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Right of individuals to own firearms

The right to keep and bear arms (often referred to as the right to bear arms) is the people's right to possess weapons (arms) for their own defense. Only a few countries recognize people's right to keep and bear arms and protect it on statutory level, and even fewer protect the right on constitutional level.


Amendment II to the U.S. Constitution
... the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.

Web Pages

Advocates for Self-Government - Libertarian Education: J. Neil Schulman - Libertarian
Includes picture, biographical summary and quote
His 1994 non-fiction book Stopping Power: Why 70 Million Americans Own Guns dealt with the right to keep and bear arms. Charlton Heston called it "the most cogent explanation of the gun issue I have yet read." Self-Control, Not Gun Control (1995) is a collection of essays on a wide variety of libertarian and libertarian-related topics. Walter Williams said "His ideas are precisely those that helped make our country the destination of those seeking liberty." In 1993 he was awarded James Madison Award by the Second Amendment Foundation for his Los Angeles Times article, "If Gun Laws Work, Why Are We Afraid?"
Related Topic: J. Neil Schulman
Gun Control | Cato Institute Research Topics


Algernon Sidney: A Father of the Declaration of Independence, by Dave Kopel, The Washington Post, 3 Jul 2016
After a short biography, discusses the main themes made by Sidney in Discourses Concerning Government, written in response to Robert Filmer's Patriarcha, which defended the divine right of kings
From the right of personal self-defense against a criminal, a collective right of self-defense against criminal governments necessarily followed. To be subject to a tyrant was little different from being under the power of a pirate. Philo of Alexandria, Cicero and Augustine had said the same. Thus, 'those arms were just and pious that were necessary, and necessary when there was no hope of safety by any other way ...' ... The necessary corollary of the right of self-defense against tyrants was the possession of arms: 'he is a fool who knows not that swords were given to men, that none might be slaves, but such as know not how to use them.'
Related Topic: Algernon Sidney
Assault Weapons and Assaults on the Constitution, by Ron Paul, Ron Paul's Texas Straight Talk, 22 Apr 2003
Comments on the Bush administration support for reauthorization of the 1994 assault weapons ban
The Second amendment is not about hunting deer or keeping a pistol in your nightstand. It is not about protecting oneself against common criminals. It is about preventing tyranny. ... Tortured interpretations of the Second amendment cannot change the fact that both the letter of the amendment itself and the legislative history conclusively show that the Founders intended ordinary citizens to be armed. The notion that the Second amendment confers rights only upon organized state-run militias is preposterous; the amendment is meaningless unless it protects the gun rights of individuals.
Related Topic: George W. Bush
Ban People – They Kill, by Paul Craig Roberts, 17 Apr 2007
Discusses potential gun bans after the 2007 Virginia Tech shootings and laments the change in attitudes regarding guns, knives, movie violence and teacher and parental authority from when Roberts was a child
Once guns are banned, crime will explode. Households and vulnerable members of society will lose the ability to defend, which will invite more intrusions and attacks. ... Gun prohibition will create a new industry for criminals – gun running and black market sales. Police will conduct stings by posing as black market gun dealers ... Gun rights are constitutionally protected, because the Founding Fathers did not trust even the limited and constrained government that they created. To infringe this constitutional right makes it easier to infringe others.
Related Topic: Children
Better Them Than Us, by Scott McPherson, 19 Jan 2004
Discusses the Brazilian disarmament statute of 2003 and similar 1997 United Kingdom ban vis-à-vis findings by Gary Kleck and John Lott regarding gun ownership and prevalence of crime
It has long been maintained by Second Amendment supporters in the United States that guns are a valuable tool in the hands of the citizenry. Pro-gun activists have been arguing for years that passing laws that make it harder for law-abiding citizens to have access to guns for their own defense only encourages crime. ... Handguns are the best and cheapest means for the average person to defend himself against criminals who don't care about the law.
