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Quotes on Firearms Rights

Here are some of my favorite quotes on the right to bear arms. If you like these, surf over to my fortunes collection where you can download them in a couple of cookie files.

When only cops have guns, it's called a "police state".

Love your country, but never trust its government.

-- Robert A. Heinlein.

"The power to tax involves the power to destroy;...the power to destroy may defeat and render useless the power to create...."

-- Chief Justice John Marshall, 1819.

"Rightful liberty is unobstructed action, according to our will, within limits drawn around us by the equal rights of others."

-- Thomas Jefferson

"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, 1 Thomas Jefferson Papers, 334

"The very atmosphere of firearms anywhere and everywhere restrains evil interference - they deserve a place of honor with all that's good"

-- George Washington

"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 the British rule in India, history will look upon the act of depriving a whole nation of arms, as the blackest."

-- Mahatma Gandhi

"They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety."

-- Benjamin Franklin, Historical Review of Pennsylvania, 1759.

"Experience should teach us to be most on our guard to protect liberty when the government's purposes are beneficient... The greatest dangers to liberty lurk in insidious encroachment by men of zeal, well meaning but without understanding."

-- Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis

"Extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice. Tolerance in the face of tyranny is no virtue."

-- Barry Goldwater

"I hold it, that a little rebellion, now and then, is a good thing, and as necessary in the political world as storms in the physical."

-- Thomas Jefferson, Letter to James Madison, January 30, 1787

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, Shogun, August 1588

"This country, with its institutions, belongs to the people who inhabit it. Whenever they shall grow weary of the existing government, they can exercise their constitutional right of amending it or their revolutionary right to dismember it or overthrow it."

-- Abraham Lincoln, 4 April 1861

"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 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.

No one is bound to obey an unconstitutional law and no courts are bound to enforce it.

-- 16 Am. Jur. Sec. 177 late 2d, Sec 256

"The state calls its own violence `law', but that of the individual `crime'"

-- Max Stirner

"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

"Today, we need a nation of Minutemen, citizens who are not only prepared to take arms, but citizens who regard the preservation of freedom as the basic purpose of their daily life and who are willing to consciously work and sacrifice for that freedom."

-- John F. Kennedy

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

"Government is not reason, it is not eloquence, it is force; like fire, a troublesome servant and a fearful master. Never for a moment should it be left to irresponsible action."

-- George Washington, in a speech of January 7, 1790

"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

"...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

The spirit of resistance to government is so valuable on certain occasions, that I wish it always to be kept alive. It will often be exercised when wrong, but better so than not to be exercised at all. I like a little rebellion now and then. It is like a storm in the Atmosphere.

-- Thomas Jefferson, letter to Abigail Adams, 1787

& what country can preserve its liberties, if its rulers are not warned from time to time that his people preserve the spirit of resistance? Let them take arms.

-- Thomas Jefferson, letter to Col. William S. Smith, 1787

"Guard with jealous attention the public liberty. Suspect every one who approaches that jewel. Unfortunately, nothing will preserve it but downright force. Whenever you give up that force, you are inevitably ruined."

-- Patrick Henry, speech of June 5 1788

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

A man who has nothing which he is willing to fight for, nothing which he cares about more than he does about his 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.

-- John Stuart Mill, writing on the U.S. Civil War in 1862

You need only reflect that one of the best ways to get yourself a reputation as a dangerous citizen these days is to go about repeating the very phrases which our founding fathers used in the great struggle for independence.

-- Attributed to Charles Austin Beard (1874-1948)

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.

-- 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 kepping 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

"Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable.

-- John F. Kennedy

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