Justice Antonin Scalia’s majority opinion in the handgun-ban case explored the historical context for the Second Amendment’s language on gun ownership. In the process, Scalia quoted from abolitionist Massachusetts Sen. Charles Sumner’s famous 1856 speech about “Bleeding Kansas”:
“The rifle has ever been the companion of the pioneer and, under God, his tutelary protector against the red man and the beast of the forest. Never was this efficient weapon more needed in just self-defense, than now in Kansas, and at least one article in our national Constitution must be blotted out, before the complete right to it can in any way be impeached. And yet such is the madness of the hour, that, in defiance of the solemn guarantee, embodied in the amendments to the Constitution, that ‘the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed,’ the people of Kansas have been arraigned for keeping and bearing them, and the senator from South Carolina has had the face to say openly, on this floor, that they should be disarmed — of course, that the fanatics of slavery, his allies and constituents, may meet no impediment.” Three days later, in reaction to that speech, S.C. congressman Preston Brooks attacked Sumner and beat him with a cane into unconsciousness.