Related Topics: Brazil, Great Britain
The Bill of Rights: The Right to Keep and Bear Arms, by Jacob G. Hornberger, Freedom Daily, Aug 2004
Discusses the fallacies in gun-control arguments, comparing possible gun prohibition to the war on drugs, highlighting the behavior of U.S. officials in occupied Iraq and concluding with several quotes by Founding Fathers and Framers
The Second Amendment is the American people's ultimate insurance policy against tyranny because government officials know that guns in the hands of the people provide the only practical means by which to resist tyranny. They know that a disarmed society almost always becomes an obedient society in the face of omnipotent, tyrannical government ... There's a corollary principle ...: Even though everyone in society might not choose to arm himself, the right to keep and bear arms makes everyone in society, including those who choose not to possess weapons, safer from the likes of murderers and rapists.
The Bill of Rights: Trial by Jury, by Jacob G. Hornberger, Freedom Daily, Jan 2005
Explains why a trial by a jury of ordinary people was considered an essential constitutional guarantee and discusses jury nullification in real and hypothetical cases
Let's assume ... that Congress enacts a law that states, "Any American of Muslim descent who is caught in possession of a gun shall be guilty of a felony, punishable by a term of 20 years in the penitentiary." Would federal law-enforcement officers enforce such a law? Would U.S. attorneys prosecute violators? Would federal judges impose punishments on people convicted of such laws? Might the Supreme Court uphold the constitutionality of such laws under the president's "wartime" powers as part of the "war on terrorism"? The answer is "Yes" to all those questions.
Blockbuster Victory for the Second Amendment, by James Bovard, Freedom Daily, Aug 1999
Comments on the April 1999 decision by a federal district judge in Texas to consider unconstitutional a 1994 law that decreed that a person under a domestic restraining order could not own firearms
Judge Cummings's decision explained the historical origins of the Second Amendment. "The individual right to bear arms, a right recognized in both England and the colonies, was a crucial factor in the colonists' victory over the British Army in the Revolutionary War," he noted. If Americans in the founding generation had been as fearful of firearms as many contemporary liberals are, this country might still be kowtowing to a foreign king ... Cummings quoted George Mason's warning that England's efforts "to disarm the people ... was the best and most effectual way to enslave them."
The Control Cult, by Butler Shaffer, 21 Apr 2007
Comments, in the wake of the 2007 Virginia Tech shooting, on those who believe the causal factors can be identified and controlled by the state, and how this extends not just to gun ownership but many other areas such as "global warming"
That firearms had been banned on the Virginia Tech campus before these atrocities took place apparently did not inform the judgments of this newspaper's editors. Nor have I seen evidence of any rethinking on the part of a Virginia Tech spokesman who, in 2006, following the Virginia legislature's enactment of a ban on guns on state university campuses, declared: "I'm sure the university community is appreciative of the General Assembly's actions because this will help parents, students, faculty and visitors feel safe on our campus." This man might send such words of comfort to the families of these 32 victims!
Related Topics: Children, The State, Terrorism
The Court Almost Gets It Right on Guns, by Sheldon Richman, Freedom Daily, Oct 2008
Discusses the U.S. Supreme Court majority and dissenting opinions on the D.C. law that banned handguns in private homes
Advocates of freedom barely dodged a bullet when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled 5-4 that the right to keep and bear arms, the subject of the Second Amendment, is an individual not a collective right ... Thankfully, ... Even the dissenters did not deny that the right to own a gun is an individual right ... Justice Antonin Scalia said the Amendment's preface ... "announces the purpose for which the right was codified: to prevent elimination of the militia." It should not, Scalia went on, be seen as limiting the right specified in its main clause: "the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed."
Democrats for Guns: Why Kerry Should Stand Up for the Second Amendment, by Ted Rall, 27 Apr 2004
Democrats ... absurdly argue that the placement of a comma reflects the founders' original intent to limit gun ownership to members of 18th century militias. ... Democrats, however, still need to make the libertarian case. ... Accepting and promising to defend the Constitution as a whole, including the Second Amendment, could jumpstart the return of the American left from the fringe to the mainstream.
