Print Columns   |   Web Chats   |   Blog Archives   |  

D.C.'s Gun Ban Is History (Updated)


The District of Columbia's ban on handguns is history because the Second Amendment guarantees an individual right to possess firearms and because throughout much of our history, "the American people have considered the handgun to be the quintessential self-defense weapon...," Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia writes today in an exhaustive and scathing defense of gun rights. "A complete prohibition of their use is invalid."

But Scalia says in today's 5-4 opinion tossing out Washington's gun ban that the idea of licensing handgun possession is fine and that the District is free to have such a regulatory scheme. "The Constitution leaves the District of Columbia a variety of tools for combating that problem [gun crime], including some measures regulating handguns," Scalia writes. "But what is not debatable is that it is not the role of this Court to pronounce the Second Amendment extinct."

Scalia and dissenting Justice Stephen Breyer agree that there is a place for regulation of gun ownership, but other than Scalia's vague assurances that the Court approves of existing restrictions on where guns may be possessed and who may possess them, the Court today gives precious little specific guidance about how strict a limit might prove constitutional.

The District will now have to come up with a new regulatory scheme for handguns, presumably focused on the licensing approach that Scalia assumes will take the place of the total ban that's been in effect since 1976.

Guns won't be sold in D.C. shops anytime soon; the D.C. Council and the mayor first have to come to agreement on new laws to replace the 1976 rules that the Supreme Court today invalidated.

In its first ruling in 70 years on the meaning of the Second Amendment, the Court decided that the Constitution guarantees an individual right to bear arms and is not merely a protection of state militias.

Scalia wrote the majority opinion; dissenters are Justices David Souter, Stephen Breyer, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and John Paul Stevens.

There is not a word in Scalia's 64-page opinion addressing the District's arguments in its defense of its law that it has a right to regulate guns differently because it is not a state; that is, that the city's unique place as a federal district exempts it from some of the constitutional rules addressed to states.

Only in Breyer's dissent is there an extensive discussion of the District's reasons for its decision to ban guns and of the unique urban ills that led the city to this extreme act. The ban, Breyer argues, "represents a permissible legislative response to a serious, indeed life-threatening, problem,...the presence of handguns in high-crime urban areas." Breyer looks back at gun control efforts in Boston, Philadelphia and New York in Colonial times to show that America's largest cities restricted the firing of guns.

The justices instead took this case as the opportunity to make historic and sweeping decisions about the nature and meaning of the Second Amendment.

"There seems to us no doubt, on the basis of both text and history, that the Second Amendment conferred an individual right to keep and bear arms," Scalia writes. But he immediately adds that just as the guarantee of free speech in the First Amendment is not absolute, so too is there a state role in regulating gun ownership.

Stevens, in his dissent, comes to the opposite conclusion, examining the historical record to argue that there is no evidence that the Founders intended to enshrine any individual right to self-defense with firearms in the Constitution. Calling Scalia's approach "strained and unpersuasive," Stevens says the Second Amendment "does not curtail the Legislature's power to regulate the nonmilitary use and ownership of weapons."

In the majority ruling, Scalia says that while the Constitution indeed states that the right to bear arms is related to the purpose set forth in the Second Amendment--"a well-regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state"--that is merely a preface that states one purpose of gun ownership, and the right extends to other purposes, such as self-defense and hunting. "The Second Amendment's prefatory clause announces the purpose for which the right was codified: to prevent elimination of the militia," Scalia writes. But quoting from Pennsylvania's Declaration of Rights in 1776, Scalia finds that there was a larger purpose to the right to bear arms: "the people have a right to bear arms for the defence of themselves, and the state . . . ."

Breyer in his dissent concedes that one purpose of the Second Amendment was "to help
assure citizens that they would have arms available for purposes of self-defense." But he says that was at best a secondary purpose to the protection of state militias.

Scalia and the majority quickly note that the right to bear arms is not absolute and that regulations on gun ownership have been held as constitutional over and over--including bans on certain types of weapons or by certain people (felons and the mentally ill, for example) and on possessing firearms in sensitive places such as schools and government buildings.

The District's ban on handguns, however, went way too far, the Court decided, because it banned an entire class of weapons that people rely on for self-defense.

Scalia's first defense of the individual right to bear arms is grammatical. A strong believer in the idea that the words of the Constitution should be read plainly, Scalia says that the existence of a preface that refers to state militias does not mean that that collective use of firearms is the only circumstance in which guns should be legal.

In a scathing dissent, Justice Stevens accuses Scalia of a bit of sophistry, saying that the prefatory words about the militia are the heart and soul of the Amendment and that there is therefore no right to bear arms other than for the defense of the nation.

Stevens pores through early American history to find examples of instances where the bearing of arms was meant exclusively to refer to military action. But to bear arms, Scalia retorts, "in no way connotes participation in a structured military organization," and he has his own bevy of historical citations to show that owning a weapon often had little to do with serving in the militia. (Scalia, never one to mince words, accuses Stevens of mounting a "bizarre argument." These guys have a future on cable TV.)

For many of the justices, today's case was about whether the Court ought to overturn its last statement on the Second Amendment, the 1939 Miller case that upheld the idea that the right to bear arms is a collective, not individual, one. Stevens says that case clearly distinguishes between military and non-military uses of guns, that the precedent governs and that the Court should abide by it. Scalia argues that that case centered on the type of weapon being used--a short-barreled shotgun--not on the basic right to carry arms. Scalia reads the Miller case to mean only that "the Second Amendment does not protect those weapons not typically possessed by law-abiding citizens for lawful purposes, such as short-barreled shotguns."

