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Court to D.C.: Bring on the Guns

The U.S. Court of Appeals today threw out the District of Columbia's highly restrictive gun laws, ruling that the Second Amendment guarantees an individual right to own firearms.

The 2-1 ruling, which the city will immediately appeal, threatens to bring gun shops and easy ownership of handguns back to the District. But while this is just the latest of a long line of skirmishes over the meaning of the Second Amendment, the judges in the majority--Laurence Silberman and Thomas Griffith--went out of their way to trash the legal theories behind the D.C. law.

Arguments over the meaning of the amendment often turn on commas, and this ruling hews to the tradition, starting out with a lengthy discusion of what exactly the second comma in the Second Amendment to the Constitution does to the amendment's full sentence.

The Amendment says:

A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.

Both sides in this challenge to the District's anti-handgun law agree that the second comma in the amendment means that the right being guaranteed here has a civic purpose--that is, to assure that the states have militias ready to defend the people. But the difference comes on whether that purpose is "exclusive;" that is, whether keeping and bearing arms is a right that exists solely so men can serve in their state's militia, or whether there is a larger individual right to own arms.

The majority embraces the individual right to bear arms: "Preserving an individual right was the best way
to ensure that the militia could serve when called," they write, deriding D.C.'s position by saying that its logical conclusion is that "the Second Amendment is a dead letter." (Dead because the militias mentioned in the amendment don't really exist anymore, so if you read the amendment to apply only to those militias, it would essentially be moot today.)

The decision says: A ban on the use and ownership of weapons for private purposes, if allowed, would undoubtedly have had a deleterious, if not catastrophic, effect on the readiness of the militia for action. We do not see how one could believe that the First Congress, when crafting the Second Amendment, would have engaged in drawing such a foolish and impractical distinction....

The court argues that an individual right to own firearms existed before the United States was formed and was guaranteed in the British Bill of Rights of 1689, which said that Protestant men "may have Arms for their Defence."
The judges say that the preface to the Second Amendment was typical of legal writing of that era in that it merely "stated a principle of good government" and was not meant to be the "operative" language: "The Amendment does not protect 'the right of militiamen to keep and bear arms,' but rather 'the right of the people.'" The judges turn to the Federalist Papers and James Madison and Alexander Hamilton to show that the Founders thought of an armed populace as an essential check against the potential abuses of the federal government. (Would these same judges now countenance--or even celebrate--armed resistance against the more onerous measures of the Patriot Act?)

The decision is a bold and audacious one: It admits frankly that neither the Court of Appeals nor the Supreme Court have ever ruled whether the Second Amendment guarantees an individual or collective right to bear arms. But that doesn't stop these judges from charging ahead with their decision on behalf of an individual right. "The Second Amendment protects an individual right to keep and bear arms," the majority says.

And the judges are having none of the District's argument that even if the Second Amendment guarantees the right to bear some arms, the city has a right to ban handguns because they weren't even around back in the Founders' day and aren't necessary for a militia. The judges say the legal language is intended to protect ownership of whatever arms are in common use, and certainly handguns fit that bill today:

The modern handgun--and for that matter the rifle and long-barreled shotgun--is undoubtedly quite improved over its colonial-era predecessor, but it is, after all, a lineal descendant of that founding-era weapon....

The judges do say that governments have the right to regulate guns, just as some laws can regulate speech. "That is not to suggest that the government is absolutely barred from regulating the use and ownership of pistols. The protections of the Second Amendment are subject to the same sort of reasonable restrictions that have been recognized as limiting, for instance, the First Amendment," the judges write. They say it's reasonable to ban guns from churches, polling places or from the hands of drunks, felons or the insane.

The judges reject as preposterous the D.C. law that requires registered firearms to be kept unloaded and under a trigger lock. The District law, they say, "would reduce a pistol to a useless hunk of 'metal and springs.'"

In scathing dissent, Judge Karen Henderson argues that the majority has merely dumped 50-plus pages of verbiage onto "the pile" of previous gun-related decisions. She says the court doesn't need to decide whether the Second Amendment guarantees individual rights because the amendment doesn't apply to the District, seeing as how D.C. is not a state and the amendment is about the militias that were run by the states.

She writes:

The Amendment was drafted in response to the perceived threat to the "free[dom]" of the "State[s]" posed by a national standing army controlled by the federal government.... Unlike the States, the District
had--and has--no need to protect itself from the federal government because it is a federal entity created as the seat of that government.

The majority dismisses Henderson's argument, saying that high courts have repeatedly concluded that the Constitution and its amendments do indeed apply to the District.

The District has its legal work cut out for it--the first appeal will be to the full Court of Appeals, and then in all likelihood to the U.S. Supreme Court. Mayor Fenty said today that he hopes and expects that the decision will be stayed during the appeal, so no gun shops are likely to pop up in the city right away. In the law, it ain't over for a really long time.

By Marc Fisher |  March 9, 2007; 3:02 PM ET
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The D.C. government has done little or nothing to disarm violent criminals; yet it has done a really effective job of disarming decent, peaceable residents. With this recovery of an existing right, the next time a thug stops me, I can have him take it up with Mr. Smith and Mr. Wesson.

Posted by: Karl | March 9, 2007 4:31 PM

It will be interesting to see how this plays out. Judge Henderson will argue the Second Amendment doesn't apply because DC isn't a State needing "protection from the federal government." Will Second Amendment advocates be forced to argue that DC is a State that needs to be able to protect itself from the federal government? Will this affect issues of DC Statehood/voting representation in the House and Senate?

Posted by: mizbinkley | March 9, 2007 4:32 PM

Bring on the guns? The guns have always been there. The criminals have always been able to have guns. Whether by stealing them from border states or through criminal transactions - DC's place at the top of the list of murder cities was no accident.

Its more like, "bring on the hypocrites." You know them well. All the mouthy anti gunners with armed body guards. All the pols who vote against your right to protect yourself and have a taxpayer funded guard - or an exclusive permit themselves.

I don't know who is sicker - the criminals or the enabling politicians.

In the long sordid history of DC gun control - did you ever see legislation with real consequences for a gun related crime? Of course not. It is Virginia's fault.

How can DC have so much gun crime and no legal guns and Virginia has millions of legal guns and very little gun crime?

Could it be the criminals let loose on the street??????

Posted by: vashooter | March 9, 2007 4:32 PM

The District's gun laws have been a miserable failure. If the city's council and residents can't see that then they are the proverbial ostrich with his head stuck in the ground. I lived in the city through the days of notorious murderers like back of the head benjy from east gate, wayne perry, alpo and countless others. The only thing gun control did was to leave honest people unable to defend themselves from these people at a time when the police were overwhelmed and unable to protect us. I ask the mayor and members of the city council are their body guards unarmed. If they are armed can I borrow them so I can walk through sursom corda at dusk some time.

Posted by: Pat | March 9, 2007 4:45 PM

Good first step, but even if this is upheld, DC will screw up with the onerous regulations this ruling seems to invite. Of course, many normal citizens ALREADY own guns ... even the hypocrites who espouse gun control.

Posted by: gitarre | March 9, 2007 4:51 PM

Like I'm suppose to thank the court for recognizing a freedom I should have had for over 200 years? It's about time.

As the man said, if the 'freedom advocates' fought as hard for the 2nd amendment as they do the 1st, we'd all have bazookas.

Posted by: Bob | March 9, 2007 4:59 PM

Before folks get too excited one way or the other, realize that the ruling is limited to owning guns in your own home; it explicitly did not address carrying them out on the streets. And Henderson's dissent was just plain wrong on the constitutional issue of whether the right, which as the majority correctly stated belongs to "the people," could be limited by the District government simply because DC is not a state.

Yes, there will be appeals, but this was a very well-written and argued opinion on the part of the majority. I would be very surprised if the full appeals court or the Supreme Court overturns it.

Posted by: Moose | March 9, 2007 5:03 PM

Didn't the Depression-era case rule that certain categories (e.g., sawed-off shotguns) could be regulated/banned? Then... why not handguns?

Posted by: Not compensating | March 9, 2007 5:22 PM

Whatever one thinks of this decision, there are issues of judicial temperament in the dissent. "Scathing dissent" is a cliched term, but it applies here. Better not to be so scathing, I think.

I think the majority and the dissent got this wrong. The Second Amendment applies to militias. And I say that as someone who would very much like to own a gun in this city. So I guess I hope I'm wrong.

Posted by: Nancy | March 9, 2007 5:22 PM

DC has some very real logistics problems with allowing unlimited handguns. We are literally chock full of high profile targets, from the President, Congress, to jillions of high officials from every country on Earth. I would imagine the Secret Service and every other similar agency shudders at the thought of anyone in DC being able to carry a handgun literally up to the steps of the Supreme Court, on the sidewalks in front of Embassies, etc. We've got both the legions of mentally unstable people drawn to DC thinking they are sent by their home planet to meet the President, and we've got every sort of disgruntled person, both angry at US politicians and at foreign officials. True, there have always been guns in DC, but at least Secret Service and others could stop potential attacks a little in advance. With a new carry law, which is the inevitable outcome here, they'll literally have to wait until the person makes a threatening move.

