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A letter in today’s Financial Times draws attention to a shopworn “quote” that’s often attributed to Thomas Jefferson (right) and used to buttress arguments for a broad application of the right to bear arms (or brandish automatic weapons). The letter-writer (Dennis Oveis of Tampa, Fla.) takes a previous letter-writer to task for invoking what that previous letter-writer called a “timeless quote from Thomas Jefferson.” The alleged statement is:

The beauty of the second amendment is that it will not be needed until they try to take it.

Oveis checked with web site for Jefferson’s Monticello for help in authenticating the quote. The site says:

We currently have no evidence that Thomas Jefferson said or wrote ‘The beauty of the second amendment is that it will not be needed until they try to take it’ or any of its listed variations.

Wikipedia’s entry on the Second Amendment says the quotation is one of many misattributed to Jefferson. It says the quote can’t be found before 2007, the year it surfaced in a book by Matt Carson, On A Hill They Call Capital: A Revolution Is Coming.

12 Responses to “Jefferson’s Second-Amendment “Quote” Demands a Second Opinion”

  1. Paul says:

    Sounds like something made up fairly recently and attributed to Jefferson incorrectly!

  2. Paul says:

    Sounds very much like a modern quote made up to serve the purposes of the gun toting amongst us.

  3. Diane says:

    The language and phrasing used in this quote is decidedly not of 18th-century origins. “The *beauty of..” “until THEY take it away”? Nup. 20th c. quote.

  4. Greg says:

    Quoting people accurately is really hard — and you can quote me on that.

    a shopworn “quote” that’s often attributed to Thomas Jefferson (right) and used to buttress arguments for a broad application of the right to bear arms (or brandish automatic weapons).

    Well you are not quoting the sentiments of law abiding gun owners or gun owner organizations by claiming we want to brandish automatic weapons now are you.

  5. Robert says:

    The beauty of the 2nd amendment is that you do not have to justify to anyone, that if you are an American citizen, you have the right to bear arms, period.

  6. John says:

    Whether or not TJ actually made this statement, I like it!

  7. Jason says:

    @Robert “The beauty of the 2nd amendment is that you do not have to justify to anyone, that if you are an American citizen, you have the right to bear arms, period.”
    The majority of those of us who are under 35 do not agree with you; we’re coming for your guns, and we’ll get them before you die, without doubt. I’m sorry, but you’re living outside of the world of the vast majority of your peers.
    That is, of course, if you don’t shoot yourself before we have the chance. ;) This is just a pathetic attempt gain popular support based on a connection to Thomas Jefferson, someone whom the majority of Americans no absolutely nothing about.

    The beauty of being well educated is that you can analyze a quote and compare/contrast it with both the author and other writers and orators from the period and see that there’s not a snowball’s chance in hell that they were written/spoken by the person to which they are being attributed. Period. LOL

  8. Jim says:

    Regardless… The purpose of the 2nd Amendment is clearly explained in Federalist Paper 46, by James Madison; And that purpose is for individuals to be capable of protecting themselves and to protect themselves and others from tyranny in government, being armed and knowing how to use a gun fits that purpose. I’m not sure why that’s so difficult to understand. Also, Jefferson and Madison may have wanted the Constitution and the Bill of Rights to be able to be altered, but for the benefit of the people, not to the benefit of the government. It doesn’t benefit us in any way, or help us further protect ourselves per the intent of the 2nd Amendment by allowing the government to cripple it’s intent.

    The existing Bill of Rights was the only reason for accepting the Constitution with a stronger centralized government over the Articles of the Confederation. It’s clear and unambiguous if you read the very words of the men who wrote them. If you don’t understand that, you are a threat to American rights and freedom.

  9. Joe Mitchell says:

    This is a well-known Conservative ploy: If you can’t find a quote to justify your position, lie and make one up.
    Gun nuts have no moral justification, so they lie, and lie, and lie.

  10. Joe Mitchell says:

    I just saw this quote on a gun-’enthusiast’ TV program. It was in an NRA advertisement. The quote was in a bold font and had attribution to Thomas Jefferson, with President Jefferson’s portrait as background.
    It seems to me that such an ad, in light of the inability of ANYONE to attribute the quote to Jefferson, is a bald-face lie. It is an indication of the depths that the NRA will stoop to con its membership into lock-step; dare we say ‘goose-step’?

  11. Rick Mage says:

    Okay, then I’ll say it, you screaming liberal, Second Amendment hating, communist / New World Order loving traitors! The beauty of the second amendment is that it will not be needed until they try to take it. – Rick Mage

    Now, what??

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