"The right is general.
It may be supposed from the phraseology of this provision
that the right to keep and bear arms
was only guaranteed to the militia;
but this would be an interpretation not warranted by the intent.
The militia, as has been explained elsewhere,
consists of those persons who, under the law,
are liable to the performance of military duty,
and are officered and enrolled for service
when called upon. . . .
[I]f the right were limited to those enrolled,
the purpose of the guarantee might be defeated altogether
by the action or the neglect to act
of the government it was meant to hold in check.
The meaning of the provision undoubtedly is,
that the people, from whom the militia must be taken,
shall have the right to keep and bear arms,
and they need no permission or regulation of law
for that purpose."
by:
Thomas Cooley
(1824-1898) 25th Justice and a Chief Justice of the Michigan Supreme Court (1864-1885)
Source:
General Principles of Constitutional Law, Third Edition, 1898
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Reader comments about this quote:
It's about time the right to bear arms became unnecessary. There are too many people killed because their assailants are unable to manage their egos and emotions.
 -- Tog     
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    The Judge errs in my opinion quite clearly in his phrase "of the government it was meant to hold in check". Here he espouses the view tha what the Amendment really means is "that the citizens shall be free to keep and maintain arms in order that they may attack and destroy This Constitution whenever they see fit". If an armed citizenry was intended to hold the government and The Constitution in check what was or is the purpose of all of the written stuff, the checks and balances, the Supreme Court, the debates about it etcetera. Why do we not just all take to the streets with arms. This idea that the framers in effect said that if you do not like what we are doing or what your government under This Constitution is doing you may shoot us or them at will is PREPOSTEROUS.
     -- Waffler, Smith     
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    "The right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed." Period!
     -- J Carlton, Calgary     
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    Waffler, from you that is typically twisted thinking. The right is for the people to keep and bear arms so that they may defend themselves from the Government that has attacked and disregarded the Constitution. How is it that Liberals manage so consistently to warp every simple and pure thought that America is founded upon?
     -- J Carlton, Calgary     
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    The quote is sufficiently accurate to grasp a general meaning of the founder's discovered law. Men are "endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, . . . to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, - That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it," Now that the representative republic, limited by a Constitution, has been totality replaced by a statist theocracy claiming inherent right, one of the only options left to restoring freedom, liberty, rights, and the nobility of life is for an armed citizenry to once again united in an organized militia to eliminate the oppression. For Waffler, one of the purposes for all the written stuff was to illustrate for future generations the difference between freedom and tyranny. What exists now is destructive of the ends of all that written stuff.
     -- Mike, Norwalk     
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    A BIG AMEN to Mr. Cooley. "The meaning of the provision undoubtedly is, that the people, from whom the militia must be taken, shall have the right to keep and bear arms, and they need no permission or regulation of law for that purpose." This is what our for fathers fought for and the rightt I served and fought for. SO BE IT !!!!!!
     -- Clyde Roberts, Fayeteville, NC     
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    No government ever formed said that the peopel may attack us and this government and this constitution anytime they wish to. If that is what you believe Mike what are you doing on this silly site. Why are you not somewhere at least firing sniper shots at any and all vestiges of this system you so much abhor. You are the biggest mouth and biggest coward I have ever not had the pleasure of meeting.
     -- Waffler, Smith     
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    Waffler, I have never implied that to which you are indicating I've alluded to. Never the less, thank you very much for your opinion of me. I do hold it as high praise indeed. I don't take your statement(s) lightly. I consider all your half-truths, mis-direction chaos, off topic rhetoric, fabrications, defined analysis, incorrect interpretations, perspective of rights, non-informed ramblings, disdain for the nobility of life, etc. before I say, I will wear your label as a badge of honor. Thank you again.
     -- Mike, Norwalk     
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    If you really and sincerely believe what you are saying Mike, "that it is time for the armed citizenry to unite in an orgaizized militia to eliminate this oppression" what the hell are you doing about it. Do have an address or telephone number where people can contact you. Exactly how is this united organization suppose to unite and organized when you act and talk like such a weasel. Again you are a coward and nothing but a big mouth blowhard. How can you for a minute talk of nobility.
     -- Waffler, Smith     
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    Carlton read The Constitution. The militia reports to the Commander In Chief. The only way that the miltia can attack the government is under the order of the Commander In Chief. There is no provision as Mike states for the militia to unite and organize itself. Mike is an obvious flake, do go down his road of ignorance and degradation.
