John Adams on the Second Amendment

To suppose arms in the hands of citizens, to be used at individual discretion, except in private self-defense, or by partial orders of towns, countries or districts of a state, is to demolish every constitution, and lay the laws prostrate, so that liberty can be enjoyed by no man; it is a dissolution of the government. The fundamental law of the militia is, that it be created, directed and commanded by the laws, and ever for the support of the laws. – A Defence of the Constitutions of the United States 3:475 (1787-1788).

Oh snap….

Post By Joel L. Watts (10,124 Posts)

Joel L. Watts holds a Masters of Arts from United Theological Seminary with a focus in literary and rhetorical criticism of the New Testament. He is currently a Ph.D. student at the University of the Free State, analyzing Paul’s model of atonement in Galatians. He is the author of Mimetic Criticism of the Gospel of Mark: Introduction and Commentary (Wipf and Stock, 2013), a co-editor and contributor to From Fear to Faith: Stories of Hitting Spiritual Walls (Energion, 2013), and Praying in God's Theater, Meditations on the Book of Revelation (Wipf and Stock, 2014).

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46 thoughts on “John Adams on the Second Amendment

      • That’s an appeal to authority fallacy. People who do that think you will embrace their dumb ideas if they can just find the right Regan quote or something. People didn’t have group think back then, people were praised for having their own ideas.

        • Ant, you are far from having the ability to judge against “group think” or anachronism. You are the epitome of anachronism.

          This is not an appeal to anything. I could post more quotes, from other Founders – not that anything matters to you and the other so-called patriots (I would use the term pre-treasonous murderers, but I’m trying to be polite in the New Year) – describing the role of the second amendment.

          The fact remains – the NRA and other gun nuts have the 2nd amendment wrong.

          I can’t fix stupid, but I can highlight the facts.

      • If we are both in agreement that the constitution is the ultimate authority of correct government, then go ahead and argue about what it says. However, referencing the constitution is not an argument for or against gun control. That’s appealing to authority. You either believe you have the right to defend yourself or you don’t.

        • The conversation you are having is not the one the rest of the sane world is having.

          First, the Constitution is a written document, written over 200 years ago. In it is the process to interpret it and change it. Added to that, we have commentary provided for by those who wrote it. We can actually appeal to them in interpreting their words. No documents stands uninterpreted.

          Second, I have no Native Americans to fight. I have no threat of foreign invasion. In my area, I have little to no threat of home invasion. To defend myself against what? On, you mean the rightful Government of the United States? What you are proposing, then, is actually spelled out in the Constitution. It is called Treason.

          • You should get out of the your liberal academic bubble if you honestly believe no one is taking about this. Do you believe that history repeats itself? Or do you trust your elected officials with your life? I moved here for that very reason, that the right to protect myself was granted to me. Look at Franco in Spain in the 70’s. China in the 90’s. Italy, Germany, Austria, Australia, Sudan, Cambodia, Armenia. That was all government. Most of it democratically elected government. Democide.

          • Um… liberal academic bubble. That tells me you think think facts are liberal. In other words, you have your opinions and who cares if they are right or wrong?

            If you believe no one is talking about this… that tells me you didn’t read what I wrote. I referred to the conversations going on. The one by the sane and the one by madmen.

            As far as the rest of your comment… it doesn’t speak to what I said and only shows a paranoia not founded in reality.

            Try again, but this time, use sanity.

  1. The “freedom movement”? How very Orewellian.

    I find those who shout loudest and longest about the Constitution (read: Tea Party, “patriot movement) typically understand it the least.

  2. No matter.

    The 2nd was never intended to be what its been perverted to mean today. It meant registration, it meant training, it meant strict rules

    As far as I, and the founders, are concerned, people who advocate for nearly unfettered gun ownership and consider any regulation to be tyranny are absolutely not patriots.

  3. 2nd amendment says right to bare arms. Not unlimited right to own “any” weapon. I would hope even NRA members do not support individuals owning RPG’s (rocket propelled granades) or 50 cal machine guns. What a minute, I think they probably would want them, for deer hunting. Much more efficient. If you are a strick, literal believer in the Constitution, and what the founders meant, then individuals would only be allowed to own muzzle loading black powder pistols and rifles. No center fire, no semiautomatic, no more than one shot at a time, about a minute a shot for a fast loader. I propose this is the TRUE interpretation on the constitution. Now, “make it so”.

      • 2nd amendment fanatics always – yes, ALWAYS – brush past such an important phrase contained within the same sentence. “Well-regulated militia.” This doesn’t mean that gun ownership is limited only to the “militia,” but it does mean that the founders did allow for some common sense regulation of these killing machines.

