Dana Loesch's New Gun Book Botches Quotes From The Founding Fathers


Conservative commentator Dana Loesch's new book Hands Off My Gun: Defeating the Plot to Disarm America includes spurious quotes from George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and other Founding Fathers, despite the fact that it purports to teach readers about "the history of the Second Amendment."

Loesch, who hosts a radio show on The Blaze, is currently on a media tour promoting her book and has made appearances on Fox News programs The Kelly File, Fox & Friends, Hannity and America's Newsroom.

She joins other conservative authors, including Emily Miller and Glenn Beck, in advancing a pro-gun agenda, in part by citing the discredited "more guns, less crime" research of economist John Lott.

In her book, Loesch also attempts to demonstrate that the Founding Father's view of the Second Amendment matches her own, but in doing so she misquotes, and often takes out of context, the Founder's true words.

In a section titled, "In Their Own Words," Loesch writes, "Just to make sure everyone reading this book is well armed -- pun intended -- with the facts about the Founders and their intentions, the Buckeye Firearms Association compiled a list of quotes attributed to various Founders that demonstrated beyond any shadow of a doubt what our Constitution's drafters intended when they drafted and approved the Second Amendment."

Loesch added, "Do the new-century equivalent of sticking them onto your fridge: Post them to Facebook or Twitter."

However, many of the quotes listed are not accurate.



"A free people ought to be armed." - George Washington

Actual Quote:

"A free people ought not only to be armed, but disciplined; to which end a uniform and well-digested plan is requisite; and their safety and interest require that they should promote such manufactories, as tend to render them independent of others for essential, particularly military, supplies."

The version appearing in Loesch's book crops language from Washington's quote that made it clear he was talking about the creation of a national defense strategy. According to the full text of Washington's first State of the Union address, he was discussing what it meant to "be prepared for war" and "[t]he proper establishment of the troops."



"The laws that forbid the carrying of arms are laws of such a nature. They disarm only those who are neither inclined nor determined to commit crimes... Such laws make things worse for the assaulted and better for the assailants; they serve rather to encourage than to prevent homicides, for an unarmed man may be attacked with greater confidence than an armed man." -- Thomas Jefferson (quoting eighteenth-century criminologist Cesare Beccaria)

Loesch presents this quote as if Jefferson were quoting Beccaria approvingly, but that is not necessarily the case. Monticello, Jefferson's estate which is currently maintained by the Thomas Jefferson Foundation, Inc., lists the quote as "spurious" when attributed to Jefferson.

Jefferson copied the Beccaria quote in Italian into his legal commonplace book, a "journal or notebook in which a student, reader, or writer compiles quotations, poems, letters, and information, along with the compiler's notes and reactions." Jefferson notated the copied passage with the words, "False idee di utilità," which is a summation of the idea contained in the quotation and is not evidence of what "our Constitution's drafters intended when they drafted and approved the Second Amendment."



"Americans have the right and advantage of being armed, unlike the people of other countries, whose leaders are afraid to trust them with arms." -- James Madison

Actual Quote (Emphasis Added To Highlight Deleted Portions):

Besides the advantage of being armed, which the Americans possess over the people of almost every other nation, the existence of subordinate governments, to which the people are attached, and by which the militia officers are appointed, forms a barrier against the enterprises of ambition, more insurmountable than any which a simple government of any form can admit of. Notwithstanding the military establishments in the several kingdoms of Europe, which are carried as far as the public resources will bear, the governments are afraid to trust the people with arms.

In this quote, Loesch presented a mangled summation of The Federalist Papers #46 that distorts Madison's meaning. Loesch's version omits parts of Madison's commentary because those sentences make it clear he was talking about state militias being a check on government tyranny, not privately held arms.



"Guard with jealous attention the public liberty. Suspect everyone who approaches that jewel. Unfortunately, nothing will preserve it but downright force. Whenever you give up that force, you are ruined... The great object is that every man be armed. Everyone who is able might have a gun." --Patrick Henry

Actual Quote (Emphasis Added To Highlight Deleted Portions):

"Guard with jealous attention the public liberty. Suspect everyone who approaches that jewel. Unfortunately, nothing will preserve it but downright force. Whenever you give up that force, you are ruined... May we not discipline and arm them, as well as Congress, if the power be concurrent? So that our militia shall have two sets of arms, double sets of regimentals, and thus, at a very great cost, we shall be doubly armed. The great object is, that every man be armed. But can the people afford to pay for double sets of arms, Every one Who is able may have a gun. But we have learned, by experience, that, necessary as it is to have arms, and though our Assembly has, by a succession of laws for many years, endeavored to have the militia completely armed, it is still far from being the case.

Henry was actually talking about ensuring that members of the militia were adequately armed, not the general public. According to historian and Patrick Henry scholar Henry Mayer, "[W]ielding the scholar's power of the ellipse several partisans of gun ownership have edited Henry's remarks about how best to regulate the militia into an inflammatory half-truth 'The great object is that every man be armed....Every one who is able may have a gun.' The NRA has blown this up into a poster-sized blurb embossed with Patrick Henry's image."

Furthermore, the Henry quotation uses ellipses to join together two ideas that Henry expressed days apart. Henry spoke about guarding "the public liberty" on June 5, 1788 at the Virginia Ratifying Convention. His comments about arms, which appear distorted in Loesch's book, occurred on June 14 at the same convention.



"Arms... discourage and keep the invader and plunderer in awe, and preserve order in the world as well as property... Horrid mischief would ensue were [the law-abiding] deprived the use of them." --Thomas Paine

Actual Quote (Emphasis Added To Highlight Deleted Portions):

"... arms like laws discourage and keep the invader and the plunderer in awe, and preserve order in the world as well as property. The balance of power is the scale of peace. The same balance would be preserved were all the world destitute of arms, for all would be alike; but since some will not, others dare not lay them aside. And while a single nation refuses to lay them down, it is proper that all should keep them up. Horrid mischief would ensue were one half the world deprived of the use of them ..."

The quote cited by Loesch is taken from "Thoughts on Defensive War," which was published in Pennsylvania Magazine in the early months of the Revolutionary War in 1775. It was "probably" written by Paine.

As the essay's title suggests, it is about armed conflict between nations and how a religious Quaker should respond to British aggression, not private ownership of firearms. Where Loesch's book uses brackets to say Paine wrote about "the law-abiding," Paine actually wrote, "one half the world," an allusion to his argument that nations that failed to possess arms would be overrun by those who did.

Posted In
Justice & Civil Liberties, Guns
Dana Loesch
The Blaze
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