Posted by: Hillman | March 9, 2007 5:29 PM

Mayor Fenty: Do the honorable thing and let this decision stand. Every time gun bans have been lifted crime has dropped in double digits in those places. The District will be no different.

Posted by: RF | March 9, 2007 5:32 PM

Hillman, you raise some interesting points of discussion. It's possible that the Founders meant the Second Amendment to apply to individuals (although I lean toward Nancy's opinion that they were referencing militias) but that they meant individuals in STATES, not the 10-mile square that was to be home to the federal government.

Posted by: mizbinkley | March 9, 2007 5:37 PM

The whole of the Bill of Rights clearly applies to individual rights. Of course, the Bill of Rights applies to DC. The argument that the Founding Fathers could not have foreseen firearms development, so the 2nd Amendment "doesn't count", is like saying the 1st Amendment doesn't apply to television.

Posted by: Mike | March 9, 2007 5:38 PM

Having just returned from a trip to a major city in South America, I find the argument that there is generally causation between an abolition of a gun ban and a decrease in crime is laughable. The fact of the matter is that it is much safer to walk around most major cities elsewhere in the world, outside of war zones, than it is to walk around major cities here. That is just a fact. And why is this the case? There is only one major distinction between our cities and cities throughout the rest of the world - the availability of guns. And don't respond with the argument that DC has a gun ban now and is still unsafe, so gun bans don't work. When guns are available in other nearby jurisdictions, such as across the river in Virignia, a local gun ban can have only so much effect.

Posted by: Mark | March 9, 2007 6:00 PM

Judge Karen Henderson's argument is lame. We will not be denied our fundamental rights! Statehood here we finally come.

Posted by: johng | March 9, 2007 6:14 PM

This decision, even if upheld by the full appeals court and SCOTUS, does not mean an end to all gun control in DC. It's a good sign, but it won't change anything soon. It's highly probable that this suit would have never happened if DC had a system that requires registration and licensing like New York City has. DC will probably eventually move in that direction. I'd like to see DC allow concealed carry like Virginia (with its much lower crime rates) does. But, that's about as likely to happen as the DC court system locking up violent repeat offenders and getting them off the street would be.

Gun control in general is poorly thought out and would be impossible to apply in the entire U.S. There are already laws against rape, murder and robbery. If someone intents to commit one of those crimes, why are they possibly going to care that they can't legally own the gun used to commit the crime? Anyone who supports a national gun ban should go over to Anacostia and go door to door to confiscate all the illegally possessed weapons. When you're done, come back and I'll actually listen to your argument.

Posted by: DangerousDave | March 9, 2007 6:30 PM

In response to "not compensating:"

the depression-era court found that the there was no legitimate military use for a sawed-off shotgun, hence no use in a militia, hence no need for an individual to own one.

Posted by: the facts | March 9, 2007 7:04 PM

A good move. Here is what will happen:

1. A lot of guns will be bought very quickly

2. A few people will accidently shoot themselves and loved ones

3. The police may accidently shoot a few people

4. DC will become an extremely polite city

5. The number of home break-ins and car break-in's will drop drastically

6. After 6 months DC will be a much safer place to live (Although it is going sound like Bahgdad for the first 3 months)

Posted by: Avery | March 9, 2007 7:05 PM

"Free men shall never be debarred the use of arms"--Thomas Jefferson

Posted by: gkc99 | March 9, 2007 7:12 PM

The problem, again, is the lack of penalty in existing laws. People who possess guns illegally will do so unless there is a grave consequence, say, life without parole. So instead of doing the hip and trendy ban, maybe DC should enforce the existing laws and make the penalty tougher. Trust me. If the penalty for parking in a handicap parking space was life in the big house, though unreasonabe, no one would do it. But, if the penalty for possesion of an instrument of death illegally was life in prison, you'd be finding handguns on the banks of the Potomac.

Posted by: Enforceless | March 9, 2007 7:24 PM

Puting otherwise law-abiding people in prison for not having a "right" papers for something that's has been protected by constitution is TREASON. Politicians who are responsible for inacting anti-gun laws should be tried for treason against United States Constitution and crimes against the american people.

Posted by: Michael | March 9, 2007 7:29 PM

Ban stupidity before it happens! Let's legislate against stupid behavior like killing other people and stealing. Let's put tracking devices on people we think are stupid and tap their phones. Let's outlaw everything! Like movies that make people do stupid things, and motorcycles, and smoking, and blogs that express personal opinions, and newspapers, and television, and war, and peace, and dirty dishes, and litterbugs, and the skunks, and the Earth. Yes, that's it! If we outlaw the Earth, we will not have to deal with what goes on there. Brilliant!!!

Posted by: Groker | March 9, 2007 7:31 PM

Hillman, you've raised some interesting points. Even an unstable derelict will be able to carry a gun. And if they can't hit their intended target, they will aim for something/one else.

But my thoughts are that federal property is technically not in DC, and it is illegal to carry guns onto federal property (unless you are licensed to do so). It's a bit scary to wonder how many walking on the mall and surrounding federal areas packing.

Posted by: Anonymous | March 9, 2007 7:32 PM

Groker just proved my point. Even an unstable derelict will be able to carry a gun.

Posted by: 07:32 PM Poster | March 9, 2007 7:37 PM

I don't think people seem to realize exactly how important the Second Amendment really is. As long as American's have the right to bear arms, we have the right to protect our other rights. What would happen if our government decided to eradicate the Second Amendment? There would be some problems, but it seems somewhat likely now days. Well... if they did that, what would then stop them from taking away our other rights? Namely the First Amendment, which seems to be the one most Americans hold dear to their hearts. Citizens purchase guns legally, and submit to back ground checks. Criminals do not. After all... they are criminals because they break the law. If there was a rash of strangling, would you outlaw hands? Everyday frivolous legislation chips away at our freedoms. Smoking, trans-fat, and thought (hate crimes are wrong, but you shouldn't punish for thought or motive, murder is murder).

Posted by: Burton | March 9, 2007 7:41 PM

It's about time sanity returned. The very next thing D.C. should do is allow their law-abiding citizens to carry concealed weapons, as in Virginia. The bad actors already all have guns; the people should be allowed the right to defend themselves.

And while we're on the topic of DC becoming a normal part of America, allow DC voting representation in Congress.

Posted by: JR | March 9, 2007 7:42 PM

H. L. Mencken understood the founders well founded fear for an unarmed populace confronted by a despotic state when he said **The only good bureaucrat is one with a pistol at his head. Put it in his hand and it's good-bye to the Bill of Rights.**

Posted by: Slim | March 9, 2007 7:58 PM

The politicians and gun banners know that gun "control" laws only increase crime, yet some continue to push for them....wonder where that might be headed????? Maybe they're right - make them all illegal and we won't have any around....that's worked SO well for drugs, hasn't it??

Posted by: James | March 9, 2007 8:05 PM

1. Could all the people asserting that crime will instantly drop because of the lifting of the gun ban please present actual evidence? How about some studies supporting that claim. Remember that crime rates are complex and subject to many factors, including and especially poverty, policing, drugs etc. Please cite a single instance in which your claim that "crime will instantly drop" is true, and cannot be attributed to other factors, e.g. good economy, better policing, etc. (BTW, the 90s crime drop was largely attributable to better economic fortunes, and I might also add that there was the Brady Bill for all those low crime years... that certainly didn't increase crime) In debate, use somewhat plausible evidence, I don't need direct citations but blanket assertions are for idiots.

2. I think this pistol ruling brings up a larger issue about what exactly the 2nd amendment protect. Does the second amendment protect high powered rifles? Could I mount a 50cal machine gun on my H2? Can I carry an Sniper Rifle up and down the street? What about RPGs? Wired Guided Anti-Tank Rockets? What about Bradley Fighting Vehicles? I bet I could buy any this junk on the black market and get it shipped here, so don't say that I cant have my M2 Abrams tank just because the US government's contractors won't sell me one. Certainly an RPG (Rocket Propelled Grenade) is easy enough to come by. What societal use do military weapons have in the hands of individual citizens? Are they protected by the second amendment? Do I have a right to bear those? They're "Arms".

As far as this opinion goes, clearly the majority would agree that regulating such military weapons is legitimate. #2 is directed more at the absolutists. I want them to recognize that society should probably be able to have "some" regulation on weaponry. Unless you want Baghdad to come to our urban ghettos more than it already does, prohibiting RPGs seems like a good idea.

But what about assault rifles? Again, they have little use in hunting, I can't imagine carrying one around on the street to protect myself from thugs, and protecting my home? One, I live in a nice neighborhood and so do most of you, don't let CSI:Miami fool you into thinking murders and robberies hit suburbia that often. They make the news because they are relatively rare. Oh, and if you hunt with an assault rifle, you're not hunting, your playing a video game with a rabbit, and you're a loser, use a rifle for god's sake.

Two: If someone is robbing my home, should I get my m16? Well, if the house was on fire, I'd run away and leave my TV to burn. If I can get away, I should. If my family is in danger, getting them out is a must too. But using my assault rifle in the house? Do I want a shootout with people? What if they react to my gun and try and shoot me. Guarantee I'll be nervous as heck. Bullets go through walls, ceilings, and people. I don't think such weapons have any real use in "protection." They are a greater potential source of harm then they are of protection. Having them could also lead to them being stolen, or worse, the robber could get the gun first. (It won't fit under my pillow). Please gun nuts, don't say that "I know how to shoot and I'd take out the robbers without a problem! For 99% of people, owning a M4 or an AK is not a reasonable form of protection in America. Certainly not in Suburban america.

