The 2nd Amendment is uniquely American. It was the work of the Founding Fathers – men who had to fight for their freedom from tyranny, and who intended for the means of that fight to never be taken away from American citizens. Here are our favorite quotes on the right to bear arms:
Quotes About Guns and Freedom
"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."
- Rep. Hubert H. Humphrey
"The possession of arms by the people is the ultimate warrant that government governs only with the consent of the governed."
- Jeffrey R. Snyder, "A Nation of Cowards"
"A man with a gun is a citizen. A man without a gun is a subject."
- Rep. Allen West (R-FL)
"Arms are the only true badge of liberty. The possession of arms is the distinction of a free man from a slave."
"A militia, when properly formed, are in fact the people themselves... and include all men capable of bearing arms."
"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 journalist
"Man has to wring Liberty not only from tyrants, but also from his fellow men who are not only unwilling to fight for it, but to let anyone else fight for it."
- Paul I. Wellman, The Iron Mistress
"A man's rights rest in three boxes: the ballot box, the jury box, and the cartridge box."
- Frederick Douglass, famed civil rights leader in 1867, in response to post-Civil War segregation laws
"Any single man must judge for himself whether circumstances warrant obedience or resistance to the commands of the civil magistrate; we are all qualified, entitled, and morally obliged to evaluate the conduct of our rulers This political judgement, moreover, is not simply or primarily a right, but like self preservation a duty to God. As such it is a judgment that men cannot part with according to the God and Nature."
"The right of self defence 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 colour or pretext whatsoever, prohibited, liberty, if not already annihilated, is on the brink of destruction."
- St. George Tucker
Second Amendment Quotes
"No free government was ever founded, or ever preserved in its liberty, without uniting the characters of the citizen and soldier in those destined for the defence 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."
- An unknown "M.T. Cicero", in a letter to the State Gazette of South Carolina, 1788
"You know why there's a Second Amendment? In case the government fails to follow the first one."
"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, U.S. v. Emerson (1999)
"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: The Evolution of a Constitutional Right"
"Foolish liberals who are trying to read the Second Amendment out of the Constitution by claiming it's not an individual right or that it's too much of a safety hazard don't see the danger of the big picture. They're courting disaster by encouraging others to use the same means to eliminate portions of the Constitution they don't like."
- Alan Dershowitz, Professor of Law at Harvard Law School
"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
"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 the 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."
- Joseph Story, U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice
"The Second Amendment wasn't written so you can go hunting, it was to create a force to balance a tyrannical force here."
- Senator Tom Coburn of Oklahoma, 2013
"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."
"Nowhere else in the Constitution does a 'right' attributed to 'the people' refer to anything other than an individual right. What is more, in all six other provisions of the Constitution that mention 'the people,' the term unambiguously refers to all members of the political community, not an unspecified subset...The Second Amendment extends, prima facie, to all instruments that constitute bearable arms...The very text of the Second Amendment implicitly recognizes the pre-existence of the right and declares only that it 'shall not be infringed.'"
Antonin Scalia, U.S. Supreme Court Justice
"Nowhere else in the Constitution does a 'right' attributed to 'the people' refer to anything other than an individual right."
- Justice Antonin Scalia, District of Columbia v. Heller
"[T]he enshrinement of constitutional rights necessarily takes certain policy choices off the table. These include the absolute prohibition of handguns held and used for self-defense in the home. Undoubtedly some think that the Second Amendment is outmoded in a society where our standing army is the pride of our Nation, where well-trained police forces provide personal security, and where gun violence is a serious problem. That is perhaps debatable, but what is not debatable is that it is not the role of this Court to pronounce the Second Amendment extinct."
- Justice Antonin Scalia, District of Columbia v. Heller
"By calling attention to a well-regulated militia for the security of the Nation, and the right of each citizen to keep and bear arms, our founding fathers recognized the essentially civilian nature of our economy. Although it is extremely unlikely that the fear of governmental tyranny, which gave rise to the 2nd amendment, will ever be a major danger to our Nation, the amendment still remains an important declaration of our basic military-civilian relationship, in which every citizen must be ready to participate in the defense of his country. For that reason I believe the 2nd Amendment will always be important."
- John F. Kennedy
Quotes on Corrupt States
"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."
- Joseph Story, "Familiar Exposition of the Constitution of the United States"
"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."
- Jeffrey R. Snyder, "A Nation of Cowards"
"[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."
"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."
"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."
- St. George Tucker, Blackstone's Commentaries
"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, Conservative black leader
"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?"
"So, now it is ironic that the State whittles away at the right of its citizens to defend themselves from the possible oppression of their State."
- Judge Roger T. Benitez, Duncan v. Becerra, United States District Court Southern District of California, March 29, 2019
"The more corrupt the state, the more numerous the laws."
"A patriot must always be ready to defend his country against his government."
"It is interesting to hear certain kinds of people insist that the citizen cannot fight the government. This would have been news to the men of Lexington and Concord, as well as the Mujahedeen in Afghanistan. The citizen most certainly can fight the government, and usually wins when he tries. Organized national armies are useful primarily for fighting against other organized national armies. When they try to fight against the people, they find themselves at a very serious disadvantage. If you will just look around at the state of the world today, you will see that the guerillero has the upper hand. Irregulars usually defeat regulars, providing they have the will. Such fighting is horrible to contemplate, but will continue to dominate brute strength."
"The tank, the B-52, the fighter-bomber, the state-controlled police and military are the weapons of dictatorship. The rifle is the weapon of democracy. Not for nothing was the revolver called an 'equalizer.'"