Dissenting Opinion, U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, Silveira v. Lockyer, by Alex Kozinski, 6 May 2003
pp. 2-6
The able judges of the panel majority are usually very sympathetic to individual rights ... Had they brought the same generous approach to the Second Amendment that they routinely bring to the First, Fourth and selected portions of the Fifth, they would have had no trouble finding an individual right to bear arms.
The essence of liberty: What is it that really makes one a libertarian?, by David Nolan, Libertarian Party News, Mar 1995
Discusses five points of "no compromise" that Nolan considered essential to libertarianism
[L]ibertarians believe in the principle of self-ownership. You own your own body and mind ... Self-ownership implies the right to self-defense. Libertarians yield to no one in their support for our right as individuals to keep and bear arms. We wish only that the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution said, "The right to self-defense being inalienable ..." instead of that stuff about a "well-regulated militia." Anyone who thinks that government—any government—has the right to disarm its citizens is NOT a libertarian!
The Gun-Control Tide Is Turning, by Scott McPherson, 4 Aug 2003
The Invisible Hand Is a Gentle Hand, by Sharon Harris, 14 Sep 1998
Originally published at; defends the free market and individual liberty, quoting among others Bastiat, Thomas Jefferson, David and Milton Friedman, John Lott, Isabel Paterson, Proudhon, Adam Smith, Sowell, John Stossel and Walter Williams
[I]n a free society we could better defend ourselves from violence. Citizens would have the indisputable right to keep and bear arms. And a gun is a wonderful deterrent to violence. In states that have "shall issue" laws (where people without criminal records or evidence of mental illness are permitted to carry guns), crime rates are much lower than in states where there are no such laws. A major study by University of Chicago law professor John Lott shows that these states reduced robbery by 3%, aggravated assaults by 7%, and murders by 8.5%.
Liberty or Empire?, by Patrick Henry, 5 Jun 1788
Excerpt of speech to the Virginia Ratifying Convention; criticizes several clauses of the proposed Constitution and warns about the possibility of a U.S. President becoming even worse than a king
The clause before you gives a power of direct taxation, unbounded and unlimited ... What resistance could be made? The attempt would be madness You will find all the strength of this country in the hands of your enemies ... Your militia is given up to Congress, also, in another part of this plan; they will therefore act as they think proper; all power will be in their own possession. You can not force them to receive their punishment: of what service would militia be to you, when, most probably, you will not have a single musket in the State? For, as arms are to be provided by Congress, they may or may not furnish them.
New Gun-Control Victims, by Charley Reese, 21 Apr 2007
The operative fact in that shooting, as is usually the case, was that the only person with a gun was the killer. ... It was, by the way, a gun-control law that guaranteed all of the killer's victims would be unarmed. The law says that you can't have a firearm on a school campus. Well, as you can see, the killer paid no attention to the law.
Persuasion versus Force, by Mark Skousen, Liberty, Sep 1991
Based on the "From Force to Persuasion" chapter in Alfred North Whitehead's Adventures of Ideas (1933), Skousen suggests a new libertarian creed, "The triumph of persuasion over force is the sign of a civilized society"
There are those in society who want to ban handguns, rifles and other firearms, or at least have them tightly controlled and registered. Is there a crime problem? Don't worry. We can solve the murder and crime problem in this country, simply by passing a law taking away the weapons of murder. No guns, no killings. Simple. Thus they look to change outward appearances, but they show little interest in finding ways to discourage a person from becoming criminal or violent in the first place.
