The laws of this nature are those which forbid to wear arms, disarming those only who are not disposed to commit the crime which the laws mean to prevent. Can it be supposed, that those who have the courage to violate the most sacred laws of humanity, and the most important of the code, will respect the less considerable and arbitrary injunctions, the violation of which is so easy, and of so little comparative importance? Does not the execution of this law deprive the subject of that personal liberty, so dear to mankind and to the wise legislator? And does it not subject the innocent to all the disagreeable circumstances that should only fall on the guilty? It certainly makes the situation of the assaulted worse and of the assailants better, and rather encourages than prevents murder, as it requires less courage to attack unarmed than armed persons.
The philosopher is Cesare Beccaria, an Italian jurist who greatly influenced the penal theories of modern Europe and America. The quote is from his 1764 tome, On Crimes and Punishments. It is available on Kindle.
What makes me laugh is that progressives are perfectly willing to apply this logic to the Drug War, but somehow pretend that the same government that is unable to control the trade in crystal meth will somehow be able to prevent the trade in firearms.