Justice Stephen Breyer takes a different tack in his defense of the D.C. law, arguing that an urban area has special concerns because of congested living and that cities should be permitted to have stricter controls on guns. Breyer finds some examples from early American history to back up the idea of a different standard for crowded places, but Scalia dismisses this line of thinking as ahistorical and too willing to make exceptions to a basic right: "A constitutional guarantee subject to future judges' assessments of its usefulness is no constitutional
guarantee at all."

While Scalia says the individual right to bear arms is enshrined in the Constitution, Stevens says his fundamentalist colleague is the one who is today putting new ideas into the plain meaning of the Founders: "The right the Court announces was not 'enshrined' in the Second Amendment by the Framers; it is the product of today's law-changing decision," the dissenting justice writes. Stevens says Scalia and the majority have now opened the floodgates of litigation over every possible regulation and limitation placed on gun ownership or possession. As Breyer puts it, "The decision will encourage legal challenges to gun regulation throughout the Nation.... [Did] the Framers [intend] to guarantee a right to possess a loaded gun near swimming pools, parks, and playgrounds? That they would not have cared about the children who might pick
up a loaded gun on their parents' bedside table?"

Scalia completely ignores Breyer's extensive argument about the unique dangers of handguns in big cities. Breyer concedes that District residents are proportionately victim to more homicides now than before the gun ban. But he argues that the crime stats don't really prove anything: Just because D.C. murder rates climbed after the gun ban was instituted doesn't mean there was any cause and effect. "As students of elementary logic know, after it does not mean because of it. What would the District's crime rate have looked like without the ban? Higher? Lower? The same? Experts differ; and we, as judges, cannot say." Breyer says it is lawmakers, not judges, who should draw conclusions from the evidence and create policy accordingly.

But Breyer was on the losing side in this decision, and so it is indeed judges who have decided that the D.C. gun ban was an unconstitutional experiment. Now, Mayor Adrian Fenty and the D.C. Council have to create a new architecture for gun regulation in a city where shootings are so common that there are now rooftop sensors deployed across large swaths of Washington to collect the sounds of gunfire and help direct police toward the latest pops in the night.


By Marc Fisher |  June 26, 2008; 10:51 AM ET
Previous: D.C. Gun Ban: Decision Day And What Comes Next | Next: D.C. Gun Ban Crystal Ball Contest Winners

Comments

Please email us to report offensive comments.



Well marc, what can I say. I guess you'll just have to get yourself fitted for a bullet-proof vest...and bullet-proof underware...and any other area that you think need be protected. I'm sure the streets will soon be filled with chaos and crime. Oh wait, some of the DC streets are already filled with chaos and crime, even with the gun ban. Go figure.

Posted by: Dippin D | June 26, 2008 10:30 AM

Well marc, what can I say. I guess you'll just have to get yourself fitted for a bullet-proof vest...and bullet-proof underware...and any other area that you think need be protected. I'm sure the streets will soon be filled with chaos and crime. Oh wait, some of the DC streets are already filled with chaos and crime, even with the gun ban. Go figure.

Posted by: Dippin D | June 26, 2008 10:30 AM

So DC has been violating the Constitutional rights of us citizens for the last 32 years.

I demand compensation!!!

Posted by: DC Voter | June 26, 2008 10:37 AM

DC will soon look like the wild, wild west. Gun totin', shoot-em-up villains riding high in the saddle, overtaking the WaPo building. Marc, wich desk will you be cowering under?

Posted by: Silver Bullet | June 26, 2008 10:50 AM

The best part is those who say about the Constitution "it realy means we need a regulated militia..." will shut up about what they think it means.

We can all read. let us decide what it means.

Posted by: Gary E. Masters | June 26, 2008 10:55 AM

Let me see if I understand this problem. If you store your weapons safely, you would be unlikely to get at them quickly in case of an "emergency". But if you store them fully loaded in an easy to access location, they could fall in to the wrong hands or be used incorrectly.

Is the problem that a handgun really isn't a defensive system - but only useful in an offensive (no pun intended) capacity?

And why doesn't ownership of a hand gun require licensing like driving a car? Why can you own such a thing without 10 seconds of training on how to use it?

Posted by: Some Questions | June 26, 2008 10:55 AM

Should make for an interesting summer.

Will gun shops be opening up in DC?

Posted by: Silver Spring | June 26, 2008 10:56 AM

"I demand compensation!!!"

Sure.

Got change for a dime?

Posted by: Gary E. Masters | June 26, 2008 10:59 AM

"Will gun shops be opening up in DC?"

What for. Everyone has a gun. Do you think they want to trade up?

Posted by: Gary E. Masters | June 26, 2008 11:00 AM

Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, free at last!

Posted by: Karl | June 26, 2008 11:01 AM

"DC Will Soon Look Like the Wild West?"

Where have you been? Where were you in the 90s when the Wild West would have been a nice change from the BOSNIA/BEIRUT we were living in?


Posted by: Andrew | June 26, 2008 11:04 AM

Hey washingtonpost.com, some of us might actually be interested in reading the full text of the ruling...

Posted by: BR | June 26, 2008 11:07 AM

Freedom from Tyranny!!!!!!!!!Hurray!

Posted by: Aaron Burr | June 26, 2008 11:07 AM

It will be interesting to see if Barry Obama changes yet another position and comes out in support of the majority opinion.

