The 1846 case Nunn v. State was the first case in which a court used the Second Amendment to invalidate a gun control law. The Georgia legislature had banned the sale and possession of knives intended for offensive or defensive purposes and pistols, except "such pistols as are known and used as horse man's pistols." The law made an exception which allowed possession (but not sale) of the banned weapons if the weapon were worn "exposed plainly to view."
The Georgia Constitution at the time had no right to arms provision, but the state Supreme Court combined natural rights analysis with the Second Amendment to declare the law unconstitutional:
[When] did any legislative body in the Union have the right to deny to its citizens the privilege of keeping and bearing arms in defence of themselves and their country?The Georgia court kept the introductory clause to the Second Amendment firmly in view: "our Constitution assigns as a reason why this right shall not be interfered with, or in any manner abridged, that the free enjoyment of it will prepare and qualify a well-regulated militia, which are necessary to the security of a free State." Thus:
. . . [T]his is one of the fundamental principles, upon which rests the great fabric of civil liberty, reared by the fathers of the Revolution and of the country. And the Constitution of the United States, in declaring that the right of the people to keep and bear arms, should not be infringed, only reiterated a truth announced a century before, in the act of 1689, "to extend and secure the rights and liberties of English subjects"--Whether living 3,000 or 300 miles from the royal palace.
If a well-regulated militia is necessary to the security of the State of Georgia and of the United States, is it competent for the General Assembly to take away this security, by disarming the people? What advantage would it be to tie up the hands of the national legislature, if it were in the power of the States to destroy this bulwark of defence? In solemnly affirming that a well-regulated militia is necessary to the security of a free State, and that, in order to train properly that militia, the unlimited right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be impaired, are not the sovereign people of the State committed by this pledge to preserve this right inviolate?...
The right of the whole people, old and young, men, women and boys, and not militia only, to keep and bear arms of every description, and not such merely as are used by the militia, shall not be infringed, curtailed, or broken in upon, in the smallest degree; and all this for the important end to be attained: the rearing up and qualifying a well-regulated militia, so vitally necessary to the security of a free State. Our opinion is, that any law, State or Federal, is repugnant to the Constitution, and void, which contravenes this right, originally belonging to our forefathers, trampled under foot by Charles I. and his two wicked sons and successors, re-established by the revolution of 1688, conveyed to this land of liberty by the colonists, and finally incorporated conspicuously in our own Magna Charta! And Lexington, Concord, Camden, River Raisin, Sandusky, and the laurel-crowned field of New Orleans plead eloquently for this interpretation! And the acquisition of Texas may be considered the full fruits of this great constitutional right.
(italics omitted). The opinion concluded by holding that the ban on concealed carrying was valid because it did not interfere with a citizen's Second Amendment right; but insofar as the law "contains a prohibition against bearing arms openly, [it] is in conflict with the Constitution, and void . . . ." Since the indictment did not specify that Nunn's weapon was concealed, the charges were quashed.