signing the u.s. constitution
The signing of the U.S. Constitution in Philadelphia. (Library of Congress)

The shrillness of the gun debate is disappointing. And I am particularly disappointed by the way the “Founders” are sometimes invoked as private property libertarians who supported unrestricted gun ownership. In over twenty years of writing about the Revolutionary Era, I’ve reviewed literally thousands of documents—local and state government records and account books, militia returns and orders, veterans’ pension applications and Continental Army papers, court dockets and case papers, estate inventories and personal papers, and hundreds of pages of newspaper. So I feel like I have a pretty good sense for how the founding generation governed—particularly in lower New York and New Jersey. What follows is a short discussion of the governing record of the Founders with respect to regulating firearms.

The sanctity of gun ownership during the revolutionary war

When governing in the region I’ve studied, the Founders showed little sanctity for gun ownership. From its first days as a proto-national government, the Second Continental Congress advised States to disarm individuals suspected of disloyalty and to impound goods, if necessary, for the good of the Army. Local Committees of Safety, acting as de facto county governments prior to the first post-independence elections, assembled militias not to fight the British, but to impound useful war materials—including guns, but also livestock, foodstuffs, liquor, forage, boats, and wagons.

George Washington’s first action of 1776 was a campaign to confiscate the private arms of the citizens in Queens Co., New York. The impoundments occurred without trial, though the Army did provide receipts, which were redeemable for (nearly worthless) Continental currency. Meanwhile, local militias in New Jersey confiscated arms and livestock from people living along the Jersey shoreline. In one county, the militia was called out specifically to confiscate guns from African-Americans, both free and slave. These were not actions taken against a handful of traitors, but large actions against neighborhoods of people.

Guns were confiscated from individuals without due process. Firearms were treated similarly to other kinds of private property impounded for the war effort. In a region under British invasion, the need to win a war trumped individual property rights—including the right to own a gun.

Related Content:  People Should Prove They Have Earned the Right to Have a Gun

The Federalist papers

A decade later, as the Federalists attempted to make the Constitution more attractive to a skeptical public, they added a Bill of Rights (ten amendments to the Constitution) to lessen fears that the Constitution would become “an engine of tyranny”.

The 2nd Amendment to the Constitution, in its entirety, reads:

“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.”

People will argue forever about the construction of this sentence and its meaning, but the opening phrase, “a well-regulated militia,” deserves consideration.

Minute Man Statue, Lexington, Mass (Wikimedia) 272 x 450
Minute Man Statue, Lexington, Mass (Wikimedia)

Drawing from the Revolutionary experience, the Founders believed that a local militia, properly officered by community leaders, was essential to resisting external threats and a potentially oppressive central government. The 2nd Amendment spoke to the Colonial and Revolutionary experience.

The Founders did not make detailed or public arguments regarding private gun ownership as a unique right. The Federalist Papers, written by the Founders to explain the benefits of the Constitution, discuss different rights in great detail: Fair treatment before the law, the right to vote, freedom of religion and the press, etc. To the degree firearms are mentioned, it is nearly always in the context of the right of Americans to organize into local militias to resist political tyranny and protect the nation from external threats.

Federalist #29 declares “it is a matter of the utmost importance that a well-digested plan should be adopted for the proper establishment of the militia“; and Federalist #46 discusses the strength of a militia “with arms in their hands, officered by men chosen from among themselves, fighting for their common liberties.” However, The Federalist Papers—85 essays and 200,000 words, many of which are devoted to articulating the rights of citizens—do not dwell on firearms as a unique property right.

Gun ownership in the early republic

The first president permitted the seizure of private property. Federalized militia—more or less led by Secretary of Treasury Alexander Hamilton—confiscated a wide variety of private property from the “Whiskey rebels” of Pennsylvania (including guns). The federal government was willing to take goods in the name of restoring public order and ask questions later.

In the new nation, families often owned a gun, but it was not ubiquitous. By the late 1700s, long settled parts of the country were fully agrarian and a century removed from the frontier. The farm family estate inventories I’ve seen reveal that many families owned a gun, and many did not. And gun ownership was even less common among the large numbers of poor “cottagers” and landless laborers who drifted between agricultural and maritime pursuits.

To the British, Americans were indeed “a people numerous and armed“—but that statement is relative to the population of Britain. It was hardly an absolute.

The limits of privately-owned weaponry

The common guns of the late 1700s had limited range, limited accuracy, and a cumbersome reloading process. A man with a saber on horseback was more dangerous to a crowd of people. As no public menace was posted by one or a few guns, the Founders saw no need for “gun control”. However, local governments owned the really dangerous stuff. Casks of gunpowder, artillery, and anti-personnel weapons (i.e., grapeshot) were inventoried, secured by commissioned officers, and kept in guarded public magazines. Even the most powerful men of the day did not keep private stores of dangerous weapons. Washington’s estate at Mt. Vernon, for example, had nothing more dangerous than a small number hunting rifles. Leading merchants like John Hancock and Robert Morris purchased large quantities of war materials and then turned them over to state and local governments.

I do not mean to suggest the Founders were anti-gun or anti-private property. I do mean to suggest that they were pragmatic and, with the exception of a few cosmopolitans, locally-focused. Private property rights for guns or nearly anything else was fine unless it threatened the good of the community as they defined it based on the problem of the day. When that happened, private property rights—of all types—were sacrificed.

In a few personal letters, Founders speak glowingly of the importance of an armed citizenry. Washington’s quote about guns being “liberty’s teeth” is frequently cited. These quotes can be interpreted differently, but one read is that they simply affirm the importance of a “well-regulated militia” (led by, of course, the Founders and their kinsmen).

It also must be remembered that the Founders were prodigious writers who tested ideas in their letters, much as we do in emails today. Thomas Jefferson, for example, wrote letters in which he stated that because the Constitution did not give the Executive the power to acquire foreign territory, the Louisiana Purchase was unconstitutional. But he still signed the deal. That is why I focus on governing actions and public documents in this essay, rather than pulling favorite selected quotes from personal letters.

Keep the founders out of it

When it comes to gun control, argue whatever position you want. But maybe we should keep the Founders out of it. It is inconsistent with their governing record to believe that they were supporters of unrestricted private firearms.

