"The Supreme Court's ruling on Thursday that a District of Columbia ban on handgun ownership is unconstitutional appears to be solidly in step with public opinion. A clear majority of the U.S. public -- 73% -- believes the Second Amendment to the Constitution guarantees the rights of Americans to own guns. And almost 7 out of 10 Americans are opposed to a law that...
Quotes on The Right to Bear Arms
"This will not only lessen the call for military establishments, but 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."
"Besides the advantage of being armed, which the Americans possess over the people of almost every other nation, the existence of subordinate governments, to which the people are attached, and by which the militia officers are appointed, forms a barrier against the enterprises of ambition, more insurmountable than any which a simple government of any form can admit of. Notwithstanding the military establishments in the several kingdoms of Europe, which are carried as far as the public resources will bear, the governments are afraid to trust the people with arms."
"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."
"Sec. 12. The right of every citizen to keep and bear arms in defense of his home, person, or property, or in aid of the civil power when thereto legally summoned, shall not be called in question, but the Legislature may regulate or forbid carrying concealed weapons."
"At best, the assault weapons ban can have only a limited effect on total gun murders, because the banned weapons and magazines were never involved in more than a modest fraction of all gun murders. Our best estimate is that the ban contributed to a 6.7 percent decrease in total gun murders between 1994 and 1995, beyond what would have been expected in view of ongoing crime, demographic, and economic trends. However, with only one year of post-ban data, we cannot rule out the possibility that this decrease reflects chance year-to-year variation rather than a true effect of the ban. Nor can we rule out effects of other features of the 1994 Crime Act or a host of state and local initiatives that took place simultaneously. Further, any short-run preventive effect observable at this time may ebb in the near future as the stock of grandfathered assault weapons and legal substitute guns leaks to secondary markets, then increase as the stock of large-capacity magazines gradually dwindles."
"In reality, the English approach has not reduced violent crime. Instead it has left law-abiding citizens at the mercy of criminals who are confident that their victims have neither the means nor the legal right to resist them. Imitating this model would be a public safety disaster for the United States."
"Guns are just one among numerous available deadly instruments. Thus, banning guns cannot reduce the amount of suicides. Such measures only reduce the number of suicides by firearms. Suicides committed in other ways increase to makeup the difference. People do not commit suicide because they have guns available. They kill themselves for reasons they deem sufficient, and in the absence of firearms they just kill themselves in some other way."
"Where civic rights proponents would assert that service in the militia defines those who enjoy a right to keep and bear arms, early American law recognized a right to keep arms that transcended this 'inextricable linkage.' Early American law imposed an obligation to keep arms on every adult male, even those exempt from militia service. From this obligation emerged a right to keep arms that extended to all citizens, defined as free white men willing to swear allegiance as a test of their voluntary membership in the body politic. At no time during the period under examination was the right subject to property qualification or actual membership in the militia. The right belonged to those citizens individually, and, in America, they exercised it individually."
"The Second Amendment is naturally divided into two parts: its prefatory clause and its operative clause. The former does not limit the latter grammatically, but rather announces a purpose. The Amendment could be rephrased, 'Because a well regulated Militia is necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms shall not be infringed.'"
"We move now from the holder of the right—'the people'—to the substance of the right: 'to keep and bear Arms.'
Before addressing the verbs 'keep' and 'bear,' we interpret their object: 'Arms.' The 18th-century meaning is no different from the meaning today. The 1773 edition of Samuel Johnson’s dictionary defined 'arms' as 'weapons of offence, or armour of defence.' ... Timothy Cunningham’s important 1771 legal dictionary defined 'arms' as 'any thing that a man wears for his defence, or takes into his hands, or useth in wrath to cast at or strike another.' ...
The term was applied, then as now, to weapons that were not specifically designed for military use and were not employed in a military capacity."
"Some have made the argument, bordering on the frivolous, that only those arms in existence in the 18th century are protected by the Second Amendment. We do not interpret constitutional rights that way. Just as the First Amendment protects modern forms of communications ... and the Fourth Amendment applies to modern forms of search ..., the Second Amendment extends, prima facie, to all instruments that constitute bearable arms, even those that were not in existence at the time of the founding."
"There seems to us no doubt, on the basis of both text and history, that the Second Amendment conferred an individual right to keep and bear arms. Of course the right was not unlimited, just as the First Amendment's right of free speech was not .... Thus, we do not read the Second Amendment to protect the right of citizens to carry arms for any sort of confrontation, just as we do not read the First Amendment to protect the right of citizens to speak for any purpose."
"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."
"The Second Amendment was adopted to protect the right of the people of each of the several States to maintain a well-regulated militia. It was a response to concerns raised during the ratification of the Constitution that the power of Congress to disarm the state militias and create a national standing army posed an intolerable threat to the sovereignty of the several States. Neither the text of the Amendment nor the arguments advanced by its proponents evidenced the slightest interest in limiting any legislature's authority to regulate private civilian uses of firearms. Specifically, there is no indication that the Framers of the Amendment intended to enshrine the common-law right of self-defense in the Constitution."