     -- Waffler, Smith     
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    Waffler, true Constitutional militias are forming and training all over the country. The militia does not report to the national Commander In Chief. There are numerous examples of militias denying the President's edicts. New Hampshire during the Spanish American war for one. Most of the militias that I have had the pleasure of meeting know, understand, and express themselves in their noble right(s) of self existence. I have had friends and acquaintances end up permanently missing or dead for doing less than I am doing. I have a close friend who's father was murdered. The local police did nothing to investigate. When the family ask a local FBI agent that attended the same church as they, to look into it, he returned about a month later and said to drop it or all the family would be in danger. I have friends and acquaintances served in prison, or are serving, for doing nothing more than speaking out and becoming whistle blowers. One friend that testified before congress is still in prison. I can talk of nobility because I oppose the murderous statist theocracy that now infests this land under threat and duress that I will either be murdered by such thugs or put away in prison for doing nothing more than saying what I've said on this blog.
     -- Mike, Norwalk     
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    Waffler, I also do not feel it is my time to be associated with any militia. My efforts at this time are best served in peaceful searches for nonviolent remedies. I refuse to participate in any violence until armed conflict is unavoidably hoist upon me or my family, and then, and only then will the difficult choice be made. There is a time for peace and a time for war. Your substantiveless misrepresentations and goading, attempting to lay a foundation for calling names, is an old despot's antic and is seen through by the noble free and liberty's sovereigns. So thanks again for your focus, I do truly wear it as a badge of honor.
     -- Mike, Norwalk     
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    There are two militias, the organized and the unorganized. The organized is the National Guard. The unorganized is all men between the ages of 19 and 45 who are not in the active National Guard. Both of these militias come under the Commander In Chief of the United States of America.You are not for a united miltia but for a disunited militia and ultimately for the will and power of Mike. The idea of uniting with your fellows is anathema to every thing you say and stand for. You are of the misanthropic class that detests uniting to accomplish anything. Why do you write words such as "it is time for the armed citizens of this country to unite"? There is no more of a united armed citizenry than the military of the USA. They and for that matter us are known for our command structure and loyalty to the Commnader In Chief whom ever he is. You are one of the few pigs in the ointiment I know of.
     -- Waffler, Smith     
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    You are wrong again throughout your entire diatribe. It doesn't matter how you try and redefine the representative republic, freedom and liberty rings in the hearts of an ever expanding noble populous. I, and others have shown multiple military (federal and state), legal, historical, and otherwise definitions of militia, AND, not one of them are the National Guard. It doesn't matter how you try and misrepresent my sentiments; I am a most ardent supporter of united fellows. I am whole heartedly behind lawful militias (sovereigns united in their noble quest / defense for / of individual God given rights, law, justice, freedom, and liberty). I write "it is time for the armed citizens of this country to unite" because "all experience hath shewn that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security. The unconstitutionally malignant, statist theocracy, claiming inherent right aloof from 'We The People', that now infests this land is edging ever nearer to that mark of absolute Despotism. Only in the despotism of omnipotent slave masters set forth in your definition of "the military of the USA" can the 'hope and change' of / to a free nation be extinguished. The armed citizen's uniting outside the statist theocracy exists, and is growing, even without your acknowledgement.
     -- Mike, Norwalk     
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    You are not noble Mike and you are not law-abiding. You sneer at traffic laws. Self proclaimed militias just like your self proclaimed "We The People". You are not We The People, Mike. By claiming that you are you just show yourself to be a meglomaniac in the same order of being as Adolf Hitler, When an individual tries to wrap himself in a cloak that does not belong to him but to millions he is a megolomaniac. You are entitled to your opinions no matter how in elegant, untinking, and ignorant they may be but you are not allowed to say that your opinion is the "We The People" opinion. Again you have no right to a gun because you have stated your hatred and distaste for being a "law-abiding citizen". You run from the law rather than ebrace it as law abiding citizens are supposed to do. I recommend that we really impose that standard, register all guns and when a person gets a speeding violation or any other law breaking we take his or her guns away. Living by the law abiding rule would probably eliminate the guns in the hands of your so called independent militias, some of which are just organized hate groups.
     -- Waffler, Smith     
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    Waffler, including the name calling and accusations given on both sides, I think our two perspectives have been made fairly clear. I believe in God given individual rights, sovereignty, Constitutionally understood natural law, justice, freedom, and liberty. You believe that rights, sovereignty, law, justice, freedom, and liberty are a result of corporeal man's group logic, edicts and otherwise expressions. The jurisprudence and administration of each perspective are diametrically opposed - antithetical to the core, one to the other, and can not exist in the same place. It doesn't really matter in the end if the U.S. founders Constitutionally created the representative republic of either our perspectives, the end result will be a violent separation because so many have learned and tasted of liberty and can not live any other way - bringing us back to the quote.
     -- Mike, Norwalk     
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    Again Mike you are not nor do you espouse abiding by the law therefore you should not have guns in accordance with the quote. Do you sneer at traffic laws or do you not?
