"False is the idea of utility that sacrifices a thousand real advantages for one imaginary or trifling inconvenience; that would take fire from men because it burns, and water because one may drown in it; that has no remedy for evils except destruction. The laws that forbid the carrying of arms are laws of such a nature. They disarm only those who are neither inclined nor determined to commit crimes.

Can it be supposed that those who have the courage to violate the most sacred laws of humanity, the most important of the code, will respect the less important and arbitrary ones, which can be violated with ease and impunity, and which, if strictly obeyed, would put an end to personal liberty... and subject innocent persons to all the vexations that the guilty alone ought to suffer?

Such laws make things worse for the assaulted and better for the assailants; they serve rather to encourage than to prevent homicides, for an unarmed man may be attacked with greater confidence than an armed man. They ought to be designated as laws not preventive but fearful of crimes, produced by the tumultuous impression of a few isolated facts, and not by thoughtful consideration of the inconveniences and advantages of a universal decree."
by:
Cesare Beccaria
(1735-1794) [Bonesana, Marchese di] Italian nobleman, criminologist, and penal reformer
Source:
Dei delitti e delle pene, [On Crimes and Punishments] ch.38 (1764)
Translation is as quoted by Thomas Jefferson in his _Commonplace Book_, 314 (G. Chinard ed. 1926), which was "the source book and repertory of Jefferson's ideas on government." Id. at 4.
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Reader comments about this quote:
...still pertinent today.
 -- Joe, Rochester, MI     
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    As far as it goes, his logic is accurate and well founded.
     -- David L. Rosenthal     
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    Obviously, From a Thinking Person!
     -- Al Santosuosso, Wakefield, Ma.     
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    He ignores the fact that the easier it is to obtain arms,and the more there are within a community, the easier it is for criminals to obtain them
     -- Alan, London     
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    He also forgets the fact that criminals carry guns because we do. In Europe only one burglar in a thousand carries a gun in America it is one in every ten – you do the math. America is so violent that even the kids shoot each other, and they learn it from us. Non-violence and compassion is the only way to stop the anger and hate that fuels our actions and to get there we must sacrifice this notion of security with a gun under the pillow (which usually kills us instead of the criminal). Some form of protection is necessary to protect you and your family in a state of total lawlessness – forgive me, but have we not passed that stage in America? Or do you believe that we are still in the “Wild West”. We must start changing our ways as it is obvious the existing ways are not working.
     -- Robert, Sarasota     
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    Robert from Sarasota makes a good point.As for the quote,I like it.Most eloquently put.
     -- Me Again     
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    Alan in London, how much has violent crime risen in England since the gun ban? Robert in Sarasota, you need to read this quote again, since your imagination has run wild. 9/11/2001 demonstrates criminals do what they want. Had there been 1 gun on each plane, the outcome may have been very different. How do you protect your family? My gun will remain on my hip when awake, and under my pillow as I rest.
     -- Joe, Rochester, MI     
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    Ahhh, the propaganda rhetoric of the godless communist is even stronger today than when the quote was given. If the government were the only ones to have weapons, we would all be so much safer from violence (like at bachelor parties in New York). Robert, where's the certifiable statistics to back your statement up. Who is compiling gun statistics on the whole of Europe; and what is considered a crime??? (Does ethnic cleansing, radical acts of religion, or keeping the general populous in-line count?)
     -- Mike, Norwalk     
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    I am a great fan and believer of Gandhi, the inspiration of non-violent non-cooperation with evil. Gandhi also defended the right to arms as the British had disarmed the Indian populace. The two ideals are not in conflict with one another. Weapons are not going away. The essential point is that possessing arms carries a risk for ANY who have them -- therefore, how will disarming the citizens and arming the police make us any safer from guns being pointed at us? Take guns out of our hands, and we will find policemen pointing them at us for any offense. We have disarmed ourselves 'for our own good' and created SWAT teams that invade homes and schools and dispense 'shock and awe' as common practice. It is precisely because people cannot be trusted with absolute power that the power needs to be distributed among all. Switzerland is a prime example of how state militias and private ownership of military weapons does in fact work very well. There is nearly ZERO violent crime in Switzerland.
     -- E Archer, NYC     
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    Robert, you specifically spoke of burglary. I don't know, but from back in my police sicence classes, I believe I remember far more than 10% of all burglaries were/are never solved. A case in point, a few years ago my office was broken into and tens-of-thousands of dollars worth of electrical equipment was stolen. The police never as much as took finger prints. They said that type of crime was almost impossible to solve. Robert, I guess when a wild exaggeration is flaunted as proving the point and then found out to be wrong, you'll say, "oh well, it was just an exaggeration anyway, I can keep believing the way I did before".
     -- Mike, Norwalk     
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    I suppose that the Wild West was a bit calmer than what we have today. In Miami, in about 1985, a man shot my unarmed brother-in-law to death. He spent less than three years in prison. He ran into another of my in-laws after being released and practically bragged about the murder. NYC police shoot and killed an unarmed man last week, again. Don't sneeze to loud in front of the Police Station in Hialeah, where to die by police response is legendary (around here). And several American cities have murder rates that rival that of Baghdad. The Wild West? A quiet period.