P.S. I like skeet shooting with my boys. I don’t hunt, but a couple of my friends do, and it’s a nice part of their lives. School shootings like the recent one in Florida make me sad, but I am against curtailing these long-established activities.

This post was originally published on 11/01/15. It has been reviewed and updated by the author and republished on 02/20/18 because of its unfortunate timeliness.


  1. @ Michael Adelberg – American Revolution Historian

    Do you know what the colors of the King were/are? What the first national American flag was? What the ensign for the English Naval Tudor was (which existed long before the 13 colonies). What shape the Union Jack forms? What the definition of a state (estate) is? What the definition of “The Crown” is? And who owns, controls and amends United States Social Security?

    Find the answer to those questions and you’ll know exactly who really won the revolution. Trickery & deceit are the tools of lawyers and politicians.

    In the words of a real patriot and freedom fighter who went against the grain…

    “What right had they to say, We, the people? My political curiosity, exclusive of my anxious solicitude for the public welfare, leads me to ask, Who authorized them to speak the language of, We, the people, instead of, We, the states? States are the characteristics and the soul of a confederation. If the states be not the agents of this compact, it must be one great, consolidated, national government, of the people of all the states.” -Patrick Henry

    • Howard Zinn in the first few chapters of “A People’s History of the United States” makes it clear that moneyed property owners won the Revolution and most importantly defined their rule of the new nation during the several decades afterword, as the Constitution came into being and the government began to levy taxes, form a permanent Navy and Army. That was when they made sure to keep women, servants, blacks, slaves, and those who did not own significant property out of the business of government. None of the above could become lawyers or judges or other officers of the court, nor could they run for elected office. Our recent experience with fears of a runaway Electoral College harkens back to the Founding Fathers desire to retain control of the office of the President (and the Senate) in the hands of the property class. It took a Constitutional amendment to get Senators elected by the people instead of selected by the legislature of the states. Many people rail against the huge percent of the US budget spent by the military-industrial-corporate-legislative complex, yet for some reason our entire government is unable to force even one member of the Pentagon to account for what they spend and when they spend it.

      Yet despite clearly showing that the moneyed class ‘won’ the American Revolution and also ‘won’ the government that was formed after, neither the book nor it’s author is popular with the class of people who are harmed most by those same moneyed principles. It truly is a bizarro world nowadays, where right is wrong, wrong is right, and even with competing teams of lawyers trying to tell the public which way to lean, it’s still hard to guess which way is up.

  2. Here’s the thing… we’re not just talking about gun ownership, we’re talking about self defense. Does anyone really believe in limiting peoples inalienable right to defend themselves? To tell people you can’t defend yourself because you committed a crime is ludicrous. Who doesn’t have the right to self defense? Nobody is required to be a victim.

    The United States federal government has committed plenty of crimes. They dropped two nukes on a country for no real reason. Why, because Japan attacked Pearl Harbor (which there’s evidence it may have been a false flag). Israel attacked us more than once, the last being time 9/11. How come we don’t nuke them? Because the truth is we just wanted to test out nukes on real people. The American government is the last people on Earth who should be allowed to own nukes. But they do. Why? Because they want to be able to defend themselves, although nukes are more of an offensive weapon than defensive.

    The same federal government took part in murdering a US president, and then framed and murdered not only an innocent American citizen, but United States Marine. And I don’t make that statement lightly, I make it backed with real evidence. Just look at the Moorman photo with a magnify glass. Directly behind Zapruder, in the pergola shelter. You’ll see 2 men with rifles, one being Eladio del Valle, member of the CIA assassination squad Operation 40. And they were doing Israel’s dirty work over Dimona, so another terrorist state could own nukes.

    And that is more than sufficient reason for every American citizen to utilize their god given right to self defense. Anyone who wishes to limit another persons right to defend themselves is a predator.

  3. The problem is not the gun, but the person. We have a moral debacle in America today. The First continental congress printed and issued 600 Bibles for distributing and passing out in schools for instruction. In 1962 and 1963 the Supreme Court said prayer in schools is unconstitutional. There is nothing in the Constitution that even remotely says this. Further more, the Founding Fathers were inclusive of the church in government, and they should know better than anyone else what the documents they signed should mean. The amount of money and effort the early Continental Congress put towards reaching out to Indian groups to deliver the message of the Bible to save people from what the Bible calls sin was monumental.
    Now we have a call to ban arms in America because of the Florida shooting, which was disgusting to say the least. But the fact in that matter is simple. The local jurisdiction had the ability no less than 16 times to put this person away, and on at least 2 times on Federal charges, and they did not act on the law given to them to put him behind bars and prosecute him.
    Now somehow you want me to believe that the NRA and guns are the problem.
    What we have in Florida were liberal Democrat administrators WHO DID NOT DO THEIR JOBS. Why is this not talked about and why are we not prosecuting these people for contributing to the death of all those innocent people.
    Also as a side note, assault weapons are banned in America to make for public ownership. The AR-15 is not an assault weapon. The definition of an assault weapon is a weapon that has a selector switch to go from semi-automatic to full automatic fire. A person must go through rigorous background checks to obtain those guns which are left for sale.
    I took a deer this year with an AR-15 because the platform works for me.
    How about bringing the Biblical God back into schools, and bring gun safety back into schools like we once had and we will see positive and moral changes to our society.
    By the way, we have a local college that allows guns on campus and there has NEVER been an issue.
    Thee guns are locked at night in a designated facility. The reason we have never had an issue is the mentality of the people, and not everyone is a Christian. They respect life, respect each other, and respect the hunt for food, and do it properly.
    When you cheapen life at one end of the spectrum (abortion), you also cheapen it at the other end, those who are already born. And please do not use the excuse that abortion is legal therefore we are not doing anything wrong. That is exactly what the Germans claimed during the Nuremberg trials.

    • “In 1962 and 1963 the Supreme Court said prayer in schools is unconstitutional.”

      No it didn’t, but right wingers will persist in telling this and their other lies until they’re all dead due to global warming.

