Quotes from the Founding Fathers:
"Laws that forbid the carrying of arms...disarm only those who are neither inclined nor determined to commit crimes...Such laws make things worse for the assaulted and better for the assailants; they serve rather to encourage than to prevent homicides, for an unarmed man may be attacked with greater confidence than an armed man."
-Thomas Jefferson, quoting Cesare Beccaria.
"...arms...discourage and keep the invader and plunderer in awe, and preserve order in the world as well as property. ...Horrid mischief would ensue were (the law-abiding) deprived the use of them."
"The best we can hope for concerning the people at large is that they be properly armed."
-Alexander Hamilton, The Federalist Papers at 184-8.
"The great object is that every man be armed. Everyone who is able might have a gun."
"To preserve liberty it is essential that the whole body of the people always possess arms and be taught alike, especially when young, how to use them..."
-Richard Henry Lee writing in Letters from the Federal Farmer to the Republic (1787-1788).
"The Constitution shall never be construed to authorize Congress to prevent the people of the United States, who are peaceable citizens, from keeping their own arms."
-Samuel Adams, debates & Proceedings in the Convention of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, 86-87.
"Arms in the hands of citizens (may) be used at individual discretion...in private self defense..."
-John Adams, A defense of the Constitutions of the Government of the USA, 471 (1788).
"...the people have a right to keep and bear arms."
-Patrick Henry and George Mason, Elliot, Debates at 185.
"I ask, sir, what is the militia? It is the whole people, except for a few public officials."
-George Mason, 3 Elliot, Debates at 425-426.
"A militia, when properly formed, are in fact the people themselves...and include all men capable of bearing arms."
-Richard Henry Lee, Additional Letters from the Federal Farmer (1788) at 169.
"The people are not to be disarmed of their weapons. They are left in full possession of them."
-Zachariah Johnson, 3 Elliot, Debates at 646.
"No free man shall ever be debarred the use of arms."
-Thomas Jefferson, Proposal Virginia Constitution, 1 T. Jefferson Papers, 334 (C.J. Boyd, Ed., 1950).
"As civil rulers, not having their duty to the people duly before them, may attempt to tyrannize, and as the military forces which must be occasionally raised to defend our country, might pervert their power to the injury of their fellow citizens, the people are confirmed by the article in their right to keep and bear their private arms."
-Tench Coxe, Remarks on the First Part of the Amendments to the Federal Constitution, under the pseudonym "A Pennsylvanian" in the Philadelphia Federal Gazette, June 18, 1989 at col. 1.
"The right of the people to keep and bear arms has been recognized by the General Government; but the best security of that right after all is, the military spirit, that taste for martial exercises, which has always distinguished the free citizens of these States...Such men form the best barrier to the liberties of America."
-Gazette of the United States, October 14, 1789.
"The Constitution of most of our states (and of the United States) assert that all power is inherent in the people; that they may exercise it by themselves; that it is their right and duty to be at all times armed."
"They that can give up liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety."
-Benjamin Franklin, Historical Review of Pennsylvania.
"The legitimate powers of government extend to such acts only as they are injurious to others."
-Thomas Jefferson, Notes on the State of Virginia (1781-1785).
"Experience hath shewn, that even under the best forms [of government] those entrusted with power have, in time, and by slow operations, perverted it into tyranny."
-Thomas Jefferson, Bill for the More General diffusion of Knowledge (1778).
"(The Constitution preserves) the advantage of being armed which Americans possess over the people of almost every other nation...(where) the governments are afraid to trust the people with arms."
"Before a standing army can rule, the people must be disarmed; as they are in almost every kingdom of Europe. The supreme power in America cannot enforce unjust laws by the sword; because the whole body of the people are armed, and constitute a force superior to any bands of regular troops that can be, on any pretense, raised in the United States."
-Noah Webster, An Examination into the Leading Principles of the federal Constitution (1787) in Pamphlets to the Constitution of the United States (P. Ford, 1888).