A Philosophy Lesson [PDF], by A. Barton Hinkle, Regulation, 2011
Argues, with various examples, that many current problems stem from the lack of proper (philosophical) reasoning, such as category errors (e.g., being unable to distinguish between stick drawings or plastic molds of guns and actual weapons)
Of course, a three-inch toy rifle is not a firearm ... But try telling that to officials at Gatwick Airport ... Category errors are especially common at airports and schools ... [C]onsider New Jersey second-grader Kyle Walker, who was suspended from school for drawing a gun. By that, I don't mean he unholstered a Glock. No, he sketched on paper a stick figure holding a pistol. This ostensibly violated—ready for it?—his school's no-weapons policy. (There's no word of whether little Kyle's parents could pay their school tax by mailing in a picture of a stick figure handing over a sack of money.)
Related Topics: Arizona, Children, Philosophy
The Right to Life Equals the Right to Possess Firearms, by Sheldon Richman, Freedom Daily, Jun 1994
Discusses U.S. legislation or proposals to restrict, register, license or ban gun ownership, countering that these controls go against the basic right of self-defense, itself a corollary of the right to life
The handgun ... affords smaller, weaker people the chance to defend themselves against bigger, stronger people who threaten them. Handguns offer the otherwise defenseless a convenient, practical, inexpensive method of safeguarding themselves and their families. Banishing handguns—even if the big and the strong were also denied them—would leave the small and the weak defenseless. The big and the strong aggressors have other tools of violence at their disposal; the small and the weak do not have other effective means of self-defense. Thus, outlawing handguns is a denial of the right of self-defense and, perforce, the right to life.
Robert A. Heinlein's Soaring Spirit of Liberty, by Jim Powell, The Freeman, Jul 1997
Biographical essay, including multiple quotes from fellow authors and significant excerpts from Heinlein's novels and stories
[Heinlein] wrote [to editor Dagliesh] in April 1949 that "I have one of my characters say that the right to bear arms is the basis of all human freedom. I strongly believe that, but you required me to blue-pencil it. The second point concerns licensing guns. I had such licensing in the story, but I had one character strongly object to it ... I am opposed to all attempts to license or restrict the arming of individuals, such as the Sullivan Act of the State of New York. I consider such laws a violation of civil liberty, subversive of democratic political institutions, and self-defeating ..."
Ron's Revolution: Could Dr. Paul really surprise us all?, by Dave Kopel, 9 Oct 2007
Recounts observations from the Second Amendment Foundation's Gun Rights Policy Conference and the impact of the Ron Paul presidential campaign
First, for some background: twenty years ago, the Second Amendment Foundation (the second-largest pro-Second Amendment group in the U.S.) began sponsoring an annual Gun Rights Policy Conference, in conjunction with other pro-gun groups, including the NRA. For a full working day on Saturday, and half a day on Sunday, the conference features 10-15 minute speeches by writers, radio hosts, group leaders, and other pro-2d Amendment activists ... The GRPC activists are very wary of politicians whose pro-gun positions are a matter of convenience or calculation, rather than sincere dedication to the Constitution.
Related Topics: Ron Paul, Republican Party
Second Amendment speaker says gun laws are racist, unconstitutional, by Quinn Bowman, The Athens NEWS, 7 Feb 2005
Jones advocated getting rid of mandatory trigger locks and waiting periods for firearms sales because they violate the Second Amendment by restricting a citizen's ability to arm him- or herself. ... Jones argued that one cannot interpret the Second Amendment without seeing it as endorsing the unrestricted use of all firearms.
Straight Shooting on Gun Control: A Reason debate, by Wendy Kaminer, Don B. Kates, Abigail A. Kohn, Michael Krauss, May 2005
... let's talk about those Second Amendment rights that Kohn assures her readers are so clearly secured. As I write, citizens of our nation's capital are fully denied these rights: If they use a firearm to defend themselves against a criminal, they are rewarded with confiscation of their weapon, for only criminals may possess firearms inside the District.
