Thomas Jefferson Carried Pocket Pistols Without a Permit

Thomas Jefferson was an admirer of the writings of Cesare Beccaria (1738–1794). Jefferson often wrote passages word for word from Beccaria in a Commonplace Book (a journal). One such passage was a denouncement of laws which forbid di portor le armi, in other words, “to forbid the bearing, carrying or wearing of arms.”

At the end of this rather lengthy passage was the money quotation, as it were copied from Beccaria’s An Essay on Crimes & Punishments:

“Does the execution of this law deprive the subject of that personal liberty, so dear to mankind and to the wise legislator; and does it not subject the innocent to all the disagreeable circumstances that should only fall on the guilty? It certainly makes the situation of the assaulted worse, and of the assailants better, and rather encourages than prevents murder, as it requires less courage to attack unarmed than armed.”

Beccaria’s passage was the source in Jefferson’s proposed Virginia Constitution of 1776:

“No freeman shall ever be debarred the use of arms.”

By the way, Thomas Jefferson carried pockets pistols. Oh my, concealed carry without a permit?

John Adams wrote of the right of “arms in the hands of citizens, to be used at individual discretion … in private self-defense.”1

In 1789, mere days after James Madison proposed the Bill of Rights, Tench Coxe, a friend and correspondent of both Madison and Jefferson wrote that this would confirm to the people “their right to keep and bear their private arms.” Interestingly, neither man corrected Mr. Coxe that it was only within the militia, because it isn’t.

So if the right to bear arms is unrestricted, does that mean you should be able to own a tank, artillery or other heavy weapons? Well, I believe the answer is clearly no. How can I say that? Simple. Words mean things. The Second Amendment gives one the right to “bear arms”; arms that an individual can carry or wear, to protect oneself.

Okay then, what about grenades, bombs, bazookas, etc. Although they can be carried, they are not considered weapons of self-defense. They are more prone to cause collateral damage of the innocent as well as the guilty or an aggressor.

Finally, there is the question of having to register your weapon or obtain a license to carry. Is this an infringement of the Second Amendment? Yes it is. Sen. Ted Cruz described well to the leftist dolts, Feinstein, Leahy, and the like. Would people need to register or obtain a license to exercise their religious or political beliefs or free association such as the First Amendment delineates? Wouldn’t you think it absurd to require a permit before objecting to unreasonable search and seizure?

The bottom line is, an infringement is an infringement regardless of the amendment they infringe upon, and it is clear that most if not all of these gun control measures infringe upon an individual’s right to keep and bear arms.

  1. “Resistance to sudden violence, for the preservation not only of my person, my limbs, and life, but of my property, is an indisputable right of nature which I have never surrendered to the public by the compact of society, and which perhaps, I could not surrender if I would.” (John Adams, Boston Gazette, Sept. 5, 1763, reprinted in The Works of John Adams 438 (Charles F. Adams ed., 1851). []