[T]he right to bear arms itself may well be the ultimate right in any free society. It has long been denied to undesirables. If black people were citizens, Justice Taney reasoned with horror in Dred Scott v. Sandford, they would be able “to keep and carry arms wherever they went.” Free men who are masters of their government have that right, he concluded, but slaves and subjects do not.
* * *
To found a government on the principle that “We the People” are sovereign but to fail to entrust those for whom the state was constructed with the means by which, as a desperate last resort, that state might be forcibly dissolved would have been to undermine the whole edifice. “Governments” in Europe, wrote James Madison, “are afraid to trust the people with arms.” Not so America.
– Charles C. W. Cooke
“The Right to Bear Arms and Popular Sovereignty”
National Review 65(2): 20-22