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The Right To Keep And Bear Arms - Quotes
"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."
"No free man shall ever be debarred the use of arms." -- Proposed Virginia Constitution, 1776
"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." -- Jefferson's "Commonplace Book," 1774-1776, quoting from On Crimes and Punishment, by criminologist Cesare Beccaria, 1764
-- Thomas Jefferson
"[A] string of amendments were presented to the lower House; these altogether respected personal liberty." -- Letter to Patrick Henry, June 12, 1789, referring to the introduction of what became the Bill of Rights
-- William Grayson
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." -- The Federalist, No. 46
- James Madison
"[I]f circumstances should at any time oblige the government to form an army of any magnitude, that army can never be formidable to the liberties of the people while there is a large body of citizens, little if at all inferior to them in discipline and the use of arms, who stand ready to defend their rights and those of their fellow citizens." -- The Federalist, No. 29
- Alexander Hamilton
"[A]rms 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 of the use of them." -- Thoughts On Defensive War, 1775
- Thomas Paine
"What, sir, is the use of militia? It is to prevent the establishment of a standing army, the bane of liberty. . . Whenever Government means to invade the rights and liberties of the people, they always attempt to destroy the militia, in order to raise a standing army upon its ruins." -- Debate, U.S. House of Representatives, August 17, 1789
- Elbridge Gerry
"The great object is, that every man be armed."
- Patrick Henry
"That the people have a Right to mass and to bear arms; that a well regulated militia composed of the Body of the people, trained to arms, is the proper natural and safe defense of a free State..."
- George Mason
"Are we at last brought to such an humiliating and debasing degradation that we cannot be trusted with arms for our own defense? Where is the difference between having our arms under our own possesion and under our own direction, and having them under the management of Congress? If our defense be the real object of having those arms, in whose hands can they be trusted with more propriety, or equal safety to us, as in our own hands?"
- Patrick Henry
"...who are the militia, if they be not the people of this country...? I ask, who are the militia? They consist of now of the whole people, except a few public officers."
- George Mason
"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.... O sir, we should have fine times, indeed, if to punish tyrants, it were only sufficient to assemble the people!"
- Patrick Henry
"No free government was ever founded or ever preserved its liberty, without uniting the characters of the citizen and soldier in those destined for the defense of the state.... Such are a well regulated militia, composed of the freeholders, citizen and husbandman, who take up arms to preserve their property, as individuals, and their rights as freemen."
- State Gazette (Charleston), September 8, 1788
"While the people have property, arms in their hands, and only a spark of noble spirit, the most corrupt Congress must be mad to form any project of tyranny."
- Rev. Nicholas Collin, Fayetteville Gazette (N.C.), October 12, 1789
"The powers of the sword, say the minority of Pennsylvania, is in the hands of Congress. My friends and countrymen, it is not so, for the powers of the sward are in the hands of the yeomanry of America from sixteen to sixty. The militia of these free commonwealths, entitled and accustomed to their arms, when compared with any possible army, must be tremendous and irresistible. Who are the militia? Are they not ourselves? Is it feared then, that we shall turn our arms each man against his own bosom? Congress have no right to disarm the militia. Their swords, and every other terrible implement of the soldier, are the birth-right of an American.... The unlimited power of the sword is not in the hands of either the federal or the state governments, but where I trust in God it will ever remain, in the hands of the people."
- Pennsylvania Gazette, February 20, 1788
"Another source of power in government is a military force. But this, to be efficient, must be superior to any force that axists among the people, or which they can command; for otherwise this force would be annihilated, on the first exercise of acts of oppression. Before a standing army can rule, the people must be disarmed; as they are in almost every kingdom in Europe. 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 that can be, on any pretense, raised in the United States. A military force, at the command of Congress, can execute no laws, but such as the people perceive to be just and constitutional; for they will possess the power, and jealousy will instantly inspire the inclination, to resist the execution of a law which appears to them unjust and oppressive."
- Noah Webster An Examination of the Leading Principles of the Federal Constitution, Philadelphia, 1787
"The militia, who are in fact the effective part of the people at large, will render many troops quite unecessary. They will form a powerful check upon the regular troops, and will generally be sufficient to over-awe them" - Tench Coxe, An American Citizen IV, October 21, 1787
"Who are the militia? Are they not ourselves? Congress have no power to disarm the militia. Their swords and every other terrible implement of the soldier, are the birthright of an American . . . . The unlimited power of the sword is not in the hands of either the federal or state governments, but, where I trust in God it will ever remain, in the hands of the people." -- The Pennsylvania Gazette, Feb. 20, 1788
"As the military forces which must occasionally be raised to defend our country, might pervert their power to the injury of their fellow citizens, the people are confirmed by the next article (of amendment) in their right to keep and bear their private arms." -- Federal Gazette, June 18, 1789
"And that the said Constitution be never construed to authorize Congress to infringe the just liberty of the press, or the rights of conscience; or to prevent the people of the United States, who are peacable citizens, from keeping their own arms; or to raise standing armies, unless necessary for the defense of the United States, or of some one or more of them; or to prevent teh people from petitioning, in a peacable and orderly manner, the federal legislature, for a redress of grievances; or to subject the people to unreasonable searches and seizures of their persons, papers or possesions."
