The Right to Keep and Bear Arms
A well-regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free State,
the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.
Second Amendment to the Constitution of the United States of America
The right of the people to keep and bear…arms shall not be infringed.
A well regulated militia, composed of the body of the people, trained to arms,
is the best and most natural defense of a free country…
James Madison, I Annuals of Congress 434 (June 8, 1789).
No free man shall ever be debarred the use of arms.
The strongest reason for the people to retain the right to keep and bear arms is,
as a last resort, to protect themselves against tyranny in government.
Thomas Jefferson, Proposed Virginia Constitution, 1776, Jefferson Papers 344
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 to prevent homicides,
for an unarmed man may be attacked with greater confidence than an armed man.
Thomas Jefferson quoting 18th century criminologist
Cesare Beccaria in On Crimes and Punishment, 1764
Without either the first or second amendment, we would have no liberty;
the first allows us to find out what’s happening, the second allows us to do something about it!
The second will be taken away first, followed by the first and then the rest of our freedoms.
The supreme power in America cannot enforce unjust laws by the sword,
because the whole body of the people are armed,
and constitute a force superior to any band of regular troops…
Noah Webster, An Examination into the Leading Principals of the
Federal Constitution Proposed by the Late Convention, 1787
Guard with jealous attention the public liberty. Suspect every one 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”
and “everyone who is able may have a gun.
Patrick Henry, During Virginia’s ratification convention, 1788
Arms in the hands of individual citizens may be used at individual discretion…in private self-defense.
John Adams, A Defense of the Constitutions of the
Government of the United States of America, 471 (1788)
The Constitution preserves the advantage of being armed which Americans
possess over the people of almost every other nation…
(where) the governments are afraid to trust the people with arms.
James Madison, The Federalist #46
…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, Thoughts on Defensive War, 1775
A militia when properly formed are in fact the people themselves…
and include all men capable of bearing arms…To preserve liberty it is essential
that the whole body of people always possess arms…
Richard Henry Lee, Additional Letters From the Federal Farmer 53, 1788
The Constitution of the United States shall never be construed to prevent the people of the
United States who are peaceable citizens from keeping their own arms.
Samuel Adams, During the Massachusetts U.S. Constitution ratification convention, 1788
I ask, sir, what is the militia? It is the whole people…
To disarm the people is the best and most effectual way to enslave them.
George Mason, during Virginia’s ratification convention, 1788
God created man, but Winchester made them equal.
William Beck, Stockton, CA Councilman, who wants all law-abiding
citizens to be able to carry concealed weapons