts on his book and other statements Barton has made recently. This post just gives some examples and points you to her articles.
First, regarding Barton’s book on the Second Amendment, Rodda takes several citations from Barton’s book and demonstrates how he edits them to suit his purposes. For instance in his book, Barton quotes the legal scholar Blackstone on the right to bear arms (location 73).
“Concerning the right of citizens to own and use arms, Blackstone’s declared:
“‘The … right of the [citizens] that I shall at present mention, is that of having arms for their defense. … [This is] the natural right of resistance and self-preservation when the sanctions of society and laws are found insufficient to restrain the violence of oppression…. [T]o vindicate these rights when actually violated or attacked, the [citizens] are entitled, in the first place, to the regular administration and free course of justice in the courts of law; next, to the right of petitioning the [government] for redress of grievances; and lastly, to the right of having and using arms for self-preservation and defense.'”
Rodda points out that Barton chopped up Blackstone’s citation to remove the qualifications on the right to keep and bear arms. Note what Barton removed in bold below.
“The fifth and last auxiliary right of the subject, that I shall at present mention, is that of having arms for their defence, suitable to their condition and degree, and such as are allowed by law.Which is also declared by the same statute 1 W. & M. st. 2. c. 2. and is indeed a public allowance,under due restrictions, of the natural right of resistance and self-preservation, when the sanctions of society and laws are found insufficient to restrain the violence of oppression.”
“And, lastly, to vindicate these rights, when actually violated or attacked, the subjects of England are entitled, in the first place, to the regular administration and free course of justice in the courts of law; next to the right of petitioning the king and parliament for redress of grievances; and lastly to the right of having and using arms for self-preservation and defense. And all these rights and liberties it is our birthright to enjoy entire;unless where the laws of our country have laid them under necessary restraints.” (Sir William Blackstone, Commentaries on the Laws of England, vol. 1, (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1775)
Blackstone was very nearly quoting the 1689 Bill of English Rights which stated:
7. That the subjects which are protestants, may have arms for their defence suitable to their conditions, and as allowed by law. (emphasis added)
As you can see, Barton removed the references to the qualifications mentioned by the English Bill of Rights and cited by Blackstone. Clearly, the English Bill of Rights influenced the framers and delineated a set of rights for a free people. While Blackstone considered the right to possess arms to be a natural right restricted only under “very grave consideration,” he also allowed that the right could be subject to “necessary restraints.”
Barton fans who read here: help me understand why Barton omitted these sections. How can one get a complete picture of the history of the Second Amendment if relevant portions of historical writing are omitted? By not including these phrases, what meaning is conveyed? Does his presentation of Blackstone provide the truth about Blackstone’s position?
Finally, let me point you to a recent post from Rodda on gun accidents. Barton told Glenn Beck that he could only find two gun accidents in two hundred years of history.
“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.”
On the face of it, this seems preposterous. Rodda did a little digging and found many more. Go read her long, sad list.
Barton’s other recent problems relating to gun issues include possibly pulling stories from Western novels, incorrectly stating Ronald Reagan’s position on the Brady Bill or claiming the NRA was founded in part to fight back against the KKK.