- Samuel Adams, Debates of the Massachusetts Convention of 1788
"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... The mind that aims at a select militia, must be influenced by a truly anti-republican principle." --
"... whereas, to preserve liberty, it is essential that the whole body of the people always possess arms, and be taught alike, especially when young, how to use them..."
- Richard H. Lee, Additional Letters from the Federal Farmer 53, 1788
"... of the liberty of conscience in matters of religious faith, of speech and of the press; of the trail by jury of the vicinage in civil and criminal cases; of the benefit of the writ of habeas corpus; of the right to keep and bear arms.... If these rights are well defined, and secured against encroachment, it is impossible that government should ever degenerate into tyranny."
- James Monroe
"... the loyalists in the beginning of the late war, who objected to associating, arming and fighting, in defense of our liberties, because these measures were not constitutional. A free people should always be left... with every possible power to promote their own happiness."
- Pennsylvania Gazette, April 23, 1788
"God forbid we should ever be twenty years without such a rebellion.... And what country can preserve its liberties, if its rulers are not warned from time to time, that this people preserve the spirit of resistance? Let them take arms.... The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants."
- Thomas Jefferson, in letter to William S. Smith, 1787
Founding Fathers on the Second Amendment
Quotes on Freedom and Liberty
Founding Fathers on the Second Amendment
- GEORGE WASHINGTON (First President)
- THOMAS JEFFERSON (Author of Declaration of Independence, member Continental Congress, Governor of Virginia, Minister to France, Secretary of State, Vice President, 3rd President )
- "On every question of construction (of the Constitution) let us carry ourselves back to the time when the Constitution was adopted, recollect the spirit manifested in the debates, and instead of trying what meaning may be squeezed out of the text, or invented against it, conform to the probable one in which it was passed." 12 Jun 1823 (The Complete Jefferson p.32)
- "No free man shall ever be debarred the use of arms." (Jefferson Papers, p. 334, C.J. Boyd, 1950)
- "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 Papers p. 334, 1950)
- "And what country can preserve its liberties, if its rulers are not warned from time to time, that this people preserve the spirit of resistance? Let them take arms...The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time, with the blood of patriots and tyrants." Letter to William S. Smith 13 Nov 1787 (Jefferson, On Democracy p. 20, 1939; Padover, editor)
- "The few cases wherein these things (proposed Bill of Rights) may do evil, cannot be weighed against the multitude where the want of them will do evil...I hope therefore a bill of rights will be formed to guard the people against the federal government..." (letter to Madison 31 July 1788, The Papers of James Madison, Hobson & Rutland, p.11:212)
- "I have a right to nothing which another has a right to take away." (letter to Uriah Forrest, 1787, Jefferson Papers, 12:477)
- "Rightful liberty is unobstructed action according to our will within limits drawn around us by the equal rights of others. I do not add 'within the limits of the law,' because law is often but the tyrant's will, and always so when it violates the rights of the individual." (letter to Isaac Tifany, 1819)
- GEORGE MASON (Virginia House of Burgesses, Virginia delegate to Constitutional Convention, wrote Virginia Declaration of Rights, wrote "Objections to the Constitution", urged creation of a Bill of Rights)
- "I ask, Who are the militia? They consist now of the whole people, except a few public officers." (Jonathan Elliot, The Debates of the Several State Conventions on the Adoption of the Federal Constitution, [NY: Burt Franklin,1888] p.425-6)
- "Forty years ago, when the resolution of enslaving America was formed in Great Britain, the British Parliament was advised...to disarm the people; that it was the best and most effectual way to enslave them; but that they should not do it openly, but weaken them, and let them sink gradually, by totally disusing and neglecting the militia..." (In Virginia's Ratifying Convention, Elliot p.3:379-380)
- "The militia may be here destroyed by that method which has been practiced in other parts of the world before; that is, by rendering them useless - by disarming them." (Elliot, p. 3:379-80)
- "I consider and fear the natural propensity of rulers to oppress the people. I wish only to prevent them from doing evil." (In Virginia's Ratifying Convention, Elliot p.3:381)
- JOHN ADAMS (Signed Declaration of Independence, Continental Congress delegate, 1st Vice President, 2nd President)
- "Arms in the hands of citizens (may) be used at individual discretion...in private self-defense..." 1788(A Defense of the Constitution of the Government of the USA, p.471)
- JAMES MONROE (Served in Revolutionary Army, member Continental Congress, Governor of Virginia, U.S. Secretary of State, Secretary of War, 5th President)
- "But it ought always be held prominently in view that the safety of these States and of everything dear to a free people must depend in an eminent degree on the militia." (his first Inaugural Address, 1817)
- SAM ADAMS (Signed Declaration of Independence, organized the Sons of Liberty, participated in Boston Tea Party, Member of Continental Congress, Governor of Massachusetts)
- "And that the said Constitution be never construed to authorize Congress to infringe the just liberty of the press, or the right of conscience; or to prevent the people of the United States, who are peaceable citizens, from keeping their own arms; ...or to prevent the people from petitioning , in a peaceable and orderly manner; or to subject the people to unreasonable searches and seizures of their persons, papers or possessions." (Debates of the Massachusetts Convention of 1788, p86-87)
- JAMES MADISON (Drafted Virginia Constitution, Member of Continental Congress, Virginia delegate to Constitutional Convention, named "Father of the Constitution", author of Federalist Papers, author of the Bill of Rights, Congressman from Virginia, Secretary of State, 4th President)
- "Besides the advantage of being armed, which the Americans possess over the people of almost every other nation.. (where) ..the governments are afraid to trust the people with arms." (Federalist Papers #46)
- "I believe there are more instances of the abridgment of freedom of the people by gradual and silent encroachments of those in power than by violent and sudden usurpations."