Lets be honest about crime: it is perpetrated, and it victimizes, to a far greater extent than other segments of the population, the poor and especially blacks and hispanics. Those who cling to their guns by and large imagine these minorities as the thugs that will mug them and rob them and murder them. They must know that the chance of this actually happening are slim overall. Not to say you all don't know someone whose been mugged (I know someone who was mugged in DC), but its relatively unlikely to happen to you. Its even more unlikely to happen to you while your in a situation where a gun will do any good. Are you gonna pull a gun when a mugger has his pointed at you? Real smart... Its only money

Lastly: I just have one final point: It is utterly ridiculous to assert that because criminals have guns that necessitates the rest of us to have guns. One reason we have laws is so that when people break them, they can be punished. Will criminals always have guns? Yea, probably, but if they get arrested, held for night, whatever, thats one more thing to send them to jail for 5 years for. Secondly, it is implausible to assert that making guns illegal will somehow leave criminals unaffected. The overall supply of guns is critical for determining how many people have them. If the only way to get a gun is to buy it illegally, that puts it out of the price range of most thugs. And every gun not in a private house is one gun that can't be stolen by a knife wielding thug. Will it disarm law-abiding citizens, yes. Will it reduce gun violence if guns aren't as available? Uh...yes.

Recognize that the gun debate is between these two competing values: disarming private citizens and denying them a method of protection, versus attempting to drain away a tool of violence that often results in citizens needing that protection. If you think that will lead to crime and more death, go look up the gun death figures for European countries and America. I believe we are around 5000 a year, most of Europe is in the law 100s or less. even per-capita, that says something.

Posted by: Skeptical | March 9, 2007 8:06 PM

Hillman's practical points are the important ones to think about. How will the Feds respond to citizens of DC being armed? They've never really been comfortable with us.

I don't understand why people keep saying handgun restrictions haven't worked. It's easy enough to say they don't work perfectly, but to say they don't limit handgun violence is impossible to prove, and defies common sense.

Posted by: Mark | March 9, 2007 8:10 PM

Mark, I'm proud of you for writing such a straightforward piece about guns and gun laws, and not your usual snarky oh-so-clever liberal drivel about drunken rednecks shooting each other and their kids. Now if you can just get the headline writer under control.

Posted by: Bob | March 9, 2007 8:12 PM

As I understand it, there is now a split among the circuits because 9 other circuits all have reached a conclusion opposite of the one reached by the DC Circuit. Add to this, that I've been told time and again that the second amendment has never been "incorporated" as to apply to the states under the Fourteenth amendment. I don't pretend to know how the Supreme Court will rule, but far and away the weight of judicial precedent is on DC's side. I imagine it will come down, as it often does, to the particular views of the judges. Who the heck knows what the framers intended, or why it should even apply?

Posted by: Chris | March 9, 2007 8:23 PM

The local gun bans are unconstitutional anyways and it's about time the courts started throwing them out. I'm a liberal, a Democrat, and I own guns and shoot and enjoy it. The Second Amendment guarrantees every citizen's right to keep and bear arms. Thomas Jefferson,in comments about that Amendment, which he authored mind you, made it clear that he intended it to apply to ordinary citizens.

"To these would be opposed a militia amounting to near half a million of citizens with arms in their hands, officered by men chosen from among themselves, fighting for their common liberties, and united and conducted by governments possessing their affections and confidence." - Jmaes Madison
ANd, note, the "officers" are popularly elected...this isn't the National Guard or military!

"Besides the advantage of being armed, which the Americans possess over the people of almost every other nation, the existence of subordinate governments, to which the people are attached, and by which the militia officers are appointed, forms a barrier against the enterprises of ambition, more insurmountable than any which a simple government of any form can admit of. Notwithstanding the military establishments in the several kingdoms of Europe, which are carried as far as the public resources will bear, the governments are afraid to trust the people with arms." Thomas Jefferson, commenting on the Second Amendment

"What country can preserve its liberties if its rulers are not warned from time to time that their people preserve the spirit of resistance? Let them take arms."
--Thomas Jefferson to William Stephens Smith, 1787.

A strong body makes the mind strong. As to the species of exercises, I advise the gun. While this gives moderate exercise to the body, it gives boldness, enterprise and independence to the mind. Games played with the ball, and others of that nature, are too violent for the body and stamp no character on the mind. Let your gun therefore be your constant companion of your walks."
--Thomas Jefferson to Peter Carr, 1785.

"The constitutions of most of our States assert that all power is inherent in the people; that they may exercise it by themselves in all cases to which they think themselves competent..., or they may act by representatives, freely and equally chosen; that it is their right and duty to be at all times armed; that they are entitled to freedom of person, freedom of religion, freedom of property, and freedom of the press." --Thomas Jefferson to John Cartwright, 1824

Posted by: MikeB | March 9, 2007 8:29 PM

There's a great quote: "Laws are made for honest people."

Banning guns in D.C. did nothing to lower gun crime or crime in general. I believe it actually increased. Contrary to what some some predicted, in places where gun laws were relaxed, the crime rate actually dropped. Wether that was actually due to more guns is debatable; but what is sure is that guns in the hands of law-abiding citizens DO NOT cause more crime. In fact, the opposite may be true.

It is statiscally proven that gun owners and gun enthusiasts are among the most law-abiding people in comparison to the general population.

How would a tragic and senseless event like Columbine have turned out if a teacher or other law-abiding individual at the school would of been able to have a gun?

Posted by: g-dude | March 9, 2007 8:42 PM

I have lived here in dc all my 43 yr and when i was a child we had guns here in DC there were little gun shooting but after they pass the gun contral law here it went up to the murder capital of the US for ten years and then they put a mantuary 5 yr for having a gun when you do a crime so then that did not stop the bad guys from getting ther guns but us good guy can not have one well i am glade that i can now be able to buy and teach my son on how to respect and trust fireames.

Posted by: M.Green | March 9, 2007 8:44 PM

The Court "went out of their way to trash" the City's arguments. Hardly. It is called legal reasoning. The City raised a lot of points about why the gun ban was needed and constitutional. Rather than calling it all a bunch of hogwash, the Court chose to address each point indvidually with reasoned argument. I guess we know which side you stand on Fischer.

BTW, to all you who want the ban to stand -- it is already illegal to kill someone, with or without a gun. So, pray tell, which gun control law will be the "miracle" law that actually stops the killing?

Posted by: ep | March 9, 2007 8:47 PM

Skeptical, I guess you live West of RC. People are killed regularly in my neighborhood in NE. I don't particularly care whether crime is reduced, even if it is reduced to a point of one murder per year down the street. As long as it is around, I want the ability to protect myself with lethal force so I am not that one.

Posted by: johng | March 9, 2007 8:54 PM

I suppose the right to bare arms is a necessary thing - if nothing else perhaps it will help us preserve our right to eat foods cooked with trans fat.

Posted by: E. Litella | March 9, 2007 8:54 PM

ON PAGE 57 OF THE COURTS OPINION AND ORDER, IT CLEARLY STATES THAT CARRYING GUNS IN PUBLIC OR IN AUTOMOBILES IS EXPRESSLY NOT REACHED IN SAID OPINION. Accordingly, what is reached and therefore authorized is firearm possession in one's own home or apartment in the District. One may not take a firearm into a common area of an apartment building, or a public area [street, etc] EVEN IF IN HOT PURSUIT OF CRIMINALS. FIRING A WEAPON INTO A COMMON OR PUBLIC AREA IS NOT SANCTIONED IN THIS OPINION EITHER SO DO YOUR DAMDEST NOT TO HELP THE POLICE STOP CRIMINALS ON THE STREET BY SHOOTING AT THEM FROM INSIDE YOUR PROPERTY LINE [THEY MIGHT NOT BE CROOKS, BUT UNDERCOVER OFFICERS AFTER ALL.] Any gun store opening in most parts of DC would need the entire police department not to get robbed -- so, don-t expect a major influx of firearm dealers too soon.

Posted by: | March 9, 2007 8:59 PM

On the matter of the dissenting judge, if the second amendment doesn't apply to District of Columbia, do any of the amendments apply?

Posted by: citizen | March 9, 2007 9:00 PM

A few comments from our founders, and others.

