Bill of Rights to the United States Constitution (1789)

Bill of RightsThe Bill of Rights included the ten amendments listed below and was ratified on December 15, 1791. 

The Preamble to The Bill of Rights

"Congress of the United States begun and held at the City of New-York, on Wednesday the fourth of March, one thousand seven hundred and eighty nine.

THE Conventions of a number of the States, having at the time of their adopting the Constitution, expressed a desire, in order to prevent misconstruction or abuse of its powers, that further declaratory and restrictive clauses should be added: And as extending the ground of public confidence in the Government, will best ensure the beneficent ends of its institution.

RESOLVED by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America, in Congress assembled, two thirds of both Houses concurring, that the following Articles be proposed to the Legislatures of the several States, as amendments to the Constitution of the United States, all, or any of which Articles, when ratified by three fourths of the said Legislatures, to be valid to all intents and purposes, as part of the said Constitution; viz.

ARTICLES in addition to, and Amendment of the Constitution of the United States of America, proposed by Congress, and ratified by the Legislatures of the several States, pursuant to the fifth Article of the original Constitution.

Note: The following text is a transcription of the first ten amendments to the Constitution in their original form. These amendments were ratified December 15, 1791, and form what is known as the 'Bill of Rights.'

Amendment I

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

Amendment II

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.

Amendment III

No Soldier shall, in time of peace be quartered in any house, without the consent of the Owner, nor in time of war, but in a manner to be prescribed by law.

Amendment IV

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

Amendment V

No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the Militia, when in actual service in time of War or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offence to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.

Amendment VI

In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the State and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the Assistance of Counsel for his defence.

Amendment VII

In Suits at common law, where the value in controversy shall exceed twenty dollars, the right of trial by jury shall be preserved, and no fact tried by a jury, shall be otherwise re-examined in any Court of the United States, than according to the rules of the common law.

Amendment VIII

Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.

Amendment IX

The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.

Amendment X

The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people." 

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Commentary or Blog Post

"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...

This article looks at non-homicide crime data from Canada in an effort to debunk the myth that guns are more dangerous than other weapons. The author concludes that, "[a]nalyses of Statistics Canada data for 2003, the most recent year these data are available, show that violent crimes involving firearms typically result in fewer injuries, and less serious injuries...

"Documents obtained by CBS News show that the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) discussed using their covert operation 'Fast and Furious' to argue for controversial new rules about gun sales.

In Fast and Furious, ATF secretly encouraged gun dealers to sell to suspected traffickers for Mexican drug cartels to go after the 'big fish.' But ATF whistleblowers told CBS...

This article looks at the history of gun control in England and its impact on crime rate. The author determines that gun control has left English citizen barely able to protect themselves and done nothing but increase the rate of violent crimes.

After looking at and dispelling various myths perpetuated by the mainstream media with regard to firearms, this article concludes that, "[t]he basic premise of the gun control movement, that easy access to guns causes higher crime, is contradicted by the facts, by history and by reason. Let's hope more people are catching...

"If you own a gun in Illinois, take precautions. The state attorney general, Lisa Madigan, wants to release the names of guns owners in response to an Associated Press request. Publication of that list would tell the criminal class where the guns are, which could be useful to two different sorts of lawbreakers: gun thieves who want to know where the guns are and burglars who want to know where...

The author discusses the disposition of a court case challenging the District of Columbia's gun ban. It cites a study by Harvard which demonstrates that countries in Europe with strict gun control have some of the highest murder rates.

This article gives a brief rundown of the history of concealed carry, including references to various studies and statistics demonstrating its benefits to society as a whole.

The author responds to the Mcdonald v City of Chicago ruling and opines as to what standards of review will henceforth be appropriate when considering firearm regulations.

"The Aurora, Colo., shooting spree will fuel fresh calls for gun control, but changes in laws are unlikely, partly because of a lack of support for new measures in Congress and among the public at large, people on both sides of the debate said Friday."

This is a press release issued announcing the results of a study on the effects of Florida's concealed carry law. The release includes the findings of the study that criminals apply and are approved for concealed carry permits and then often go on to commit crimes.

This article is in response to the recent gun-show "raid" performed by New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg's office. The author opines that in light of the failure of many gun-show vendors to follow laws, further enforcement of current laws, including  the "gun-show loophole," is required.

"Last week's horrific crime in Aurora, Colo., has, predictably enough, prompted many leftist politicians and commentators to call for more antigun laws. Actually, that's not quite right. Rather than directly call for more antigun laws, some of them are complaining about the absence of a debate over gun control. Where's the 'searching conversation over what rational steps can be taken by individuals, communities and various levels of government to make the recurrence of a comparable tragedy less likely'? the Washington Post's E.J. Dionne wants to know."

