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.
Second Amendment to the Constitution of the United States of America
George Mason — “I ask, sir, what is the militia? It is the whole people, except for a few public officials.” (Debates in Virginia Convention on Ratification of the Constitution, Elliot, Vol. 3, June 16, 1788)
Alexander Hamilton — Writing in Federalist 28, he explained that the chief reason for being sure the people are armed is so they have the power to repel a tyranny::
If the representatives of the people betray their constituents, there is then no resource left but in the exertion of that original right of self-defense which is paramount to all positive forms of government, and which against the usurpations of the national rulers, may be exerted with infinitely better prospect of success than against those of the rulers of an individual state. In a single state, if the persons intrusted with supreme power become usurpers, the different parcels, subdivisions, or districts of which it consists, having no distinct government in each, can take no regular measures for defense. The citizens must rush tumultuously to arms, without concert, without system, without resource; except in their courage and despair.
James Madison — Writing in Federalist 46, explained that the Constitution hedges in “the advantage of being armed, which the Americans possess over the people of almost every other nation.”
Joseph Story — Associate Justice from 1811-1845, he wrote, “The right of the citizens to keep and bear arms has justly been considered, as the palladium of the liberties of a republic; since it offers a strong moral check against the usurpation and arbitrary power of rulers; and will generally, even if these are successful in the first instance, enable the people to resist and triumph over them.” (Story, Joseph. Commentaries on the Constitution of the United States. 3 vols. Boston, 1833.)
Representative Edwin Arthur Hall (R-NY) – In 1941 he reacted to calls for gun control in the U.S. Congress by pointing to the tyranny that had resulted from gun control in the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany:
Before the advent of Hitler or Stalin, who took power from the German and Russian people, measures were thrust upon the free legislatures of those countries to deprive the people of the possession and use of firearms, so that they could not resist the encroachments of such diabolical and vitriolic state police organizations as the Gestapo, the Ogpu, and the Cheka. (87 CONG.REC., 77th Cong., 1st Sess., 6778 [Aug. 5, 1941])
Representative John W. Patman (D-TX) – In 1941 Patman concurred with Rep. Hall’s arguments against gun control, adding:
The people have a right to keep arms; therefore, if we should have some Executive who attempted to set himself up as dictator or king, the people can organize themselves together and, with the arms and ammunition they have, they can properly protect themselves. . . . (87 CONG.REC., 77th Cong., 1st Sess., 7102 [Aug. 13, 1941])
JFK – Writing in 1960, he posited “fears of governmental tyranny” as the impetus “which gave rise to the Second Amendment” to begin with. And although he believed it “unlikely” that such tyranny “[would] ever be a major danger to our nation,” he said “the Second Amendment will always be important.” (UCLA School of Law)
AWR Hawkins is the Second Amendment columnist for Breitbart News and political analyst for Armed American Radio. Follow him on Twitter: @AWRHawkins. Reach him directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.