John Adams: "Arms in the hands of individual citizens may be used at individual private self- defense." A Defense of the Constitutions of Government of the United States of America (1787-88)

Samuel Adams, of Massachusetts: "The said Constitution [shall] be never construed to authorize Congress to infringe the just liberty of the press, or the rights of conscience; or to prevent the people of the United States, who are peaceable citizens, from keeping their own arms." --Massachusetts' U.S. Constitution ratification convention, 1788

Fisher Ames, of Massachusetts: "The rights of conscience, of bearing arms, of changing the government, are declared to be inherent in the people." -- Letter to F.R. Minoe, June 12, 1789

Edmund Burke: "The people never give up their liberties but under some delusion." (1784 speech)

Tench Coxe, of Pennsylvania: "The militia, who are in fact the effective part of the people at large, will render many troops quite unnecessary. They will form a powerful check upon the regular troops, and will generally be sufficient to over-awe them." -- An American Citizen, Oct. 21, 1787

Tench Coxe, of Pennsylvania: "Who are the militia? Are they not ourselves? Congress have no power to disarm the militia. Their swords and every other terrible implement of the soldier, are the birthright of an American . . . . The unlimited power of the sword is not in the hands of either the federal or state governments, but, where I trust in God it will ever remain, in the hands of the people." -- The Pennsylvania Gazette, Feb. 20, 1788

Tench Coxe, of Pennsylvania: "As the military forces which must occasionally be raised to defend our country, might pervert their power to the injury of their fellow citizens, the people are confirmed by the next article (of amendment) in their right to keep and bear their private arms." -- Federal Gazette, June 18, 1789

Elbridge Gerry, of Massachusetts: "What, sir, is the use of militia? It is to prevent the establishment of a standing army, the bane of liberty. . . Whenever Government means to invade the rights and liberties of the people, they always attempt to destroy the militia, in order to raise a standing army upon its ruins." -- Debate, U.S. House of Representatives, August 17, 1789

Benjamin Franklin: "They that give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety." Historical Review of Pennsylvania, (1759).

William Grayson, of Virginia: "[A] string of amendments were presented to the lower House; these altogether respected personal liberty." -- Letter to Patrick Henry, June 12, 1789, referring to the introduction of what became the Bill of Rights

Alexander Hamilton, of New York: "[I]f circumstances should at any time oblige the government to form an army of any magnitude, that army can never be formidable to the liberties of the people while there is a large body of citizens, little if at all inferior to them in discipline and the use of arms, who stand ready to defend their rights and those of their fellow citizens." -- The Federalist, No. 29

Patrick Henry, of Virginia: "Guard with jealous attention the public liberty. Suspect every one who approaches that jewel. Unfortunately, nothing will preserve it but downright force. Whenever you give up that force, you are ruined." During Virginia's ratification convention (1788)

Adolph Hitler: "This year will go down in history. For the first time a civilized nation has full gun registration. Our streets will be safer, our police more efficient, and the world will follow our lead into the future." (1935)

Thomas Jefferson, of Virginia: "Laws that forbid the carrying of arms. . . disarm only those who are neither inclined nor determined to commit crimes. . . Such laws make things worse for the assaulted and better for the assailants; they serve rather to encourage than to prevent homicides, for an unarmed man may be attacked with greater confidence than an armed man." -- Jefferson's "Commonplace Book," 1774-1776, quoting from On Crimes and Punishment, by criminologist Cesare Beccaria, 1764

Thomas Jefferson: "The strongest reason for the people to retain the right to keep and bear arms is, as a last resort, to protect themselves against tyranny in government." (SOF 10/92?)

Thomas Jefferson: "No free man shall ever be debarred the use of arms." Proposed Virginia Constitution (1776), Jefferson Papers 344, (J. Boyd, ed. 1950)

Richard Henry Lee of Virginia: "A militia when properly formed are in fact the people themselves... and include all men capable of bearing arms...To preserve liberty it is essential that the whole body of people always possess arms..." Additional Letters From The Federal Farmer 53 (1788)

James Madison, of Virginia: The Constitution preserves "the advantage of being armed which Americans possess over the people of almost every other nation. . . (where) the governments are afraid to trust the people with arms." -- The Federalist, No. 46

George Mason, of Virginia: "[W]hen the resolution of enslaving America was formed in Great Britain, the British Parliament was advised by an artful man, who was governor of Pennsylvania, to disarm the people; that it was the best and most effectual way to enslave them; but that they should not do it openly, but weaken them, and let them sink gradually.". . . I ask, who are the militia? They consist now of the whole people, except a few public officers." -- Virginia's U.S. Constitution ratification convention, 1788

George Mason, of Virginia: "That the People have a right to keep and bear Arms; that a well regulated Militia, composed of the Body of the People, trained to arms, is the proper, natural, and safe Defence of a free state." -- Within Mason's declaration of "the essential and unalienable Rights of the People," -- later adopted by the Virginia ratification convention, 1788

Thomas Paine, of Pennsylvania: "[A]rms discourage and keep the invader and plunderer in awe, and preserve order in the world as well as property. . . Horrid mischief would ensue were the law-abiding deprived of the use of them." -- Thoughts On Defensive War, 1775

William Pitt: "If I were an American, as I am an Englishman, while a foreign troop was landed in my country, I never would lay down my arms--never--never--never! You cannot conquer America." 1777 speech.

Noah Webster, of Pennsylvania: "Before a standing army can rule, the people must be disarmed; as they are in almost every kingdom in Europe. The supreme power in America cannot enforce unjust laws by the sword; because the whole body of the people are armed, and constitute a force superior to any band of regular troops that can be, on any pretence, raised in the United States. A military force, at the command of Congress, can execute no laws, but such as the people perceive to be just and constitutional; for they will possess the power." -- An Examination of The Leading Principles of the Federal Constitution, Philadelphia, 1787

Posted by: Kennon Ledbetter | March 9, 2007 9:00 PM


Posted by: | March 9, 2007 9:09 PM

I am very happy, I will be able to own a hand gun in my home against home invasions. The DC Gun Control Law has been useless for 30 years, and the criminals had more guns than MPD. Myself and other law abiding citizens want have to depend on the Fourth District for protection. Mayor Adrian Malik Fenty have a MPD security team to protect him and his wife, and their home, but we law abiding citizens will have to defend ourselves. 16th Street Heights Neighborhood

Posted by: Ward 4 Resident In DC | March 9, 2007 9:19 PM

"Skeptical" has it right. Whoever believes that guns are actually useful to defend yourself against criminals or would produce a drop in crime ... you're deluding yourselves.

For those people, including the woolly headed judges in this case, who think the Second Amendment is relevant to life in the 21st century, consider that it was written when people carried muskets to fight the redcoats and their rifles wouldn't fire reliably and couldn't be concealed in a pair of blue jeans.

Bottom line: if you want to own a gun and shoot it ... get the heck out of DC but don't spew your vile baloney about the right to bear arms while kids are getting shot in this city almost every day.

And by the way, I live East of RC.

Posted by: DK in DC | March 9, 2007 9:21 PM

Kennon Ledbetter, we could do without your very long statement. Man was it too long, and most people didn't read it on here.

Posted by: DC citizen | March 9, 2007 9:22 PM

OK, folks, I've read just about enough anti-gun propaganda. I am a firm believer in the right to keep and bear arms. For those of you who argue so passionately that "assault rifles have no sporting purpose" and "handguns cause crime" consider this - is your car capable of exceeding the speed limit? Of course it is. Simply because an object has the potential to be used incorrectly does not mean that you must use it in that unlawful way. Regulation, reasonable restriction, oversight, yes. Further erosion of an amendment providing for the defense of your self and others, no. And now, the views of a few patriots, far smarter men than you or I.

We are right to take alarm at the first experiment upon our liberties.
- James Madison

They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.
- Benjamin Franklin

Laws that forbid the carrying of arms... disarm only those who are neither inclined nor determined to commit crimes. ...Such laws make things worse for the assaulted and better for the assailants; they serve rather to encourage than to prevent homicides, for an unarmed man may be attacked with greater confidence than an armed man.
- Thomas Jefferson

I welcome any logical and rational responses.

Posted by: | March 9, 2007 9:25 PM

Actually, Kennon Ledbetter's post was interesting. It is somewhat directed to what a "malitia" meant at the time. I would like to see some quotes from that time having another point of view.

Posted by: johng | March 9, 2007 9:29 PM

From the Dissent

Judge Henderson wrote (on page 11):

"The Second Amendment's "character and aim" does not require that we treat the District as a State. The Amendment was drafted in response to the perceived threat to the "free[dom]" of the "State[s]" posed by a national standing army controlled by the federal government."

I love the say she directly quoted individual words from the Second Amendment, and then proceeded to knowingly change the words - and their meanings - inside the quotation marks. I'm surprised she didn't take the liberty of de-capitlizing the first "S" in "[s]tate[s]" to further demonstrate how non-sensical her dissenting opinon really is.

Hell, why didn't she just insert an [f] in front of "arms", and put an end to this ongoing debate once and for all?

Posted by: Bruce | March 9, 2007 9:31 PM

People who think that having a handgun will make them safer are deluded from watching too many movies and cop shows. Guess what people, the reason why the good guy never gets killed is because the whole thing is scripted. While in "super safe" VA as a passenger with a friend, we experienced an attempted carjacking. The guy had an uzi pointed inches away from my face after shooting me in the leg. I found out afterwards he would have not thought twice about killing me - as he had an extremely violent and long criminal record. With the uzi in my face, all i kept think was "I hope to God my friend doesn't have a gun under his front seat. See if my friend had one the only way he could have defended the two of us was to reach down, grab the gun, undo the safety, bring his arm up, aim the gun and then pulled the trigger. That's six different steps while all the crimal had to do is one - pull the trigger and I would have been dead. Life is not the movies - you can't dodge bullets while doing some super karate kick. Incidently, the only way we escape is that we used our heads to distract him long enough to gun the car away from him - still he managed to pump 26 bullets into the car, one of which hit my friend in the head. There is not a gun in this world that will make you safe!