This article tells the tale of Hale DeMar and his path from victim of a burglary, armed citizen, criminal, and finally plaintiff in court cases challenging gun bans. Throughout, the author informs the reader as to the state of gun law in the nation, even touching on the collective vs private-right debate.

States with higher gun ownership rates and weak gun laws have the highest rates of gun death according to a new analysis by the Violence Policy Center (VPC) of just-released 2006 national data (the most recent available) from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's National Center for Injury Prevention and Control.

This post presents information on the recent ruling of the Supreme Court in McDonald v Chicago. It also includes released statements from various libertarian and conservative organizations.

"The Second Amendment is clear. The right to keep and carry a firearm shall not be infringed. However current state law clearly does infringe that right by requiring that anyone who wishes to carry, yet not publicly display, the weapon can only do so if he or she has first applied to the government for a permit...

"Numerous studies have shown that gun shows are not a significant source of guns used in crime. Ignoring this evidence, some gun control activists claim that 70 percent of the guns used in crimes come from shows. And Handgun Control, Inc. asserts that '25-50 percent of the vendors at most gun shows are unlicensed dealers.'"

"There is a remarkable academic consensus that the original meaning of the 14th Amendment protected an individual right to keep and bear arms against interference by state governments. Yesterday's Supreme Court decision in McDonald v. Chicago affirmed that this is indeed the case. It is, therefore, a great victory for enforcing the original meaning of the Constitution. Thankfully for the rights of Americans, the Chicago gun ban at issue will soon be consigned to the dust bin of history."

"The insurrectionist idea undermines the most important idea in American political philosophy: political equality. The concept that one citizen's vote is as important as the next is America's bedrock principle and the gift that our Founders gave to the rest of the world in the Declaration of Independence. When political violence is used to undermine that principle, it corrodes our basic democratic institutions, including the rule of law (see CSGV's 'Insurrectionism Timeline'). This fact sheet is intended to provide talking points to patriotic Americans who—either in debate or discussion—want to speak out against 'Second Amendment remedies' in a direct and informed manner."

"It may not come as surprising news to many of you that the United Nations doesn’t approve of our Second Amendment. Not one bit. And they very much hope to do something about it with help from some powerful American friends. Under the guise of a proposed global 'Small Arms Treaty' premised to fight 'terrorism', 'insurgency' and 'international crime syndicates' you can be quite certain that an...

Chart or Graph

This chart shows that the percentage of Americans in favor of stricter gun sale laws has declined over the past 20 years.

As can be seen, there is no clear pattern between gun ownership and murder rates.

According to this Gallup poll chart, the percentage of Americans claiming to possess guns in their homes has been on the decline since the 1960s.

"A clear majority of the U.S. public -- 73% -- believes the Second Amendment to the Constitution guarantees the rights of Americans to own guns."

This chart shows many of the common firearms restrictions that are used and in what percent of cities they are used.

"A mid-1980s National Institute of Justice (NIJ) study of convicted felons in 12 state prisons found that criminals purchased firearms at gun shows so rarely that those purchases were not worth reporting as a separate category."

"The analysis reveals that the five states with the highest per capita gun death rates were Louisiana, Alabama, Alaska, Mississippi, and Nevada."

"How could governments kill so many people? The governments had the power - and the people, the victims, were unable to resist. The victims were unarmed."

"A survey of 1,874 felons in 10 states found that most worry more about meeting an armed victim than about running into the police."

A study shows that contrary to some arguments, the majority of people who are killed by guns are not people that are inclined to be around the house like family members or significant others.

Analysis Report White Paper

This study includes a background on concealed carry, including "may issue vs shall issue" states. It also includes fact to bolster the claim that more liberal concealed carry laws lead to more crime.

"During 2000--2002, the Task Force on Community Preventive Services (the Task Force), an independent nonfederal task force, conducted a systematic review of scientific evidence regarding the effectiveness of firearms laws in preventing violence, including violent crimes, suicide, and unintentional injury."

This essay first explores the body of colonial and early national militia law as the source of the practice, obligation, and language of keeping arms. The second section compares the legal regulation of gun ownership under the emergency military powers and the civil police powers of the colonial and early national state. It concludes by considering the use of the police power to regulate the use of guns.

"We were unable to detect any reduction to date in two types of gun murders that are thought to be closely associated with assault weapons, those with multiple victims in a single incident and those producing multiple bullet wounds per victim."

