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Guarantees of the Right to Arms In State Constitutions

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Guarantees of the Right to Arms In State Constitutions

Alabama

That the great, general and essential principles of liberty and free government may be recognized and established, we declare.... That every citizen has a right to bear arms in defense of himself and the state. (Ala. Const. art. I, § 26) (1819).

Alaska

A well-regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed. The individual right to keep and bear arms shall not be denied or infringed by the State or a political subdivision of the State. (Alaska Const. art. I, § 19) (1994; previous version 1959).

Arizona

The right of the individual citizen to bear arms in defense of himself or the State shall not be impaired, but nothing in this section shall be construed as authorizing individuals or corporations to organize, maintain or employ an armed body of men. (Ariz. Const. art. II, § 26) (1912).

Arkansas

The citizens of this State shall have the right to keep and bear arms for their common defense. (Ark. Const. art. II, § 5) (1868; previous versions 1864, 1861, 1836).

California

No "right to keep and bear arms" provision.

Colorado

The right of no person to keep and bear arms in defense of his home, person and property, or in aid of the civil power when thereto legally summoned, shall be called in question; but nothing herein contained shall be construed to justify the practice of carrying concealed weapons. (Colo. Const. art. II, § 13) (1876).

Connecticut

Every citizen has a right to bear arms in defense of himself and the state. (Conn. Const. art. I, § 15) (1818).

Delaware

A person has the right to keep and bear arms for the defense of self, family, home and State, and for hunting and recreational use. (Del. Const. art. I, § 20) (1987).

Florida

The right of the people to keep and bear arms in defense of themselves and of the lawful authority of the state shall not be infringed, except that the manner of bearing arms may be regulated by law. (Fla. Const. art. I, § 8, [a]) (1990; previous versions 1968, 1885, 1868, 1838). (Note that subsection (b) imposes a mandatory period of three days, excluding weekends and legal holidays, between the purchase and delivery at retail of any handgun. Holders of a concealed weapon permit as prescribed in Florida law are exempted.)

Georgia

The right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed, but the General Assembly shall have the power to prescribe the manner in which arms may be borne. (Ga. Const. art. I, § 1, para. VIII) (1982; previous versions 1877, 1868, 1865).

Hawaii

A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed. (Haw. Const. art. I, § 17) (1978).

Idaho

The people have the right to keep and bear arms, which right shall not be abridged; but this provision shall not prevent the passage of laws to govern the carrying of weapons concealed on the person nor prevent passage of legislation providing minimum sentences for crimes committed while in possession of a firearm, nor prevent passage of legislation providing penalties for the possession of firearms by a convicted felon, nor prevent the passage of legislation punishing the use of a firearm. No law shall impose licensure, registration or special taxation on the ownership or possession of firearms or ammunition. Nor shall any law permit the confiscation of firearms, except those actually used in the commission of a felony. (Idaho Const. art. I, § 11) (1978; previous version 1889).

Illinois

Subject only to the police power, the right of the individual citizen to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed. (Ill. Const. art. I, § 22) (1970).

Indiana

The people shall have a right to bear arms, for the defense of themselves and the State. (Ind. Const. art. I, § 32) (1851; previous version, 1816).

Iowa

No "right to keep and bear arms" provision.

Kansas

A person has the right to keep and bear arms for the defense of self, family, home and state, for lawful hunting and recreational use, and for any other lawful purpose; but standing armies, in time of peace, are dangerous to liberty, and shall not be tolerated, and the military shall be in strict subordination to the civil power. (Kan. Const. Bill of Rights, § 4) (2010; previous version 1861).

Kentucky

All men are, by nature, free and equal, and have certain inherent and inalienable rights, among which may be reckoned: ... [t]he right to bear arms in defense of themselves and of the State, subject to the power of the General Assembly to enact laws to prevent persons from carrying concealed weapons. (Ky. Const. § 1) (1891; previous versions 1850, 1799).

Louisiana

The right of each citizen to keep and bear arms is fundamental and shall not be infringed. Any restriction on this right shall be subject to strict scrutiny. (La. Const. art. I, § 11) (enacted 2012; previous versions 1974, 1879).

Maine

Every citizen has a right to keep and bear arms and this right shall never be questioned. (Me. Const. art. I, § 16) (1987; previous version 1819).

Maryland

No "right to keep and bear arms" provision.