     -- David L Rosenthal     
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    "Make yourselves sheep and the wolves will eat you." - Benjamin Franklin ___ "Firearms are second only to the Constitution in importance; they are the people's liberty's teeth." George Washington ___ "It never troubles the wolf how many the sheep may be." Sir Francis Bacon ____ "I do believe that where there is a choice only between cowardice and violence I would advise violence." Mohandas Gandhi ____ "If indeed all men were Christians, and every nominal Christian was led by the spirit of Christ, there would be absolutely no need of the sword; for there would be nothing but justice, truth, and love in the world. But reason dictates, that, so long as the wicked shall use the sword in support of vice, the righteous, who are in power, must use it in defense of virtue." From a sermon, 'The Bible and The Sword' by John Fletcher, London, 1776.
     -- Mike, Mount Holly, NC     
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    David, the death of your brother-in-law is sad. Had he carried a handgun the outcome may have been different. And if citizens around the police in Hialeah (or anywhere) were armed, police may think twice before shooting at a suspect, if the crowd shot back. Police, BATFE, FBI, etc. have become government sponsored thugs, and maybe crowds SHOULD shoot back at them.
     -- Joe, Rochester, MI     
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    If every man, woman, and child in Cuba were armed with automatic weapons and larger implements of destruction, Castro would not be in office today. If every man, woman, and child in America were armed with automatic weapons and larger implements of destruction and understood liberty and their position as noble sovereigns, the national guard would not have been able to go door to door after Katrina and take away the law abiding people's guns.
     -- Mike, Norwalk     
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    The UK has progressed from an armed nation, to a ban on handguns, to a near ban on long guns, to a ban on any "offensive weapon" including knitting needles, sharp, pointed sticks, and, I assume, fists and fingernails. In that time crime has substantially increased and people who defend themselves end up in prison. People who find themselves victims of burglaries are advised to hide and tremble in a corner in the fetal position while they are being robbed and maybe beaten to death as well. The response has been more closed circuit cameras in every conceivable public place, monitored by government officials. There has lately been talk of monitoring conversations on the street to pick any agressive talk. You know, to prevent that brewing trouble. Give up one freedom and eventually you'll lose them all.
     -- Ken, Allyn, WA     
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    I was not insinuating that the people should give up their guns and be left to the mercilessness of habitual criminals and corrupt police. I was just making an observation. I seem to almost recall the statistics showing that crime rates are lower where the people are well armed. Does anyone have those? I support the Second Amendment. Hitler, Stalin, and Castro's ban on the people's ownership of weapons is enough justification for every home having a machine gun, as far as I am concerned.
     -- David L. Rosenthal     
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     -- Anonymous, Reston, VA US      
    I think he overlooks the fact that it would be much easier to find criminals when only criminals would posses guns.Also gun accidents would not happen. It would be much more benificial not to allow guns.
     -- Bob, somewere     
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    Bob I think that you are overlooking the fact that whether the criminal has been found or not, the victim of the gun crime has still been violated. Also the quote assesses the issue of gun accidents in the first line of the quote.
     -- Curtiss, Wisconsin     
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    I think he's right on this issue. It's not just about guns though, it's about all "arms." Prohibiting private citizens will only cause an increase in crime. Most of those who were convicting of committing violent crimes have said they wouldn't have assaulted their victim(s) if they knew he/they was/were armed. Banning guns in America would be about as effective as alcohol prohibition was here. Organized crime and a flourishing black market. Important people are bribed and those who can't be bribed or who are unimportant die if they get in the way. Thinking that not having guns available for purchase in a gun store will keep guns out of the hands of criminals is absurd. We have laws prohibiting the sale of certain drugs, but people just sell them on back roads and alleys. The same thing would happen with guns and other weaponry. I live in a very rural area. Almost everybody out here owns at least one gun, yet there's no gun related crimes. When I get into Richmond or some other large city, that's where I hear about murders and armed robberies. Life is just different out here. Maybe people should raise their children better than they do to help prevent them from turning out to be bad people.
     -- Brandon, Montpelier, VA, US     
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    "The strongest reason for the people to retain the right to keep and bear arms is, as a last resort, to protect themselves against tyranny in government." --Thomas Jefferson, principal author of the Declaration of Independence, founder of the University of Virginia, US Secretary of State, Vice President, and President of the US.
     -- Bruce, Florida     
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    this guy have the basic idea he turned out to be a great project for history.
     -- Becky & Brittany, kenosha     
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    Robert, in Sarasota, I appreciate your view. But in my mind it's not about whether we can get people to break laws less violently... and I don't believe that we're very far away from dangerous times right now. Plus I can't personally see that legislation will get any people to convert to your ideal of non-violence and compassion. UNTIL all people convert to non-violence... please allow me to protect myself and my family from those who don't think like you or I do.
     -- Matt, Kirkland, WA     
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     -- Anonymous      
    What a sh*thead!