If he does not, it gives many Americans yet another good reason to vote against him.

Posted by: Robert Marley | June 26, 2008 11:08 AM

Read this again:

"In a scathing dissent, Justice John Paul Stevens accuses Scalia of a bit of sophistry, saying that the prefatory words about the militia are the heart and soul of the Amendment and that there is therefore no right to bear arms other than for the defense of the nation."

So the Liberal arm of the Court has decided that we citizens have NO RIGHT to bear arms for self-defense, but a scumbag that rapes a child does have the right not to be put out of his misery. The Left has truly lost it's way in this country. I fear an Obama Presidency that would potentially put more of these idiots on the Court.

Posted by: Mike | June 26, 2008 11:10 AM

No brainer.

Posted by: steve boyington | June 26, 2008 11:10 AM

so we can then march up to Capitol Hill and demand the rest of our Constitutional rights like representation in the House.

Posted by: Let's all buy guns | June 26, 2008 11:11 AM

"And why doesn't ownership of a hand gun require licensing like driving a car? Why can you own such a thing without 10 seconds of training on how to use it?"

The simple answer to this question is that driving a car is a privilege while owning a gun is a right.

Posted by: Chris | June 26, 2008 11:16 AM

I wonder how many of the rightwingnut posting on these boards actually live in DC and of those that do, how many of these "law-abiding" citizens already own handguns.

Posted by: Spectator2 | June 26, 2008 11:31 AM

"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." --James Madison, The Federalist Papers, No. 46 and primary author of the Constitution

"...to disarm the people is the best and most effective way to enslave them..." - George Mason -- primary author of Virginia Declaration of Rights (1776) upon which the U.S. Bill of Rights is based

"That a well-regulated militia, composed of the body of the people, trained to arms, is the proper, natural, and safe defense of a free state; that standing armies, in time of peace, should be avoided as dangerous to liberty; and that in all cases the military should be under strict subordination to, and governed by, the civil power." Virginia Declaration of Rights (1776) and primary source for the text of the first portion of the Second Amendment

"To preserve liberty, it is essential that the whole body of the people always possess arms, and be taught alike, especially when young, how to use them." - Richard Henry Lee, 1788, Member of the First U.S. Senate and signer of the Declaration of Independence

"Are we at last brought to such humiliating and debasing degradation that we cannot be trusted with arms for our defense? Where is the difference between having our arms in possession and under our direction, and having them under the management of Congress? If our defense 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, 3 J. Elliot, Debates in the Several State Conventions

"The Constitution of most of our states (and of the United States) assert 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 and that they are entitled to freedom of person, freedom of religion, freedom of property, and freedom of press." - Thomas Jefferson

Posted by: Leesburger | June 26, 2008 11:32 AM

Sorry Marley, but Obama has never been in favor of a handgun ban.

Better luck next time, ace.

Posted by: Spectator2 | June 26, 2008 11:33 AM

Evidently the only responses allowed here are reactionary and extreme. I will try and fit in to that.

Maybe we can just increase the prison sentences for the people that use firearms when they commit a crime. Or would that be construed as racism since most of the DC citizen's (like myself) are African-American? Personally, I won't care about the idiots who commit the crimes because I am not going to be one of them. Make the first time offense using a handgun a life-without-parole sentence.

And just for good measure, put the child rapists in the general population of the prison.

Posted by: DC'er | June 26, 2008 11:33 AM

Chris: not a good argument. You have the right to get married but need a license to do so.

Posted by: Spectator2 | June 26, 2008 11:34 AM

DC is already scambling to make it as hard a possible and I'm sure their registration fee won't be cheap either. Still it's a great day for law abiding DC residents.

Posted by: FLvet | June 26, 2008 11:35 AM

My guess is that there will be a flurry of lawsuits filed and the court will finally devise a "strict scrutiny" type of legal analysis for the Second Amendment which is long overdue. As there is no absolute right to free speech (such as yelling fire in a crowded theater), the type of firearms the local governments can legally prohibit will probably increase. I doubt this is what the NRA had in mind.

That being said, I agree with the Courts decision.

Posted by: Chris | June 26, 2008 11:39 AM

I'm somewhat disappointed in the decision. I will say that the decision is the correct one for sure, but I'm disappointed that as a liberal myself, there wasn't a single "liberal" justice in the majority. I am a liberal gun owner. I know that to some that sounds like an oxymoron but I don't believe so. I have a lot of friends who are liberal gun owners. Take a look through these message boards and you can see what a danger some of these rabid right wing fascists are. And many of them are heavily armed.

Posted by: guitaristo | June 26, 2008 11:41 AM

Chris: not a good argument. You have the right to get married but need a license to do so.
____________________

The point was that you don't have to take a test to own a gun (or get married for that matter), while you do to drive a car. The person asked why can't the government force people to take gun classes prior to obtaining a license.

Posted by: Chris | June 26, 2008 11:42 AM

"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."

If you actually READ the 2nd amendment, it is about "a well REGULATED Militia." We call it the National Guard today.

It has nothing to do with personal use of handguns, machine guns or bazookas.

The Right Wing wants us to stay stupid so they can hoodwink the citizenry.

The White House has hijacked the National Guard. It is not able to assist the States in natural disasters and home security. The 2nd amendment would give the Guard back to the people.

Posted by: Lee in Minneapolis | June 26, 2008 11:45 AM

Maybe if Scalia had said that the individual right flowed from "the emanations from the penumbra" of the 2nd, the libs would have signed on?