Massachusetts

The people have a right to keep and bear arms for the common defence. And as, in time of peace, armies are dangerous to liberty, they ought not to be maintained without the consent of the legislature; and the military power shall always be held in an exact subordination to the civil authority, and be governed by it. (Mass. Const. pt. I, art. XVII) (1780).

Michigan

Every person has a right to keep or bear arms for the defense of himself and the state. (Mich. Const. art. I, § 6) (1963; previous versions 1850, 1835).

Minnesota

No "right to keep and bear arms" provision.

Mississippi

The right of every citizen to keep and bear arms in defense of his home, person, or property, or in aid of the civil power when thereto legally summoned, shall not be called in question, but the legislature may regulate or forbid carrying concealed weapons. (Miss. Const. art. III, § 12) (1890; previous versions 1868, 1817).

Missouri

That the right of every citizen to keep and bear arms in defense of his home, person, and property, or when lawfully summoned in aid of the civil power, shall not be questioned; but this shall not justify the wearing of concealed weapons. (Mo. Const. art. I, § 23) (1945; previous versions 1875, 1865, 1820).

Montana

The right of any person to keep or bear arms in defense of his own home, person, and property, or in aid of the civil power when thereto legally summoned, shall not be called in question; but nothing herein contained shall be held to permit the carrying of concealed weapons. (Mont. Const. art. II, § 12).

Militia forces shall consist of all able-bodied citizens of the state except those excepted by law. (Mont. Const. art. VI, § 13) (1889).

Nebraska

All persons are by nature free and independent, and have certain inherent and inalienable rights; among these are life, liberty, the pursuit of happiness, and the right to keep and bear arms for security or defense of self, family, home and others, and for lawful common defense, hunting, recreational use and all other lawful purposes, and such rights shall not be denied or infringed by the state or any subdivision thereof. (Neb. Const. art. I, § 1) (1988) (previous version 1875).

Nevada

Every citizen has the right to keep and bear arms for security and defense, for lawful hunting and recreational use and for other lawful purposes. (Nev. Const. art. I, § 11 (1)) (1982).

New Hampshire

All persons have the right to keep and bear arms in defense of themselves, their families, their property and the state. (N.H. Const. pt. I, art. 2-a) (1982).

No person, who is conscientiously scrupulous about the lawfulness of bearing arms, shall be compelled thereto. (N.H. Const. pt. I, art. 13) (1982).

New Jersey

No "right to keep and bear arms" provision.

New Mexico

No law shall abridge the right of the citizen to keep and bear arms for security and defense, for lawful hunting and recreational use and for other lawful purposes, but nothing herein shall be held to permit the carrying of concealed weapons. No municipality or county shall regulate, in any way, an incident of the right to keep and bear arms. (N.M. Const. art. II, § 6) (1986; previous versions 1971, 1912).

New York

No "right to keep and bear arms" provision.

North Carolina

A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed; and, as standing armies in time of peace are dangerous to liberty, they shall not be maintained, and the military shall be kept under strict subordination to, and governed by, the civil power. Nothing herein shall justify the practice of carrying concealed weapons, or prevent the General Assembly from enacting penal statutes against that practice. (N.C. Const. art. I, § 30) (1971; previous versions 1876, 1868, 1776).

North Dakota

All individuals are by nature equally free and independent and have certain inalienable rights, among which are those of enjoying and defending life and liberty; acquiring, possessing and protecting property and reputation; pursuing and obtaining safety and happiness; and to keep and bear arms for the defense of their person, family, property, and the state, and for lawful hunting, recreational and other lawful purposes, which shall not be infringed. (N.D. Const. art. I, § 1) (1984).

Ohio

The people have the right to bear arms for their defense and security; but standing armies, in time of peace, are dangerous to liberty, and shall not be kept up; and the military shall be in strict subordination to the civil power. (Ohio Const. art. I, § 4) (1851; previous version 1802).

Oklahoma

The right of a citizen to keep and bear arms in defense of his home, person or property, or in aid of the civil power, when thereunto legally summoned, shall never be prohibited; but nothing herein contained shall prevent the Legislature from regulating the carrying of weapons. (Okla. Const. art. II, § 26) (1907).

Oregon

The people shall have the right to bear arms for the defence of themselves, and the State, but the Military shall be kept in strict subordination to the civil power[.] (Or. Const. art. I, § 27) (1857).

