Quotes on the Right to Bear Arms
Don’t think of it as `gun control’, think of it as `victim disarmament’. If we make enough laws, we can all be criminals.
The possession of arms by the people is the ultimate warrant that government governs only with the consent of the governed.
— Jeff Snyder
As the Founding Fathers knew well, a government that does not trust its honest, law-abiding, taxpaying citizens with the means of self-defense is not itself worthy of trust. Laws disarming honest citizens proclaim that the government is the master, not the servant, of the people.
— Jeff Snyder
Probably fewer than 2% of handguns and well under 1% of all guns will ever be involved in a violent crime. Thus, the problem of criminal gun violence is concentrated within a very small subset of gun owners, indicating that gun control aimed at the general population faces a serious needle-in-the-haystack problem.
— Gary Kleck, “Point Blank: Handgun Violence In America”
When only cops have guns, it’s called a “police state”.
— Claire Wolfe, “101 Things To Do Until The Revolution”
Americans have the right and advantage of being armed – unlike the citizens of other countries whose governments are afraid to trust the people with arms.
— James Madison, The Federalist Papers
“The best we can hope for concerning the people at large is that they be properly armed.”
— Alexander Hamilton, The Federalist Papers at 184-188
“Among the many misdeeds of British rule in India, history will look upon the Act depriving a whole nation of arms as the blackest.”
— Mohandas Gandhi, An Autobiography, pg 446
The people of the various provinces are strictly forbidden to have in their possession any swords, short swords, bows, spears, firearms, or other types of arms. The possession of unnecessary implements makes difficult the collection of taxes and dues and tends to foment uprisings.
— Toyotomi Hideyoshi, dictator of Japan, August 1588
“One of the ordinary modes, by which tyrants accomplish their purposes without resistance, is, by disarming the people, and making it an offense to keep arms.”
— Constitutional scholar and Supreme Court Justice Joseph Story, 1840
“The bearing of arms is the essential medium through which the individual asserts both his social power and his participation in politics as a responsible moral being…”
— J.G.A. Pocock, describing the beliefs of the founders of the U.S.
Men trained in arms from their infancy, and animated by the love of liberty, will afford neither a cheap or easy conquest.
— From the Declaration of the Continental Congress, July 1775.
“As to the species of exercise, I advise the gun. While this gives [only] moderate exercise to the body, it gives boldness, enterprise, and independence to the mind. Games played with the ball and others of that nature, are too violent for the body and stamp no character on the mind. Let your gun, therefore, be the constant companion to your walks.”
— Thomas Jefferson, writing to his teenaged nephew.
“Taking my gun away because I might shoot someone is like cutting my tongue out because I might yell `Fire!’ in a crowded theater.”
— Peter Venetoklis
…Virtually never are murderers the ordinary, law-abiding people against whom gun bans are aimed. Almost without exception, murderers are extreme aberrants with lifelong histories of crime, substance abuse, psychopathology, mental retardation and/or irrational violence against those around them, as well as other hazardous behavior, e.g., automobile and gun accidents.”
— Don B. Kates, writing on statistical patterns in gun crime
The right of the citizens to keep and bear arms has justly been considered as the palladium of the liberties of a republic; since it offers a strong moral check against usurpation and arbitrary power of rulers; and will generally, even if these are successful in the first instance, enable the people to resist and triumph over them.”
— Supreme Court Justice Joseph Story of the John Marshall Court
Militias, 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 the people always possess arms and be taught alike, especially when young, how to use them.
— Senator Richard Henry Lee, 1788, on “militia” in the 2nd Amendment
“…quemadmodum gladius neminem occidit, occidentis telum est.” [...a sword never kills anybody; it's a tool in the killer's hand.]
— (Lucius Annaeus) Seneca “the Younger” (ca. 4 BC-65 AD),
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; that has no remedy for evils except destruction. The laws that forbid the carrying of arms are laws of such a nature. They disarm only those who are neither inclined nor determined to commit crimes.
— Cesare Beccaria, as quoted by Thomas Jefferson’s Commonplace book
No kingdom can be secured otherwise than by arming the people. The possession of arms is the distinction between a freeman and a slave.
— “Political Disquisitions”, a British republican tract of 1774-1775
Are we at last brought to such a humiliating and debasing degradation, that we cannot be trusted with arms for our own defence? Where is the difference between having our arms in our own possession and under our own direction, and having them under the management of Congress? If our defence 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, speech of June 9 1788
“To disarm the people… was the best and most effectual way to enslave them.”
— George Mason, speech of June 14, 1788
“The great object is, that every man be armed. [...] Every one who is able may have a gun.”
— Patrick Henry, speech of June 14 1788
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.