  4. This is a bit of an old thread, but I would like to correct the shallow read it provides:

    The actions described above are mostly the actions of the Federalists (Washington, Hamilton, et. al.) rather than the founders as a whole. Jefferson, Madison, etc. believed wholeheartedly in the sanctity of self defense regardless of weapon. Which is why he was such a fan of future weapon development such as the Girandoni air rifle – one of which he personally handed to Captain Lewis for his mapping expedition.

    My point being, that the discussion above is subsumed by the broader national discussion of what the nation as a whole should look like. On the one hand you had the Conservative Federalists who wanted a neo-monarchy (some literally), and the radical liberals among the Anti-Federalists (some were in fact not so radical).

    Ultimately, it seems the Anti-Federalists were correct – the Central government became unresponsive to the needs of the individual, all rights not explicitly protected by the bill of rights became suspect, and both the courts and the presidency took power at the expense of the legislature.

    Failing to address the fact that most Americans were not Federalists undermines the broader claims above.

  5. […] with their governing record to believe that they were supporters of unrestricted private firearms.The Founders and the Sanctity of Gun Ownership published first on […]

  6. Let’s not mix up the Founders with the Framers. The country was founded in 1776, the Constitution was written 12 years later, in order to save the country from the impending disaster of a multi-faceted civil war. The US under the articles of confederation was a badly failing union. Some of the Representatives who developed the Constitution were key individuals in the revolution, most were not. Nothing that happened prior to adoption of the Constitution (such as confiscating guns) should ever be held up as an example of American values. The Framers were trying to save the country from the many poor decisions made between 1776 & 1789. The first section of this article makes just that logical error.

    The second section deals with the fact that the Federalist Papers—85 essays and 200,000 words long—never speak to an individual’s right to own firearms. The Bill of Rights (the commitment to which was ultimately necessary to obtain ratification) didn’t exist when the Federalist Papers were written. It would be astonishing if the authors had addressed something that hadn’t even been created yet. The Framers and the authors of the Fed. papers felt that a bill of rights was not necessary because the structure of the Government with it’s many checks and balances would prevent any incursion of individual freedoms. The public did not agree, and a commitment to add a specific bill of rights as the first order of business was needed for adoption.

    No one has ever claimed that gun ownership is a property right, it is one of the basic inalienable human rights. Life is a right, the ability to defend that right is necessary or the right to life is mute.

    Many of the concepts in the bill of rights were not to address to tyranny of the British empire, they were to address problems created by tyrannical state governments in the early years of union. Example: The 1st amendment’s proscription against the adoption of an official religion is because the states had done exactly that. Pennsylvania’s official religion was Quaker, unfortunately, New Jersey made the Quaker religion illegal, and Quakers were subject to arrest and punishment. Things were screwed up.

    The commerce clause was because individual states had run amuck passing tariffs and trade sanctions against other states. Each state issued is own currency and then fiddled with the exchange rates in order to take advantage of out of state lenders. Interstate commerce was in shambles. Self dealing political cronyism has always been with us, but it was much worse before (excepting the Clintons, naturally).

    Gun grabbers always focus on the phrase, “A well regulated militia…” As SCOTUS properly found, the phrase is introductory, rather than conditional. What follows clearly stands alone “shall not be infringed”. The decision wasn’t difficult to reach because they know precisely where it came from. The original proposed text of the 2nd amendment was word for word out of Pennsylvania’s constitution. PA’s version was quite wordy and clearly spelled out that it represents an individual basic human right to protect one’s life. Congress debated and decided that lengthy explanation was unnecessary, as the Government is strictly forbidden to take any such action regardless of the justification used.

    Gun violence is out of hand, primarily and in large part exclusively in the locations where the authors preferred policy has been the state or municipal policy already. Mass shootings are always in gun free zones. The current murder capitol in the US changes from year to year, but they all have the two things in common, heavily restricted gun rights and the entrenched political party in office.

    The appeals to disarm the population are always couched in a supposed desire to “save lives”, but any realistic consideration of the consequences of an attempt to do so, puts the lie to the plea. When New York required the registration of certain classes of weapons, the citizens ignored the law. The authorities qucikly realized that sending the police to enforce the law would be a horrible, dangerous policy. That’s in New York, not the Midwest or the West.

  7. I live in the UK where we have some of the most restrictive gun controls in the world – no pistols at all, no self-loading rifles of any kind, and licensing conditions you wouldn’t believe! Yet . . . we still have shootings! These are nearly always by illegally held firearms by criminals. In the UK, we have a right to own a weapon but woe betide you if you use it to protect yourself or your family. You will be guilty of using ‘excessive force’ unless you can PROVE you are in fear of your life and that would normally be coming under fire yourself!

    My point is that CRIMINALS will ALWAYS find ways of obtaining firearms and by their very nature have NO regard for laws. With the fall of the Soviet union, we are seeing fully automatic weapons coming into the UK from Easten Europe, the only issue being the price of them!

    Over here, we are seeing a vast increase in knife killings, how much worse would that be if like in Chicago out thugs could get hold of guns? Don’t forget in Chicago, there are NO gun shops. ALL firearms are imported from other states and yet the murder by firearm rate is one of the highest in the US! Do gun controls work? Answer – they only prevent legal ownership, not the criminal! Rant over!

  8. I read the article and all the comments. I own a registered fire arm for protection. I keep it secured. Here’s my question to everybody – assuming that the federal government is not our enemy (we vote it into power) why does any American need a firearm like an ak47? Why not a federal law requiring background checks? I think the idea that some federal regulation of firearms will lead to the eventual banning of all guns in the U.S. is nonsense. I also think any reading of the history of the founding of this Republic and the men who made it happen supports Mr. Adleberg’s thesis. But any elected official who supported a gun ban would be hounded out of office. It’s a made up threat.

    I’d like to see a serious discussion about how to reduce gun violence without all the half baked, hysterical rants on both sides of the issue. Can’t reasonable people find a middle ground upon which to act?

  9. The two examples of poor ones at best. Washington took the guns away from the loyalists of the crown. Guns taken away from slaves so the owners wouldn’t die. We have a right to have a gun to protect ourselves from government tyranny. More than 50% of the people in this country believe that the government has gone further then their constitutional powers. Your argument supports big government not the sovereignty of the people which is the basis of our constitution. No matter how many degrees you got you can’t justify your elitism.

