Fact Check: Ronald Reagan Did NOT Say 'Any Attempt To Disarm The People Must Be Stopped, By Force...'

Fact Check

  • by: Victoria Eavis
Fact Check: Ronald Reagan Did NOT Say 'Any Attempt To Disarm The People Must Be Stopped, By Force...' Misattributed

Did President Ronald Reagan say, "Any attempt to disarm the people must be stopped, by force if necessary"? No, that's not true: It was the 19th Century revolutionaries Karl Marx and Frederick Engels, co-authors of the Communist Manifesto, who originated this quote in a joint address to the Central Committee to the Communist League in London in March, 1850. These were not the words of the conservative American President Ronald Reagan, a strong anti-communist.

The claim appeared in a Facebook meme (archived here) where it was published by "ACT For America" on November 28, 2020 with the caption, "Live FREE!" The meme, which featured a photo of a saluting Reagan, read:

UNDER NO PRETEXT SHOULD ARMS AND AMMUNITION BE SURRENDERED; ANY ATTEMPT TO DISARM THE PEOPLE MUST BE STOPPED, BY FORCE IF NECESSARY

President Ronald Reagan

This is what the post looked like on Facebook at the time of writing:

Facebook screenshot

(Source: Facebook screenshot taken on Mon Nov 30 14:39:11 2020 UTC)

Marx and Engels, predicting bourgeois democrats would ally with workers, overthrow big capital and then sell out the workers, said this in a joint address to the Communist League in 1850:

To be able forcefully and threateningly to oppose this party, whose betrayal of the workers will begin with the very first hour of victory, the workers must be armed and organized. The whole proletariat must be armed at once with muskets, rifles, cannon and ammunition, and the revival of the old-style citizens' militia, directed against the workers, must be opposed. Where the formation of this militia cannot be prevented, the workers must try to organize themselves independently as a proletarian guard, with elected leaders and with their own elected general staff; they must try to place themselves not under the orders of the state authority but of the revolutionary local councils set up by the workers. Where the workers are employed by the state, they must arm and organize themselves into special corps with elected leaders, or as a part of the proletarian guard. Under no pretext should arms and ammunition be surrendered; any attempt to disarm the workers must be frustrated, by force if necessary. The destruction of the bourgeois democrats' influence over the workers, and the enforcement of conditions which will compromise the rule of bourgeois democracy, which is for the moment inevitable, and make it as difficult as possible - these are the main points which the proletariat and therefore the League must keep in mind during and after the approaching uprising.

Factcheck.org reached the same conclusion on the false claim.

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  Victoria Eavis

Victoria Eavis is a fact checker at Lead Stories. She recently graduated from Duke University with a B.A. in Cultural Anthropology. In her last few months at Duke, she was a reporter for a student news site, The 9th Street Journal, that covers the city of Durham, North Carolina. 

Read more about or contact Victoria Eavis

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