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Posted at 4:03 PM ET, 02/11/2011

The real story in D.C.'s gun data

By Robert A. Levy, Naples, Fla.

In his Feb. 8 front-page article “In D.C., wealthy take up arms,” Paul Duggan examined relevant data and then drew an irrelevant conclusion. First, the data: Since the Supreme Court’s June 2008 Heller decision overturning the District’s gun ban, 151 firearms have been registered to residents in Zip code 20016, comprising 14,000 households in the wealthy enclaves of upper Northwest. During the same period, only 240 guns have been registered east of the Anacostia River, where there are more than 52,000 households. Mr. Duggan’s conclusion: “Residents in Washington’s safest, most well-to-do neighborhoods have armed themselves” far more than “people in poorer, crime-plagued areas of the city.”

The important conclusion, however, is not the difference between two inconsequential registration numbers, but the fact that the two numbers are so close to zero. In Zip code 20016, nearly 99 percent of the households did not register firearms. East of the Anacostia, more than 99 percent did not register. Rather than ask why there were so few registrants, Mr. Duggan conjured up class warfare with his rich-poor comparison.

Here is the relevant point: The District still has no gun retailers, and a de facto ban on firearms endures. When a Post reporter tested the registration process, he found that it cost $834 — dwarfing the cost of most weapons. Moreover, registration required 16 hours, four trips to the police department, two background checks, fingerprints, photos, a vision test, a five-hour class and a 20-question examination. No wonder only 1,400 firearms have been registered since June 2008 in a city of 600,000 people.

The city is violating the spirit, if not the letter, of the Heller decision. More litigation is sure to follow.

The author is chairman of the Cato Institute and was co-counsel to the plaintiffs in District of Columbia v. Heller.

By Robert A. Levy, Naples, Fla.  | February 11, 2011; 4:03 PM ET
Categories:  D.C., HotTopic, guns  
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Comments

Hear that? The Cato Institute thinks D.C. households don't have enough guns in them.

You people are absolutely insane.

Posted by: large23220 | February 11, 2011 4:54 PM | Report abuse

The Courts have long held that reasonable restrictions are not constitutionally suspect. The fact that gun buyers elsewhere can walk into a KMart and walk out ten minutes later with a gun--or more than one--and boxes of ammo is irrelevant to what the District may do.

I suspect the Court will not intervene again.

Posted by: krickey7 | February 11, 2011 5:42 PM | Report abuse

only in the hyper-rarified world of DC and its environs would a POST commenter consider the burdens to legally own a handgun in DC proper to not be constitutionally suspect, and that his suspicions are reasonable.

bleaters on the way to slaughter.

Posted by: jfhanson | February 11, 2011 6:16 PM | Report abuse

only in the hyper-rarified world of DC and its environs would a POST commenter consider the burdens to legally own a handgun in DC proper to not be constitutionally suspect, and that his suspicions are reasonable.

bleaters on the way to slaughter.

Posted by: jfhanson | February 11, 2011 6:16 PM | Report abuse

I don't live in the District, though I grew up there and still work there. I have friends and family that do live there, and that have gotten their permits and weapons. And as the statistics show, residents have legally obtained 1400 weapons. So much for a "de facto ban."

The Supreme Court has a long history of reluctance to take Second Amendment cases. Hyperbole from partisan thinktanks aside, they are unlikely to revisit DC's gun laws.

Posted by: krickey7 | February 11, 2011 6:44 PM | Report abuse

1400 registered firearms in 600,000--not to mention an onerous cost to have them: the limitations will be back to the SC sooner or later, probably indirectly, via Chicago, at first.

But, krickey7, you may agree with me when I say that I suspect the apogee of favorable impression for firearms has been reached. Politically, I suspect that it will remain the third rail for at least one more generation.

Posted by: jfhanson | February 11, 2011 11:27 PM | Report abuse

1400 registered firearms in 600,000--not to mention an onerous cost to have them: the limitations will be back to the SC sooner or later, probably indirectly, via Chicago, at first.

But, krickey7, you may agree with me when I say that I suspect the apogee of favorable impression for firearms has been reached. Politically, I suspect that it will remain the third rail for at least one more generation.

Posted by: jfhanson | February 11, 2011 11:27 PM | Report abuse

1400 registered firearms in 600,000--not to mention an onerous cost to have them: the limitations will be back to the SC sooner or later, probably indirectly, via Chicago, at first.

But, krickey7, you may agree with me when I say that I suspect the apogee of favorable impression for firearms has been reached. Politically, I suspect that it will remain the third rail for at least one more generation.

Posted by: jfhanson | February 11, 2011 11:27 PM | Report abuse

1400 registered firearms in 600,000--not to mention an onerous cost to have them: the limitations will be back to the SC sooner or later, but maybe indirectly at first.

But, krickey7, you may agree with me when I say that I suspect the apogee of favorable impression for firearms has been reached. Politically, I suspect that it will remain the third rail for at least one more generation.

Posted by: jfhanson | February 11, 2011 11:29 PM | Report abuse

First you can not walk into a W-mart and buy a gun then walk out with boxes of Ammo. I dont live in DC but I do live in Va and have heard for years how Virginia allows any one to buy a gun. Let me tell you how I bought a Shotgun last year in Va. I went to a store and told the clerk I wanted a 300 mossberg 12 gauge. He then checked my Va drivers licence and I filled out a 3 page form that asked me more than the form does that I need to file to run for President or Senator for the USA. Then I had to wait 3 days for those forms to be verified. Then I got a call from the store telling me I could pick up my shotgun. The clerk carried my purchase to my vehicle( I am not allowed to carry it) and I coudl not purchase ammo in that store that day. SO please before making off the cuff statements check your facts.
Thanks you.

