“To disarm the people… was the most effectual way to enslave them.”

  • George Mason, referencing advice given to the British Parliament by Pennsylvania governor Sir William Keith, The Debates in the Several State Conventions on the Adooption of the Federal Constitution, June 14, 1788

“Before a standing army can rule, the people must be disarmed, as they are in almost every country 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.”

  • Noah Webster, An Examination of the Leading Principles of the Federal Constitution, October 10, 1787

“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 ruined…. The great object is that every man be armed. Everyone who is able might have a gun.”

  • Patrick Henry, Speech to the Virginia Ratifying Convention, June 5, 1778

“As civil rulers, not having their duty to the people 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, Philadelphia Federal Gazette, June 18, 1789

“I prefer dangerous freedom over peaceful slavery.”

  • Thomas Jefferson, letter to James Madison, January 30, 1787

“What country can preserve its liberties if their rulers are not warned from time to time that their people preserve the spirit of resistance. Let them take arms.”

  • Thomas Jefferson, letter to James Madison, December 20, 1787

“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…. 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.”

  • Thomas Jefferson, Commonplace Book (quoting 18th century criminologist Cesare Beccaria), 1774-1776

“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

“Before a standing army can rule, the people must be disarmed, as they are in almost every country 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.”

  • Noah Webster, An Examination of the Leading Principles of the Federal Constitution, October 10, 1787

“This may be considered as the true palladium of liberty…. 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 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.”

  • St. George Tucker, Blackstone’s Commentaries on the Laws of England, 1803