- "They [proposed Bill of Rights] relate 1st. to private rights....the great object in view is to limit and qualify the powers of government..." 8 June 1789 (The Papers of James Madison, Hobson & Rutland, 12:193, 204)
- "To these (federal troops attempting to impose tyranny) would be opposed a militia amounting to near half a million of citizens with arms in their hands." (Federalist Papers #46)
- RICHARD HENRY LEE (Signed Declaration of Independence, introduced resolution in Continental Congress to become independent, proposed Bill of Rights from beginning, author of Anti-Fed Papers, Congressman and Senator from Virginia)
- "A militia, when properly formed, are in fact the people themselves...and include all men capable of bearing arms." 1788 (Federal Farmer, p.169)
- "To preserve liberty it is essential that the whole body of the people always possess arms and be taught alike, especially when young, how to use them..." 1788 (Federal Farmer)
- "No free government was ever founded, or ever preserved its liberty, without uniting the characters of the citizen and soldier in those destined for the defense of the state... Such are a well regulated militia, composed of the freeholders, citizens and husbandman, who take up arms to preserve their property, as individuals, and their rights as freemen."
- PATRICK HENRY ('Liberty or Death' Speech, member of Continental Congress, Governor of Virginia, member Virginia convention to ratify U.S. Constitution, urged creation of Bill of Rights for Constitution )
- "The great object is, that every man be armed.... Every one who is able may have a gun." (Elliot p.3:386)
- "Guard with jealous attention the public liberty. Suspect everyone who approaches that jewel. Unfortunately, nothing will preserve it but downright force. Whenever you give up that force, you are inevitably ruined." During Virginia Ratification Convention 1788 (Elliot p.3:45)
- "I am not well versed in history, but I will submit to your recollection, whether liberty has been destroyed most often by the licentiousness of the people, or by the tyranny of rulers. I imagine, sir, you will find the balance on the side of tyranny." (Elliot P.3:74)
- "My great objection to this government is, that it does not leave us the means of defending our rights, or of waging wars against tyrants." (Elliot, 3:47-48; in Virginia Ratifying Convention, before Bill of Rights)
- "O sir, we should have fine times, indeed, if, to punish tyrants, it were only sufficient to assemble the people! Your arms, wherewith you could defend yourselves, are gone..." (Elliot p.3:50-52, in Virginia Ratifying Convention demanding a guarantee of the right to bear arms.)
- BEN FRANKLIN (member, Continental Congress, signed Declaration of Independence, attended Constitutional Convention, 1st Postmaster General)
- "Those who would give up essential Liberty to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety." (Respectfully Quoted, p. 201, Suzy Platt, Barnes & Noble, 1993)
- NOAH WEBSTER (Served in Revolutionary Army, Printed dictionary; a federalist)
- "Before a standing army can rule, the people must be disarmed; as they are in almost every kingdom in Europe. The supreme power in America cannot enforce unjust laws by the sword; because the whole body of the people are armed...." (An Examination of the Leading Principles of the Federal Constitution, Webster1787)
- "A people can never be deprived of their liberties, while they retain in their own hands, a power sufficient to any other power in the state." (Webster, p.42-43)
- ALEXANDER HAMILTON (Member of Continental Congress, Aid-de-camp to General Washington, commanded forces at Yorktown, New York delegate to the Constitutional Convention, wrote Federalist Papers, 1st Secretary of Treasury for George Washington, wanted 'President for life')
- "Little more can reasonably be aimed at with respect to the people at large than to have them properly armed and equipped." (Federalist Papers #29)
- TENCH COXE (friend of Madison, member of Continental Congress)
- "Who are the militia? Are they not ourselves. Congress have no power to disarm the militia. Their swords, and every other terrible implement of the soldier, are the birth-right of an American...(T)he unlimited power of the sword is not in the hands of either the federal or state governments, but, where I trust in God it will ever remain, in the hands of the people." (Freeman's Journal, 20 Feb 1778)
- "As civil rulers, not having their duty to the people duly before them, may attempt to tyrannize, and as the military forces which must be occasionally raised to defend our country, might pervert their power to the injury of their fellow-citizens, the people are confirmed by the next article in their right to keep and bear their private arms." (introduction to his discussion, and support, of the 2nd Amend) "Remarks on the First Part of the Amendments to the Federal Constitution" Philadelphia Federal Gazette, 18 June 1789, pg.2
- "The militia, who are in fact the effective part of the people at large, ...will form a powerful check upon the regular troops..." (Coxe, An Examination of the Constitution of the United States of America p.20-21)
- REPRESENTATIVE WILLIAMSON (member of the first Congress of the United States)
- "The burden of the militia duty lies equally upon all persons;" in Congress, 22 Dec 1790 (Elliot, p423)
- WILLIAM GRAYSON (Senator from Virginia in first Congress under the United States Constitution)
- "Last Monday a string of amendments were presented to the lower house; these altogether respect personal liberty..." (in letter to Patrick Henry)
- ZACHARIA JOHNSON (delegate to Virginia Ratifying Convention)
- "The people are not to be disarmed of their weapons. They are left in full possession of them." (Elliot, 3:645-6)
Founding Fathers on the Second Amendment
Everyone on Liberty
- CAPTAIN JOHN PARKER (Commander, Lexington Militia Company)
- "Every man of you who is equipped, follow me..Stand your ground. Don't fire unless fired upon. But if they want to have a war, let it begin here." Lexington, MA, 19 April 1775, as British troops approached on their march to Concord to implement gun control (Mine Eyes Have Seen, Goldstein 1997 & Quotes for the Military Writer, U.S. Army Command Information Unit, Library of HQ TRADOC)
- GEORGE WASHINGTON
- "Government is not reason; it is not eloquence; it is force! Like fire, it is a dangerous servant and a fearful master."