Posted by: dukeameye3 | February 12, 2011 2:25 PM | Report abuse

Wow, as a sensible libertarian, I find this piece by the chairman of the Cato Institute a bit puzzling. If there are no retail gun sellers in the District of Columbia that would indicate the free market does not exist to make them viable, capitalism has spoken. Mr. Levy's complaints about the registration process also do not strike chord, to me the process seems like it is comparable to getting a drivers license and registering an automobile in DC. Furthermore, what is wrong with gun owners paying a registration fee (and for insurance for that matter) that is commensurate with the cost of their ownership to society? Car owners, hunters, fishermen, etc. all pay fees for their activities. That is true libertarianism.

Posted by: budvar59 | February 12, 2011 4:55 PM | Report abuse

@budvar59:
Oddly for someone who self-labels as a "sensible libertarian" you seem to be unable to make the critical distinction.

NONE of your examples are a Constitutionally protected right.
Gun ownership is.

"what is wrong with gun owners paying a registration fee (and for insurance for that matter) that is commensurate with the cost of their ownership to society? Car owners, hunters, fishermen, etc. all pay fees for their activities.

Posted by: sundog50 | February 13, 2011 4:37 AM | Report abuse

@budvar59:
Oddly for someone who self-labels as a "sensible libertarian" you seem to be unable to make the critical distinction.

NONE of your examples are a Constitutionally protected right.
Gun ownership is.

"what is wrong with gun owners paying a registration fee (and for insurance for that matter) that is commensurate with the cost of their ownership to society? Car owners, hunters, fishermen, etc. all pay fees for their activities.

Posted by: sundog50 | February 13, 2011 4:38 AM | Report abuse

Here's an easy home test for you liberal folk who think close to a thousand dollars and a week of your life do not amount to onerous restrictions: pretend an abortion, or scheduling a bail hearing, or holding a protest, or writing a vapid comment in a newspaper were subject to the same restrictions. Can you imagine the squealing that would ensue? Consistency if not the forte of your side of the aisle.

These restrictions are every bit as clearly a violation of second amendment protections as Jim Crow laws were of voting rights. Those of you claiming otherwise are partaking of thinking so wishful it has muddled your cognitive abilities.

Posted by: Disambiguation | February 13, 2011 2:29 PM | Report abuse

"If there are no retail gun sellers in the District of Columbia that would indicate the free market does not exist to make them viable, capitalism has spoken."

Sensible? Libertarian? Time for a reality check. Jumping through whatever hoops DC may decide to impose in hopes of obtaining the necessary zoning variances and business licenses, and paying whatever exorbitant fees they require, then beginning a similar process with BATF to (also hopefully) get their approval of your application for a Federal Firearm License, is hardly descriptive of anything that might reasonably be described as "the free market" or "capitalism." And while I don't know what sort of onerous obstacles DC places in the way of anyone wanting to do something as anti-social as drive or register a car, I've never in any of the several state in which I've lived had it cost anything near $800 or take more than a single day, if that. To top it off, when I finished that process, I was able to drive my car to every state and local jurisdiction in the country without any additional fees, licenses, waiting period, tests or examinations, even the District of Columbia.

Posted by: Ken_M | February 13, 2011 2:57 PM | Report abuse

In the 1960's Alabama put a host of subtle restrictions on voter registration, such that Federal Courts stepped in and controled the state registration of voters.

DC is on the same track. The SCOTUS ruled DC in violation of the US Constitution on the 2nd Amendment. DC said ok..then put a host of onerous restrictions which make it very difficult to own a hand gun. Guess what will happen next? The law suits are already filed. Not only will DC be charged with millions in legal fees, the matter will be taken out of their hands and put into the hands of the courts. And the persons responsible might face jail time.

Personally I'd love to see it. Remember when Congress passed a law mandating that DC allow right-turn on Red? The very next night DC put up 50,000 "no right turn on red" signs to thwart Congress, no to give Congress the middle finger.

We'll see what happens now since they've done the same to SCOTUS, the US Constitution and the American People.

Posted by: wjc1va | February 13, 2011 4:37 PM | Report abuse

Voting restrictions are completely inapposite. The point of that litigation was that it made voting harder for one group than another, and that divide ran along a constitutionally suspect class. And the SC has indicated any restrictions on voting at all bear a burden of proof. In guns, it's the opposite. Burdens are presumed to be reasonable until proven otherwise. That may happen in DC, but I think not. The SC has taken very few Second Amendment cases, and that's not likely to change. So0000 DC's law is here to stay. And you know what? The peopel who live here don't seem to mind that.

Posted by: krickey7 | February 13, 2011 5:38 PM | Report abuse

@krickey7:
"The Supreme Court has a long history of reluctance to take Second Amendment cases. Hyperbole from partisan thinktanks aside, they are unlikely to revisit DC's gun laws."

I tend to agree. However, it's almost certain that the US congress will revisit DCs gun laws.

Posted by: ambiguae | February 13, 2011 7:15 PM | Report abuse

The author is correct. DC makes it very difficult to own a firearm. But it does not stop the armed criminal. I remember when the Heller case was decided and the police chief was most upset because it would allow more guns on the streets and increase the incidence of firearms violence. IF the violence is in the cause of protection, then what the heck is her problem? One might remember when DC had car jackings everyday and it stopped when an off duty FBI agent refused to be car jacked and shot the criminal. Free up the legal ownership of firearms and the crime rate will drop like a rock.

Posted by: RichardBunn | February 16, 2011 3:39 PM | Report abuse

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