Posted by: dre7861 | March 9, 2007 9:31 PM - You are leaving out other quote by Jefferson where he felt that the sporting use of guns was good for you. The Second Amendment clearly applies to individuals and guarrantees their right to own guns. If what you call an assault rifle is an SKS, then "yes" I would ban it. They are not safe. Ditto for cheap Saturday Night Special handguns. About the only reason I can think of for owning an assault style gun is competition shooting, something I enjoy, and you need something well made and accurate like an AR14 or an HK for that...a cheap SKS has no purpose other than as a gang weapon. Its junk and dangerous junk. Pistols fall into the same category. A cheap Makarov or a MAC10 has no use as a sporting or means of self defense. There is nothing that these can do that a nice Glock #22 or well made SIG cannot do. We need the Consumer Product Safety Commission to certify firearms as safe, force manufacturers to make them safe, and make them expensive enough that they don't have any appeal to gangs. Theft and the circulation of guns as a result of theft, can b eliminate by requiring every firearm be locked in a gun safe unless it is under the direct control of the owner. Sweden and Norway have laws like these, quite as many of those people own guns and shoot them for sport and hunting, and they have virtually no gun crimes. We need to do likewise! Now I'm both a liberal and a "gun nut" and I want to end the hysteria over guns and gun control and I think these small steps will go a long ways towards accomplishing that.

Posted by: MikeB | March 9, 2007 9:39 PM

The problem with the "militia" theory is this: the wording of the first, second, fourth and fifth amendments is very similar. All of them speak about "...the right of the people..." So if a winning legal argument can be found to restrict the second amendment, the same legal argument can be used to used to restrict the equally-precious first, fourth and fifth amendments. Think it can't happen? Think of the Patriot Act. As Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz once said, "Foolish liberals who want to write the second amendment out of the constitution because it's not an individual right or it's a threat to public safety don't see the danger in the big picture. They are making it easier for other groups to use similar means to get rid of parts of the Constituion that THEY don't like."

Posted by: Dave | March 9, 2007 9:40 PM

The right to self-defense is the most fundamental of all civil rights, in addition to being a constitutional right. The honest citizens of our nation's capital have been sitting ducks long enough. If Mayor Fenty truly cared for their welfare, he would accept the decision.

Posted by: John | March 9, 2007 9:52 PM

Fenty won't, but he will eventually lose. The ulra-liberal tyrannical stronghold on this city is crumbling. And I'm loving every minute of it.

Posted by: johng | March 9, 2007 9:55 PM

It's kind of ironic. Mayor Fenty is victimizing the residents of D.C. by wasting their money on efforts that, if successful, would continue their victimization.

Posted by: olson | March 9, 2007 10:00 PM

brucerealtor, thank you for attempting to inject a sense of reality into the zero-sum game played in the blogosphere.

Here is what will happen:

1- This issue will continue to be argued in the courts for years.

2- If (big if) this ruling stands, the city can and will impose many restrictions on the sale and posession of handguns, semi-automatic rifles, and possibly other weapons, which will make ownership difficult.

3- There is no chance that there will be a concealed carry law in DC.

I will also point out that even though Virginia has fairly permissive procedure for acquiring a concealed weapons permit, there is an extensive list of places where no weapons are allowed - concealed or not. In practical terms, this greatly limits the number of people carrying concealed weapons.

Posted by: frenchyb | March 9, 2007 10:10 PM

The self-defense ban is over. Good to see common sense won.

Posted by: carson | March 9, 2007 10:11 PM

Folks, this amendment isn't about whether DC should ban guns or not. The reasoning behind this decision undermines the entire rationale behing regulating guns. This is the gun control equivalent of the Neo-Conservative theory behind democratization in the middle east and supply-theory that revenue increases when tax rates go down.

This is dangerous

Posted by: Silberman is a nut | March 9, 2007 10:11 PM

The 2nd amendment is ambiguous as to the intent of the Founding Fathers. Did they mean that every able-bodied man was to be a member of a well-regulated militia AND therefore he should not by law be prevented from carrying firearms? Or did they mean that any man, woman, and child, regardless of circumstance has a right to carry firearms of every description even when concealed? The fact that voters in the United States of America largely support liberal firearm ownership means that realistic restrictions on gun ownership are unlikely to be implemented. Moreover, as in the District of Columbia case, a firearms ownership restriction disarms the law-abiding as it arms the criminals. Firearms are nasty bits of machinery that maim and kill. And they are extremely popular. Banning firearms simply stirs up illegal trade in firearms. It does little to remove firearms from the environment. Use of a firearm during the commission of a felony should net the criminal a lifetime in solitary confinement.

Posted by: Roy G. Biv | March 9, 2007 10:15 PM

frenchyb: sorry, but what does zero-sum gain mean here.

Posted by: brandon | March 9, 2007 10:17 PM

It reminds me of an old SNL skit with Ed Asner, where he states to his nuclear plant staff before going on vacation:

"Just remember, you can never put too much water in a nuclear reactor."

Eventually, a mushroom cloud is seen from his beach house.

Posted by: johng | March 9, 2007 10:21 PM

Attention DC Criminals: Citizens will soon be able to legally own firearms in their homes. Better do your homework and find out which homes are unarmed before you break in again!!!

Posted by: Gun Nut | March 9, 2007 10:27 PM

The second amendment IS an individual right.

Crime in DC is socio-economic based. Society is safer when criminals don't know who is armed.

Reach me at

Posted by: Buck Turgidson | March 9, 2007 10:27 PM

Here is the site of the next school shooting (Excel Academy in Ohio):

Posted by: kevin67 | March 9, 2007 10:34 PM

Some of you folks really are amazing. The second amendment was not about hunting. It was about the people's ability to protect themselves from a tyrannical government. So, to answer one poster's question, yeah, I think assault rifles have a legitimate place in our society. I won't use mine to hunt with since I have other ones for that use.

A couple of you commented on how you didn't bother to read Ken Ledbetter's post. That's your problem. You don't take the time to read such things, learn about our history and you remain uninformed about the intent of the framers when they wrote the constitution. The bill of rights does not list rights given to us by the government. We created the government. The bill of rights only lists the rights that we already have and the things that the government cannot do. Take the time to read Ken's post and become a little educated about our nation's history.

Want to know about crime rates? I understand the multiple and very complex socio-economic factors that play into crime statistics. I still find it hard to believe that when concealed carry legislation went into broad effect in the 80's (beginning with Florida) that the corresponding drops in crime rates in those twenty-two states were merely a coincidence. Take a look at the crime statistics for the major cities in Australia after their massive gun ban went into effect a little over a decade ago. Crime rates went up in those cities anywhere from 200% to 600% virtually overnight. Could it have been changing socio-economic conditions, sure I guess. But, after a while, coincidence after coincidence seems to me to be a little more than just wishful thinking on our part.

And, don't make me laugh when you talk about punishing criminals for the crimes they commit. You cannot even be saying that with a straight face. As soon as we get real about the sentences we hand down to violent felons, then we can talk about the efficacy of the judicial and correctional systems in this country. Until then, you're just talking about overnights at a bed breakfast where the thugs can get a hot shower and a free meal.

Finally, even if it didn't substantially drop crime rates, my concern rests with me and my family. I want the ability to protect myself against that one crime that really won't affect the statistics too much, but would affect me forever. And, no, we aren't deluding ourselves. Firearms are used every single day in this country to stop the commission of a crime. They don't always have to be fired. Sometimes, just the presentation of a firearm can thwart a crime.

And, yes, there are times that I won't be able to reach my firearm. There might be a time when I'm too slow to react to do any good. But, on the other hand, maybe I'll have the chance to draw and fire when someone's trying to rob me or is raping a woman in an alley. Even if I only have one chance out of ten to save my life with a firearm, then that's the ability I want to have.

Are we really the sons and daughters of revolutionaries that threw off British rule for the chance to govern ourselves? Are we truly the descendants of the pioneers that forged new lives in the western wilderness? When did we become such sheep by abdicating our personal responsibility and freedom to the hope that the federal government will protect us and take care of all of our needs?

What's the average response time where you live for a police unit to arrive if you were to call for help? Two minutes? Four? More?? The police are there to protect society as a whole by catching offenders after the crime has been committed. Relatively speaking, it is very rare that police actually catch offenders in the commission of a crime. So, what do you do in that two minutes or four when someone has kicked in the door to your house and has evil in his heart and a gun in his hand?

I know. Grab your golf club...