— “M.T. Cicero”, in a newspaper letter of 1788 touching the “militia” referred to in the Second Amendment to the Constitution.
That the said Constitution shall never be 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 peaceable citizens from keeping their own arms…
— Samuel Adams, in “Phila. Independent Gazetteer”, August 20, 1789
The danger (where there is any) from armed citizens, is only to the *government*, not to *society*; and as long as they have nothing to revenge in the government (which they cannot have while it is in their own hands) there are many advantages in their being accustomed to the use of arms, and no possible disadvantage.
— Joel Barlow, “Advice to the Privileged Orders”, 1792-93
[The disarming of citizens] has a double effect, it palsies the hand and brutalizes the mind: a habitual disuse of physical forces totally destroys the moral [force]; and men lose at once the power of protecting themselves, and of discerning the cause of their oppression.
— Joel Barlow, “Advice to the Privileged Orders”, 1792-93
Every Communist must grasp the truth, ‘Political power grows out of the barrel of a gun.’
— Mao Tse-tung, 1938, inadvertently endorsing the Second Amendment.
In the absence of any evidence tending to show that possession or use of a ‘shotgun having a barrel of less than eighteen inches in length’ at this time has some reasonable relationship to the preservation or efficiency of a well regulated militia, we cannot say that the Second Amendment guarantees the right to keep and bear such an instrument. [...] The Militia comprised all males physically capable of acting in concert for the common defense.
— Majority Supreme Court opinion in “U.S. vs. Miller” (1939)
An armed society is a polite society. Manners are good when one may have to back up his acts with his life.
— Robert A. Heinlein, “Beyond This Horizon”, 1942
The most foolish mistake we could possibly make would be to permit the conquered Eastern peoples to have arms. History teaches that all conquerors who have allowed their subject races to carry arms have prepared their own downfall by doing so.
— Adolph Hitler, April 11 1942.
The right to buy weapons is the right to be free.
— A.E. Van Vogt, “The Weapon Shops Of Isher”, ASF December 1942
Rifles, muskets, long-bows and hand-grenades are inherently democratic weapons. A complex weapon makes the strong stronger, while a simple weapon — so long as there is no answer to it — gives claws to the weak.
— George Orwell, “You and the Atom Bomb”, 1945
Certainly one of the chief guarantees of freedom under any government, no matter how popular and respected, is the right of the citizens to keep and bear arms. [...] the right of the citizens to bear arms is just one guarantee against arbitrary government and one more safeguard against a tyranny which now appears remote in America, but which historically has proved to be always possible.
— Hubert H. Humphrey, 1960
No matter how one approaches the figures, one is forced to the rather startling conclusion that the use of firearms in crime was very much less when there were no controls of any sort and when anyone, convicted criminal or lunatic, could buy any type of firearm without restriction. Half a century of strict controls on pistols has ended, perversely, with a far greater use of this weapon in crime than ever before.
— Colin Greenwood, in the study “Firearms Control”, 1972
Let us hope our weapons are never needed –but do not forget what the common people knew when they demanded the Bill of Rights: An armed citizenry is the first defense, the best defense, and the final defense against tyranny. 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.
— Edward Abbey, “Abbey’s Road”, 1979
If I were to select a jack-booted group of fascists who are perhaps as large a danger to American society as I could pick today, I would pick BATF [the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms].
— U.S. Representative John Dingell, 1980
.. a government and its agents are under no general duty to provide public services, such as police protection, to any particular individual citizen…
— Warren v. District of Columbia, 444 A.2d 1 (D.C. App.181)
The conclusion is thus inescapable that the history, concept, and wording of the second amendment to the Constitution of the United States, as well as its interpretation by every major commentator and court in the first half-century after its ratification, indicates that what is protected is an individual right of a private citizen to own and carry firearms in a peaceful manner.
— Report of the Subcommittee On The Constitution of the Committee On The Judiciary, United States Senate, 97th Congress, second session (February, 1982), SuDoc# Y4.J 89/2: Ar 5/5
In recent years it has been suggested that the Second Amendment protects the “collective” right of states to maintain militias, while it does not protect the right of “the people” to keep and bear arms. If anyone entertained this notion in the period during which the Constitution and the Bill of Rights were debated and ratified, it remains one of the most closely guarded secrets of the eighteenth century, for no known writing surviving from the period between 1787 and 1791 states such a thesis.
— Stephen P. Halbrook, “That Every Man Be Armed”, 1984
To make inexpensive guns impossible to get is to say that you’re putting a money test on getting a gun. It’s racism in its worst form.
— Roy Innis, president of the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE), 1988
I don’t like the idea that the police department seems bent on keeping a pool of unarmed victims available for the predations of the criminal class.
