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"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

"We The people are the rightful masters of both Congress and the Courts, not to overthrow the Constitition but to overthrow the men who would pervert the Constitution."

-- Abraham Lincoln

"When any nation mistrusts its citizens with guns it is sending a clear message. It no longer trusts its citizens with guns because such a government has evil plans."

-- George Washington

"You won't get gun control by disarming law-abiding citizens. There's only one way to get real gun control: Disarm the thugs and the criminals, lock them up and if you don't actually throw away the key, at least lose it for a long time... It's a nasty truth, but those who seek to inflict harm are not fazed by gun controllers. I happen to know this from personal experience."

-- Ronald Reagan

"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."

--Richard Henry Lee

"... 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 Henry 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
Anti-gun/freedom/liberty Quotes

Founding Fathers on the Second Amendment

Founding Fathers on the Second Amendment
Anti-gun/freedom/liberty Quotes


Everyone on Liberty

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)
    • "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)
    • "...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]
    • "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."