  10. There is an error in the statement that Israel and Switzerland arm their citizens with military fade weapons. In Israel, you have to be either an activated reservist or regular armed forces to get your weapon. Otherwise, they are kept in an armory. Citizen gun ownership is heavily restricted. People living in Frontier Kibitz & settlements have slightly different rules.

    Switzerland used to arm citizens with weapons and ammunition that they could take home. However, the ammunition had a seal on it that could legally be opened only under government direction. This policy has now been changed and at least the ammunition is now stored in an armory. This is now very similar to how the colonial militias were organized, hence the British raids on militia armories preceding Lexington and Concord. After you aged out of military service, in Switzerland, you could keep your military weapon, but only after it had been modified to non-automatic operation.

    Switzerland, unlike Israel, does allow citizens to own sportsman guns, and a private national organization (similar to NRA but much Lower key) sponsors a national marksmanship completion with the cooperation of the Swiss government.

    In my opinion, the Swiss have come closest to implementing the U.S. 2nd amendment as outlined in article #29 of the Federalist papers. Good reading there. The book “Paul Revere’s Ride” by David Hacket Fisher has several chapters that describe the organization of Mass. militias before and directly after “the shot heard round the world”.

    • According to a knowledgeable friend, an armed and virtuous citizenry was central to the colonial worldview that was suspicious of centralized (British) power. But local colonial leaders kept the dangerous and expensive stuff locked away in the public magazine. A muzzle loaded gun was not a public menace, a canon loaded with grape-shot was.

      The same friend also told me about an interesting story on NPR a couple of days ago about how the US moved to ban private ownership of machine guns in response to the Gangland shootings of the early 30s, including one fight that spilled over into a crowd of children, killing five. The NRA supported the move limit to machine gun private ownership because, at the time, they saw a clear distinction between “sporting” guns and anti-personnel weapons.

  11. The right …shall not be infringed.

    Argue all you want…the statement of intent is clear. The fact that the founders confiscated weapons to control the population further illustrates the need for the rule.

    A good citizen will a gun poses no danger to peace loving government and its other peace loving citizens. The guns available should be up to the task of defending ones self from a tyranical government. I would say a citizen would have little chance with the ar15.

  12. When reciting the constitution please don’t leave out important stuff like foreign and domestic enemy .our books are being changed just like Hitler was doing. As well the constitution. Gun ownership separates this country from all others.if you don’t like it there’s hundreds to choose from try one of those .move over there and get shot . At least here you have the right to fight for survival. Any where else you are just a good un armed target.

  13. bexause a statement agrees with you position does not make it a fact! The article took a very limited set of examples from the Federalist Papers that could be contrured to support his argument. However a number of responses seemed to do a more complete review of the Federalist Papers and came away with a cometely different result. This actually goes back to the idea of a free press, a free press does not guarantee an accurate press.

  14. You need to understand that back then, firearms to their point of view consisted of Muskets that took ~30 secs to reload per shot. They probably did not consider the rapid automatic firearms into consideration when they drafted the 2nd amendment.

  15. I’ve read a lot of stupid comments on this blog.It seems all the gun nuts have come out of the woodwork to criticize an article that deals with FACTS, not NRA propaganda. It’s impossible to reason with people who live in fear, never trusting anyone, and who believe everyone and especially our own government is out to get them. WOW, what losers!

  16. How many lives a year do guns save? Why do we never consider that figure when we look at the real impact of gun ownership. Why do suicides, and accidents count but actual instances where guns saved lives not?

    Doctors kill over 100,000 patients a year through malpractice. You are FAR more likely to be killed by a misdiagnosis or incompetent physician than you are a gun. Yet nobody talks about banning doctors.

    In the last century tyrannical governments killed 30 million of their own citizens. Between the Russians, Chinese, Nazi’s, Cambodians, Rwandans etc etc etc they killed huge numbers of people–usually through starvation but sometimes with a bullet to the back of the head. In most of those cases the first things those regimes did was ban private ownership of guns. Yet we have insane people who think it can’t happen here and we will always have benevolent overlords in Washington. There’s an old saying about Safety and Liberty…those who give up liberty for the promise of safety will have neither safety nor liberty!

    There is not a single place on the face of the earth you can point to where gun control has worked–and crime went down. Why would anyone advocate for something that has no track record of working?

    Gun ownership has increased tremendously over the last 30 years…yet the crime rate has steadily fallen and the murder rate has likewise fallen. If guns cause crime/murder…please reconcile that for me.

    There are countries in South America with total bans of gun ownership that have far higher incidents of gu related crime than the US….how is that possible? Guns are outlawed?

    I’m a former combat veteran with more than 10 years active duty. I’ve had all kinds of training, etc on an AR (scary black rifle with a 30 round magazine). I’ve trained my wife and daughter how to use it when I’m not home and both are competent. In a free country who the hell are you to tell me I don’t have the right to decide what tools I choose to defend my home and family with.

    “A well educated young population being necessary to the preservation of a free society–the right of the people to keep and read books shall not be infringed.” Gee…if the amendment had been written into the Constitution that way you morons would be arguing that only young people have a right to books….

    If you have any command of the language you understand that the prefatory clause of the 2d Amendment does not limit the declarative clause… If you actually read the Supreme Court case DC v Heller you will see this is covered in exhaustive detail and the textual meaning is unambiguously clear.

    Of course the absurdity of you position is illustrated by your argument that the Framers of the Constitution just screwed up and stuck a enumerated Congressional power from Article 1 (the power to raise and equip an Army and a militia) and misplaced it in a laundry list of individual rights. C’mon….really? That’s what you are saying? That they didn’t know the difference between a power and a right? Why the hell does a nation have a right to equip a military. Its a stupid argument. Certainly a nation has the POWER to do so…but a collective RIGHT to equip the militia? Hogwash….

    Lastly, we have 300 million guns in this country and 20 million illegal aliens. You propose to confiscate 300 million guns with one breath but with the other ask how realistic it is to deport 20 million law breaking foreigners? I’m not advocating either. But again, the absurdity of either position is astounding. Even is only 20 million of those guns are “assault weapons” how are you going to make that work exactly?

