Ben Carson’s Use of Fake Jefferson Quote Reveals His Distance from Founding Ideals

In reaction to the Umpqua Community College shooting, Ben Carson appeared on the October 5 broadcast of “Your World with Neil Cavuto” and was asked by the host if gun control would prevent such shootings. Carson’s response was to pull out another favorite fake Founding Father quote, this one purportedly from Thomas Jefferson:

“Thomas Jefferson himself said, ‘Gun control works great for the people who are law-abiding citizens and it does nothing for the criminals, and all it does is put the people at risk.'”

Watch courtesy of Media Matters for America:

As Religious Right Watch has noted, Carson used this quote in the immediate aftermath of the shooting as well, on Friday, October 2, when he appeared on a Jan Mickelson podcast:

The people who want to get rid of our gun rights, I want them to tell me how exactly that stops these kinds of incidents from happening. Because the people who are going to commit these crimes, they don’t care about your silly rules, they’re not going to pay attention to them. So all you’re going to do is create more vulnerability, as Thomas Jefferson said. He said the people who are going to be disadvantaged are the ones who are law-abiding.


Unfortunately for Carson, Jefferson said no such thing. The words come from a quote by Italian philosopher Cesare Beccaria, found in his book Essay on Crimes and Punishments (1809), which is now in the Library of Congress. Jefferson copied the passage into a journal, his Legal Commonplace Book, which was, as the Library of Congress tells us, “compiled while he was studying the law and containing abstracts of important cases”:

Laws that forbid the carrying of arms…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 prevent homicides, for an unarmed man may be attacked with greater confidence than an armed one.

The fact that he had copied it down neither shows Jefferson agreed nor that he disagreed with Beccaria. lists this is a “spurious quotation” along with other conservative favorites, like the Bible being the source of liberty.

Media Matters’ Timothy Johnson tells us,

Carson’s talking point is popular within gun rights circles and conservative media outlets that cover gun policy. Conservative radio host Dana Loesch included the quote, as well as several other deceptively edited Founding Father quotes, in her book Hands Off My Gun: Defeating the Plot to Disarm America, with the false suggestion that Jefferson was quoting Beccaria approvingly.

The manufacture of false Founding Father quotes for mass consumption by an intellectually challenged Republican base is a big business. David Barton has for a long time hosted a set of such fake quotes at his WallBuilders site (and been busted for it by scholars). That Barton is the guy Mike Huckabee wants us to learn from at gunpoint shows the extent of the problem. They literally eat this stuff up, no matter how improbable or impossible the quote.

The long list of conservative crimes in this regard is too long to repeat here, but FAIR takes a comprehensive look at it here. It is clear that Rush Limbaugh’s reaction to fake quotes is standard in right-wing circles: “I don’t care if these quotes are made up. I know Obama thinks it.”

But we should always care.

Carson told Cavuto that “we should be learning from each one of these cases, about what kind of people they are.” And while he refuses to actually do that, to the extent that he refuses to acknowledge certain types of people should not be allowed to own guns (people with mental problems, for example), we should definitely take his words to heart where he himself is concerned.

The need for today’s conservatives to reach into the past with fake quotes demonstrates the ideological and religious distance they have traveled from the Founding ideals of this country. They can’t use genuine quotes, because genuine quotes from Washington and Jefferson and Paine and Madison and others all demonstrate Republican love for a country that has never existed, and was never meant to exist.

29 Replies to “Ben Carson’s Use of Fake Jefferson Quote Reveals His Distance from Founding Ideals”

  1. I cannot understand why this man is running for president, he does not seem to know anything about governing, laws, or people, what kind of doctor wants to take health care away from people?
    Another idiot running, Miss Lindsay is demanding aid for his stat of SC, but cannot remember why he voted against aid for New Jersey when they were flooded.

  2. Wonder if Uncle Ben knows the Edmund Burke quote
    that stated,”The only thing necessary for the triumph of
    evil is for good men to do nothing”? And time is wasting
    while innocents die. Jah bless.

  3. has anyone pointed out to Doc that in almost none of the shootings has the shooter been stopped because a bunch of other gun toters pulled their pieces and shot back?

    I say ‘almost none’ because someone somewhere will trot out the ‘granny meme’ to ‘prove’ someone did shoot back…

  4. I saw one tweet that a person who was carrying didn’t pull his weapon out because he was scared of being shot by the police. It was one person who tried to stop the murderer he was shot 5 times but he survived. He is an Army vet and was unarmed

  5. south Carolina, should be on A list of the last to get aid. Pay back is a real b—- isn’t it? Lindsey?

  6. What they need to do is shove the example of Australia in these idiots’ faces. Australia instituted rational gun control laws in 1995 after a mass shooting and there hasn’t been one since.