- "If in the opinion of the people the distribution or modification of the constitutional powers be in any particular wrong, let it be corrected by an amendment in the way which the Constitution designates. But let there be no change by usurpation; for though this in one instance may be the instrument of good, it is the customary weapon by which free governments are destroyed." (farewell address)
- "A free people ought not only to be armed but disciplined..." (Papers of the President, p.65, Richardson, ed)
- THOMAS JEFFERSON
- "Enlighten the people generally, and tyranny and oppressions of body and mind will vanish like evil spirits at the dawn of day." (Letter to Du Pont de Nemours 24 April 1816)
- "When the government fears the people, there is liberty. When the people fear the government, there is tyranny."
- SAMUEL ADAMS
- "If ye love wealth more than liberty, the tranquillity of servitude greater than the animating contest for freedom, go home and leave us in peace. We seek not your council, nor your arms. Crouch down and lick the hand that feeds you; and may your chains set lightly upon you, and posterity forget that ye were our country men." 1776
- "The liberties of our country, the freedom of our civil constitution, are worth defending at all hazards; and it is our duty to defend them against all attacks. We have received them as a fair inheritance from our worthy ancestors: they purchased them for us with toil and danger and expense of treasure and blood, and transmitted to us with care and diligence. It will bring an everlasting mark of infamy on the present generation, enlightened as it is, if we should suffer them to be wrested from us by violence without a struggle, or be cheated out of them by the artifices of false and designing men."
- PATRICK HENRY
- "Millions of people armed in the holy cause of liberty, and in such a country as that which we possess, are invincible. ...The battle, is not to the strong alone; it is the vigilant, the active, the brave. ...Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty or give me death." Excerpts of speech made before the Virginia House of Burgesses, 1775
- "Are we at last brought to such a humiliating and debasing degradation, that we cannot be trusted with arms for our own defense?.... If our defense be the real object of having those arms, in whose hands can they be trusted with more propriety, or equal safety to use, as in our own hands?" (3 Elliot, p. 168-9)
- THOMAS PAINE (Author: Common Sense & The Rights of Man, urged Declaration of Independence)
- "Those who expect to reap the blessings of freedom must, like men, undergo the fatigue of supporting it."
- "...arms like laws discourage and keep the invader and plunderer in awe...Horrid mischief would ensue were the good deprived of the use of them."
- DANIEL WEBSTER (Representative and Senator from New Hampshire, U.S. Secretary of State )
- "Good intentions will always be pleaded for every assumption for authority. It is hardly too strong to say that the Constitution was made to guard the people against the dangers of good intentions. There are men in all ages who mean to govern well, but they mean to govern. They promise to be good masters, but they mean to be masters."
- REPRESENTATIVE JOHN RANDOLPH
- "A people who mean to continue free must be prepared to meet danger in person..." (22 Dec 1790, Elliot p.4:411)
- LUTHER MARTIN (Member Continental Congress, Maryland delegate to the Constitutional Convention)
- "...the whole history of mankind proves that so far from parting with the powers actually delegated to it, government is constantly encroaching on the small pittance of rights reserved by the people to themselves and gradually wrestling them out of their hands..." (The Maryland Journal, 28 March 1788)
- WILLIAM PITT
- "Necessity is the plea for every infringement of human freedom. It is the argument of tyrants; it is the creed of slaves." Speech to House of Commons, 1787
- EDMUND BURKE
- "Nobody makes a greater mistake than he who does nothing because he could only do a little."
- "The people never give up their liberties but under some delusion." 1784
- ANDREW JACKSON (Served in Revolutionary Army, Senator, Major General US Army, 17th President)
- "...but a million armed freemen, possessed of the means of war, can never be conquered by a foreign foe." his first Inaugural Address, 1829 (total popular vote for his election was just over one million)
- "Both Oligarch and Tyrant mistrust the people, and therefore deprive them of arms." (Politics, Aristotle p. 218)
- ABRAHAM LINCOLN
- "The people of the United States are the rightful masters of both Congress and the Courts, not to overthrow the Constitution, but to overthrow the men who pervert the Constitution." (17 September 1859, speech in Cincinnati, OH)
- "To sin by silence when they should protest makes cowards out of men."