Posted by: Garrett Lucas | March 9, 2007 10:44 PM

Dear Skeptical:
I feel it is important to address a few points that you make.
1)Read the Lott study from 1998 entitled More guns, Less crime. This is just one of the ones that jumps to mind. You can also find more, try checking with the Second Amendment Foundation, contact John Ross, Clint Smith, Massad Ayoob and others. Also if you interview felons they will tell you (I have seen the video) they fear armed homeowners, they don't want to get shot any more than you do.
2) Most of these "arms" you address are governed under the NFA of 1934 and the GCA of 1968. You can not (generally) carry or show arms in public as this is considered threatening to the general population. Allowing guns in DC and other parts of the country will not have R.P.G.s and other types of military weapons running rampant in the streets. As to semi-automatic military style weapons (ar-15s, ak-47s, fals, and others), shooting is a sport, it takes training, equipment, knowledge and skill. It is designed for recreation, fun, competition, hunting and yes, self-defense should the need arise. If people choose (this is still a free country) to shoot these "assault weapons" (incidentally anything used to assault another is considered an "assault weapon" including knives, sticks, rocks, rolling pins etc) they have that right. It is actually quite fun to shoot many of these guns, I recommend any one (who is legally able to and has received some instruction from a compotent person) broaden their horizons and shoot some of these at a range or other approved shooting facility.
As to crime only occuring in suburbia on TV please tell me where you live! I would love to live in a safe place free from crime, unfortunately all places have or will suffer from violent crime (they always say "I never thought this could happen here").
3) As a responsible gun owner (which I am sure you would be) you would keep you guns secured in a safe or lockbox. You would keep a gun accesible in gun vault (quick access safe), or on your person. You could also remove your chosen home defense arm from its secure storage device each night and put it back each morning. You would also know from reading various magazines, books, articles, talking with others in the shooting community and taking some instruction, what would be an appropriate home defense weapon for where you live. In a rural area where you may be protecting livestock from coyotes, or other problems an AR or AK may not be inappropriate. If you live in an apartment or townhouse anything more than a pistol with glaser safety slugs or magsafe ammo, or a shot gun with birdshot would endanger your neighbors.
As to being honest about crime while many poor people are victims the crooks know that poor people don't drive Escalades, wear Gucci and Rolexes and have much walking around money, they don't watch plasma screens, have jewelry boxes or art, they certainly don't have real silverware so just who do you think criminals that want to make money will look to?
As far as being mugged and pulling your own gun goes you are right, depending on the situation you would not draw against someone who already has his/her gun out unless it appeared they were going to shoot you anyway (wait a criminal wouldn't do that right? it is against the rules of armed robbery isn't it?). When you get in your car you buckle up, does that mean you plan to be in an accident? People who exercise their right to self defense do not go looking for a fight they are just preparing to not be a victim.
As to your final point, actgually if criminals have guns we should all have guns. This levels the playing field. If a criminal breaks into my home with a gun how do you propose I defend my family until he/she leaves? If I call the police do you think they will leave? The police respond to crimes, they only vary rarely prevent them before they happen. They take a report, gather evidene and try to catch the bad guy and lock him/her up AFTER THE CRIME IS OVER. That means after they have tied me up, beaten me, robbed me, raped my wife and daughter, tied them up (all at gunpoint) then the police will come and take the report, they will not be there like Superman to stop it from happening. As to gun laws, the United States has some of the strictest and harshest laws out there, they are also largely unenforced (look it up). We don't need more laws we need more enforcment of the ones we have. If you outlaw all guns the honest law abiding people will turn in their guns the criminals will not (they are after all criminals) this will send the clear message that the person you are going to commit a crime against is more likely NOT to be armed and therfore a good victim. Illegally bought guns aren't as expensive as you think, most of them are stolen, how much is something worth to you if it didn't cost you anything in the first place? If guns are outlawed only outlaws will have guns. The best defense is to get educated, get trained and apply for your concealed carry permit.

Ask the Jews in Germany and Poland how well gun control served them in the late gthirties, ask the Rawandans how well it served them in the nineties. The Brits are starting to arm more of their police force every year. As far as your statistics on the number of gun deaths they include suicides, police shootings, gang violence and more. I noticed you didn't mention the hundreds of thousands of times (this is conservative) guns save lives every year? After all, 40,000 people die in car crashes, 5,000 people die from foodborne illness, 36,000 from influenza, 14,000 from falls. So what should we outlaw next? Firearm education, safe handling and storage pratices, and more firing ranges and schools to teach shooting technique are needed to help with this problem, not more laws that endanger the honest people of this country.

Posted by: MikeL | March 9, 2007 10:44 PM

brandon, what I'm getting at is that most people commenting on this blog entry (and many others) predict two outcomes which are radically different.

1- Some people predict that DC will fall into wild west chaos with shootouts on every corner, because handguns are now legal.

2- Other people say that crime drop, because the bad guys are now afraid of a constantly armed and vigilant population.

The point is that people predict only the best or worst case scenarios. My opinion is that there will be little net change. On one hand, maybe some home break-ins will be averted by an armed homeowner, but a fair number of legally-owned handguns will also be involved in domestic disputes, accidental shootings, or will be stolen when a home is burglarized while no one is home.

Posted by: frenchyb | March 9, 2007 10:53 PM

Mike wrote:
"The argument that the Founding Fathers could not have foreseen firearms development, so the 2nd Amendment 'doesn't count', is like saying the 1st Amendment doesn't apply to television."

Actually, since the dawn of broadcasting the first amendment has been seen not to apply to radio or TV broadcasts. Would publishing a photograph of Janet Jackson's pasty-covered nipple have resulted in an indecency fine for the publisher? No. Would the "fairness doctrine" pass constitutinal muster? Never.

Posted by: Anonymous | March 9, 2007 10:54 PM

Oddly only criminals commit gun crimes... Most people can not quote Jefferson, and are not really interested in constitutional technicalities. In fact, most of the people who will be hurt by this will barely understand the legal nuances associated with it at all.

Frankly, most of the frothing NRA types that I've met are some of the most morally reprehensible people I have ever encountered, and an awful lot of them are barely civilized freaks with anger management problems. The thing is, having guns outlawed in DC does not, and has not stopped "law abiding" people from breaking the law and having them at home anyway.

I would personally be perfectly happy were guns to remain outlawed in DC, & for them to be taxed to the sky elsewhere as well.

Most countries that don't have our sort of gun culture are a lot safer places to be than the US is, and that's an undeniable fact.

Posted by: Gentry | March 9, 2007 10:59 PM

See this re Skeptical's first question:

An interesting and detailed rebuttal of the Lott book.

Posted by: TK | March 9, 2007 11:20 PM

To the judge that provided the dissent. Does this mean since DC is not a state that women should not have the right to vote and maybe slavery should still be legal. She really needs to have a better argument than that.

Posted by: tony | March 9, 2007 11:24 PM

Think, folks. Everything after the comma does not depend on the matter before the comma for its imperative to be carried out.

Let's say there's a well-known poster to these pages, call her 'Jane', who will be absent from this discussion because of a circumstance conveyed by Jane to her friend, Sally. Sally posts here:

"Jane being sick, she will not be posting today."

But Jane isn't sick. She's with her new boyfriend, and she doesn't want Sally to know. So, be it sickness, a boyfriend, or a trip to Paris, what remains true is that "she will not be posting here today."

So also it goes with the Second Amendment. Whatever the stated reason, right, wrong or imprecise, the imperative remains, unmolested: "the right of the People shall not be infringed."

Posted by: American | March 9, 2007 11:34 PM

Amazing how many gun whackos crawled out of the wordwork to applaud this decision and post comments here. The NRA must have had its membership lined up to start typing. (Maybe the activist court tipped them off?) So, if the District has to permit sales, let us have the Council set the permit fee to something reasonable, like $250,000 per permit. Boys and girls who covet guns (and, they are indeed mere boys and girls) can shoulder that fee to satisfy their dim little egos.

Posted by: Juis | March 9, 2007 11:47 PM

someone stated "a cheap SKS has no purpose other than as a gang weapon. Its junk and dangerous junk"

Thats a pretty asinine statement if I ever heard. I know dozens of folks who hunt with them. Sorry, but not everyone is John Kerry or Dick Cheney and can afford to hunt with a fine $200,000 european shotgun. Some folks hunt to put food on the table and an inexpensive SKS is just the tool they need.

As far as the statement thats an SKS is junk, well I guess no one told that to the huge numbers of SKS's that have survived dozens of wars over the last half century and are still going strong and taking tens of thousands (if not more) deer in this country

Posted by: Countertop | March 9, 2007 11:49 PM

3 AM. Something breaks downstairs. You're startled awake. You lie quietly to try to hear anything else. That step that creaks halfway up the stairs yields its unmistakable signal. Your 4 year old calls out from the room next to yours. Every one of you wants a loaded, unlocked, repeating handgun right now! It is your GOD given right. If our assailant (surprised that the house is not empty) not only believes you could be armed, but believes it is likely, he will probably withdraw.

Posted by: Greg | March 9, 2007 11:50 PM

Judge Henderson is a fool. Does she honestly think the Bill of Rights does not apply to DC 's citizens because DC isn't a state? Is she going to tell me next that freedom of speech and religion don't apply to me either? The woman should be removed from the bench. She's clearly not up to the job.

Posted by: a free DC citizen | March 10, 2007 12:25 AM

Juis, are you willing to pay the same $250,000 for a free speech permit?

Posted by: Rights are not to be taxed! | March 10, 2007 12:29 AM

One thing that I have not seen discussed here is the fact that the first instances of gun control laws came post Civil War.

It seems there were quite a number of blacks who took the "being freed" idea very literally. They weren't going to take being told what to do anymore and used their firearms to defend their property and family,quite successfully I might add.

So the first instances of gun control laws were blatant attempts by the white majority to deny the black families the means to defend themselves.

Looks like it's still going on, huh?

