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.