  17. Avoid war by accepting your own enslavement.

    Or if you have dignity, integrity and pride (not the pride about sodomy with men) you will want to hide your guns and never ever give them up. That would be fighting for freedom and there is no more worthy a goal.

  18. I am sure General Gauge would have agreed with everything you said especially since the colonials had rifled barrels (think of them as “sniper” rifles) and the Red-Coats had inaccurate smooth bore muskets.

    “But please be careful when discussing the Founders.” Do you think they would have approved of Bathhouse use of “phone and pen”? How about abortion and gay marriage……

    The 2nd amendment is about keeping “the people” (funny how you NEVER used that term in yous biased liberal rant) safe from Tyranny it has noting to do with hunting but then You are in lockstep with your masters in DC and I would expect nothing less!

  19. As to your question of militias, I refer you to this quote:

    “I ask, sir, what is the militia? It is the whole people, except for a few public officials.”
    — George Mason, in Debates in Virginia Convention on Ratification of the Constitution, Elliot, Vol. 3, June 16, 1788

    As to the authors questioning of the 2nd Amendment being a states right and not an individual right, I would have him read it very slowly.

    The only mention of the State is in the need for the security there of. I believe that if the founding Fathers had meant to give the right to the State, the last part of the amendment would read thus: “the right of the State to keep and bear arms”, not “the right of the people to keep and bear arms.”

  20. Several steps need to be taken before a gun can be owned in Slovakia, European Union:
    – get a health check
    – pass a psychological examination (duration 3 hours, valid for 10 years then needs to be repeated)
    – criminal background check (criminals are banned from legal gun ownership forever)
    – pass gun ownership related law test
    – obtain a gun ownership license valid for 10 years
    – get a gun purchase permit
    – finally buy a gun
    – register the gun at local police station, get a gun registration card

    Owning a gun here means being with one foot in jail all the time…the gun owner is responsible for the gun at all times. If a kid takes it and shoots someone, the owner gets jail time too. If the gun is stolen from a car and used for crime, the owner gets jailtime too. If you manipulate a gun while drunk and get caught…jailtime

    If you sell the gun, the transaction must be recorded at the police dept. The new owner needsa gun purchase permit…

    Every ammo purchase is registered and goes to police records.

    99.99% of crime with guns is performed with illegal weapons. The rest is mostly drunk hunters and stupid manipulation. Compulsory killing is very rare here.

    I own guns. I love to shoot. I have kids and never keep the guns or ammo within their reach.

      • That’s what you call big government totalitarianism. Sounds like it makes criminals out of the average citizen & doesn’t stop actual illegal guns. Good luck with all the ISIS infiltrating.

      • Have you ever tried to legally buy a gun in the U.S.?
        You have to pass a background check before you are allowed to purchase a weapon. In some states, you have to wait 10 days or longer befor you take possession of the weapon.
        But all the laws in the world make no difference if no one is going to enforce them, or obey them.

  21. Past verses present. There were no automatics or assault weapons during that time period. According to this article the welfare of the public outweighs the individual right to gun ownership, but makes available the rights of citizens to organize against an external threat.

          • THIS! Here we have the essence of the modern liberal fascist. She doesn’t want the Constitution’s method for amending it used, she wants dictates from the Supreme Court. Of course she also wants a Supreme Court stacked with liberals like her – people who know what is best for Americans, and THEY don’t. Mussolini would be proud of Patricia Salber, someone after his own socialist heart.

            • Did you actually read the article? The author is a historian whose point was this:

              “When it comes to gun control, argue whatever position you want. But maybe we should keep the Founders out of it. It is inconsistent with their governing record to believe that they were supporters of unrestricted private firearms.”

              Further, why bring me into your comment. I did not write it. We published many types of articles on this site with the one strict requirement is that the information in them if based on facts.

    • What a horrible article full of cherry picked examples completely out of context. Then this ridiculous comment about automatics during that age (and repeating weapons were considered back then, if not practical). Does free speech apply to the internet? Are you protected from unlawful search & seizure in your car?

  22. This article is so selective in its quotes and slanted in a gross misinterpretation of the dangers and local conditions during the war effort as to reflect very poorly on the author. Surely had Adelberg been living in that time and space he would have been a British sympathizer whose own weapon would have been on Washington’s highest priority list.

  23. Let alone that you reference a right in the Bill of Rights, individual protected rights, like they don’t apply to an individual. Some how free speech the first amemdment is a personal right but the second on firearms is not, an obvious fault. Revisionist history based upon ones perspective can only serve to make a preconceived argument supporting an tyrannical view of society to disarm those who would contentiously resist an evil foregone conclusion, serving but one intent imposing your will on others. A disarmed populace is a society of subjects not freemen.

  24. your “close” to the mark but like all “gun haters” your off by “just enough”
    read what you wrote yourself about Washington/founders and you will see they were talking “not” about “all citizens” but about those that are “enemies” of the nation, BRITISH sympathizers ,,,,, and they talked about “criminals”,, those were the only two “restrictions” they ever talked about

  25. @Sam, when seconds count police are only 9 minutes away. That, as you point out, is the average response time of law enforcement. The uncommon outliers are the police who happen to be nearby when a crime takes place, or when police take 24 hours to respond, if the come at all. Your second HUGE problem are the two SCOTUS rulings which declared the the police have no obligation to protect any specific individual EVEN IF they know that individual is under a threat of lethal attack.

    As to your second statement, in the form of a question, estimates of firearms used in self defense range from 100, 000 per year to 2,000,000 per year. The big problem with these numbers include the fact that when a crime is stopped by merely brandishing a firearm that use is usually not reported. Also, it cannot be denied that the MNM are biased against gun ownership, to say nothing of concealed carry. About the only time they report the use of a firearm to stop a crime is when the story can be slanted to their agenda. There are numerous videos on YouTube and other media sites that have survalience videos showing citizens defending themselves from armed thugs.

    Feinstein and Mikulski both have concealed carry permits, although judging from their firearm handling skills it is obvious that they never went through the training courses the rest of use have to pass in order to obtain a CHP. The most rabid anti-2A politicians and Entertainment stars have armed security details. While those very people claim that all people are equal their exceptions prove they also believe that THEY are more equal than others.