        Those who refer too often to the constitution – and those who refer to often to the founders – are part of what I call the “Cult of the Constitution.” Just like Jim Jones and David Koresh, you pick and choose the lines from your sacred documents and sacred figures to fit your ends.

  4. Ant, you ask if I am speaking with authority? What authority would I have other than an individual with an opinion. If you mean, do I support muzzle loaders only? Sure, why not. Just have to work a little harder to shoot something. And yea, I know, it would be impossible to implement. But it would also be impossible to shoot more than one person at a time. But even you have to admit that was exactly what the founding fathers actually envisioned. Don’t say that’s not the principle. It’s the FACT. No semiautomatic center fires in the 1700’s.

    • If the first Americans had to get permission from KIng Geoge III to have the guns they had, they would’ve been hung. I haven’t figured out the logistics, but citizens should have similar guns as the government. So it’s not muskets vs rakes.

          • You are advocating treason with anecdotal evidence. Surely you can see the need for either medication or imprisonment here, right?

            Any person who advocates putting military weapons in the hands of civilians with a straight face has gone completely off their rocker

          • I never said that. I haven’t figurred out the details of course. but I believe every American has the right to defend themselves. Who am I to decide what you can defend yourself with?

          • Such much insanity….

            Yes, you did say that. You may be a coward and hide behind the words of others if you want but I won’t let you.

            The people called for in the 2nd amendment do have the weapons necessary to defend us… The national guards.

            Your mind set is one of war. It is a corrupt and mad mind and I would urge you to seek some help

      • “If the first Americans had to get permission from KIng Geoge III to have the guns they had, they would’ve been hung.”

        Wow…that’s a pretty impressive scarecrow.

        Secondly, the 2nd Amendment was based on British Law, the Declaration of Rights made in Parliament in February 1689 in particular.

        Blackstone, in Commentaries on the Laws of England, wrote “The fifth and last auxiliary right of the subject, that I shall at present mention, is that of having arms for their defence, suitable to their condition and degree, and such as are allowed by law. Which is also declared by the same statute I W. & M. st.2. c.2. and is indeed a public allowance, under due restrictions , of the natural right of resistance and self-preservation, when the sanctions of society and laws are found insufficient to restrain the violence of oppression.”

        The first gun restrictions, apart from disarming the Scottish Highlands during the Jacobite Rebellion, didn’t appear until 1824.

        If you’re going to make an appeal to history, be sure to know what history actually is.

  5. Since John Adams was a “statist douche”, how about Thomas Jefferson:

    “A well-disciplined militia, our best reliance in peace and for the first moments of war till regulars may relieve them, I deem [one of] the essential principles of our Government, and consequently [one of] those which ought to shape its administration.” – 1st Inaugural, 1801

    or

    “[The] governor [is] constitutionally the commander of the militia of the State, that is to say, of every man in it able to bear arms.” – Thomas Jefferson to A. L. C. Destutt de Tracy, 1811

    Oh snap…!

  6. It’s a bit strange that you should post these quotes of Jefferson as what he was speaking of no longer exists. The governors no longer have control of a civilian militia as the state guards are totally under the rule of the federal government. Using short quotes without the entire dialog can be a vary dangerous proposition especially if one hasn’t studied the entire content. Much the same can be said of any subject. I am no expert here but I do understand the fear of a potential tyrant taking control of the nation that certainly was on the founder’s mind. However, don’t pretend to know how I feel about gun control based on the above statement.

  7. This particular argument always devolves into a battle of quotes out of context and the meaning of words written over 200 years ago for a social and political structure that no longer exists. The world of Jefferson, Adams, Madison and Washington is as anachronistic to us as the internet, drone aircraft and McDonald’s would be alien to them.
    Would aristocratic elitist landowners like the Founders be comfortable being surrounded by commoners armed to the teeth with the type of weaponry available now? What do you think Adams was talking about? He wasn’t afraid of the government. He was afraid of an uncontrolled mob taking the law into their own hands, unfettered by the threat of ANY civil authority with the power to stop them. People who can ignore laws or interpret them as they see fit threaten the liberty of all people.
    Most of all of these mass murders were not criminals before they pulled the trigger. Their weapons weren’t stolen and most of them were raised within the comfortable “security” of the gun culture. Looking at these posts in support of unrestricted gun ownership demonstrates just how right Adams was.
    The “right to bear/own” doesn’t translate to mean you can own ANY type of “arms”, nor does it mean that the government can’t restrict or limit what type of “arms”. Regulation doesn’t “infringe” on the right, just the selection. Promoting and securing the domestic tranquility, liberties and “rights” of all people means a collective responsibility, in the form of elected government, to agree that unrestricted “rights” create a tyranny of their own.

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