“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
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)
“Another source of power in government is a military force. But this, to be efficient, must be superior to any force that exists 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
“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 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, so dear to the enlightened legislator-and subject innocent persons to all the vexations that the quality 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 unarmed 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.” - Thomas Jefferson, quoting 18th century criminologist Cesare Beccaria in “On Crimes and Punishment”, 1764
“Arms in the hands of the citizens may be used at individual discretion for the defense of the country, the overthrow of tyranny or private self-defense.” - John Adams, A Defense of the Constitutions of Government of the United States of America, 1787-88
“if the representatives of the people betray their constituents, there is no recorse left but the exertion of that original right of self-defense which is paramont to all forms of positive government.” - Alexander Hamilton, writing in The Federalist Paper No. 28
“The best we can hope for concerning the people at large, is that they be properly armed.” - Alexander Hamilton, The Federalist Papers , 184-8
“...if 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 own rights and those of their fellow-citizens. This appears to me the only substitute that can be devised for a standing army, and the best possible security against it, if it should exist.” - Alexander Hamilton, The Federalist Papers No. 29
“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, Feb 1982
“The right of 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 the usurption and arbitraty 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, Commentaries On The Constitution, 1883
“Congress shall have no power to disarm the milita. 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 state governments, but, where I trust in God it will ever remain, in the hands of the people.” - Tench Coxe, writing as “the Pennsylvanian” in the Philadelphia Federal Gazette, 1788
“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 article in their right to keep and bear their private arms.” - Tench Coxe in “Remarks on the First Part of the Amendments to the Federal Constitution.” Under the pseudonym “A Pennsylvanian” in the Philadelphia Federal Gazette, June 18, 1789 at 2 col. 1.
“The supposed quietude of a good man allures the ruffian; while on the other hand, arms, like laws, discourage and keep the invader and the plunderer in awe, and preserve order in the world as well as property. The same balance would be preserved were all the world destitute of arms, for all would be alike; but since some will not, others dare not lay them aside...horrid mischief would ensue were one half the world deprived of the use of them...” - Pennsulvania Patriot Thomas Paine, Thoughts On Defensive War, 1775
“I am thus far a Quaker, that I would gladly argue with all the world to lay aside the use of arms and settle matters by negotiation, but unless the whole will, the matter ends, and I take up my musket and thank Heaven He has put it in my power.” - Writings of Thomas Paine 56 (M. Conway ed. 1894)
“While I cannot comment on any pending legislation, let me state unequivocally my view that the text and the original intent of the Second Amendment clearly protect the right of individuals to keep and bear firearms.” - U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft, in a letter to James Jay Baker, Executive Director, National Rifle Association
“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... The phrase “the people” meant the same thing in the Second Amendment as it did in the First, Fourth, Ninth and Tenth Amendments Ñ that is, each and every free person. A select militia defined as only the privileged class entitled to keep and bear arms was considered an anathema to a free society, in the same way that Americans denounced select spokesmen approved by the government as the only class entitled to the freedom of the press. If anyone entertained this notion in the period during which the Constitution and Bill of Rights were debated and ratified, it remains one of the most closely guarded secrets of the 18th century, for no known writing surviving from the period between 1787 and 1791 states such a thesis.” - Attorney/Author Stephen P. Holbrook, That Every Man Be Armed: The Evolution of a Constitutional Right
“There is no doubt in my mind that millions of lives could have been saved if the people were not “brainwashed” about gun ownership and had been well armed. ... Gun haters always want to forget the Warsaw Ghetto uprising, which is a perfect example of how a ragtag, half-starved group of Jews took 10 handguns and made asses out of the Nazis.” - Theodore Haas, Dachau Survivor
“Before a standing army can rule, the people must be disarmed; as they are in almost every kingdom of Europe. [But] 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”. Prominent New England federalist and founding father Noah Webster, 1787
“A free people ought not only to be armed and disciplined, but they should have sufficient arms and ammunition to maintain a status of independence from any who might attempt to abuse them, which would include their own government.” - George Washington
“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, Thomas Jefferson Papers, 334.
“A militia, when properly formed, are in fact the people themselves ... and include all men capable of bearing arms.” - Senator Richard Henry Lee, 1788, on “militia” in the 2nd Amendment.
“Are we at last brought to such a humiliating and debasing degradation, that we cannot be trusted with arms for our own defense? 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 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, speech of June 9 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.