Testimony of Eugene Volokh on the Second Amendment, Senate Subcommittee on the Constitution, by Eugene Volokh, 23 Sep 1998
UCLA Law School
In preparing to teach a law school seminar on firearms regulation ... I found that the historical evidence ... overwhelmingly points to one and only one conclusion: The Second Amendment does indeed secure an individual right to keep and bear arms.
Test your freedom IQ, The Orange County Register, 18 Jun 2006
20 multiple-choice questions covering the role of government, free enterprise, taxes, property rights, free speech, religion, civil liberties, transportation, war and foreign policy, the Nanny State, gun ownership, education and immigration
18. The government can have my handgun ...
a) Any time the government chooses. I don't like guns ... [T]he founders were probably referring to militias having guns, not individuals.
b) I don't have a handgun to give ...
c) When a government official peels it from my cold, dead fingers. Gun ownership by individuals is specifically allowed by the Second Amendment to the Constitution, and it was one factor in winning the American Revolution. It would be sensible to learn firearms safety before buying one, although government mandates aren't the most useful way to encourage safety.
Two-dimensional libertarianism, by Anthony Gregory, Rational Review, 30 Sep 2004
Questions the usefulness of the two-dimensional Nolan Chart and the World's Smallest Political Quiz and advocates instead a one-dimensional liberty vs. power spectrum
Notice that the quiz which usually accompanies the chart never says anything about gun rights, a very important issue. No mention at all. And mentioning it would complicate things, because although it is a "personal freedom" to keep and bear arms, and although liberals are supposed to be the ones who like "personal freedoms," I think it is fair to say that liberals are, on average, less libertarian on the gun issue than are conservatives. I asked David Nolan about this too, and he said it was the one issue that didn't fit the model. But I beg to differ.
An Unintended Consequence of Gun Control, by Benedict D. LaRosa, 16 Aug 2004
If citizens were free to procure whatever firearms they desired without interference from government, as they should be, then the owners and occupiers of homes and businesses could provide their own high level of security using whatever weapons they considered appropriate ...
What an Honest Conversation about Race Would Look Like, by Sheldon Richman, The Goal Is Freedom, 19 Jul 2013
Argues that in order to have an "honest conversation about race", it must first be recognized that many government policies, such as drug prohibition, gun control and mandatory schooling, are enablers for racism
What about the war against "illegal" guns? ... [G]un historian Clayton E. Cramer writes,
The historical record provides compelling evidence that racism underlies gun control laws—and not in any subtle way. Throughout much of American history, gun control was openly stated as a method for keeping blacks and Hispanics "in their place," ... It is not surprising that the first North American English colonies, then the states of the new republic, remained in dread fear of armed blacks, for slave revolts against slave owners often degenerated into less selective forms of racial warfare ...
Will You Be Safer If Guns Are Banned? Part 1, by Jarret Wollstein, Freedom Daily, Jul 1994
Considers whether banning guns would reduce crime, citing studies, articles and statistics that show the apparent paradox that gun-control laws tend to increase crime and violence, and explores some reasons for the continued increase in violent crime
Why does increased violence go hand-in-hand with gun-control laws? The reason is that a disarmed people make easy targets. If an armed criminal attacks you on the street or in your home, you cannot afford to wait ... even 10 minutes for police to arrive — assuming you even get the chance to call police and they respond. Ten minutes is more than enough time for a thug to rob you, rape you, shoot you, or cripple you for life. If the government takes away your guns, you are at the criminalss mercy. Self-defense does work. According to Morgan Reynolds of Texas A&M University, armed citizens deter one million crimes each year.
Will You Be Safer If Guns Are Banned? Part 2, by Jarret Wollstein, Freedom Daily, Aug 1994
Examines the potential consequences of U.S. nationwide gun prohibition, based on what happened with alcohol prohibition and the war on drugs
Gun-control laws will make our streets safer for violent criminals. With an estimated 200-700 million guns now in the U.S., an unpoliceable 12,000 miles of borders and coastline, and the world's largest stock of precision machine tools, criminals will always be able to buy, steal, or make guns and ammunition ... [B]anning guns only disarms the law-abiding, not the predators. When you disarm peaceful citizens, crime and violence explode. Gun prohibition will foster a violent black market ... Millions consider gun ownership their inalienable right, and they will fight to preserve it.