Posted by: BillF | March 10, 2007 12:39 AM

Billf -- I think you have your history a little muddled. The second amendment exists because gun control was an issue in colonial times and for at least a century earlier. However, it is true that both the National Rifle Association and the Ku Klux Klan were founded in 1871, in the immediate aftermath of the Civil War.

Posted by: Anonymous | March 10, 2007 12:52 AM

Hey Skeptical. No one I know has a M16 or "assault rifle" If you knew what you were talking about when you say assault rifle you would know that is a military automatic rifle! This term "assault" is widely used to scare people like you. An Ar15 rifle may look like a military rifle but I will tell you this, that a good hunting 308 or 30-06 will blow away these look alike "semi-auto" rifles that you and your ilk claim to be "assault" rifle! And yes, they can be used to hunt with and are used all the time for differant situations, and for target shooting!To me this whole gun thing is but a scare used by politicians as also global warming. "The whole aim of practical politics, is to keep the populace alarmed and hence clamorous to be led to safety by mencacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary!" H. L. Mencken

Posted by: Hummm | March 10, 2007 1:14 AM

As a long term gun owner, and a member of the National Guard and a combat vet, I can say that owning a gun does not give you the ability to defend yourself. Learning to think tactically and be able to handle yourself in a crisis is a must. Having a firearm gives you the tools to react if the crisis is assualt from another human being. If some one has an Uzi to your head, then know you can't react with a gun, but that is an exception to most armed assualts. Most assualts a observant person does have plenty of time to analysis a situation and resort to lethal force if necessary. Most people in the modern world don't want to live with a mindset where they might have to be responsible for their own safety 24/7 so its easier to deny the tools or anything that remains them of that simple fact of life.

Oh and the regular miltia of these United States of America is defind as ALL males between the ages of 18-45. That is federal law and its the legal justification for Selective Service and the Draft.

Posted by: Tower | March 10, 2007 1:40 AM

I am black, a registered Democrat, and born and raised in DC since 1955. I am so glad the courts overturned the District strict Gun Control Law. This law didnt keep guns off the streets of DC, because all the criminals had them, and not just in DC, but all across this country. I live in Ward 4, and I don*t feel safe. The Fourth District has done a poor job in protecting law abiding citizens. Mayor Adrian Fenty has a MPD security team protecting him, his wife, and his home. He don*t have to worry about someone breakin into his home. I tell you, these liberal politicians here in DC at the Wilson Building and Delegate Holmes-Norton have done the residents of the District a disservce by enacting this law. Let*s face it, most of these hoodlums committing these crimes in DC and in most major cities on the east coast are blacks. So far in Baltimore City, they have had 50 homicides since January, 2007. Why black Mayors like Adrian Fenty and Shelia Dixon of Washington, D.C. and Baltimore, Maryland isn*t addressing this black on black crime? Many so called educated liberal Democratic NEGROES want to push this under the carpet, but Bill Cosby was right on point with his statements about the black community. I don*t blame white folks in DC for wanting to arm themselves against these black hoodlums terrorizing our neighborhoods, because I am black, and I am tired of these hoodlums terrorizing on our streets. Enough is enough! Brightwood Park Ward 4 DC

Posted by: Brightwood Park In Ward 4 D.C. | March 10, 2007 3:41 AM

Done right (which in this City will never happen) this could be an economic boom for this city. Think about it. Gun shows in the Convention Center, franchise and other taxes for the gun shops, high but reasonable license fees. Heck, that stupid stadium that was rammed down our throats will be paid for in no time, just by letting law abiding citizens have guns to protect themselves.

Posted by: ep | March 10, 2007 11:41 AM

1. "But while this is just the latest of a long line of skirmishes over the meaning of the Second Amendment, the judges in the majority--Laurence Silberman and Thomas Griffith--went out of their way to trash the legal theories behind the D.C. law."

The Justices threw the DC gun ban in the trash because that where it belongs! History is NOT on the side of the DC (or any other state) gun banners:

The whole of that Bill [of Rights] is a declaration of the right of the people at large or considered as individuals...[I]t establishes some rights of the individual as unalienable and which consequently, no majority has a right to deprive them of.
---Albert Gallatin to Alexander Addison, Oct 7, 1789, MS. in N.Y. Hist. Soc.-A.G. Papers, 2.

"The constitutions of most of our States assert that all power is inherent in the people; that they may exercise it by themselves in all cases to which they think themselves competent..., or they may act by representatives, freely and equally chosen; that it is their right and duty to be at all times armed; that they are entitled to freedom of person, freedom of religion, freedom of property, and freedom of the press."

--Thomas Jefferson to John Cartwright, 1824

No free man shall ever be debarred the use of arms. The strongest reason for the people to retain the right to keep and bear arms is, as a last resort, to protect themselves against tyranny in government"
-- Thomas Jefferson, 1 Thomas Jefferson Papers, 334

"The very atmosphere of firearms anywhere and everywhere restrains evil interference - they deserve a place of honor with all that's good"
-- George Washington

"The best we can hope for concerning the people at large is that they be properly armed."
-- Alexander Hamilton, The Federalist Papers at 184-188

Are we at last brought to such a humiliating and debasing degradation, that we cannot be trusted with arms for our own defence? Where is the difference between having our arms in our own possession and under our own direction, and having them under the management of Congress? If our defence be the *real* object of having those arms, in whose hands can they be trusted with more propriety, or equal safety to us, as in our own hands?
-- Patrick Henry, speech of June 9 1788

"To disarm the people... was the best and most effectual way to enslave them."
-- George Mason, speech of June 14, 1788

"The great object is, that every man be armed. [...] Every one who is able may have a gun."
-- Patrick Henry, speech of June 14 1788

2. "The 2-1 ruling, which the city will immediately appeal, threatens to bring gun shops and easy ownership of handguns back to the District"

By easy ownership of handguns I assume you mean that the District of Columbia SHALL be compliant with federal regulations and laws for the purchase of firearms. Sorry this is not easy access, it is the law.

Posted by: GH | March 10, 2007 11:42 AM

RE: Not Compensating. Actually, the US v Miller court found, that in light of no evidence to the contrary, a sawed-off shotgun was not an appropriate weapon for the militia. However, there was no representation for the defense. None whatsoever. When you take that into account, the fact that the court specifically mentioned the above pretty much means that had the defendant been able to provide such evidence(sayyy, an equipment list from WWI showing the use of short-barreled shotguns in the military) they would have found in his favor.

Posted by: Jordan | March 10, 2007 12:11 PM

RE: Most countries that don't have our sort of gun culture are a lot safer places to be than the US is, and that's an undeniable fact.

Posted by: Gentry | March 9, 2007 10:59 PM

Sorry Gentry, but given the opportunity criminals will be criminals by whatever means necessary!
And that's a fact!

Firearms are one form of violence against individuals. When firearms are banned, they will still be used against individuals as will other commonly available "toosl" that will be transformed in to weapons used against individuals. Lack of a "gun culture" does not mean a safer environment, drop in crime or violence against individuals, violence will be carried out in different forms. Lets look at the "UK Knife culture":

"THE number of crimes involving knives on the streets of England and Wales has risen dramatically in the past year, with huge increases in their use during robberies, mugging and violent attacks on strangers. "

"Attacks in which a knife was used during a mugging rose by 73 per cent while there was a 55 per cent increase in random attacks with knives on strangers."

"The number of robberies carried out using a knife rose by 15,000 to 40,400 in 2005-06; muggings involving a knife increased by 17,730 to 42,000 and violent attacks using a knife on a stranger rose 18,300 to 51,700."

And yes gun crime is rampant in the UK, with gun bans as stringent as in DC.

Capital gun crime rises by 50 per cent [London]

And by the way, if you have not figured it out, criminals do not obey the law.

Researcher Davis, in a presentation and discussion for the International Assn. of Chiefs of Police, noted that none of the attackers interviewed was "hindered by any law--federal, state or local--that has ever been established to prevent gun ownership. They just laughed at gun laws." [The Force Science Research Center, a non-profit institution based at Minnesota State University, Mankato.]


Posted by: HG | March 10, 2007 12:41 PM

As a former criminal defense attorney in DC, I assure you, any crook can buy a hand gun on most any street corner in DC for FAR LESS than it would cost in MD or VA! (You can also deal with "unlicensed pharmicists" there and buy "non prescription drugs" like Crack or Heroin, whcih is also against the law).

The DC gun laws were passed by an initive back in the early '70's in response to the 1968 riots. It's High Time to get rid of them.

To Nancy: DC HAS a militia (as pointed out in the opinion) so you, yourself, MAY be a member of it and subject to the "draft"!

The DC Attorney General apparently filed a "kitchen sink brief" and threw whatever he could find into it. That's how they operate! The other side had better lawyers.

Posted by: foo | March 10, 2007 1:01 PM

Sorry, Jordan, those UK figures are still dramatically less than here in the U.S., and even if you add in the knife figures, which of course involved a weapon that is a fraction as lethal as a gun, the numbers are still much less. It is safer to walk the streets in any European or East Asian city than it is here, as well as in most South American cities. That is a fact, and the difference is guns.