- WILLIAM RAWLE (U.S. Attorney for Pennsylvania, appointed by President Washington)
- "No clause in the Constitution could by any rule of construction be conceived to give to congress a power to disarm the people." (Rawle, A View of the Constitution, p. 125-6, 1829)
- ALBERT EINSTEIN
- "The strength of the Constitution lies entirely in the determination of each citizen to defend it. Only if every single citizen feels duty bound to do his share in this defense are constitutional rights secure."
- HUBERT H. HUMPHREY (Senator, Vice President)
- "Certainly one of the chief guarantees of freedom under any government, no matter how popular and respected, is the right of citizens to keep and bear arms...The right of citizens to bear arms is just one guarantee against arbitrary government, one more safeguard, against the tyranny which now appears remote in America but which historically has proven to be always possible." (22 October 1959)
- WINSTON CHURCHILL
- "If you will not fight for the right when you can easily win without bloodshed, if you will not fight when your victory will be sure and not so costly, you may come to the moment when you will have to fight with all the odds against you and only a precarious chance for survival. There may be a worse case. You may have to fight when there is no chance of victory, because it is better to perish than to live as slaves."
- REVEREND MARTIN NIEMOLLER (arrested by the Gestapo in 1937)
- "In Germany, they first came for the communist, and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a communist. Then, they came for the Jews, and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a Jew...Then they came for the Catholics. I didn't speak up because I was a Protestant. Then they came for me, and there was no one left to speak up."
- FREDERICK DOUGLASS (U.S. Marshal, son of a slave)
- "Find out just what people will submit to, and you have found out the exact amount of injustice and wrong which will be imposed upon them; ...The limits of tyrants are prescribed by the endurance of those whom they oppress." 1857
- DR. MARTIN LUTHER KING, JR.
- "A right delayed is a right denied."
- JOSEPH STORY (Supreme Court Justice)
- "The militia is the natural defense of a free country against sudden foreign invasions, domestic insurrections, and domestic usurpation of power by rulers. The right of the citizens to keep and bear arms has justly been considered, as the palladium of the liberties of the republic; since it offers a strong moral check against the usurpation and arbitrary power of rulers; and will generally...enable the people to resist and triumph over them." (Story, Commentaries on the Constitution of the United States, p.3:746-7, 1833)
- WILLIAM HOWARD TAFT (27th President, Chief Justice US Supreme Court)
- "Constitutions are checks upon the hasty action of the majority. They are self imposed restraints of a whole people upon a majority of them to secure sober action and a respect for the rights of the minority." (22 August 1911)
- WILLIAM O. DOUGLAS (Supreme Court Justice 1939-75)
- "As nightfall does not come at once, neither does oppression. In both instances, there is a twilight when everything remains seemingly unchanged. And it is in such a twilight that we all must be most aware of change in the air-- however slight-- lest we become the unwitting victims of the darkness."
- "Fear of assassination often produces restraints compatible with dictatorship, not democracy."
- HUGO BLACK (Supreme Court Justice, U.S. Senator)
- "I cannot agree with those who think of the Bill of Rights as an 18th century straitjacket, unsuited for this age...The evils it guards against are not only old, they are with us now, they exist today." (The Great Rights, Cahn '63, p 44-45)
- GEORGE SUTHERLAND (Supreme Court Justice)
- "For the saddest epitaph which can be carved in memory of a vanished freedom is that it was lost because its possessors failed to stretch forth a saving hand while there was still time."
- LOUIS BRANDEIS (Supreme Court Justice)
- "Those who won our independence by revolution were not cowards. They did not fear political change. They did not exalt order at the cost of liberty." (Whitney v. California, 1927)
- "Experience should teach us to be most on our guard to protect liberty when the government's purposes are beneficent. Men born to freedom are naturally alert to repel invasion of their liberty by evil-minded rulers. The greatest dangers to liberty lurk in insidious encroachment by men of zeal, well meaning but without understanding." (Olmstead v. United States, 1928)
- ANTONIN SCALIA (Supreme Court Justice)
- "It would be strange to find in the midst of a catalog of the rights of individuals a provision securing to the states the right to maintain a designated 'Militia.' Dispassionate scholarship suggests quite strongly that the right of the people to keep and bear arms meant just that . There is no need to deceive ourselves as to what the original Second Amendment said and meant." A Matter of Interpretation: Federal Courts and the Law, Princeton University Press
- "[T]hey [the Founders] feared that some future generation might wish to abandon liberties that they considered essential, and so sought to protect those liberties in a Bill of Rights." A Matter of Interpretation
- "The Constitution Protects us from our own best intentions." (U.S. v. Printz, 1977)
- CLARENCE THOMAS (Supreme Court Justice)
- "The Second Amendment similarly appears to contain an express limitation on the government's authority. If the Second Amendment is read to confer a personal right to 'keep and bear arms,' a colorable argument exists that the Federal Government's regulatory scheme, at least as it pertains to possession of firearms, runs afoul of that amendment's protections" (U.S. v. Printz, 1997)
- EARL WARREN (former Supreme Court Chief Justice)
- "Today, as always, the people, no less than the courts, must remain vigilant to preserve the principals of our Bill of Rights, lest in our desire to be secure we lose our ability to be free." (James Madison Lecture, NY University, 1962)
- DAVID KOPEL (Civil Rights Attorney)
- "They will never outlaw all of your guns at once. But every 'reasonable' control they can impose without your resistance gives them one more bit of leverage to make gun ownership for you and your children and your grandchildren as difficult as possible."
