Argument: The constitution confers an individual right to keep and bear arms

Issue Report: DC handgun ban

Issue Report: Right to bear arms in the US

Supporting quotes from the framers of Constitution

  • Thomas Jefferson – “No freeman shall ever be debarred the use of arms.” — Thomas Jefferson, Proposed Virginia Constitution, June, 1776.[1]
  • Samuel Adams, Massachusetts’ U.S. Constitution ratification convention, 1788. For reference see p8 & 9 at[2] – “The said Constitution [shall] be never construed to authorize Congress to infringe the just liberty of the press, or the rights of conscience; or to prevent the people of the United States, who are peaceable citizens, from keeping their own arms.”
  • Melancton Smith , Additional Letters From The Federal Farmer, 1788[3] – “A militia when properly formed are in fact the people themselves…and include all men capable of bearing arms…To preserve liberty it is essential that the whole body of the people always posses arms, and be taught alike, especially when young, how to use them…The mind that aims at a select militia, must be influenced by a truly anti-republican principle.”
  • Fisher Ames, Letter to F.R. Minoe, June 12, 1789 – “The rights of conscience, of bearing arms, of changing the government, are declared to be inherent in the people.”

Other supporting quotes

  • Oral arguments in DC vs. Heller. Chief Justice John Roberts – “CHIEF JUSTICE ROBERTS: If you’re right, Mr. Dellinger, it’s certainly an odd way in the Second Amendment to phrase the operative provision. If it is limited to State militias, why would they say “the right of the people”? In other words, why wouldn’t they say “state militias have the right to keep arms”?”
  • Professor Michael Dorf. “FEDERAL COURT OF APPEALS SAYS THE SECOND AMENDMENT PLACES LIMITS ON GUN CONTROL LEGISLATION”. Oct. 31, 2001 – “The first and second both emphasize the preamble, or “purpose” clause, of the Amendment — the words “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State.” The third does not. The first model holds that the right to keep and bear arms belongs to the people collectively rather than to individuals, because the right’s only purpose is to enable states to maintain a militia; it is not for individuals’ benefit. The second model is similar to the first. It holds that the right to keep and bear arms exists only for individuals actively serving in the militia, and then only pursuant to such regulations as may be prescribed. Under either of the first two models, a private citizen has no right to possess a firearm for personal use. But the court rejected these two models in favor of a third, the individual rights model. Under this third model, the Second Amendment protects a right of individuals to own and possess firearms, much as the First Amendment protects a right of individuals to engage in free speech.
  • In 2001, the Justice Department under Attorney General John Ashcroft issued a memorandum opinion stating that the Second Amendment protects an individual right to bear arms. Some critics have asserted that Ashcroft’s objectivity is questionable, considering his lifelong membership in the National Rifle Association, an organization of individual gun right proponents (though he was not acting in an official capacity of the association at the time).
  • Akhil Reed Amar notes in the Yale Law Journal, April 1992, Page 1193, the basis of Common Law for the first ten amendments of the U.S. Constitution, which would include the Second Amendment, “following John Randolph Tucker’s famous oral argument in the 1887 Chicago anarchist Haymarket Riot case, Spies v. Illinois”:
Though originally the first ten Amendments were adopted as limitations on Federal power, yet in so far as they secure and recognize fundamental rights—common law rights—of the man, they make them privileges and immunities of the man as citizen of the United States…[4]