     -- Waffler, Smith     
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    Ahh yes, Waffler liberal logic. Sneering at tyrannical and otherwise unconstitutional traffic related rules, regulations, and licencing is a prerequisite for denying life's nobility, including the inalienable right of self protection. The borg collective must dictate all actions, cradle to grave. Yes, I've read what Obamunist - czars and stars are attempting. I know there is some sick humor in Waffler liberal logic but, there is no time for a scavenger hunt. I may be the greatest advocate of traffic laws you know. I am criminally injured though, by the statist theocracy that infringes on my inalienable rights and rights of way.
     -- Mike, Norwalk     
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    You have scoffed Mike ,my friend at the idea of driving on a particular side of the street as required by law and custom. What type of law abiding do you consider it for someone who cannot fathom the simplest of customs like that and wishes to challenge it.
     -- Waffler, Smith     
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    Waffler, I am sure you are unaware of what you actually said. The law does require. And, there is a difference between law and custom. If the law required driving on a particular side of the street, as is the custom of Canada, the British would be all dead. The custom in each country is accompanied by certain rules to regulate a certain level of safe conduct. At times, those rules and regulations are harmonious to law, at times those rules and regulations are unjust and injurious to law. In all States in the United States, it is prima facia to determine law and fact under any and all conditions and act accordingly. I do not scoff at law obedience, I am lawfully injured by application of your treasured collectivist totalitarianism concerning traffic rules, carrying an open gun in public, etc., etc., etc..
     -- Mike, Norwalk     
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    We hold this truth to be self evident.
     -- Anon     
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    Assault weapons: Since the founders never foresaw telephones, radio, TV, internet, etc., should we assume that Freedom of Speech does not apply to them?
     -- Durham, Birmingham,AL     
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    In a society governed and peopled by those who are law abiding, guns exist to pose no threat.

    In a society governed and peopled by those who are lawless, guns are indispensable.

    As ever, Virtue makes the defining difference.
     -- Patrick Henry, Red Hill     
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     -- Ronw13, OR      
    Society changes as does the requirements for its stability. The valid needs of survival for one generation does not necessarily apply to those of another. This is the definition of a society based upon laws which surmount individual actions. The conditions of life in Montana, today, are not the same as those in New York City or Chicago; but at what point do, or can, we place them on an equal basis ? Self-defense; hunting; the right (?)of insurrection; what-have-you; are these valid reasons for the keeping and bearing of arms across all sectors of society ? I do not know.
     -- John Shuttleworth, NYC     
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    A footnote. I spent three and one-half years in active milittary duty then seven years in the reserves. At no point was I permitted to keep my weapon upon my person or in my barracks unless deployed and on patrol. Otherwise, when on base all weapons were in the armory under .lock and key
     -- John Shuttleworth, NYC     
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    As usual, the crooked lefty statists find themselves at odds with both Our lawful Liberty, and Our American Constitution-based custom of maintaining it for Ourselves and Our posterity.
    Waffler, it must really STINK to be such a crooked America-hater today, it must be twice as bad to have a boor like Trump do more lawful decency for America in a single year than Bammy did for Us in 8! Like Mike, I can see you govt-as-god democrats are now sworn enemies of American Liberty, and your ilk will never rest until We have govt despotism for all, codified by your stinking TRAFFIC LAWS down to the nth degree, BULLOCKS!!
    To Mister Shuttleworth, I am afraid "Our" U.S. Military are owned and operated by a derelict Uncle Sham ever since at least the end of WWII, they are not operating in any Constitutional capacity, nor have they ever fought nor been allowed to win any legal war since then. No wonder they take your guns away off-duty, TPTB know fully well how their lawless and traitorous and murderous heinous distortion of power represents the very evil which Our Founders meant for Us to dispatch long before they ever got to this precarious point. It took the humiliating and insulting travesties and transgressions of the anti-American/NWO Hussein-Obama regime to focus American Patriots once again on the essential need to have a home armory capable of securing Liberty, where obviously Our govt cannot or will not; funny, how the most tyrannic POTUS ever resulted in highest recorded sales of publicly-purchased arms ever -- that tells me The Spirit Of Liberty is alive and well in the hearts of the millions of American Pats whom know and love Our Constitution and Liberty, where Our crooked misled lefties now clamour for universal govt for all.
    BEAUTIFUL QUOTE IS AN APT LESSON FOR ALL PATRIOTIC AMERICANS -- SHOULD BE MANDATORY COMMON CORE OF EDUCATION!!!
     -- Mark W, Aurora, CO     
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    Well said, Mark W.
     -- jim k, Austin     
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