On the necessity of an armed citizenry
Frederick Douglass: A man’s rights rest in three boxes. The ballot box, jury box and the cartridge box.
Alexander Hamilton: The best we can hope for concerning the people at large is that they be properly armed.
Hubert Humphrey: The right of citizens to bear arms is just one more guarantee against arbitrary government, one more safeguard against the tyranny which now appears remote in America, but which historically has proved to be always possible.
Alex Kozinski (In Silveira v. Lockyer): The majority falls prey to the delusion, popular in some circles, that ordinary people are too careless and stupid to own guns, and we would be far better off leaving all weapons in the hands of professionals on the government payroll. But the simple truth, born of experience, is that tyranny thrives best where government need not fear the wrath of an armed people.
Richard Henry Lee: To preserve liberty, it is essential that the whole body of the people always possess arms, and be taught alike, especially when young, how to use them.
Thomas Jefferson: The constitutions of most of our States assert, that all power is inherent in the people; that they may exercise it by themselves, … or they may act by representatives, freely and equally chosen; that it is their right and duty to be at all times armed; that they are entitled to freedom of person, freedom of religion, freedom of property, and freedom of the press.
James Madison: Americans have the right and advantage of being armed, unlike the people of other countries, whose leaders are afraid to trust them with arms.
Joseph Story: The right of the citizens to keep and bear arms has justly been considered, as the palladium of the liberties of a republic; since it offers a strong moral check against the usurpation and arbitrary power of rulers; and will generally, even if these are successful in the first instance, enable the people to resist and triumph over them.
On disarming the citizenry
Mohandas K. Gandhi: Among the many misdeeds of the British rule in India, history will look upon the Act depriving a whole nation of arms as the blackest.
Adolf Hitler: The most foolish mistake we could possibly make would be to allow the subject races to possess arms. History shows that all conquerors who have allowed their subject races to carry arms have prepared their own downfall by so doing.
Henry St. George Tucker: The right of self-defense is the first law of nature; in most governments it has been the study of rulers to confine this right within the narrowest limits possible. Wherever standing armies are kept up, and when the right of the people to keep and bear arms is, under any color or pretext whatsoever, prohibited, liberty, if not already annihilated, is on the brink of destruction.
On the Futility of gun control
Cesare Beccaria (“On Crimes and Punishments”): The laws of [false utility] are those which forbid to wear arms, disarming those only who are not disposed to commit the crime which the laws mean to prevent. Can it be supposed, that those who have the courage to violate the most sacred laws of humanity, and the most important of the code, will respect the less considerable and arbitrary injunctions, the violation of which is so easy, and of so little comparative importance? Does not the execution of this law deprive the subject of that personal liberty, so dear to mankind and to the wise legislator?
William S. Burroughs: After a shooting spree, they always want to take the guns away from the people who didn’t do it.
Guns as an Equalizer
Samuel Colt: The good people of this world are very far from being satisfied with each other and my arms are the best peacemakers.
Robert Heinlein: An armed society is a polite society.
Abraham Lincoln: In reference to you, colored people, let me say God has made you free. Although you have been deprived of your God-given rights by your so-called ‘masters’, you are now as free as I am, and if those that claim to be your “superiors” do not know that you are free, take the sword and bayonet and teach them that you are; for God created all men free, giving to each the same rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
Carol Ruth Silver: Access to firearms gives women, for the first time in history, the capacity to live independently and apart from men in safety and freedom. [Emphasis is mine]
Ida B. Wells-Barnett: Of the many inhuman outrages of this present year, the only case where the proposed lynching did not occur, was where the men armed themselves in Jacksonville, Fla., and Paducah, Ky., and prevented it. The only times an Afro-American who was assaulted got away has been when he had a gun and used it in self-defense. […] A Winchester rifle should have a place of honor in every black home, and it should be used for that protection which the law refuses to give.