"Firearms are used to commit as many as 650,000 crimes each year. But firearms are also used to prevent crimes as many as one million each year. In fact, criminals are three times more likely to be killed by armed victims who resist them than by the police. Would tougher gun control laws make our lives safer? Fair appraisal of the issue requires us to put aside some common myths."

"This Article is the first to provide a thorough analysis of the empirical evidence and policy arguments regarding licensed campus carry. Whether a reader agrees or disagrees with the Article's policy recommendations, the Article can lay the foundation for a better-informed debate, and a more realistic analysis of the issue."

This guide is intended to help organizations and individuals choose effective arguments and language when communicating with the public on behalf of stronger public policies to prevent gun violence.

"It is commonly estimated that more than 20,000 federal, state, and local firearms laws are on the books in this country, and more are being written all the time. There is little evidence that these laws have restrained crime."

"'Shall issue' right-to-carry concealed weapons laws require authorities to issue concealed-weapons permits, allowing the permit holder to carry a concealed handgun, to anyone who applies, unless the applicant has a criminal record or a history of mental illness."

"In this paper, we use data from Gun and Knife Show Calendar combined with vital statistics data to examine the effect of gun shows. We find no evidence that gun shows lead to substantial increases in either gun homicides or suicides. In addition, tighter regulation of gun shows does not appear to reduce the number of firearms-related deaths."

"This information brief reviews major research studies on the effects of enacting 'shall-issue' laws which govern the licensing of people to carry concealed firearms."

"In this study, I examine crime trends in Commonwealth countries that have recently introduced firearm regulations: i.e., Great Britain, Australia, and Canada. The widely ignored key to evaluating firearm regulations is to examine trends in total violent crime, not just firearms crime."

"This paper uses state-level data from 1984–96 to examine how right-to-carry laws and waiting periods affect the felonious deaths of police."

"The United States Supreme Court has decided only one significant case involving the Second Amendment, and that was almost 70 years ago. Next week, the Court will return to the issue when it hears arguments in District of Columbia v. Heller. This is a test case brought by a D.C. special police officer who carries a gun while on duty."

"International evidence and comparisons have long been offered as proof of the mantra that more guns mean more deaths and that fewer guns, therefore, mean fewer deaths. ... Unfortunately, such discussions are all too often been afflicted by misconceptions and factual error and focus on comparisons that are unrepresentative."


"The Supreme Court heard oral arguments in the case of District of Columbia v. Heller, in which a 1976 law was challenged that had the effect of banning handguns in the District of Columbia. The Court will decide the central meaning of the Second Amendment's "right of the people to keep and bear arms," and whether it is an individual right or a right in relation to...

"Facts of the Case:

Several suits were filed against Chicago and Oak Park in Illinois challenging their gun bans after the Supreme Court issued its opinion in District of Columbia v. Heller. In that case, the Supreme Court held that a District of Columbia handgun ban violated the Second Amendment. There, the Court...

John Lott, Senior Fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, and Jim Kessler, Director of Americans for Gun Safety, debated the necessity and effectiveness of laws restricting the ownership, sale and carry of firearms.

"Last year, a federal appeals court overturned the District of Columbia's ban on handguns. Now the U.S. Supreme Court will decide the case after nearly seventy years of silence on the Second Amendment. Observers expect the Court to finally settle the legal question of whether the constitutional 'right of the people to keep and bear arms' is an individual right held...

"Alan Gura, counsel in DC v Heller and now McDonald v Chicago discusses what the effect this latest case could have on the Second Amendment. Alan Gottlieb of the Second Amendment Foundation also weighs in."

"On June 28th, 2010, the Supreme Court dealt a massive blow to Chicago's 28-year-old ban on handguns. Chicago's Mayor, Richard Daley, insists the ban is integral to fighting crime. But just how effective are gun bans? And would letting citizens arm themselves be a more effective way in dealing with crime?"

"In this powerful documentary produced by Jews for the Preservation of Firearms Ownership, you will learn how governments have historically deprived people of firearms ... and then wiped them from the face of the Earth." -

"Down on the boardwalk, we interview a few young Americans to find out what they know about the Constitution of the United States. Can you answer the questions? Does it matter?"

"We ask moms on the street what they know about the Constitution. Can you answer the questions? Does it matter?"

"The controlled study documented in these videos show that concealed carry permit holders are fooling themselves if they think they will be able to react effectively to armed aggressors. Most CCW holders won't even be able to un-holster their gun. They will more likely be killed themselves or kill innocent bystanders than stop the aggressor. For more details, see '...

