This article is from the talk.politics.guns Official Pro-Gun FAQ, by Ken Barnes (email@example.com) with numerous contributions by others.
In the Middle Ages, it seems that every church had a splinter
of the True Cross, or a piece of cloth supposedly from the burial
shroud of Jesus. While some of these were honest mistakes (and maybe
one of those splinters was what it was claimed to be), a great many
of the holy artifacts the peasants came to see were what we now call
"pious frauds," manufactured relics made with the expectation that
people would believe them to be real. It was easy for some monks and
priests to justify this dishonesty, because they made it easier for
the peasants to believe. Along with an enormous amount of good,
well-researched evidence on the pro-RKBA side, there exist several
items, mostly "quotations," which are popular, but in fact are
"pious frauds." Whoever first put these items into circulation
must have known that they were false, but figured it would "help
the cause". It doesn't. Neither does spreading them around today.
To help combat the spread of bad information, and prevent pro-gun
authors and speakers from looking foolish when somone catches them
with one of these apocryphal references, the texts of the most common
ones are analyzed below:
The "Liberty Teeth" Speech by "George Washington"
"Firearms stand next in importance to the Constitution itself.
They are the American people's liberty teeth and keystone under
independence. The church, the plow, the prarie wagon, and
citizen's firearms are indelibly related. From the hour the
Pilgrims landed, to the present day, events, occurrences, and
tendencies prove that to insure peace, security and happiness,
the rifle and the pistol are equally indispensable. Every corner
of this land knows firearms, and more than 99 99/100 percent of
them by their silence indicate they are in safe and sane hands.
The very atmosphere of firearms anywhere and everywhere restrains
evil interference; they deserve a place with all that's good.
When firearms, go all goes; we need them every hour."
--falsely attributed to George Washington, address to the
second session of the first U.S. Congress
This quotation, sometimes called the "liberty teeth" quote,
appears nowhere in Washington's papers or speeches, and contains
several historical anachronisms: the reference to "prarie wagon"
in an America which had yet to even begin settling the Great Plains
(which were owned by France at the time), the reference to "the
Pilgrims" which implies a modern historical perspective, and
particularly the attempt by "Washington" to defend the utility
of firearms (by_use_of_statistics!) to an audience which would
have used firearms in their daily lives to obtain food, defend
against hostile Indians, and which had only recently won a war
for independence. The "99 99/100 percent" is also an odd phrase
for 18th century America, which tended not to use fractional
percentages. It's clear that "Washington" is addressing "gun
control" arguments which wouldn't exist for another couple
of centuries, not to mention doing so in a style that is
uncharacteristic of the period, and uncharacteristic of
Washington's addresses to Congress, both of which exhibited a
high degree of formality. This is a false quote, but bits and
pieces of it still continue to crop up from time to time.
Most recently, this quote has been seen circulated on flyers
at gun shows attributed to Neil Knox's Firearms Coalition,
but Knox isn't the original source of this "speech," and even
national publications, such as_Playboy_magazine, have been
snared by it. ("Playboy_published the "quote" in December 1995
as part of an article entitled "Once and for All: What the
Founding Fathers Said About Guns". After consulting with an
assistant editor of the George Washington Papers at the University
of Virginia,"Playboy_published a lengthy correction in March 1996.)
The "Hitler" Quote That Wouldn't Die: "1935 Will Go Down In History!"
"This year* will go down in history! For the first time, a civilized
nation has full gun registration! Our streets will be safer, our
police more efficient, and the world will follow our lead into the
--falsely attributed to Adolf Hitler, "Abschied vom Hessenland!"
["Farewell to Hessia!"], ['Berlin Daily' (Loose English Translation)],
April 15th, 1935, Page 3 Article 2, Einleitung Von Eberhard Beckmann
[Introduction by Eberhard Beckmann]
This quotation, often seen without any date or citation at all,
suffers from several credibility problems, the most significant
of which is that the date given (*in alternate versions, the
words "This year..." are replaced by "1935...") has no correlation
with any legislative effort by the Nazis for gun registration,
nor would there have been a need for the Nazis to pass such a
law, since gun registration laws passed by the Weimar government
were already in effect. The Nazi Weapons Law (or_Waffengesetz")
which further restricted the possession of militarily useful
weapons and forbade trade in weapons without a government-issued
license was passed on March 18, 1938.
The citation usually given for this quote is a jumbled mess,
and has only three major clues from which to work. The first is
the date, which does not correspond (even approximately) to a date
on which Hitler made a public speech, and a check of the texts of
Hitler's speeches does not reveal a quotation resembling this
(which is easily understandable when you realize that "Hitler"
is commenting on a non-existent law). The second clue is the
newspaper reference, which if translated into German resembles the
title of a newspaper called "Berliner Tageblatt," and a check of
the issue for that date reveals that the page and column references
given are to the arts and culture page! No Hitler speech appears
in the pages of "Berliner Tageblatt" on that date, or dates close
to it, because there was no such speech to report. Finally,
the citation includes a proper name "Eberhard Beckmann," which
is sometimes cited as "by Einleitung Von Eberhard Beckmann,"
which is an important clue itself, because it reveals that the
citation was fabricated by someone who had so little knowledge of
the German language that they were unaware that "Einleitung"
isn't the fellow's first name! The only "Eberhard Beckmann"
which has been uncovered thus far did indeed write introductions,
but he was a journalist for a German broadcasting company after
WWII, and he wrote several introductions to_photography books,"
one of which was photos of the German state of Hesse (or Hessia),
which may be the source of the curious phrase "Abschied vom
Hessenland!" which appears in the citation. This quotation,
however effective it may be as propaganda, is a fraud.