- REBECCA WYATT (Founder of Safety for Women and Responsible Motherhood, Inc.)
- "The advice on self-defense that I received after [my] assault was 'Don't get a gun. It will only add to the violence.' Never having been exposed to guns before, this seemed to make sense -- until I was attacked again."
- SHERIFF RICHARD MACK (Sheriff of Graham County, AZ; filed suit challenging Constitutionality of the Brady Law)
- "...the only background check I'd support is one on politicians."
- LIEUTENANT LOWELL DUCKETT (Pres., Black Police Caucus, Special Assistant to Washington, D.C. Police Chief)
- "Gun control has not worked in D.C. The only people who have guns are criminals. We have the strictest gun laws in the nation and one of the highest murder rates. It's quicker to pull your Smith and Wesson than to dial 911 if you're being robbed." The Washington Post
- MAHATMA GANDHI
- "Among the many misdeeds of British rule in India, history will look upon the Act depriving a whole nation of arms as the blackest." (My Autobiography, p. 446)
- TENCH COXE
- "What should we think of a gentleman, who, upon hiring a waiting-man, should say to him 'my friend, please take notice, before we come together, that I shall always claim the liberty of eating when and what I please, of fishing and hunting upon my own ground, of keeping as many horses and hounds as I can maintain, and of speaking and writing any sentiments upon all subjects.' (A) master reserves to himself...every thing else which he has not committed to the care of those servants." [editor's translation: Bill of Rights not needed; repetitive]
- CESARE BECCARIA
- "False is the idea of utility that sacrifices a thousand real advantages for one imaginary or trifling inconvenience; that would take fire from men because it burns, and water because one may drown in it; ...The laws that forbid the carrying of arms are laws of such a nature. They disarm those only who are neither inclined nor determined to commit crimes. Can it be supposed that those who have the courage to violate the most sacred laws of humanity, the most important of the code, will respect the less important and arbitrary ones, which can be violated with ease and impunity, and which, if strictly obeyed, would put an end to personal liberty -- so dear to men, ...and subject innocent persons to all the vexations that the guilty alone ought to suffer? 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. They ought to be designated as laws not preventive but fearful of crimes, produced by the tumultuous impression of a few isolated facts, and not by thoughtful consideration of the inconveniences and advantages of a universal decree." On Crime and Punishment, p.145 (1819) originally published in 1764
- JAMES BURGH (18th Century English Libertarian writer)
- "...most attractive to Americans, the possession of arms is the distinction between a freeman and a slave, it being the ultimate means by which freedom was to be preserved." (Shalhope, The Ideological Origins of the Second Amendment, p.604)
- DR. SUZANNE GRATIA (Texas State Representative)
- "I blame the deaths of my parents on those legislators who deny me my right to defend myself." (Both her parents and 20 others were killed by a mad man in the Luby's Cafeteria in Killeen, TX, 1991. TX law prevented her from carrying her handgun into the restaurant, so she left it in the car)
- "War is an ugly thing, but not the ugliest of things. The decayed and degraded state of moral and patriotic feelings which thinks that nothing is worth war is much worse. A man who has nothing for which he is willing to fight, nothing he cares about more than his own personal safety, is a miserable creature who has no chance of being free unless made and kept so by the exertions of better men than himself."
- THE TALMUD
- "Who can protest an injustice but does not is an accomplice in the act."
- EDWARD ABBEY
- "The tank, the B-52, the fighter-bomber, the state controlled police are the weapons of dictatorship. The rifle is the weapon of democracy....If guns are outlawed, only the government will have guns. Only the police, the secret police, the military, the hired servants of our rulers. Only the government and a few outlaws. I intend to be among the outlaws."
Founding Fathers on the Second Amendment
Quotes on Freedom and Liberty
Those who disagree with the previous quotes
- BRITISH MAJOR JOHN PITCAIRN (Commander of Advance Guard of British forces marching to Concord, MA)
- "Disperse you rebels; damn you, throw down your arms and disperse." (order to American militiamen at Lexington, 1775)
- BILL CLINTON (President of the United States)
- "We can't be so fixated on our desire to preserve the rights of ordinary Americans to legitimately own handguns and rifles...that we are unable to think about reality." (USA Today, 11 March 93, pg. 2A)
- "The last time I checked, the Constitution said 'of the people, by the people and for the people'. That's what the Declaration of Independence says." Reuters News Agency ([Editor's note: actually those words are in neither of those documents, but part of The Gettysburg Address by Abraham Lincoln]
- "I don't think the American people are there right now. But with more than 200 million guns in circulation, we've got so much more to do on this issue before we even reach that. I don't think that's an option now. But there are certain kinds of guns that can be banned and a lot of other reasonable regulations that can be imposed." when asked of the possibility of a federal law banning handguns, interview in Rolling Stone magazine, 9 Dec 93, pg. 45
- "We've banned these guns ['assault' weapons] because you don't need an Uzi to go deer hunting, and everyone knows it." Weekly radio address, 15 Nov 97, the Roosevelt Room, the White House
- JOSE CERDA (White House official)
- "We are taking the law and bending it as far as we can to capture a whole new class of guns [to ban]" (Los Angeles Times, 22 Oct 97, Mr. Cerda was named as a "White House official who specializes in gun control.")
