Friday, October 31st, 2014

Did Washington say firearms ensured freedom from government tyranny?

"Fox News Sunday" featured U.S. Rep. Louie Gohmert and others speaking about gun control Dec. 16, 2012.

U.S. Rep. Louie Gohmert, a Texas Republican, recently said on "Fox News Sunday" that Americans should be able to own military-style weapons "for the reason George Washington said a free people should be an armed people. It ensures against the tyranny of the government."

That wasn’t quite what the father of our country had in mind, we learned from scholars and the author of 2011’s Pulitzer-winning Washington biography.

Our first president said this in the first State of the Union address: "A free people ought not only to be armed, but disciplined."

Experts we consulted said Washington was talking about a militia (part-time, but organized and trained, volunteers) to defend the young nation against outside threats.

Click through to read the whole story and decide for yourself with the original texts, including Washington’s own writings.

A tidbit that didn’t make our story: During the American Revolution, Washington’s troops were initially so amateurish that he had to order them not to shoot each other or to lie their way out of guard duty.

No wonder he called for discipline.