Posted by: Stick | June 26, 2008 11:47 AM

It's a good day for District residents who are fed up with this city's inability to protect them.

We're told constantly that the robberies, break-ins and general climate of fear is just "par for the course" for yuppie white folk who venture out beyond their "safe" neighborhoods of Woodley Park.

Want to live on Capitol Hill and walk to work? Well, sorry, the District says, that's not YOUR neighborhood, and any effort to protect yourself using lethal force is discriminatory and unfair against the "criminal class"

And for all those liberals who wring their hands worrying that the "criminal class" will now break into DC homes searching for guns, well, I can tell you this. It'll be the LAST mistake that particular criminal makes. Believe you me, they know it too.

Remember, when seconds count, the police are minutes away....

Posted by: RaiderDan | June 26, 2008 11:49 AM

None of these crack-pots live in D.C., they are mostly from Utah and Wyoming and haven't been to a city bigger than 10k in their lives. But yeeeeehhhaaww we sure like our guns.

Idiots.

Posted by: 13th St. S.E. | June 26, 2008 11:50 AM

@Raider Dan

Not sure what Capitol Hill you live on, but the one I live on and walk to work on I don't need to pack heat. I am not sure your post even makes sense, the government has never told me my neighborhood isn't my neighborhood but maybe you get different correspondence.

Posted by: 13th St. S.E. | June 26, 2008 11:54 AM

"DC will soon look like the wild, wild west."

You must not live in DC -- because it already does.

Posted by: info | June 26, 2008 11:55 AM

This is great news. I am a law-abiding resident of DC with 9 years of service as an Army Infantry Officer (and when I say law-abiding, I mean that I even obey traffic laws too, unlike 95% of the others in this city). I find it absurd that I need to keep my handgun at a friend's house in Virginia because DC did not allow me to possess it, even if it had been unloaded, disassembled, in a locked case, separated from any ammunition, in my apartment. What sense did that make?

I am pleasantly surprised that the court had the good sense to knock down an unconstitutional law.

Posted by: Joseph Sixpack | June 26, 2008 11:56 AM

DC=Dodge City. It's good to see Scalia thinks the country is exactly the same as it was in the 18th century.

Posted by: 20782 | June 26, 2008 11:58 AM

Bob Barr just released a statement expressing his support of the Heller Decision - calling it "One of Court's most important rulings on behalf of liberty". See it at http://www.bobbarr2008.com/press

BobBarr2008 dot com

Posted by: Andrew | June 26, 2008 12:00 PM

Fairfax County has a million citizens and, no doubt, lots of guns. Yet, on average, there are fewer than 20 murders per year there. And not all of them are committed with guns. Is Fairfax the Wild West because of its armed citizenry?

Posted by: Annandale | June 26, 2008 12:04 PM

None of these crack-pots live in D.C., they are mostly from Utah and Wyoming and haven't been to a city bigger than 10k in their lives. But yeeeeehhhaaww we sure like our guns.

Idiots.


Posted by: 13th St. S.E. | June 26, 2008 11:50 AM
__________________________________________

Yeah, kind of like those sophisticated urbanites in South East who have never been outside the beltway but think they understand the entire planet because they watch PBS.


Posted by: Woodbridge VA | June 26, 2008 12:07 PM

@Annandale

You have to be joking right? You are comparing a suburban rich county (that got that way b/c of the lack of a commuter tax) with an urban city?

Posted by: Rocko | June 26, 2008 12:08 PM

If people are so concerned about someone breaking into you home you are probably better off with quality windows, doors and locks.

How many intruders are chased away with a good old baseball bat?

Posted by: MRF | June 26, 2008 12:09 PM

Surprised people in Woodbridge even know what PBS is, shouldn't you be out skinnin' squirrels?

Posted by: D.C. | June 26, 2008 12:12 PM

Don't these Supreme Court whackjobs realize that guns themselves cause crime? Just a half hour ago I found out that two of my guns had broken out of their cabinet, had already purchased "cop killer" ammo and were hitchhiking their way up 95 to DC with a gleam of malicious intent in their eyes. Or sights or whatever.

Posted by: SGOTI | June 26, 2008 12:16 PM

Good!

Now the Supreme Court needs to strike down the D.C. government. If ever there was an entity that has been hostile to the Constitution, it is the neo-Communists who are in the D.C. government.

The solution is to revert all of the land to Maryland and Virginia with the exception of the Capital square, which could be left to the Park Service to run.

By eliminating the D.C. government, and creating a much smaller District, the citizens would be able to receive Congressional representation and be free of the yoke of an incompetent, often corrupt city government.

Posted by: J. Tyler Ballance | June 26, 2008 12:21 PM

I am disappointed that four worthless liberals in black robes dissented. Those people uphold the rights of terrorists and child rapists but dissent against law abiding gun owners. I have loaded handguns on every floor of my home and a PPK in my desk drawer. My children are all trained in handgun safety and marksmanship and we have fun shooting.

Posted by: JJM | June 26, 2008 12:23 PM

Justice Stevens is the better historian, one who recognizes that centuries-old language cannot be understood though our modern usage.

http://notionscapital.wordpress.com/2008/05/19/a-well-regulated-definition/

Posted by: Mike Licht | June 26, 2008 12:28 PM

I personally don't see the need of a handgun for self-defense, but I think the Court's decision is the correct one.