     -- Rick L., Lynnfield, MA     
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    Rarely have i heard the pro-gun argument put so eloquently. one final note, "guns don't kill people, people kill people, " look at Africa where people too poor to obtain guns use machetes to massacre villages. Also look at school shootings where one student with a concealed gun could stop a massacre.
     -- anonymous, indiana     
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    An armed society is a polite society. I get a kick out of these folks who think guns can somehow magically disappear if certain laws are made...ridiculous! As long as criminals and governments have guns, we'll need them to defend ourselves from both. Hitler and Stalin knew that too, that's why they disarmed their slaves.
     -- J Carlton, Calgary     
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    Robert, Sarasota, are you joking ? Criminals carry guns because we do, that's either insane or terribly naive. Criminals carry guns because the need them to rob people, commit murders etc. Citizens need them to protect their lives and property from criminals. All the gun control laws in the world will not stop criminals from obtaining guns.
     -- jim k, Austin, Tx     
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    Further to that jim - Why do people call the police when they think someone is in their house? Because the police have....(wait for it)...Guns! LOL
     -- J Carlton, Calgary     
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    The quote is the plain truth. AND WE HOLD THESE TRUTHS TO BE SELF EVIDENT
     -- Kimo, USA     
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    The fact is that statistics show that the frequency of violent crimes is inversely proportional to the number of citizens that are armed. If Obama wants to lower rape and murder he should send Joe out to distribute guns to law abiding citizens instead of the propaganda that a half billion dollars in new spending will curb crime, At least we would get something for it and have fewer crimes to boot.
     -- warren, olathe     
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    Don't forget that Europe got rid of much of the criminal element by shipping them off to America and Australia. We were once a penal colony.
     -- warren, olathe     
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    I think that Cesare Beccaria is correct. Whenever the gun control laws are relaxed the violent crime in that area goes down. Gun control is like attempting to prevent folks from driving drunk by making it more difficult for everryone to purchase a car. Furthermore, why do criminals have guns in California, New Jersey, New York, Massachusettes, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Illinois and Washington, D.C where they have very restrictive gun laws? Why? Because they don't give a damn about your stinking laws, that's why!!
     -- BobtheGrape, Peachtree City, GA     
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    Oh, consider these facts: No. of physicians in the U.S.: 700,000 Accidental deaths caused by physicians per year are: 120,000. Deaths per physician: 0.171 Statistics From the U.S. Dept. of Health No. of gun owners in U.S.: 80,000,000 No. of accidental gun deaths: 1,500. Accidental deaths per gun owner: 0.0000188. Statistics courtesy of FBI Remember guns don't kill people, Drs. do. Why aren't we clamoring for Doctor control laws? Or how about more restrictions on automobiles they kill 40,000 folks per year. I had an acquaintance that was beaten to death with a baseball bat (softball bat actually) why don't we lobby for bat control or knife control. There are more fatal stabbings than fatal shootings. Let's let the government decide what we can and can't do. Oh, wait they (the guv'mint) are already doing that!!
     -- BobtheGrape, PTC, GA     
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    Someone posted above of crimes in Europe being committed with a firearm as being, I believe, 1 out of a 1000 and in the USA as being one out of 10. The statistics were provided by the author of the post, so I don't know the accuracy. However, I read the other day that Europe is having an increase in "gun related crime". This from a continent that has gun control. So, it brings us back to the over used, but true statement: ..."when guns are outlawed, only outlaws will have guns"...
     -- Steve, Yucaipa, CA.     
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    This guy sounds like the NRA after the Sandy Hook shootings.

    This is like saying the solution to alcoholism is to lower the drinking age.
     -- j toomey, marblehead     
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    There were 20 children and 6 DISARMED adults killed by a crazy gunman at the Sandy Hook Elementary School on December 14, 2012. There were 12 DISARMED victims killed and 38 DISARMED victims wounded by a crazy gunman at the movie theatre in Aurora, Colorado, on July 20, 2012, at the screening of the film, The Dark Knight Rises. There were at least 56 million children and DISARMED adult victims murdered by crazy governments during the Twentieth Century. Those who DISARMED those victims and made them defenseless are accessories to murder and need to be held accountable.
     -- Durham, Birmingham     
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    Oppression and plunder, at the hands of crocked salesmen, merchandising of that plundered for the sake of a few, and the cost of all. Tyranny by way of majority, comes from the promise of leisure at the loss and sacrifice of independence and Financial Liberty ! Crocked Salesmen will sell you, always something not needed or wanted ! Self Defense with equal force, needed always by the children of peace.
     -- Ronw13, Yachats Or     
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    It's okay to carry guns around? The majority of dick heads on this blog seem to think so. Why not let people carry around swords too? Are city knife ordinances unconstitutional too? You stupid bastards are the reason we have a lunatic in the whitehouse as of 2017. You bunch of fuckin bozos. You ruined the country. Gee, thanks. I think?
     -- Joe A., Lynn     
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    Shit. What the fuck? Guns aren't even good in the hands of cops!
     -- c kapernick, SF     
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