Strongest reason for the people to retain the right to keep and bear arms (Quotation)

Quotation: "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."

Variations: None known.

Sources consulted:

  1. Papers of Thomas Jefferson Digital Edition
  2. Thomas Jefferson: Papers and Thomas Jefferson: Biographies collections in Hathi Trust Digital Library
  3. Thomas Jefferson Retirement Papers

Earliest known appearance in print: 1989[1]

Other attributions: None known.

Status: This quotation has not been found in any of the writings of Thomas Jefferson. It is often seen preceded by the sentence, "No freeman shall be debarred the use of arms," which is from Jefferson's draft of the Virginia Constitution. 

- Anna Berkes, 2/26/09; updated 1/9/12


  • 1. Charley Reese, "Founding Fathers Gave Individuals the Right to Bear Arms," Orlando Sentinel, June 22, 1989.  This quotation appeared in a number of publications in quick succession in the mid-1990s, including in The Militia Movement in the United States: Hearing Before the Subcommittee on Terrorism, Technology, and Government Information of the Committee on the Judiciary, United States Senate, One Hundred Fourth Congress, first session ... June 15, 1995 (Washington, D.C.: GPO, 1997), 120.

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"The 2nd Amendment as it is written only places a restriction on the federal government from infringing on the right of the people to bear arms. It does not state that individual states may not do so." You may have forgot that would be in in violation of the Bill of Rights, and if you remember correctly, in the United States Supreme Court case of William Marbury Vs. James Madison, Chief Justice John Marshall clearly stated that ANY law that violates the Constitution of the United States (of which the Bill of Rights is clearly a part of) is repugnant and therefore considered null & void.


"What part of;
"The Right of the People to Keep and Bear Arms Shall Not be Infringed",
is so hard to comprehend?"

The part that says "A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state,".

So I've answered your question, now could you answer mine? Which part of this:

"The Congress shall have power... To provide for organizing, arming, and disciplining, the militia, and for governing such part of them as may be employed in the service of the United States, reserving to the states respectively, the appointment of the officers, and the authority of training the militia according to the discipline prescribed by Congress;"

is hard to comprehend?


Keith, I would reply to you that the Supreme Court has ruled on this issue and concluded that the first clause did not limit the second clause. Please see DC v Heller.


DC vs Heller only applied within federal enclaves--such as the District of Columbia.


But McDonald v. Chicago applies to the entire nation.


Any difficulty in comprehending either the Second Amendment or Article I Section 8, or both, is usually couched in a casual reader's lack of perspective and context. The Founders shared a mutual distrust of standing armies, believing as they did (based on world history and their own experience as a colony of England) that central governments were prone to use their armies to oppress the citizenry. For the same reason, the Founders were reluctant to give the federal government power over state militia, which was the subject of much debate during the Constitutional convention. In the end, the Founders determined that in order to assure the effectivess of militia in the event of foreign invasion, etc, it was necessary to give Congress power over the functions of militia. The counterbalance to that compromise was, and is, the Second Amendment. The Second Amendment begins by acknowledging that the need for a "well regulated militia" made it necessary for the Founders to give Congress power over the militia in Article 1 Section 8, and then balances that shift of power by simultaneously guaranteeing that the government will have no authority to disarm the citizenry.


Anti-gun control web sites are promulgating dozens of such quotations from the founding fathers -- most of which make the fathers sound oddly like Wayne LaPierre. The quotations are all of a size that makes them suitable for copying and pasting into the comment streams of online news stories. If sites such as this continue to provide the facts, the nonsense may be contained. As Lincoln said, you can fool some of the people all of the time, all of the people some of the time, but you can't fool all of the people all of the time -- except that Lincoln never said any such thing. (See Fehrenbacher, "The Recollected Words of Abraham Lincoln").

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