Posted by: BER | June 26, 2008 12:28 PM

You can certainly argue that the Constitution is wrong to guarantee a right to bear arms, and that the Constitution needs changing. But it is now clear that the Constitution does, in fact, guarantee that right until and unless the Constitution is changed. There are means for changing the Constitution, people who would ban guns are loathe to use those means because they know their views do not enjoy popular support. Any more than a prohibition on alcohol would enjoy popular support - even though some would wish it.

Posted by: Henry Hall | June 26, 2008 12:34 PM

Well, this is good, all the bad guys have their guns. It has been said above there is an increase in gun crimes. I thought it was against the law to have a gun in DC. Now, let the good guys have one and even it up. Most of the smart negative statements above, most of them are made by those that don't know which end of a gun to look down. Great ruling!!!!!!!!!

Posted by: Jimmy | June 26, 2008 12:41 PM

Mark
Stop with your end-of-the-world "oh wither the poor souls of DC" hand-wringing pouting.
Fact of the matter is that as a DC resident it is WHEN--Not IF--you will be a victim of violent crime...I had some punk try and break into my house--pry off my back door with a crowbar at 9pm when we were home--- and it took 12 minutes for the cops to show. Also had a knife to my throat by a mugger.

I will NEVER be a victim again...Why don't you do an article on the last 10 people convicted of murder in this town--GuaranDAMNteed they were out on bail or had priors in violent crime...they need to be locked up....I'm gettng a gun and so should you.

Signed
Upper NW

Posted by: Mike | June 26, 2008 12:41 PM

well the 2nd amendment stays in tact. It is a great day in this country. @nd amendment was well intrepreted

Posted by: pfo | June 26, 2008 12:41 PM

I am one of those Utah hicks. Having said that, though, I have lived in Albany and Troy, New York, and in Birmingham and Nottingham in England. In those places, gun laws have not kept guns off the streets. Instead, only the criminals had guns!

Gun bans, and restrictions on guns in general, only keep guns out of law-abiding citizens--those who, if they are serious about protecting their lives, would take gun safety and self-defense courses. These are the same people who would use their guns to prevent lives from being lost.

I'm glad to see that the Supreme Court has finally taken a step to recognize our basic human rights to self defense, the overthrowing of tyranny, and the ownership of the tools that make these rights meaningful.

Posted by: A. Madsen | June 26, 2008 12:42 PM

It is often said that if there were just more people carrying concealed weapons, there would be less violent crime because the criminals would fear the gun-carrying law-abiding citizens. If this is true, why does Congress forbid firearms in the Capitol? Why ban ordinary citizens from carrying guns into our public schools? Wouldn't that make them safer?

Posted by: Don | June 26, 2008 12:42 PM

Why couldn't a shotgun serve your purposes of self-defense? They've always been legal in D.C.

Posted by: Jus' Wonderin' | June 26, 2008 12:43 PM

Once upon a time, a few years ago in New Orleans, there was a horrendous car-jacking problem. Fail to give up your ride, and quickly enough, to the scum-sucking low-life who wanted it, was a sure way to mayhem or death.

Enter the Louisiana "Kill the Carjacker for Free" law. Happen to off the scum-sucker as he was trying to get your car while you were in it? You were not prosecuted for defending your life and property. Guess what? Car-jackings in New Orleans hit new lows, and really, really fast. They were almost unheard of while I lived there between 2002 and 2004.

This before Louisiana was able to pass the state's shall-issue right to carry concealed law, which made it through the legislature a few years later. With concealed carry, I felt confident enough in my personal safety to go almost anywhere alone, anytime of day or night, at least anyplace that I SHOULD be going, knowing that the thugs and scum-suckers would not easily know who would or would not be carrying concealed.

I felt more secure in New Orleans than I do where I am living now in California, because California has no shall-issue right to carry concealed provision on the books. But we shall continue to strive until we do. Where Y'At?

Today, the SCOTUS got it right.

Posted by: NavyFlyer1325 | June 26, 2008 12:53 PM

It is proven that gun control has not worked in DC or anywhere else in the US. Law abiding citizens have the right to protect themselves from criminals. It will not get worse in the District. DC will not become the wild west. People, please before you speak, educate yourselves on the matter. Look up the 60 minutes documentary about gun control on Youtube. You may be surpised and feel a little bit less ignorant about the facts.

Posted by: rml | June 26, 2008 12:54 PM

Mr. Fisher notes that the Court ignored DC's argument that DC is a federal district with special features.

If the Court had discussed that claim it would have necessarily had to say things that would affect whether DC residents are entitled to full voting rights.

The Court stayed away from the home rule fight. DC took a big gamble by putting DC's special federal status on the table.

Posted by: Ian Gilbert | June 26, 2008 12:58 PM

We win!!! The people win!!!

Posted by: MG | June 26, 2008 12:58 PM

Some people worry that things will get worse in Washington. Guns don't kill people, people kill people. Look a say Arizona - about everyone there has a gun and the total population of that state must e 5 or 6 times dc and I would guess the gun related crime to be only a fraction of dc. Big difference now will be the victums can shoot back.

Posted by: Jim | June 26, 2008 1:01 PM

"And why doesn't ownership of a hand gun require licensing like driving a car? Why can you own such a thing without 10 seconds of training on how to use it?"

"Chris" writes:
"The simple answer to this question is that driving a car is a privilege while owning a gun is a right."

Really? If you read the descision, you'd know that Scalia specified that it was not unconstitutional for DC to require registration and background checks. Furthermore, I have the right to vote as per the constitution, but I'm REQUIRED to register. Any more flawed reasoning?