— David Mohler, 1989, on being denied a carry permit in NYC
Americans have the will to resist because you have weapons. If you don’t have a gun, freedom of speech has no power.
— Yoshimi Ishikawa, Japanese author, in the LA Times 15 Oct 1992
You know why there’s a Second Amendment? In case the government fails to follow the first one.
— Rush Limbaugh, in a moment of unaccustomed profundity 17 Aug 1993
The whole of the Bill [of Rights] is a declaration of the right of the people at large or considered as individuals… It establishes some rights of the individual as unalienable and which consequently, no majority has a right to deprive them of.
— Albert Gallatin, Oct 7 1789
The world is filled with violence. Because criminals carry guns, we decent law-abiding citizens should also have guns. Otherwise they will win and the decent people will lose.
— James Earl Jones
Whether the authorities be invaders or merely local tyrants, the effect of such [gun control] laws is to place the individual at the mercy of the state, unable to resist.
— Robert Anson Heinlein, 1949
Strict gun laws are about as effective as strict drug laws…It pains me to say this, but the NRA seems to be right: The cities and states that have the toughest gun laws have the most murder and mayhem.
— Mike Royko, Chicago Tribune
According to the National Crime Survey administered by the Bureau of the Census and the National Institute of Justice, it was found that only 12 percent of those who use a gun to resist assault are injured, as are 17 percent of those who use a gun to resist robbery. These percentages are 27 and 25 percent, respectively, if they passively comply with the felon’s demands. Three times as many were injured if they used other means of resistance.
— G. Kleck, “Policy Lessons from Recent Gun Control Research,” Law and Contemporary Problems 49, no. 1. (Winter 1986.): 35-62.
If gun laws in fact worked, the sponsors of this type of legislation should have no difficulty drawing upon long lists of examples of criminal acts reduced by such legislation. That they cannot do so after a century and a half of trying — that they must sweep under the rug the southern attempts at gun control in the 1870-1910 period, the northeastern attempts in the 1920-1939 period, the attempts at both Federal and State levels in 1965-1976 — establishes the repeated, complete and inevitable failure of gun laws to control serious crime.
— Senator Orrin Hatch, in a 1982 Senate Report
Where rights secured by the Constitution are involved, there can be no rule making or legislation which would abrogate them.
— Miranda vs. Arizona, 384 US 436 p. 491
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 people are armed, and constitute a force superior to any band of regular troops.
— Noah Webster
[President Clinton] boasts about 186,000 people denied firearms under the Brady Law rules. The Brady Law has been in force for three years. In that time, they have prosecuted seven people and put three of them in prison. You know, the President has entertained more felons than that at fundraising coffees in the White House, for Pete’s sake.”
— Charlton Heston, FOX News Sunday, 18 May 1997
(Those) who are trying to read the Second Amendment out of the Constitution by claiming it’s not an individual right (are) courting disaster by encouraging others to use the same means to eliminate portions of the Constitution they don’t like.
— Alan Dershowitz, Harvard Law School
The right of self-defense is the first law of nature: in most governments it has been the study of rulers to confine this right within the narrowest limits possible. Wherever standing armies are kept up, and when the right of the people to keep and bear arms is, under any color or pretext whatsoever, prohibited, liberty, if not already annihilated, is on the brink of destruction.”
— Henry St. George Tucker (in Blackstone’s Commentaries)
“Both oligarch and tyrant mistrust the people, and therefore deprive them of arms.”
The biggest hypocrites on gun control are those who live in upscale developments with armed security guards — and who want to keep other people from having guns to defend themselves. But what about lower-income people living in high-crime, inner city neighborhoods? Should such people be kept unarmed and helpless, so that limousine liberals can ‘make a statement’ by adding to the thousands of gun laws already on the books?”
“Boys who own legal firearms have much lower rates of delinquency and drug use and are even slightly less delinquent than nonowners of guns.”
— U.S. Department of Justice, National Institute of Justice, Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, NCJ-143454, “Urban Delinquency and Substance Abuse,” August 1995.
Gun Control: The theory that a woman found dead in an alley, raped and strangled with her panty hose, is somehow morally superior to a woman explaining to police how her attacker got that fatal bullet wound.
— L. Neil Smith
A man with a gun is a citizen. A man without a gun is a subject.
“Gun control” is a job-safety program for criminals.
During waves of terror attacks, Israel’s national police chief will call on all concealed-handgun permit holders to make sure they carry firearms at all times, and Israelis have many examples where concealed permit holders have saved lives.
— John R. Lott
“Historical examination of the right to bear arms, from English antecedents to the drafting of the Second Amendment, bears proof that the right to bear arms has consistently been, and should still be, construed as an individual right.”
— U.S. District Judge Sam Cummings, in re U.S. vs Emerson (1999).