- RONNIE EDLEMAN (Department of Justice, Clinton Administration)
- "The current state of federal law does not recognize that the Second Amendment protects the right of private citizens to possess firearms of any type. Instead, the Second Amendment is deemed to be a collective right belonging to the state and not to an individual. Accordingly, the Second Amendment is interpreted by this administration as prohibiting the federal government from preventing a state government from forming or having a state recognized militia force. With this understanding in mind, the source of citizens' authority to possess a handgun has never been particularly identified in American law." In a letter written on behalf of President Clinton
- JANET RENO (U.S. Attorney General)
- "Gun registration is not enough." (Associated Press 10 Dec 93)
- "I've always proposed state licensing...with some federal standards." (ABC's "Good Morning America" 10 Dec 93)
- "[Assault weapons] are used on school yards, at airports, in bank lobbies, on trains, in traffic and in front of the White House. They have no legitimate sporting purpose, and you won't find them in a duck blind or at the Olympics." (The Washington Times, 22 March 96, A4)
- "What we have got to do is make sure that before a person possesses a gun, they have exhibited by test that they know how to safely and lawfully use the weapon and by experience that they are capable of doing that." (Associated Press, 29 Mar 99)
- JOYCELYN ELDERS (Former U.S. Surgeon General) ...on gun ownership
- "I want to make it as hard as possible. Gun owners would have to be evaluated by how they scored on written and firing tests, and have to pass the tests in order to own a gun. And I would tax the guns, bullets and the license itself very heavily." (Mother Jones magazine, Jan/Feb '94)
- FIDEL CASTRO
- "Armas para que?" ("Guns, for what?") (response to a Cuban citizens who said the people might need to keep their guns, after Castro announced strict gun control in Cuba)
- JOSEPH McNAMARA (Police Chief, San Jose, CA)
- "I have made it considerably tougher for residents to get handgun permits." (in his book Safe and Sane, 1984)
- DANIEL PATRICK MOYNIHAN (U.S. Senator)
- "...we could tax them [firearms] out of existence." (Washington Post 4 Nov 93)
- MAJOR OWENS (U.S. Congressman)
- "My bill...establishes a 6-month grace period for the turning in of handguns." (Congressional Record 10 Nov 93)
- "The second article of amendment (Second Amendment) to the Constitution of the United States is repealed." (U.S. House Joint Resolution 438 introduced 11 March 1992 by Congressman Owens, D-NY)
- DIANE FEINSTEIN (California Senator, author of "Feinstein Amendment" which became the '94 gun ban)
- "If I could have gotten 51 votes in the Senate of the United States for an outright ban, picking up every one of them 'Mr. and Mrs. America, turn 'em all in,' I would have done it." (60 Minutes episode, CBS) [Sen Feinstein holds a CCP]
- MEL REYNOLDS (U.S. Congressman)
- "If it were up to me, we'd ban them all [firearms]." (CNN Crossfire 9 Dec 93)
- PATRICK KENNEDY (U.S. Congressman, R.I.)
- "Kennedy said he favors an outright ban on handguns, but doubts its palatability in the current political climate." (Providence Journal, 4 Jan 99)
- NELSON T. (PETE) SHIELDS III (Founder, Handgun Control, Inc./National Council to Control Handguns)
- "We're going to have to take this one step at a time, and the first step is necessarily - given the political realities - going to be very modest. Right now, though, we'd be satisfied not with half a loaf but with a slice. Our ultimate goal - total control of all guns - is going to take time.....The final problem is to make the possession of all handguns and all handgun ammunition - except for the military, policemen, licensed security guards, licensed sporting clubs and licensed gun collectors - totally illegal." (New Yorker Magazine, p.57-58, 26 Jul 76)
- SARAH BRADY (Chairman, Handgun Control, Inc.)