    • “although judging from their firearm handling skills it is obvious that they never went through the training courses the rest of use have to pass in order to obtain a CHP.”

      And why not require that training?

  26. Wow , I’m keeping my gun because I don’t trust any gov’t and anybody and the law is just not capable of being everywhere so now if you all see that you need to give your guns up , go ahead but don’t you dare ask me to be gullible like the rest of you . Every single person that has a gun should have to go through a learning period and learn about their weapons that right there would help from a lot of accidents

  27. Why did Thomas Jefferson make this statement ? “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.”
    ― Thomas Jefferson
    Pretty straight forward, isn’t it !

  28. In early times past it was necessary for individuals to protect themselves in this country you can’t judge what was happening in the east by the rest of the country they have always thought they were the only people on earth and never stuck their heads into the real happenings in the country the worst thing we have at this day is politicians and presidents who don’t stick with the Constitution or think it unnecessary are the we the people in need to take up arms in a militia against the government that will not follow the Constitution the president that rights laws without proper use of his pen Washington has turned into a hotbed of everyone trying to protect each other because are all so damn crooked they all have something on each other to keep themselves in a little click and screw the public who are annoyingly financing there tremendous spending and actions against the very hard working people of this country

  29. Wow if our government really wanted to turn on it’s people I know they are very worried about all you people with AK-47s you have to be kidding me. I read that even former President George Bush canceled his NRA membership so people please get real if you think your AK-47 is protecting you from your government.

        • The Vietnam Cong mounted an insurgency that stopped the might of the US military with little more than AK47s and a small regard for dying. Yes, we beat them only to see victory given away by politicians…but look at it. Vietnam is the size of three average states, and yet we lost 50K men to a bunch of 3rd world morons. America are told that personal arms could do little in event of a tyrannical govenment…but we have 375 million guns and 330 million people… Who would be scared of who. Even China has less than 2 million soldiers….

          • Jon, I would love to see fat american red-knecks living for months on end lieing and crawling underground in tiny tunnels, underneath the canopy of all that impenetrable jungle you have. Keep dreaming.

        • The Vietnam Cong mounted an insurgency that stopped the might of the US military with little more than AK47s and little regard for dying. Yes, we beat them only to see victory given away by politicians…but look at it. Vietnam is the size of three average states, and yet we lost 50K men to a bunch of 3rd world morons. Americans are told that personal arms could do little in event of a tyrannical govenment…but we have 375 million guns and 330 million people… Who would be scared of who? Even China has less than 2 million soldiers….

          This article scares me… if the writer is a doctor, he is a terrible one. Washington, said “A gun is an entirely good thing,” He was of the mind that even criminals, after serving their sentences should have their personal weapons returned… The good Doctor cherry picked prettily to avoid the real thoughts of the Fathers and is quickly dissertation in his falsehoods by even a cursory glance at the Federalist and a scattered collections of quotes…

  30. The 2nd amendment isn’t that about duck hunting OR private property rights, contrary to the author’s misapprehensions, but the inalienable meaningful right to self defense…not only a ‘right’ but a DUTY! Nor is the 2nd Amentment about if the guns shoot fast. Yes, guns (is the right hands), kill people. Who’d want one that didn’t? Washinton’s quote is on the mark: “Guns ARE the teeth of liberty,” intended as they are as a defense against ALL enemies, BOTH foreign AND domestic! Our inalienable rights including life, liberty, and happiness (as well as a free press and speech) wouldn’t mean much if we had to seek government permission for the tools to preserve/defend them. Not all human rights (e.g. privacy) are explicitly delineated in our Constitution, but fall within its penumbra, and are as numerous as the stars in the heavens. “The rights of man do not flow from governments, but are endowed upon us by our Creator.” -JFK at his 1st inaugural address to Congress-

  31. The good gentleman is correct about one thing, he is obviously no expert on the subject, and may have a bit of difficulty in reading as well. To say that the Federalist Papers mention nothing about private firearms ownership is a pretty big miss! Let’s look at a couple by Alexander Hamilton:

    “The best we can hope for concerning the people at large is that they be properly armed.” Alexander Hamilton, The Federalist Papers at 184-188

    If the representatives of the people betray their constituents, there is then no recourse 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 entrusted 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. Alexander Hamilton, Federalist No. 28

    What Hamilton was speaking of is the need for an organized army, some argued that the militias of the state could handle it, Hamilton says in the last comment, that states were more likely than the Federal government to be usurpers. The main argument that Hamilton here makes, and almost all the other supporters of a standing army at that time make is this: That the people need to be, and must be well armed on their own, and that a well armed public would always constitute a more formidable force than that of any standing army! The second amendment was to solidify that guarantee! Since an army is needed the people should be well armed themselves to prevent an army from taking over power! They had fought a revolution against their own government, and knew that standing armies were almost always, at some point, turned against their own people! The amendment was a protection against such abuses!

  32. Keep your guns gentleman. You all seem to be rational and intelligent individuals. However, as 30,000 Americans are senselessly killed each year in this coutry at the hands of people possessing guns you all fail to address two major issues. Firstly, the reference to Israel and Switzerland speaks directly to my point. The old adage “guns don’t kill people, people do” is exactly right. The one MAJOR GAPING loophole in that logic is simply SO MANY PEOPLE IN THIS COUNTRY CANT BE TRUSTED. So I simply ask you all the next logical question; how can we prevent the wrong people from getting guns? Criminals, mentally ill, depressed or suicidal or the straw purchasers sending guns to who knows where or to whom. According to pro gun activists it’s the perfectly ok to allow the worst elements of our society to possess deadly weapons. By the way, the wrong gun owners DO POSE A TREMENDOUS RISK FOR THE GENERAL PUBLIC. owning a gun may be a right but in your bravado defense you all fail to acknowledge THAT IT IS ALSO A RESPONSIBILITY. One should lose their right to possess firearms if they’ve demonstrated they’re not responsible enough to own one. Using it to intimidate (which so many gun owners LOVE to do) or in any means not consistent with self defense or hunting or target practice should result in revocation of a gun license. Leaving them untended, locked and loaded in a place where kids or childr n have access also exemplifies a complete lack of common sense and should that weapon be used to cause harm, the owner should be held responsible as if he polled the trigger himself. Mental health? Are you serious??? Who should pay for that??? The gun activists in our own federal government passed a law that prohibits doctors FROM EVEN ASKING IF THEIR WACKED OUT PATIENT OWNS A GUN!!!! While you continue to argue the importance of gun ownership I st know you’re simultaneously arguing in favor of tens of thousands of senseless killings every year in this country.
    Switzerland and Israel don’t seems to have our gun control problems because their people are responsible enough to own them. They watch the same my movies and tv shows show don’t play that BS card. With 30,000 people a year getting killed by guns and all of you are willing to turn your back on common sense gun regulations. Over the Past ten years the total of over 315,000 people have been senselessly killed by guns (while 35 have been killed by terrorism-look percent it up). With these kinds of numbers do you really believe the easy access we have to them isn’t a huge part of the problem. We’re talking about “gun control” not “gun confiscation”. Don’t let the NRA propaganda fool you. Many people, like myself aren’t fond of guns but we respect the right of reasonable and responsible people to own them.