"When a government controls both the economic power of individuals and the coercive power of the state...this violates a fundamental rule of happy living: Never let the people with all the money and the people with all the guns be the same people."
"Hitler, Mussolini, Stalin, Mao, Idi Amin, Castro, Pol Pot, all these monsters began by confiscating private arms, then literally soaking the earth with the blood of tens and tens of millions of their people...There can be no free speech, no freedom of the press, no freedom to protest, no freedom to worship your god, no freedom to speak your mind, no freedom from fear, no freedom for your children and for theirs, for anybody, anywhere, without the Second Amendment freedom to fight for it."
"Both oligarch and tyrant mistrust the people, and therefore deprive them of their arms."
"When the history of the 20th century is finally written, one of its key features will be the wanton slaughter of more than 170 million people, not in war, but by their own government. The governments that led in this slaughter are the former USSR (65 million) and the Peoples Republic of China (35-40 million). The point to remember is that these governments were the idols of America's leftists. Part of reason for these and other tyrannical successes was because the people were first disarmed."
"Any unarmed people are slaves, or are subject to slavery at any given moment. If the guns are taken out of the hands of the people and only the pigs have guns, then it's off to the concentration camps, the gas chambers, or whatever the fascists in America come up with. One of the democratic rights of the United States, the Second Amendment to the Constitution, gives the people the right to bear arms. However, there is a greater right; the right of human dignity that gives all men the right to defend themselves."
"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
"When only cops have guns, it's called a police state."
"How a politician stands on the Second Amendment tells you how he or she views you as an individual... as a trustworthy and productive citizen, or as part of an unruly crowd that needs to be lorded over, controlled, supervised, and taken care of."
- Suzanne Hupp, survivor of the 1991 Luby's Massacre who became a State Representative in the Texas legislature.
"Under no pretext should arms and ammunition be surrendered; any attempt to disarm the workers must be frustrated, by force if necessary."
- Karl Marx, Address of the Central Committee to the Communist League
"Political power grows out of the barrel of a gun."
- Mao Zedong, Problems of War and Strategy
Pro Gun Quotes
"An armed society is a polite society. Manners are good when one may have to back up his acts with his life."
"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 Priveleged"
"War is just when it is necessary; arms are permissible when there is no hope except in arms."
"The rifle itself has no moral stature, since it has no will of its own. Naturally, it may be used by evil men for evil purposes, but there are more good men than evil, and while the latter cannot be persuaded to the path of righteousness by propaganda, they can certainly be corrected by good men with rifles."
- Jeff Cooper, Art of the Rifle
"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...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."
"A sword is never a killer, it is a tool in the killer's hands."
"But to ban guns because criminals use them is to tell the innocent and law-abiding that their rights and liberties depend not on their own conduct, but on the conduct of the guilty and the lawless, and that the law will permit them to have only such rights and liberties as the lawless will allow."
"Disarmament palsies the hand and brutalizes the mind; an habitual disuse of physical force totally destroys the moral; and men lose at once the power of protecting themselves, and of discerning the cause of their oppression."
"When you disarm the people, you commence to offend them and show that you distrust them either through cowardice or lack of confidence, and both of these opinions generate hatred."
"After a shooting spree, they always want to take the guns away from the people who didn't do it. I sure as hell wouldn't want to live in a society where the only people allowed guns are the police and the military."
"An unarmed man can only flee from evil, and evil is not overcome by fleeing from it."
"A Winchester rifle should have a place of honor in every black home, and it should be used for that protection which the law refuses to give."
- Ida B. Wells, famed anti-lynching crusader in 1892, when on average more than one black person was lynched every three days in the South
"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 columnist
"Those, who have the command of the arms in a country are masters of the state, and have it in their power to make what revolutions they please. [Thus,] there is no end to observations on the difference between the measures likely to be pursued by a minister backed by a standing army, and those of a court awed by the fear of an armed people."
"Taking my gun away because I might shoot someone is like cutting my tongue out because I might yell "Fire!" in a crowded theater."
"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. 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...and subject innocent persons to all the vexations that the guilty 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 armed man."
"I would like to see every woman know how to handle firearms as naturally as they know how to handle babies."
"No kingdom can be secured otherwise than by arming the people. The possession of arms is the distinction between a freeman and a slave. He, who has nothing, and who himself belongs to another, must be defended by him, whose property he is, and needs no arms. But he, who thinks he is his own master, and has what he can call his own, ought to have arms to defend himself, and what he possesses; else he lives precariously, and at discretion."
"The police cannot protect the citizen at this stage of our development, and they cannot even protect themselves in many cases. It is up to the private citizen to protect himself and his family, and this is not only acceptable, but mandatory."
"Self defense is not only our right, it is our duty."
"I am the first responder because my only other option is to be the first victim."
- Karl Denninger
Humorous Gun Quotes
"Want social security? Invest in lead."
"You can have my guns, bullets first then the bayonet."
"'A well-crafted pepperoni pizza, being necessary to the preservation of a diverse menu, the right of the people to keep and cook tomatoes, shall not be infringed.' I would ask you to try to argue that this statement says that only pepperoni pizzas can keep and cook tomatoes, and only well-crafted ones at that. This is basically what the so-called states rights people argue with respect to the well-regulated militia, vs. the right to keep and bear arms."
"I've got a firm policy on gun control; If there's a gun around, I want to be the one controlling it."
"A man can never have too much red wine, too many books, or too much ammunition."
"Get yourself a Glock and lose that nickel-plated sissy pistol."
- Tommy Lee Jones, U.S. Marshals
"Don't think of it as `gun control,' think of it as `victim disarmament.' If we make enough laws, we can all be criminals."