Zimmerman Case Is No Grounds for Gun Control, by Sheldon Richman, 16 Jul 2013
Analyzes and argues against those who, based on the outcome of the George Zimmerman/Trayvon Martin case, push for bans of all private guns and for repealing "stand your ground" laws
Are we to believe that a gun is the only means of threatening a person with death or serious injury? People were killed by a variety of means before guns existed, including fists. So there is no prima facie case that a gun was used improperly merely because the person shot had no firearm ... even a guilty verdict would have been no grounds for gun control. No matter what gun laws are on the books, bad guys will always get firearms ... It is only the innocent who would be without guns, and that means more murders, more rapes, more assaults. The answer to gun violence is not to deprive the innocent of guns.
Related Topic: Life


Cold Comfort: An Interview with John R. Lott, by Michael W. Lynch, John Lott, Jacob Sullum, Reason, Jan 2000
Focuses primarily on Lott's More Guns, Less Crime (1998): what led him to write it, approving, critical and other reviews and interpretations of the data presented
Reason: ... Does it bother you that people who support the right to keep and bear arms are apt to accept your conclusions at face value, while those who are inclined to support gun control will tend to reject your findings, even though few people in either group are equipped to evaluate the evidence?
Lott: ... When you pass these laws, not everybody who eventually is going to get a permit does it the first day. Fifteen years after these laws go into effect, you're still seeing an increasing percentage of the population getting these permits and a decreasing rate of violent crime because of the additional deterrence.
Related Topics: Children, Florida
Transcript of Tom Selleck and Rosie O'Donnell's NRA Discussion, by Tom Selleck, Rosie O'Donnell, 19 May 1999
Tom: Please let me finish! Let me say just one thing. What you're really talking about ... at least what I'm talking about ... is are we a responsible enough society, in terms of television, in terms of guns, in terms of everything else, to be this free? That should frame the debate. My answer unfortunately, in this culture, is 'probably not'. But I'm going to [go] down with the Civil Liberties ship, and all the Bill of Rights, and apply them equally. That's the way I feel. You can ask me specific questions about anything, but it's simply stupid political rhetoric.

Cartoons and Comic Strips

Jason, I told you no squirt guns in the house!, by Bill Amend, FoxTrot, 20 Jul 2008


The Best Defense: True Stories of Intended Victims Who Defended Themselves with a Firearm
    by Robert A. Waters, 1998
The Bias Against Guns: Why Almost Everything You've Heard About Gun Control Is Wrong
    by John Lott, 2003
The Founders' Second Amendment: Origins of the Right to Bear Arms, by Stephen P. Halbrook, 2008
Guns: Who Should Have Them?
    by Dave Kopel, 1995
Guns Save Lives: True Stories of Americans Defending Their Lives with Firearms
    by Robert A. Waters, 2002
More Guns, Less Crime: Understanding Crime and Gun-Control Laws
    by John Lott, 1998
The Seven Myths of Gun Control: Reclaiming the Truth about Guns, Crime, and the Second Amendment
    by Richard Poe, 2001
The Tyranny of Gun Control
    by Richard Ebeling (Editor, contributor), Jacob G. Hornberger (Editor, contributor), The Future of Freedom Foundation, 1997
Shows why gun control poses a threat to liberty; a collection of essays by Ebeling, Hornberger, James Bovard, Richard J. Davis, John L. Egolf Jr., Benedict D. LaRosa, Sheldon Richman and Jarret Wollstein

The introductory paragraph uses material from the Wikipedia article "Right to keep and bear arms" as of 12 Sep 2018, which is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share-Alike License 3.0.