      • Not in Canada. Self defence so pretty much against the law here. If you harm a perp, you get arrested. Much like the Europeans protesting the rape gangs and getting the water canon for thei efforts.

        It all upside down now folks. Evil is living large in the world today.

        • Yes, in Canada we have a problem with Liberty. We like to point our fingers at the Americans and pretend we are better, but we are subservient to a socialist government that can fine or imprison it’s citizen through a system of Human Rights Tribunals which act as a repressive brake on free speech etc. in the best tradition of neo-communist logic. These tribunals are extra judicial and function like kangaroo courts. With our new government we also seem to have a soft spot for Muslim terrorists. And these people don’t seem to spend any time on philosophical reflections on gun ownership.

    • That concept of too many people can’t trusted is a major problem. I’m sure the current federal and some state and local governments feel that way. The idea that the people don’t know better and the government does and is better to handle our affairs is wrong and dangerous to the people. This goes for guns or anything else. This is how tyranny starts. I trust the people better, especially with the current federal government and those trying to continue it as it has been run lately.

      If you think too many people can’t be trusted, why should we trust you?!

      Check the stats, more people by a large margin are saved with the defensive use of firearms then the criminal use of firearms. I trust the people more. Not he states, local governments or the fed’s. This view I’m sure I’m not alone on.

        • Only because you, in your biased opinion and most ‘studies’ trying tp prove ‘Gun Control works’ completely disregard the use of a firearm (or any force for that matter) in which the mere presence of force acts as a deterrent. Instead they conflate and run ‘studies’ with as they admit, limited data where full statistics are NOT tracked that only involve the actual firing of a gun where the perpetrator was injured or killed. Then people like you falsely claim this is the end all of such studies and ‘proves that defensive use of firearms does not work’. All the while ignoring that the very concept of ‘show of force’ is how Law Enforcement and Military actually works.

          A lie by omission is still a lie my dear.

  33. Well, all traditions and age old rules should be seen in the context in which they were made. Back then, law enforcement was not that strong, population was less and was very scattered. People needed guns to take care of themselves because there was no means to summon law enforcement without physically going there.
    Fast forward to now, in most places, average response time of law enforcement is less than 10 mins and they are just a call away from your cell phone.
    It will be interesting to see the data on :

    1. Number of people who have been saved because someone was carrying a gun and could wound/kill the attacker vs
    2. Number of people killed because psychopaths have access to guns.

    The point about Israel and Switzerland may not be applicable here (I don’t have the data) if the number of innocents being killed by psychopaths is much less compared to US.

    • Ten years ago I had the misfortune of living in an area hit hard by hurricane Wilma. No way the police force could answer all the calls. Katrina? Do you remember what happened in New Orleans? The police fled for themselves and left the citizens to fend for themselves. Ten minute response time? Not in any natural disaster on US soil in the last 100 years. I will have my properly secured firearm ready for the next emergency. You keep your phone charged if that makes you feel safe.

  34. Great response Tim.The right of the people to keep and bear Arms shall not be infringed.There is nothing ambiguous or unclear About this. The founders didn’t spend a lot of time promoting private gun ownership because MOST FAMILIES ALREADY DID! It was normal custom. The founders obviously believed in private gun ownership.

  35. Great reply Tim. The founders didn’t have to go to great lengths to promote private gun ownership because most families already privately owned guns. Founders only had to call for individuals to bring the guns they already owned for the establishment of regulated militias for the common defense. This obviously means they supported private ownership. The right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed. That’s pretty cut and clear. The arguments in this articles are absurd and senseless. The founding fathers believed in private gun ownership, period.

  36. If you can divine, somehow, the inner thoughts and feelings of our long-since dead forefathers, then allow me to speak to your opinion of “no sanctity to gun ownership.” Ownership and possession of long rifles at that time in America’s history was as common as owning an ax, a bow-saw or a milk cow. Rifles were, and are still, a tool. During colonial times and for two centuries afterwards, they were openly stored in the home; and, openly carried in public with no one feeling threatened. Every family that could afford one kept a rifle in their household. The muzzle loaders of the day could be made to fire more than one round per minute. And just like any tool, proficiency and to say accuracy, came fully from the practiced skill of the hands holding it. The muzzle loader with an un-rifled barrel, which is what I guess you allude to, could be fired accurately. A muzzle loader to be fired accurately was a matter of distance, steadiness, wind and practice.

    Regarding Washington’s orders to confiscate arms in Queens County NY, could you not be overlooking the fact that post-Revolutionary war early America was full of many British loyalists. In fact, there were after the war large numbers of American colonists still fervently loyal to King George. In fact, these people did aid and abet the British military. Many of these people worked to undermine and sabotage the Revolution to keep Britain in power. The unarguably common-sense need for confiscating weapons from slave populations of the time is ridiculously self-evident.

    How did you overlook, nations like Switzerland and Israel that issue military-grade weapons to their citizens? Weapons that they are to keep in their homes and have at the ready. And these weapons are full automatics and in some cases, large bore, heavy weaponry. In these two examples, an armed citizenry are sanctioned and promoted by their governments. They are well-regulated militias.