Pennsylvania

The right of the citizens to bear arms in defence of themselves and the State shall not be questioned. (Pa. Const. art. I, § 21) (1790).

Rhode Island

The right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed. (R.I. Const. art. I, § 22) (1842).

South Carolina

A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed. As, in times of peace, armies are dangerous to liberty, they shall not be maintained without the consent of the General Assembly. The military power of the State shall always be held in subordination to the civil authority and be governed by it. No soldier shall in time of peace be quartered in any house without the consent of the owner nor in time of war but in the manner prescribed by law. (S.C. Const. art. I, § 20) (1895; previous version 1868).

South Dakota

The right of the citizens to bear arms in defense of themselves and the state shall not be denied. (S.D. Const. art. VI, § 24) (1889).

Tennessee

That the citizens of this State have a right to keep and bear arms for their common defense; but the Legislature shall have power, by law, to regulate the wearing of arms with a view to prevent crime. (Tenn. Const. art. I, § 26) (1870; previous versions 1834, 1796).

Texas

Every citizen shall have the right to keep and bear arms in lawful defense of himself or the State; but the Legislature shall have power, by law, to regulate the wearing of arms, with a view to prevent crime. (Tex. Const. art. I, § 23) (1876; previous versions 1868, 1845) 

Note: The Texas Declaration of Independence stated that "[The Mexican government] has demanded us to deliver up our arms, which are essential to our defense—the rightful property of freemen—and formidable only to tyrannical governments." The Republic of Texas Constitution of 1836 also protected Texans` right to arms:  Every citizen shall have the right to bear arms in defence of himself and the republic. The military shall at all times and in all cases be subordinate to the civil power."

Utah

The individual right of the people to keep and bear arms for security and defense of self, family, others, property, or the state as well as for other lawful purposes shall not be infringed; but nothing herein shall prevent the Legislature from defining the lawful use of arms. (Utah Const. art. I, § 6) (1984; previous version 1895).

Vermont

That the people have a right to bear arms for the defence of themselves and the State—and as standing armies in time of peace are dangerous to liberty, they ought not to be kept up; and that the military should be kept under strict subordination to and governed by the civil power. (Vt. Const. ch. I, art. 16) (1777).

Virginia

That a well regulated militia, composed of the body of the people, trained to arms, is the proper, natural and safe defense of a free state, therefore, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed; that standing armies, in time of peace, should be avoided as dangerous to liberty; and that in all cases the military should be under strict subordination to, and governed by, the civil power. (Va. Const. art. I, § 13) (1971; previous version 1776).

Washington

The right of the individual citizen to bear arms in defense of himself, or the state, shall not be impaired, but nothing in this section shall be construed as authorizing individuals or corporations to organize, maintain or employ an armed body of men. (Wash. Const. art. I, § 24) (1889).

West Virginia

A person has the right to keep and bear arms for the defense of self, family, home, and state, and for lawful hunting and recreational use. (W.Va. Const. art. III, § 22) (1986).

Wisconsin

The people have the right to keep and bear arms for security, defense, hunting, recreation, or any other lawful purpose. (Wisc. Const. art. 1, § 25) (1998).

Note alsoThe people have the right to fish, hunt, trap, and take game subject only to reasonable restrictions as prescribed by law. (Wisc. Const. art. 1, § 26) (2003).

Wyoming

The right of the citizens to bear arms in defense of themselves and of the state shall not be denied. (Wyo. Const. art. I, § 24) (1889).
 

Other States

As noted, California, Iowa, Maryland, Minnesota, New Jersey, and New York do not have "right to keep and bear arms" provisions in their state constitutions.

Two of these states have general provisions that protect a right to defend life and liberty:

Iowa

Iowa's constitution states: "All men and women are, by nature, free and equal, and have certain inalienable rights—among which are those of enjoying and defending life and liberty, acquiring, possessing and protecting property, and pursuing and obtaining safety and happiness." (Iowa Const. art. I, § 1) (1998).

New Jersey

New Jersey's constitution reads: "All persons are by nature free and independent, and have certain natural and unalienable rights, among which are those of enjoying and defending life and liberty, of acquiring, possessing, and protecting property, and of pursuing and obtaining safety, and happiness." (N.J. Const. art. I, § 1) (1947).

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