Posted by: To "Chris" | June 26, 2008 1:01 PM

You know, the level of hyperbole here has gone to levels not seen since the WWII propaganda days. Neo-Communist, liberal whack-jobs, right wing nuts, etc.. I'm wondering if we're back in 1861. Both sides step back, take a deep breath and read the decision. In fact, this is one of the few times I actually agree with Justice Scalia. DC stepped over the line with a total ban, but at the same time Scalia conceded that jurisdictions have the right to regulate hand guns within their limit. Therefore Virginia can actually allow its residents to visibly carry arms virtually anywhere (I once saw a guy with a gun in a holster at a Wal-Mart in Fairfax, go figure, but it's the law there) and DC can come up with its own rules which will probably be stricter, nothing more, nothing less. It is not the beginning of a lawless armaggedon for those who favor strict gun laws nor the deliverance from oppressive government intervention for those who believe that guns should not be regulated at all.

Posted by: Kruhn | June 26, 2008 1:02 PM

This ruling gives law abiding citizens a chance and may discourage some crime. I moved into the DC area 10 years ago and decided not to move into the city because of the old laws resticting self protection. It is a good day when people can protect themselves from the criminal element that has been allowed to prey on innocent people in the District for far too long. Most of the problem in DC is drug and gang related which trickles down to bank robberies, muggings etc...
Mass shooting and crimes of passion are the mentally ill.

Posted by: Big | June 26, 2008 1:03 PM

As a citizen in a country (Canada) where gun ownership has mysteriously transformed from a right to a priviledge, I can only look from the outside at an America that is mankind's last hope.

Outside America, the fools are winning.

Posted by: guninhand | June 26, 2008 1:06 PM

Now, Mayor Adrian Fenty and the D.C. Council have to create a new architecture for gun regulation in a city where shootings are so common that there are now rooftop sensors deployed across large swaths of Washington to collect the sounds of gunfire and help direct police toward the latest pops in the night.

By Marc Fisher | June 26, 2008; 10:51 AM ET

In other words, they have to look for something that will work, because this handgun ban was completely ineffectual.

Posted by: talent evaluator | June 26, 2008 1:08 PM

"Any more flawed reasoning?"

No more reasoning needed. Read my response to the same comment someone else posted.

Driving a car IS a privilege and not a right. That is a fact. Not sure why people are getting all worked up over that.

Posted by: Chris | June 26, 2008 1:09 PM

To all the naysayers about more guns=more crime and "we shouldn't carry handguns to defend ourselves", et al;

Wake up and pull your heads out of your collective asses and think for yourselves...not what you have been spoonfed all your lives by the bias media.
Are your lives,nevermind that...the lives of your loved ones not worth protecting??
If not,then I agree with your anti-gun position.As for me,I don't plan to let some sicko psycodic(sp) scum threaten the lives of my loved ones.Neither do I want to take the life of someone simply over material things i.e. simple theft.
I only want to be able to defend,on a level playing field,the LIVES of potential innocent victems,my family,and myself.

Think with your brains,not your emotions.

Posted by: Dennis | June 26, 2008 1:14 PM

Funny how now obama suddenly supports the right to bear arms. This man is populist joke - nothing more then an MTV hyped up air head with an awesome marketing campaign.

New Coke had a great marketing campaign but after Americans tasted it, they threw it away. Don't listen to the hype, taste the soft drink and hope it is not Jonestown cool-aid.

Americans won a critical battle today! The Constitution has survived once again.

Posted by: MG | June 26, 2008 1:15 PM

On car driving -

Owning property is a right, not a prviledge. There is no regulation for driving on your own property. The privledge is the ability to drive on Municipal, State, and federal property, which accounts for 99.999% of the roads.

Applying this to the same issue as the second amendment discussion, would mean that the right to own fire arms in inherit, but there is no right to walk around on others property with them. This is a matter for states to decide on how they will regulate the movement and fair use. Some states will be more restrictive and residence that don't agree will move to a less restrictive state.

This analogy is a bit more fair then the "driving is a privilege" comments made above.

Posted by: MG | June 26, 2008 1:21 PM

Where is all the uproar over how this administration has taken the 1st, 5th, 11th and 14th amendments and thrown them out the window?

I don't see very many of the 2nd amendment yahoo's jumping on those bandwagons.

Posted by: Krazijoe | June 26, 2008 1:25 PM

I guess murders will now rise in DC. What a shame. It was sucha nice little city.

Posted by: Brian | June 26, 2008 1:25 PM

I have a problem with a handgun ban and the city has thieves and robbers that have handguns. Somewhere I don't see this picture clearly. You can take the guns away from the honest law abiding people but you are unable to talk and reason with the thief and robber to turn in their gun so it will be fair. Come on, now everything will be equal and the honest law abiding people can kill the sorry sob that tries to rob him. Where do they get these idiots that pass these stupid laws???

Posted by: Mississippi | June 26, 2008 1:25 PM

MG, Obama has never been about outlawing gun ownership. Nice try though...

Posted by: Krazijoe | June 26, 2008 1:26 PM

Excellent, excellent decision!

Posted by: Jared Norman | June 26, 2008 1:28 PM

Let me be the first to put that analogy to rest. Some one simply asked why the government can regulate driving heavier then gun ownership. I was simply stating the fact that one is considered a privilege and the other a right. I'm not saying that guns shouldn't be licensed, or regulated in any way. It's just the difference between the two that makes the difference. That's all.