    For the greater public good, Hitler, Mussolini, Stalin, Pol Pot, Mao and the Castro brothers each decided individual gun ownership was not necessary in their country and they confiscated weapons from their citizens. History has sadly shown, time and again, what happens immediately after governmental confiscation of weapons.

    In your brief dissection of the Second Amendment, it strikes me as oddly curious that you leave out any mention of the phrase, “shall not be infringed.” Why? Our Second Amendment was thoughtfully included in our Bill of Rights by a group of men who fully believed their government and its armies would or could one day turn on its own citizenry. The Second Amendment was established as a forthright guarantee to prevent that from ever happening, FOR THE GREATER PUBLIC GOOD. It is as simply explained as that.

    Now where can I read your impassioned arguments for stricter governmental enforcement of the already vast number of gun control laws on the books? Where can I read your sincere pleas for strengthening our lax and almost non-existent mental health laws and regulations for insuring the greater public good from the certifiable lunatics that live unfettered among us? Where?

    • Bingo..!!
      Tim, you have him nailed in a corner..!!!
      Hell be trying to spin this everywhichwaybutloose, for 2 weeks..lmao…
      Key words: “INALIENABLE RIGHTS…”

      Doc, dont ever try that shit again…Do not try to make the 2nd amendment mean something else…

    • Lincoln suppressed the 1st amendment without qualms during the civil war. Less notoriety for mass killers and less celebration of their pathetic lives is in order.

      Societies w less guns (Europe, Japan) have atrocities by other means– knives, machetes, etc.

      I agree that guns should be given to those who are responsible, knives and machetes too. Suppression of reporting related to these mass killers is equally important.

    • “The Right of The People” and as such it is my right, not to be sold or taken by government fiat; not permitted by government, but given before government and only acknowledged in the Bill of Rights.
      The left is always saying education or health care or any other thing they want to bestow is a right, therefore “we” have to pay others to have it… then why are they not buying my guns and ammunition for me?

  37. Right on, Michael. The strict constructionist Supremes who claim to stick to ‘original intent’ chose to ignore the historical evidence. They should have read such an analysis before they rendered their Second Amendment ruling. Actually, many similar ‘friend of the court’ briefs had been forwarded to the court, but they conveniently chose to ignore the evidence. Yet again, ideology trumped reality. hopefully not for long.

        • They had rapid fire weapons back then to, such as the pepperbox pistol, the Puckle gun, the Belton Flintlock, and the Nock gun to name a few.

          • Interesting read on the listed guns but none can really be considered similar to an assault weapon. The pepperbox is probably the closest to being rapid fire but only in regard to the number of barrels with which it was built. That number being 3, 5 or 7 barrels. Once all the barrels were fired each had to be individually loaded. Nothing existed like a high-capacity magazine to replenish the shot for any of the guns listed. By the time the shot was reloaded, the intended target, if missed on the first go around, would have high-tailed it before a second attempt. That being said, I’m not against gun ownership but do question the need for a rapid-fire gun for self-defense or for hunting deer.

        • What is an assault rifle, explain…?
          What is an assault bomb..?
          What is an assault knife…?
          What is an assault fork..?
          How do you distinguish a difference..?
          An expert knife handler can run through s crowd, and cut 10 people in the blink of an eye…
          An expert fork handler can stab 10 people in the blink of an eye..?

          Whats your point..?
          There is no such animal as a rifle that assaults people…people assault people.. Capiche..?

    • I’m thinking that most English teachers might agree with me that each section of the the second amendment that has a “,” after it is a independent statement of it’s own. The reason being that the “,” could more formally be read as “, and” separating each statement. This means each section separated by the “,” is a statement of it’s own. The second amendment could be read as, “A well regulated Militia, and being necessary to the security of a free State, and the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, and shall not be infringed.” Although the last part would read better if it said, “and these rights shall not be infringed. The second amendment is really four parts A +B + C + D. Seems to me that each part as its own statement is just as important as the other three parts in the second amendment. No part less important then the other. Whatever the history, the fears of another tyrant government meant the constitution wouldn’t be accepted without the Bill of Rights Amendments added. The early leaders wanted it seems the right of the new nation and its states and it’s people to have regulated Militias, security of the free nation and communities, and the right of the people to keep and bear arms, as well as not having governments (local and/or federal) interfere with any of these rights. Like it or not, the people were allowed to be armed to be abled to remain free. That’s why it’s called the First Freedom. We stay free and are able to protect our freedoms by being able stay armed and if necessary protect out freedoms by armed force if need be.

      Even the Russian newspaper Pravada had an on-line article warning the people of the US not to give up our gun rights. Even under the last czar, the article said the Russian people enjoyed the freedom to be very armed and that Russian might have been the most armed country in the world at that time. That’s why Russia was able to not only have a revolt, but a civil war fought with many arms. Of course when the Communists won, they told everybody else to come and register their arms. If they did, they were shot. That’s a worst case example of why people shouldn’t give up their gun rights. Not bing able to fight back against a government that’s become abusive is another.

      • Most English teachers would think you need a lesson in parenthetical clauses.

        “A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state,” is an old construction that today would occur without the comma: the second clause is parenthetical to modify the first. Basically, it says that a well-regulated militia is necessary to the security of a free state.

        The remaining is still common: the causal clause. The comma has an implied “therefor”.

        A well-regulated militia is necessary to the security of a free state; therefor, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.

        Hamilton wrote that the Militia would be of officers appointed by the state, chosen from the very citizenry. The Founders used as an example of the need a great instability caused by the lack of State militias—notably Shays’s rebellion, in which a bunch of farmers decided they were a militia and went rabblerousing around the State house. It took months before anything was done to stop them—eventually by a privately-hired militia—and they would have been put down in a matter of days had the State had a well-regulated militia commissioned by the State.

        Hamilton even suggested the militia would have to meet twice yearly and so forth, suggesting an upkeep of a State standing military power run by officers commissioned by the state—not just a call to beat on the doors of all with arms and tell them they’ve just now been drafted.

        The article’s got a point, anyway: they probably didn’t think much of the dangers of people with guns, other than things like mandatory registration of your firearms, bans against keeping loaded weapons in homes, and the like that were all in effect by the end of the first decade of the 19th century.


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