TriggerFinger


A dangerously ignorant editorial...


The Washington Post has chosen to advertise their editorial board's ignorance of the law for all to see.
IN OVERTURNING the District of Columbia's long-standing ban on handguns yesterday, a federal appeals court turned its back on nearly 70 years of Supreme Court precedent to give a new and dangerous meaning to the Second Amendment. If allowed to stand, this radical ruling will inevitably mean more people killed and wounded as keeping guns out of the city becomes harder. Moreover, if the legal principles used in the decision are applied nationally, every gun control law on the books would be imperiled.
To respond to the last point first... exactly! 

As for 70 years of precedent, that would be... oh... 1937.  US v iller was decided in 1939.   That sounds about right.  While Miller did uphold a gun control law, it did so on narrow grounds, ruling that a specific weapon was not suitable for militia use.  Parker v DC is the one of very few decisions I have seen to accurately cite US v Miller for that proposition, and those vaulted 70 years of precedent are based on a deliberate misreading of the Miller case. 

While the ruling in Parker is certainly radical (by which I mean, "Way cool, dude!"), it's hard to imagine DC's murder rate rising much higher.  In the 30 years since the ban was passed, that rate has only once been lower than the year the ban was original imposed.  If there's any crime benefits to prohibition, they don't seem to show up in reality.  Those with a knowledge of history will question the linkage of prohibition with a claimed reduction in crime rates even without the District's own history as an object lesson. 

And finally, the city has had 30 years to learn how to reduce crime and keep handguns out of the city.  They have failed miserably.  If gun control was going to work, it would have.
The 2 to 1 decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit struck down sections of a 1976 law that bans city residents from having handguns in their homes. The court also overturned the law's requirement that shotguns and rifles be stored disassembled or with trigger locks. The court grounded its unprecedented ruling in the finding that the Second Amendment right to bear arms extends beyond militias to individuals. The activities the Second Amendment protects, the judges wrote, "are not limited to militia service, nor is an individual's enjoyment of the right contingent upon his or continued intermittent enrollment in the militia."
This would be because the Amendment reads "the right of the people", not "the right of the militia".  Here's another tidbit from US v Miller... by federal law contemporaneous with the 2nd Amendment, and still valid with some minor changes today, the militia is composed of all able-bodied male citizens between the ages of 17 and 45.  Even if the DC legislature was stupid enough to pass a new law restricting ownership of functional firearms to militia members, it wouldn't be much of an improvement from their point of view.
Never before has a law been struck down on that basis. The Supreme Court, in its landmark 1939 decision United States v. Miller, stated that the Second Amendment was adopted "with obvious purpose" of protecting the ability of states to organize militias and "must be interpreted and applied with that end in view." Nearly every other federal court of appeals has concurred in that finding. The dissenting judge in yesterday's opinion, Karen LeCraft Henderson, a Republican appointee like the other two judges on the panel, rightly lambasted the majority for its willful disregard of Supreme Court precedent
Never before, huh?  Then I'd say it's about damn time.

Note that a close reading of US v Miller reveals that the ruling turned on whether the weapon, a sawed-off shotgun, was suitable for militia use and found that no evidence had been presented that it was.  The case was remanded to a lower court for findings of fact on that issue.   It is worth noting that the case was at the Supreme Court because the lower court had struck down the 1934 National Firearms Act.   And the court had no evidence on the issue because the neither the defendent nor his counsel appeared before the court.

The mental gyrations required to turn a 70-year-old ruling that a particular weapon was not military enough to be protected by the 2nd Amendment into a ruling that supports a blanket ban on the current military sidearm (Heller's desired handgun is the official sidearm of the US Military, or very close to it) would be worthy of admiration... except that I suspect no such gyrations were necessary.  The author speaks from ignorance, not a twisted mind. 

In order words... the court was following precedent correctly, for almost the first time, when it ruled in Parker v DC.
While the ruling caught observers off guard, it was not completely unexpected, given the unconscionable campaign, led by the National Rife Association and abetted by the Bush administration, to broadly reinterpret the Constitution so as to give individuals Second Amendment rights. Indeed, the D.C. lawsuit, by six residents assisted by the Cato Institute, was filed in 2003, just months after then-Attorney General John D. Ashcroft said gun bans are unconstitutional.
If the NRA's efforts to change the meaning of "the people" to mean "the people" rather than "the states" are "unconscionable", how would the author describe 70 years of court rulings ignoring the plain meaning of an Amendment within the Bill of Rights? 

Probably "mission accomplished, comrade."
The NRA predictably welcomed yesterday's ruling. According to its myth, only criminals have had guns in the city and now law-abiding citizens will be able to arm themselves for protection. Mayor Adrian M. Fenty (D) counters that argument with the sad record of what results from a proliferation of guns. As he points out, more guns mean only more violence, and the city already has too much of both. It is important to note that the ban on handguns will stay in effect while the city considers whether to appeal.
So the author is claiming that criminals in the city do not have guns?  Funny, they held a big gun-law enforcement party in 1995 called Operation Ceasefire that claims to have seized 282 firearms in under 4 months.  That's 20 years after the firearms ban was enacted.  If the idea is to disarm criminals, it's clearly not working.

That is likely, Mr. Fenty announced. The risk here is that an appeal could lead to an unfavorable Supreme Court ruling, and a legal principle that now applies only to the residents of the nation's capital would extend to the entire nation. Yet doing nothing wouldn't serve the best interests of the city and its public safety. Nor, for that matter, would it serve the nation's interest to leave this dangerous ruling unchallenged.

The best interests of the city would be served by allowing the honest citizens that reside there to defend themselves with a firearm in their home.  After all, what do you call an ordinary person without a gun facing a criminal with one?  Helpless.

You don't suppose there might be a reason that the DC government would like to keep its citizens helpless and dependent upon the police and politicians to protect them from crime?

Nah.

This entry was published Thu Mar 15 20:10:25 CDT 2007 by TriggerFinger and last updated 2007-03-15 20:10:25.0. [Tweet]

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