The "B'nai B'rith" speech by "Janet Reno"
"The most effective means of fighting crime in the United
States is to outlaw the possession of any type of firearm by
the civilian populace."
--falsely attributed to Janet Reno, then-state attorney for Dade
County, speech to Ft. Lauderdale, Florida B'nai B'rith gathering,
This supposed "quote" first got national attention when it
appeared in the April 1995 issue of "Soldier of Fortune," as
part of an article by Mike Williams entitled "Citizen Militias:
'...Necessary to the Security of a Free State...'" and was picked
up by the New York Times Syndicate as part of their coverage of
the militia movement in the wake of the bombing in Oklahoma City.
According to editorials by Martin Dyckman, published in the "St.
Petersburg Times" May 2 and May 28, 1995, the "quote" appears to
have originated with an affidavit written by Fred Diamond of Miami,
FL who claimed to have heard Reno speak in Coral Gables (not Fort
Lauderdale) "on or about November 1, 1984". According to Diamond's
affidavit, "Janet Reno told the members of our group assembled, that
waiting periods were only a step, that registration was only a step,
and further that the prohibition of the private ownership of firearms
was the only ultimate solution to controlling crime. I was shocked and
appalled to hear her, an elected public official sworn to uphold and
defend the Constitution, espouse and advocate a position that would
effectively repeal the guarantees of the Second Amendment."
Early in 1991, after Reno was nominated to be Attorney General,
Diamond talked to Marion Hammer, then the National Rifle Association's
Florida lobbyist, and NRA sent him affidavits to sign. Diamond says
he rejected their first draft. Subsequently, Hammer's newsletter,
"Florida Firing Line," published an article on Reno in March 1991,
including almost word for word the key passage from Diamond's
affidavit about what Reno allegedly said, but the newsletter put
the speech in 1991, not 1984. (Reno would thus had to have made
the comments in January or February of that same year!) Diamond
didn't sign the affidavit (with the correct year) until June 17,
1991, after Reno had already been confirmed. Reno has been questioned
about the "quote" and denies having said it, either in 1991 or 1984.
A spokesman for the Justice Department, Bert Brandenburg, told the New
York Times syndicate: "The assertion is untrue and the attorney general
has never made such a statement" (Cleveland Plain Dealer, May 2, 1995).
The Reno "quote" has appeared in print elsewhere, including_National
Review" on May 29, 1995 as part of an article by Alan W. Bock about
the militia movement; and was reprinted in a_Guns and Ammo_editorial
by Ed Moats on concealed carry in October of 1996.
The "Socialist America" quote from "Sarah Brady"
"Our task of creating a socialist America can only succeed
when those who would resist us are totally disarmed."
--falsely (hilariously?) attributed to Sarah Brady of Handgun
Control, Inc. supposedly in "The American Educator," published by
the American Federation of Teachers (or alternatively, attributed
to a speech to AARP, late 1991)
This bit of dialogue is reminiscent of a bad movie, and even
if Sarah Brady really were bent on fighting for international
socialism, she's not quite stupid enough to say so out loud!
Even Lyndon LaRouche couldn't believe_this_conspiracy...
"Jim 'the Bear' Brady has (or had) a Class III FFL!"
This falls more into the category of an "urban legend" than
an actual quote, and most likely resulted from a case of mistaken
identity. If Sarah, who's a conservative Republican in most other
respects (aside from her fetish for gun control), can have a secret
double life as a closet Communist, can we then suppose that poor
"gun victim" Jim can "rock-and-roll" with his machinegun habit?
Can we imagine him at Jay Rockefeller's range wearing a "Happiness
Is a Belt-Fed Weapon" T-shirt, as the Norinco brass mounds up in the
spokes of his wheelchair? Not bloody likely. Republican senatorial
candidate Al Salvi of Illinois found out the hard way in October of
1996 how not checking one's facts before opening one's mouth can cost
you. In an interview with WBBM news radio in Chicago during the last
week of the campaign, Salvi clumsily attempted to refute the claim
that machineguns were already illegal in the United States: "In fact
Jim Brady himself used to deal --there are people with-- machine guns.
There are people with licenses to sell machineguns and automatic
weapons." Worse yet, Salvi stepped in it again at a fundraiser
soon afterwards: "Jim Brady was a licensed machinegun dealer before
he was shot." Salvi apologized publicly and retracted the statements,
but it couldn't save his shredded credibility. There's obviously
more than one James Brady in the world, and in BATF's record books.
"Pious Frauds" adapted in part from "Firing Back" by Clayton Cramer
(clayton_cramer@RKBAdlcc.com), pp.48-52. Used by permission of the
author, who has a homepage at http://cs.sonoma.edu/~cramerc .]