Posted by: Chris | June 26, 2008 1:29 PM

"I don't see very many of the 2nd amendment yahoo's jumping on those bandwagons."

Perhaps if this discussion about that they would.

Posted by: Chris | June 26, 2008 1:31 PM

"Justice Stevens is the better historian, one who recognizes that centuries-old language cannot be understood though our modern usage. "

Posted by: Mike Licht | June 26, 2008 12:28 PM


The link you posted has the entirely wrong source for the origins of the term "a well-regulated militia" as it relates to the second amendment. In fact, the quote from Washington (August 25, 1776) most likely is a direct reference to the Virginia Declaration of Rights by Mason, which was written in May and enacted on June 12, 1776. As a resident Virginian and contemporary Virginia politician, Washington would be quite aware of the text of the document. The historical importance of this document is immeasurable. Jefferson's memorable preamble ("We hold these truths...") to the Declaration is a slight paraphrase of Mason's first article. The Bill of Rights is completely fashioned on the same document. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Virginia_Declaration_of_Rights

As to your evaluation of the scholarly abilities of Stevens versus Scalia, on what basis do you make such a claim besides the fact that you disagree with the conclusion? Your academic reputation does not precede you, nor are you making a refutation using original sources, so what is your claim is based on?

Posted by: Leesburger | June 26, 2008 1:33 PM

I think the problem you're having "Chris" is that you're failing to define "right" and you're failing to define "privilege."

Why would gun ownership be one? Why would driving a car be the other? What difference does it make?

Posted by: Jus' Wonderin' | June 26, 2008 1:34 PM

DC is not alone in being a big city. It is not alone in being exclusively urban (with its suburban parts incorporated as separate cities).

Yet it is alone in its draconian gun ban and it has been consistently at or near the top in number of homicides and non-negligent manslaughters for the past 20 years, all years falling under the gun ban. Did the gun ban cause this? No. But in the same way the lack of gun bans has not caused the much lower murder rates in municipalities such as Dallas, LA, Boston, and Miami -- where the suburban areas are wholly separate cities.

DC's murder rate has long been a product of the neglect of the city's leaders, who would rather defend to the death a useless ban than they would address the real problems of a city in distress.

Posted by: Left of the Pyle | June 26, 2008 1:34 PM

Anybody who in not of the "my mind is made up. Don't confuse me with facts" school of reasoning may research FACTS not OPINIONS! The facts are; that where there is MORE guns, there is also LESS crime. This hysterical " we better get measured for bullet proof vests" statement shows the logic of the totally stupid, or at best ignorant point of view. The same argument was made when Florida opted to a "shall issue" form of licensing. As you can find out for yourself,CRIME WENT DOWN!!!!Please, think BEFORE making sweeping statements. Thank you.

Posted by: terranova69 | June 26, 2008 1:40 PM

I am deeply ambivalent about this decision and its implications.

Widespread gun ownership as a deterrent for violence is questionable at best.
Hypothetically, this applies if all parties are very rational beings exercising great self-restraint.

However, in the aggregate, American society is surprisingly unstable.
There are many, many Americans out there who have never been convicted of a felony or diagnosed as mentally ill but who display alarming levels of violence and impulsivity in their homes and workplaces, on the highway, etc.

D.C. better start figuring out how to enact some smart, tough legislation to ensure responsible gun ownership & handling.
And let's go beyond talking about access to weapons and start addressing the deeper causes of violence and aggression in D.C. (and beyond).

--Marylander who supports D.C. residents' self-determination

Posted by: M.M. | June 26, 2008 1:48 PM

RE Obama and Gun Control:

(Wayne La Pierre, author)

To understand Barack Obama on the Second Amendment, you have to know about the clash of character between the then-Chicago state senator and an ordinary citizen who exercised his right to armed self-defense in violation of a local gun ban.
That citizen was a 52-year-old resident of Wilmette, Illinois who, on December 28, 2003 woke to find that during the night his home had been invaded by a career criminal; a thief who stole household items, keys and the homeowner's car.
The victim, Hale DeMar, described his fear in a letter to the Chicago Sun Times:
"For me, the seconds until I found my children still safely tucked in their beds were horrifying ... The police were called and in routine fashion they came, took the report and with little concern left, promising to increase surveillance. Little comfort, since the invader now had keys to our home and our automobiles. The police informed me that this was not an uncommon event in east Wilmette and offered their condolences ..."
Not 24 hours after the first burglary, the thief returned. Using DeMar's house keys, the man entered the home, this time setting off the alarm system, automatically notifying the security company. Given the previous night's lackluster response by police, DeMar was prepared, armed with a handgun--legally purchased years before and kept in a safe. But under Wilmette's gun ban, that firearm in the home was illegal.
DeMar confronted the criminal, and believing his children were in danger, shot the burglar who then fled the home.
"Until you are shocked by a piercing alarm in the middle of the night and met in your kitchen by a masked invader as your children shudder in their beds, until you confront that very real nightmare, please don't suggest that some village trustee knows better ..."
"If my actions have spared only one family from the distress and trauma that this habitual criminal has caused hundreds of others, then I have served my civic duty and taken one evil creature off of our streets, something that our impotent criminal justice system had failed to do, despite some thirty odd arrests, plea bargains and suspended sentences."
The burglar, who was arrested after driving DeMar's stolen SUV to a hospital, had an extensive criminal record.
Cook County prosecutors ultimately declared DeMar's use of a firearm to be justified. But Wilmette village officials pressed nonetheless to prosecute him for illegal possession of his handgun--a charge punishable by a huge fine and jail time. A town official was quoted in Reason magazine saying, "We need to set the example that we're trying to protect our citizens." And he said, DeMar--by possessing a legally purchased handgun--"is endangering innocent civilians."
The outcry of the Illinois public was heard all the way to the state capitol. As a result, the Illinois House and Senate passed legislation in May 2004 to protect citizens who use handguns in self-defense in their homes or businesses despite local handgun bans. The House accepted the DeMar self-defense bill by a vote of 86-25 and the Senate moved the legislation on a 38-20 vote.
And here lies the seminal moment for State Senator Barack Obama. When Obama turned thumbs down on the bill, he voted against the most basic element of the Second Amendment--the right of defense of self and family--the reason that millions of Americans own firearms.
When the governor vetoed the bill, Obama once again voted against a citizen's right to self-defense. Despite his vote, the veto override passed the Senate and the House by overwhelming majorities, thereby enacting this bill into law.