"[T]he Amendment's text does justify a different limitation: the 'right to keep and bear arms' protects only a right to possess and use firearms in connection with service in a state-organized militia."
"'[K]eep and bear arms' thus perfectly describes the responsibilities of a framing-era militia member.
This reading is confirmed by the fact that the clause protects only one right, rather than two. It does not describe a right 'to keep arms' and a separate right 'to bear arms.' Rather, the single right that it does describe is both a duty and a right to have arms available and ready for military service, and to use them for military purposes when necessary. ... Different language surely would have been used to protect nonmilitary use and possession of weapons from regulation if such an intent had played any role in the drafting of the Amendment."
"Americans overwhelmingly do not want concealed carry permits to be easier to acquire, with 73% opposing easy permit requirements. In fact, more than 40 percent of Americans support a nationwide ban on the carrying of concealed firearms."
"Self-defense is a basic right, recognized by many legal systems from ancient times to the present day, ... and in Heller, we held that individual self-defense is 'the central component' of the Second Amendment right. ... Explaining that 'the need for defense of self, family, and property is most acute' in the home, ibid., we found that this right applies to handguns because they are 'the most preferred firearm in the nation to "keep" and use for protection of one's home and family,' .... Thus, we concluded, citizens must be permitted 'to use [handguns] for the core lawful purpose of self-defense.'"
"The right to keep and bear arms was considered no less fundamental by those who drafted and ratified the Bill of Rights. 'During the 1788 ratification debates, the fear that the federal government would disarm the people in order to impose rule through a standing army or select militia was pervasive in Antifederalist rhetoric.' ... Federalists responded, not by arguing that the right was insufficiently important to warrant protection but by contending that the right was adequately protected by the Constitution's assignment of only limited powers to the Federal Government. ... Thus, Antifederalists and Federalists alike agreed that the right to bear arms was fundamental to the newly formed system of government."
"Applying what is now a well-settled test, the plurality opinion concludes that the right to keep and bear arms applies to the States through the Fourteenth Amendment's Due Process Clause because it is 'fundamental' to the American 'scheme of ordered liberty,' and 'deeply rooted in this Nation's history and tradition,' .... I agree with that description of the right. But I cannot agree that it is enforceable against the States through a clause that speaks only to 'process.' Instead, the right to keep and bear arms is a privilege of American citizenship that applies to the States through the Fourteenth Amendment's Privileges or Immunities Clause."
"In my view, taking Heller as a given, the Fourteenth Amendment does not incorporate the Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms for purposes of private self-defense. Under this Court's precedents, to incorporate the private self-defense right the majority must show that the right is, e.g., 'fundamental to the American scheme of justice,' .... And this it fails to do."
"Moreover, there is no reason here to believe that incorporation of the private self-defense right will further any other or broader constitutional objective. We are aware of no argument that gun-control regulations target or are passed with the purpose of targeting 'discrete and insular minorities.' ... Nor will incorporation help to assure equal respect for individuals. Unlike the First Amendment's rights of free speech, free press, assembly, and petition, the private self-defense right does not comprise a necessary part of the democratic process that the Constitution seeks to establish. ... Unlike the First Amendment's religious protections, the Fourth Amendment's protection against unreasonable searches and seizures, the Fifth and Sixth Amendments' insistence upon fair criminal procedure, and the Eighth Amendment's protection against cruel and unusual punishments, the private self-defense right does not significantly seek to protect individuals who might otherwise suffer unfair or inhumane treatment at the hands of a majority. Unlike the protections offered by many of these same Amendments, it does not involve matters as to which judges possess a comparative expertise, by virtue of their close familiarity with the justice system and its operation. And, unlike the Fifth Amendment's insistence on just compensation, it does not involve a matter where a majority might unfairly seize for itself property belonging to a minority."
"There are many like me, and fewer of them would be alive today were it not for exercise of their gun rights. In fact law-abiding citizens in America used guns in self-defense 2.5 million times during 1993 (about 6,850 times per day), and actually shot and killed 2 1/2 times as many criminals as police did (1,527 to 606). Those civilian self-defense shootings resulted in less than 1/5th as many incidents as police where an innocent person was mistakenly identified as a criminal (2% versus 11%)."
More About This Topic...
- 2nd Amendment: The Right to Bear Arms
- Audio: McDonald v. Chicago Oral Argument and Opinion Announcement
- Aiming for Liberty: The Past, Present, and Future of Freedom and Self-Defense
- The Heller Case: Gun Rights Affirmed
- District of Columbia et al v. Heller
- Audio: District of Columbia v. Heller Oral Arguments
- McDonald v. City of Chicago and the Standard of Review for Gun Control Laws
- The Supreme Court's Gun Showdown
- Video: Alan Gura and Alan Gottlieb on McDonald v Chicago
- Self-Defense vs. Municipal Gun Bans