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That Every Man Be Armed: The Evolution of a Constitutional Right

by Stephen P. Halbrook

Published by The Independent Institute (1984, updated 2013)


That Every Man Be Armed traces the Second Amendment’s origins from ancient Greece and Rome to 18th-century France and England through the American Revolution and the ratification of the Constitution and adoption of the Bill of Rights. Halbrook further traces the Amendment’s significance throughout American history to current debates over gun controls, assembling a systematic interpretation of state and federal opinions and Supreme Court decisions. This comprehensive and lucid book reveals that the right to bear arms is in indispensable form of individual protection against both violent crime and government infringement of human liberties.

That Every Man Be Armed was cited as authority by the Office of Legal Counsel, U.S. Department of Justice, “Whether the Second Amendment Secures an Individual Right” (2004), and in the following judicial opinions:

  • Printz v. United States, 521 U.S. 898, 939 n.2 (1997) (Thomas, J., concurring)
  • Silveira v. Lockyer, 328 F.3d 567, 577 n.53 (9th Cir. 2003) (Kleinfeld, J., joined by Kozinski, O’Scannlain, & Nelson, dissenting)
  • United States v. Emerson, 46 F.Supp.2d 598, 603-09 (N.D. Tex. 1999)
  • Mosby v. Devine, 851 A.2d 1031, 1052 (R.I. 2004) (Flanders, J., dissenting)


Overview: Firearms Prohibitions and Constitutional Rights

  1. The Elementary Books of Public Right
  2. The Common Law of England
  3. The American Revolution and the Second Amendment
  4. Antebellum Interpretations
  5. Freedom, Firearms, and the Fourteenth Amendment
  6. The Supreme Court Speaks
  7. State and Federal Judicial Opinions

Afterword: Public Policy and the Right to Keep and Bear Arms


“If the Second Amendment is read to confer a personal right to ‘keep and bear arms,’ a colorable argument exists that the Federal Government’s regulatory scheme, at least as it pertains to the purely intrastate sale or possession of firearms, runs afoul of that Amendment’s protections. […] Marshalling an impressive array of historical evidence, a growing body of scholarly commentary indicates that the ‘right to keep and bear arms’ is, as the Amendment’s text suggests, a personal right. See, e.g., S. Halbrook, That Every Man Be Armed: The Evolution of a Constitutional Right.”

CLARENCE THOMAS, Associate Justice, U. S. Supreme Court, in Printz v. United States

“Relying on his background as a political philosopher and lawyer, Halbrook’s meticulous research has produced the encyclopedic book on the Second Amendment from its background in Ancient Greece through English common law to its enactment in 18th Century America and subsequent legal interpretations. That Every Man Be Armed is must reading for all those interested in the right to possess and acquire firearms.”

— DON B. KATES, JR., ed., Restricting Handguns: The Liberal Skeptics Speak Out

That Every Man Be Armed is the first scholarly treatise that is both comprehensive and in-depth. […] The book is suitable for a very wide audience.”


That Every Man Be Armed is the definitive book on the historical and legal development of the Second Amendment and our right to bear arms.”

— ORRIN G. HATCH, U.S. Senator

“The need for careful, impartial information makes Halbrook’s book especially welcome. […] That Every Man Be Armed is comprehensive and well-written.”


That Every Man Be Armed is extremely well-documented and is indispensable to anyone seriously interested in understanding the constitutional and other issues involved in the great American gun control debate.”


“Halbrook has amassed a great deal of original material and has synthesized it in a very convincing manner. The book is a very impressive research job, showing a deep and wide-ranging knowledge of sources. Much new material has been uncovered. […] This book is clearly unique, a path-breaking study of the subject.”

— DAVID I. CAPLAN, Ph.D., Attorney at Law