Posted by: Mark | March 10, 2007 1:12 PM

Anyone who thinks that the word "militia" is somehow limiting should familiarize themselves with it's definition:
"1. a body of citizens enrolled for military service, and called out periodically for drill but serving full time only in emergencies.
2. a body of citizen soldiers as distinguished from professional soldiers.
3. all able-bodied males considered by law eligible for military service.
4. a body of citizens organized in a paramilitary group and typically regarding themselves as defenders of individual rights against the presumed interference of the federal government."

The operative word here is CITIZENS. The whole point of a militia is that it is composed of ordinary citizens who are able to defend themselves or their democracy in a time of emergency.

Posted by: Definition of Militia | March 10, 2007 2:42 PM

What Dc needs is gun laws like VA. Especially the concealed weapon statutes. since criminals in Dc already carry concealed handguns etc law abiding citizens should be allowed the same privilege. And Marc instead sitting in your upper NW mansion deciding whether a super Tuscan beats a top Cali cab why not get off your fat liberal ass and do some research. What percentage of Dc gu murders are crimes of passion rather than just a crime? How many DC murders in last 7 years would have still happened with gun laws like VA's. DC's strict gun laws have had no real effect on making DC safer. And I am sorry the embassies, congress and POTUS are under no greater treat with less restrictive gun laws in DC. Get a life and liberty. Currently with the crime in DC and only criminals having guns Dc residents have no liberty! As a great Virginian said Give me liberty or give me death!

And if the issue goes to the Supremes it could become a National issue and have an effect on the 08 Presidential race. There go the dems chances for the WH down the toilet!

Bring back Will Horton!

Posted by: vaherder | March 10, 2007 9:09 PM

Just a little social experiment in wishful thinking. Who really NEEDS a gun

the price so far in DC since 1976
7,767 people murdered in DC when the govt failed to protect them and denied them the means of protection

8,558 rapes when the govt failed to protect them and denied them the means of protection.

perhaps you should make another cute remark about gun stores?


Posted by: Bruce | March 10, 2007 11:12 PM

The rights mentioned in the Bill of Rights existed before there was a Constitution and will exist after there is no longer a Constitution. Musings on the meaning of "militia" are of no consequence. We do not have that right because we are of the militia; we have that right so that we may become the militia.

See US v Cruickshank.

Posted by: Frank1229 | March 10, 2007 11:46 PM

If the mayor is so anti-gun, why doesn't he disarm the city's police.

Posted by: John Walters | March 11, 2007 12:44 AM

Jefferson was one of the greatest men ever and he said...If you think you know more about the founding of this country then him you are daft.

Jefferson believed that keeping and bearing arms was not just a right, but a duty: "The Constitution of most of our states (and of the United States) asserts that all power is inherent in the people; that they may exercise it by themselves; that it is their right and duty to be at all times armed." Thomas Jefferson to John Cartwright, 1824, from The Writings of Thomas Jefferson, (Memorial Edition) Lipscomb and Bergh, editors 16:45.

Posted by: Henri | March 11, 2007 2:23 AM

I meant, you are daft if you think you know more... then him... and he said...
Jefferson believed that keeping and bearing arms was not just a right, but a duty: "The Constitution of most of our states (and of the United States) asserts that all power is inherent in the people; that they may exercise it by themselves; that it is their right and duty to be at all times armed." Thomas Jefferson to John Cartwright, 1824, from The Writings of Thomas Jefferson, (Memorial Edition) Lipscomb and Bergh, editors 16:45.

Posted by: henri | March 11, 2007 2:25 AM

Attention DC Criminals: DC Citizens may soon be able to own firearms in their homes. Do your homework and find out where the guns are so you can steal them. It will be lots cheaper and less trouble than those "straw buyers" in VA.

Posted by: Mike | March 11, 2007 7:18 AM

"skeptical" your statements reveal a complete lack of understanding of the subject at hand. As far as 'real studies" go to the library and get a copy of "More guns, less crime" by criminologist Gary Kleck.

Posted by: arthur | March 11, 2007 7:56 PM

Of the 29,000 people in the U.S. who died from firearm injury in 2000, more than half died from suicide. Where do all those right-to-life advocates go when we discuss this issue?

For every person who died from firearm injury in 2000, at least two others were shot and survived, often with permanent disability. That's 60,000 injured people. Where do all the advocates of reduced medical costs go when we discuss this issue?

137 people committing felonies were justifiably killed by private citizens during this period. Handgun advocates maintain that this justifies the death and maiming of 90,000 people each year.

These appalling figures are readily available from the Firearm and Injury Center at the University of Pennsylvania (FICAP).

Posted by: Mike Licht | March 12, 2007 8:49 AM

Our ideas of what is dangerous are suspect because we are emotional rather than rational: Automobile death is far more likely than firearm death but there has never been a serious effort to outlaw cars--one could make the argument that restricting cars from city centers would save lives and reduce waistlines resulting in a great public good. Likewise we spend an inordinate amount of money and manpower on risks like terrorist attack or plane crash that are very minor.

The reason for this disconnect is that we have a disfunctional society that is incapable of solving its problems. Impotent politicians incapable of making substantive progress on problems of poverty, race, education, etc. beat the drum loudly over some hot button issues in the effort to appear effective---thus we are confronted by endless legislation about marriage, guns, school testing, etc.

Posted by: Chris | March 12, 2007 3:10 PM

To: Liberal gun control types. The court does not and has not recognized unlimited gun ownership and has provided for resonable regulation. So, don't get your panties in a twist. Furthermore most states, like PA where I live, have right to carry laws. To the best of my knowledge we have not degenerated into open warefare in the streets. If you are afraid of guns, untrained or have moral objections don't own one. However, leave me and my rights alone. Everyone has the right to self defense, especially in their home, and the means to defend themselves. There are two truely stupid points from above I would like to address.

1st. To the idiot who talked about buying a tank. I would like to see you get a 60 ton M1 delivered to your house. Yeh, right, your a fool of the highest caliber.

2nd. If you can get away you are obligated to run. Oh, that's nice. What if I can't run? Then what brain child? What will you do while any number of horrible things happen to you and your family?

All of our rights are to one degree restricted. Oh, and I also forgot. Will one of you gun control types please show me a study that shows gun control has made us safer. BTW places like the U.K. and Australia who have completely banned firearm owneship are anything but safer. Furthermore consider this; Our police react to crime, they don't prevent it. I would rather the local police draw a chalk line around the scumbag criminal instead of me. Sorry, ladies I trust the people to exercise their rights more than I trust Courts, politicians (especially Liberal ones) and the Elite crowd from the N.Y. Salons.

Posted by: John the Marine | March 12, 2007 8:35 PM

John the Marine--

Gun control is a thorny issue and did not originate with the liberals or with the NY Salons wherever those are(near Madison Square Garden?)--rather in the early 20th century with the request of police forces in Chicago and a couple other areas to restrict the sale of automatic weapons to keep them away from gangsters. Most police forces, especially those in urban areas are proponents of gun control. Furthermore gun control laws tend to be enacted after some sort of tragedy and often with bipartisan support i.e. Reagan Assassination attempt-->Brady Bill Columbine-->Assault Weapons Ban

I personally feel that if the government takes away all of our opportunities to make grown-up decisions that we will soon devolve to a nation of children--we are certainly well on our way. I also am unlikely to be affected by gun laws because I don't hunt anymore and I don't keep a gun in my house having calculated that an accident with my 2 small children-even with a gun safe and trigger lock-is far more likely than a home intrusion. I admit though that the calculation might be different elsewhere by different people in different localities. It is certainly easy to see, however, how people who made the same calculation I did would find it rational to see it enforced on their neighbors. Paternalistic, patronizing and meddlesome, but rational. This is the same rationale behind abortion laws, marriage restrictions, school standards movement and for that matter the criminalization of narcotics, insider trading and environmental protection laws. It is healthy for a society to debate when individual behavior become a danger to the health and welfare of the society at large.

The problem is that a great deal of our debate is centered on issues that have marginal effect on Americans. Gun control is a marginal issue and should be legislated only at the national level. DC gun laws, and to a lesser extent Maryland laws show the idiocy of individual juristictions attempting to legislate guncontrol when there are many places close by where access to guns is free and easy--VA, PA, WV, etc.

Posted by: Chris | March 13, 2007 6:56 AM

Anyone with two brain cells can read and understand the following phrase without needing any *interpretation*: A well educated electorate, necessary for the good self-governance of a free state, the right of the people to keep and read texts, shall not be infringed.

Posted by: k-romulus | March 15, 2007 2:22 PM

Perhaps they could post the names of the irresponsible saps who aren't packin' heat. Add to that of course, the criminal or psychologically unstable folk who tried for a permit but were turned down. Hopefully those lists would require a smaller carbon footprint than the list of responsible citizens who are "prepared for any eventuality".

Posted by: pak'n now in DC | March 20, 2007 10:21 AM

Chris, I respect your personel choices and you make well reasoned points. I'm aware of the Genesis of gun control (at one time you could mail order a thomson). I consider prohibiting or restricting automatic weapons a reasonable limit. However, today's variety of gun control is not reasonable. The good news is that the public is solidly against unresonable gun control. I will always own a firearm and I will always exercise my right to carry and I will always accept and respect the responsibility that they both entail.

Posted by: John the Marine | March 21, 2007 7:28 PM

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