- "There is no personal right to be armed for private purposes unrelated to the service in a well regulated militia." (Richmond Times-Dispatch, 6 June 97, pg. 6)
- "We have a tremendous opportunity to take a giant leap forward in our fight to require gun licensing in this country if Initiative 676 succeeds, there's no question but that we will have created enormous momentum for a national gun licensing law." (HCI fund-raising letter, Oct 97, speaking of Initiative 676 in WA)
- "I don't believe gun owners have rights. The Second Amendment has never been interpreted that way and every court case that's ever come down has shown that." ("Guns in America: Part III", Hearst Newspaper 1997, By Holly Yeager)
- JOSH SUGARMANN (Executive Director, Violence Policy Center; former Communications Director of the National Coalition to Ban Handguns)
- "To end the crisis [of gun violence], we have to regulate -or, in the case of handguns and assault weapons, completely ban -the product. We are far past the [point] where registration, licensing, safety training, background checks, or waiting periods will have much effect on firearms violence." (Mother Jones Magazine, Jan/Feb 94, article titled "Reverse Fire")
- "Under such a plan (proposed by Sugarmann, where ATF would have total say on legality of guns) would result in an immediate ban on the future production and sale of handguns and assault weapons" (Mother Jones Magazine, Jan/Feb 94, article titled "Reverse Fire")
- "the semiautomatic weapons' menacing looks, coupled with the public's confusion ..[that] anything that looks like a machine gun is assumed to be a machine gun - can only increase the chance of public support for restrictions on these weapons." ("Assault Weapons and Accessories in America" [Washington, DC Education Fund to End Handgun Violence and New Right Watch] Sep 88, p. 26)
- SUSAN GLICK (Spokesperson for the Violence Policy Center)
- "We endorse a handgun ban. I will tell you that right now. We absolutely endorse that ban and we are absolutely vocal about it." [answering: "What is your ultimate goal?"] (Talk Show Front Page on WVLK AM 590, Lexington, KY, 3 Dec 97)
- DR. ARTHUR KELLERMAN (Published 1986 "study" discouraging people from using guns for self defense)
- "If you've got to resist [an attacker], your chances of being hurt are less the more lethal your weapon. If that were my wife, would I want her to have a .38 Special in her hand? Yeah." (Health magazine, Mar/Apr 94 )
- MICHAEL GARTNER ( President NBC News)
- "There is no reason for anyone in this country, anyone except a police officer or military person to buy, to own, to have, to use a handgun." (USA Today 16 Jan 92)
- USA Today Newspaper Articles
- "We will never fully solve our nation's horrific problem of gun violence unless we ban the manufacture and sale of handguns and semi-automatic assault weapons." 29 Dec 93
- "A bill requiring all handguns to be given to the government will be introduced Tuesday by Sen. John Chafee." 1 Jun 92
- LOS ANGELAS TIMES Newspaper Article
- "Why should America adopt a policy of near-zero tolerance for private gun ownership?...who can still argue compellingly that Americans can be trusted to handle guns safely? We think the time has come for Americans to tell the truth about guns. They are not for us, we cannot handle them." 28 Dec 93
- CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER (Syndicated columnist)
- "The claim of the advocates that banning these 19 types of 'assault weapons' will reduce the crime rate is laughable...Ultimately, a civilized society must disarm its citizenry if it is to have a modicum of domestic tranquillity...Passing a law like the assault weapons ban is a symbolic -- purely symbolic move in that direction. Its only real justification is not to reduce crime but to desensitize the public to the regulation of weapons in preparation for their ultimate confiscation...De-escalation begins with a change in mentality. And that change in mentality starts with the symbolic yielding of certain types of weapons. The real steps, like the banning of handguns, will never occur unless this one is taken first, and even then not for decades. (The Washington Post, 5 April 1996)
- WILLIAM GREIDER (writer, Rolling Stone magazine)
- "The plain fact is that the United States is now hostage to a harrowing epidemic of gun violence, and the Brady bill won't do much to change that. The National Rifle Association has been saying this all along, and the NRA is right. The NRA has also argued that a waiting period won't prevent criminals from getting guns. And it's right about that, too. Enactment of the Brady bill will, however, represent a victory of some political significance - a visible defeat for the tenacious lobbying power of the NRA. Thus the limited scope of the Brady bill was justified as a necessary first step toward breaking the NRA's power - a way to demonstrate that politicians could support a moderate version of control and survive." (Rolling Stone, article entitled: "A Pistol-whipped Nation - Pass the Brady Bill - then ban handguns", 30 Sep 93, pg. 31)
- CHARLES MORGAN (Director, American Civil Liberties Union, Washington, D.C. office)
- "I have not one doubt, even if I am in agreement with the National Rifle Association, that that kind of record keeping procedure (gun registration) is the first step to eventual confiscation under one administration or another" in a 1975 hearing before the House Subcommittee on Crime
- CARL ROWAN (Washington, DC Syndicated Columnist)
- "We must reverse this psychology (of needing guns for home defense). We can do it by passing a law that says anyone found in possession of a handgun except a legitimate officer of the law goes to jail- period! (1981 article)
- "as long as authorities leave this society awash in drugs and guns, I will protect my family." (1988 article titled "At Least They're Not Writing My Obituary", after shooting an unarmed trespasser with an unregistered handgun)
- DR. JOYCE BROTHERS (Psychiatrist, TV personality)
- "Men possess handguns in order to compensate for sexual dysfunction." [her husband is among NYC elite that has been issued a permit to carry a concealed handgun]
- SYLVESTER STALLONE (Actor)
- "The only way to make America safe: go house to house and confiscate every gun." (Access Hollywood, 8 June 98)
- MIKE SEELY (Spokesman for Washington Citizens for Handgun Safety, gun control lobby group pushing I-676, a gun licensing law)
- "Their movement [2nd Amendment supporters] is so well grounded in the Constitution, it's 200 years old. Our movement is probably 20 years from reaching its peak." (Reuters)
- "Maybe we brought out the extremist vote with this one." (The News Tribune, Tacoma, WA 6 Nov 97, after their ballot measure requiring gun licenses was defeated 71% - 29%)
- NAZI LAW (Regulations Against Jews' Possession of Weapons, 11 Nov 1938, German Minister of the Interior)
- "Those now possessing weapons and ammunition are at once to turn them over to the local police authority. Firearms and ammunition found in a Jew's possession will be forfeited to the government without compensation Whoever willfully or negligently violates the provisions will be punished with imprisonment and a fine."