"On June 26, 2008, the Supreme Court rediscovered the Second Amendment. More than five years after six Washington, D.C. residents challenged the city's 32-year-old ban on all functional firearms in the home, the Court held in District of Columbia v. Heller that the law is unconstitutional. Cato Institute Senior Fellow Robert A. Levy comments on the ruling and what...

"Judge Laurence Silberman explains the origins of his ruling against the ban on handguns in Washington, D.C. He explains, 'It wasn't a right to bear arms granted by the Constitution, it was a right that was protected by the Constitution.'"

Primary Document

Transcript of the Bill of Rights to the Constitution.

This case revolved around several murders performed by an allegedly insane man. The case dealt with Due Process of law, but it also had implications for self-defense, for the opinion declared that "there is no constitutional right to be protected by the state against being murdered by criminals or madmen."

"U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA) today announced that next week she will introduce the Common-Sense Concealed Firearms Act of 2011, which would require all states that allow residents to carry concealed weapons in public to have minimum standards for granting permits."

"The Slaughter-House Cases was wrong when it was decided. It ignored the fundamental change in constitutional order represented by the Union victory in the Civil War and subsequent amendment to the Constitution. It ignored all relevant legislative history, rendered the Privileges or Immunities Clause redundant of the Supremacy Clause, and failed to give effect to...

"The horrible facts of this case are contained in the complaint that respondent Jessica Gonzales filed in Federal District Court. ... Respondent alleges that petitioner, the town of Castle Rock, Colorado, violated the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution when its police officers, acting pursuant to official policy or custom, failed to respond...

"We, the people of Mississippi in convention assembled, grateful to Almighty God, and invoking his blessing on our work, do ordain and establish this constitution."

This opinion declared that "[a] State's failure to protect an individual against private violence generally does not constitute a violation of the Due Process Clause, because the Clause imposes no duty on the State to provide members of the general public with adequate protective services. The Clause is phrased as a limitation on the State's power to act, not as a guarantee of certain minimal...

This is the opinion issued by the Supreme Court that invalidated Washington, DC's gun ban and established the Second Amendment as an individual right, as opposed to a collective right.

This is a comprehensive listing of all federal firearm laws and regulations.

In this Federalist Paper, Hamilton argues for the need to restrain the legislature's authority with regard to defense, and that armed citizens are the last line of defense for liberty.

Alexander Hamilton (under the pseudonym Publius) extols the necessity of having the Commander-in-Chief be in charge of the militia, and also argues the benefits of an armed citizenry.

Writing under the pseudonym "Publius" James Madison discusses the relationship between the federal and state governments, concluding that "the powers proposed to be lodged in the federal government are as little formidable to those reserved to the individual States, as they are indispensably necessary to accomplish the purposes...

"Congress has debated the efficacy and constitutionality of federal regulation of firearms and ammunition, with strong advocates arguing for and against greater gun control. In the wake of the July 20, 2012, Aurora, CO, theater mass shooting, in which 12 people were shot to death and 58 wounded (7 of them critically) by a lone gunman, it is likely that there will be calls in the 112th Congress to reconsider a 1994 ban on semiautomatic assault weapons and large capacity ammunition feeding devices that expired in September 2004."

"Our law is that in the absence of a special relationship, such as exists when a victim is in custody or the police have promised to protect a particular person, law enforcement agencies and personnel have no duty to protect individuals from the criminal acts of others; instead their duty is to preserve the peace and arrest law breakers for the protection of the general public."

While this case primarily revolved around the Second Amendment issue of gun ownership, the case was decided in regards to issues found in the Fourteenth Amendment. The main opinion was written by Justice Alito and declared that "the Due Process Clause of the...

"This appeal presents, in a very sympathetic framework, the issue of the liability of a municipality for failure to provide special protection to a member of the public who was repeatedly threatened with personal harm and eventually suffered dire personal injuries for lack of such protection."

"We, the Representatives of the people inhabiting the western part of the Mississippi Territory, contained within the following limits, to wit: Beginning on the River Mississippi at the point where the southern boundary line of the State of Tennessee strikes the same; thence east along the said boundary line to the Tennessee River; thence up the same to the mouth of Bear Creek; thence, by a...

"If I had only to discuss academic principles. I should clearly not attempt an autobiography. But my purpose being to give an account of various practical applications of these principles, I have given the chapters I propose to write the title of The Story of My Experiments with Truth. These will of course include experiments with non-violence, celibacy and other principles of conduct...

"The respective trial judges held that the police were under no specific legal duty to provide protection to the individual appellants ... and dismissed the complaints for failure to state a claim upon which relief could be granted. ... However, in a split decision a three judge division of this court determined that appellants Warren, Taliaferro and Nichol were owed a special duty of care by...




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