  7. …show rational examples to an Idiotologue???
    …I don’t think that has EVER worked…
    …let’s get thier attention first; yeah open Carsons eyes WIDE…and that means expose thier treachery and perfidy for all to see…won’t mean much to the Teatards, but everybody else…maybe…

  8. Republicans will NEVER pay attention to anything that works in another country because…EXCEPTIONALISM. “It won’t work here because we’re exceptional — no other like us, no other as great as us”.
    Every time the Repubs have nixed an idea which has proven to work in other countries (single-payer, for example) it’s because “we’re different, it would never work here”.

    Well, get over yourselves!

    Oh, and I’ve known a number of neurosurgeons, and (Dr. McDreamy notwithstanding!) to a person they truly believe they are among the very smartest on earth and that because they work on brains, they know everything there is to know about everything. Their egos know no bounds. Makes me wonder why Carson retired…..

  9. I have yet to meet in my 57.5 years that has any clue whatsoever a conservative who really knows the reality of what our founding fathers said and wrote down. They are willfully ignorant and dismissive about nearly everything in the constitution or the bill of rights. Especially when it comes to firearms, according to the gun nuts EVERY patriot fighting for the new nation was armed to the teeth which is completely false. I forget the actual percentage but it falls way beneath 50%. As an example of even today conservatives and republicans mis-interpret the constitution here locally there was a man who had his pet tigers removed from his property after failing to meet the requirements to keep the animals safely. He CLAIMS that his “Constitutional rights” were violated, you know I’ve read the document and cannot find the part where it says “The right to keep and bare Tigers shall not be infringed upon” Morons ALL!

  10. As you intimate, to presume MDs to be well educated, and therefore to be well regarded a thinkers, is a common error. They are high on the “native intelligence” scale, to be sure; and they are surely disciplined. But the “MD” is testament to their being well trained; not necessarily well educated.

    It follows, then, that their political and cultural positions are to be accorded no greater weight than those of any other.

  11. That whole 2nd Amendment thing was an error of translation. It was originally a demand 4 the Right Tot BARE Arms! U know, short sleeves! They were a no-no in those days. Flashing the Flesh n’ stuff. Bad! Then some Bozo says, “They’ll NEVER approve THAT! Let’s change it to BEAR Arms. Everybody loves Guns!”

  12. Carson is just the biggest idiot in the GOP Clown Car. We’ve got The Idiot, The Fool, and The Liar currently leading the pack. That should tell America everything it needs to know about today’s GOP, but unfortunately here in this country, it’s just the blind leading the blind.

  13. Yes there are, but I generally just get a sunburn. Not all squinty like Benny, until I get ready to fall asleep outside. I think he just has the music in him.

  14. LOLOL!!!!!
    …when I was a kid, I got a Tee-shirt sayin’ “Support your Right to Keep and Arm BEARS!!!”
    Pic was a polar bear with a Thompson…

  15. “I cannot understand why this man is running for president, he does not seem to know anything about governing, laws, or people, what kind of doctor wants to take health care away from people?”———–Token’s only talent is knowing why that roll of tissue’s in the bathroom, totally oblivious as to why would water be running from the pipes, why does the soap keep bubbling and why the hell do we need toilets in the house anyway?

  16. He got tired of “practicing” medicine, so he thought he would practice him some politics on us.

  17. The most rabid right winger authoritarian fascist anarchists are generally those who have zero connection to the Founding Fathers. My ancestors rubbed elbows with these guys, & kept journals. You find the most extreme of these idiots are AT BEST 3rd generation, German,Irish, & Dutch.

  18. Carson comes by his use of a fake quote honestly. The grand poobah of the GOP, President Ronald Reagan, stood before a nationwide audience at the 1992 Republican National Convention and delivered a speech in which he also erroneously attributed four of Rev. William John Henry Boetcker’s 10 “Cannots” to Abraham Lincoln. Fortunately, any halfway informed student of Lincoln knew immediately that Lincoln would never have said any such thing. Makes you wonder how much Reagan actually knew about Lincoln.

  19. Carson is running because he is a crazy sociopath like the rest of the GOP can’tdidates. Delusional and sociopathic as well just to name a few of his personality flaws.

  20. Uncle Ben has to WAKE UP and realize that he is going nowhere in the Republican Party. His numbers are up there with that other Loser-Trump, but that don’t mean nothing. They will fall together and drag Ms. Fiorina with them. Ben Carson is just a replacement for Herman Cain. Window dressing, if you know what I mean? ;)

  21. Ben Carson has been isolated in surgery too many years, breathing the anesthetic fumes in the air! Brain damage.

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