Posted by: John M Healy | June 26, 2008 1:50 PM

CrazyJoe,

I disagree. Obama has supported all anti gun laws in Illinois! Interesting that Illinois and Wisconsin are the only two states not to allow their citizens the constitutional right to protect themselves! When people are armed (if they so choose) they then cease to be willing victims. AARP is anti gun. I choose not to join. Why? The benefits are good. BUT when I'm 80, if I live so long, how do I protect myself and wife when some 20ish punk wants to rob/kill me/us? AARP has no answer except, call a cop. Well you know the adage,"You can't find a cop when you need one".Anyway, the police have NO duty or responsibility to protect us! Look it up. The Supreme court has so ruled.

Posted by: terranova69 | June 26, 2008 1:51 PM

terranova69 wrote:
"Illinois and Wisconsin are the only two states not to allow their citizens the constitutional right to protect themselves!"

I'll ask you, too, terranova69, why couldn't a shotgun or other type of "long rifle" (not banned in either state) be a perfectly acceptable form of self-defense? Why a handgun?

Posted by: Just Wonderin' | June 26, 2008 1:54 PM

Obama has specifically stated that he supports a handgun ban on a ban of all semi-automatic weapons. Obama supports the right of individual hunters in remote rural areas to own bolt action rifles.

Posted by: ObamaNation | June 26, 2008 1:54 PM

Quick note on the driving argument: You are comparing apples and oranges. Driving licenses vs buying a gun. You can buy a car without having a driving license, just like a gun. Only to purchase a new gun you have to have a background check. If you are paying in cash, nothing else is needed to purchase a car.

Posted by: Scott | June 26, 2008 1:57 PM

--Marylander-- You sound like an Obama man. You want to try to reason with the criminals, sit down and talk kindly to them and see what is bothering them rather than face the problem. For goodness sake, get a grip on yourself, buy a gun and protect yourself. The criminals will not turn in their guns because of a law, hell all they know how to do is break the law. Wake up and smell the coffee and get your head out of your ass!!!!

Posted by: Southerner | June 26, 2008 1:58 PM

First, the second amendment is just as powerful as the first. This was an unconstitutional ban and we all recognized it as such.

Second, while we can regulate, perhaps we should wait and see what happens after licensure and see where the levels of violence go....perhaps they level off? Maybe they get worse...but we must tread lightly on individual freedoms.

Third, AZ is an open carry state and violence isn't rampant there. Why not have some citizens wearing guns openly? Certainly would deter a thug or two from attempting a mugging.

Posted by: Liberal Textualist | June 26, 2008 2:03 PM

"There is not a word in Scalia's 64-page opinion addressing the District's arguments in its defense of its law that it has a right to regulate guns differently because it is not a state; that is, that the city's unique place as a federal district exempts it from some of the constitutional rules addressed to states."

Marc, talk about "a bit of sophistry." Scalia didn't need to even grace this mornic argument with a response. So the District is immune from Constitutional 'rules' because it is not a state? Oh, I see. Then the District can also shut down the Washington Post and put you in jail for sedition after you dared to criticize Chief Lanier's Trinidad check points? After all, the First Amendment is one of those 'rules' that don't apply to the District.

I'll give you credit for one thing, Marc. You arguments here don't come even close to the level of lunacy found in Colbert King's column today.

Posted by: Not Justice Scalia | June 26, 2008 2:24 PM

Mike Licht: You wrote: "Justice Stevens is the better historian, one who recognizes that centuries-old language cannot be understood though our modern usage."

Noted experts in US/English usage declared years ago that "A well regulated militia..." is a present participle and is not a condition but a statement. This construction was used often in the Bible and by noted speakers/writers such as Abraham Lincoln

Posted by: Jim Smith | June 26, 2008 2:36 PM

Breyer is quoted here as saying, "As students of elementary logic know, after it does not mean because of it. What would the District's crime rate have looked like without the ban? Higher? Lower? The same? Experts differ; and we, as judges, cannot say."

SO, how can any kind of mentally sound SCOTUS Justice argue that if you don't have compelling evidence that a law which restricts an enumerated right accomplishes or would accomplish anything substantial (the evidence is actually to the contrary), then I'm pretty sure you can't just pull it out of your butt and slap it on the books and expect it to pass judicial muster. Why is this so confusing to Breyer!? He can't even see the flaw in his own BS argument.

Posted by: Mike A | June 26, 2008 2:37 PM

"If you are paying in cash, nothing else is needed to purchase a car."

I believe you need proof of insurance to buy a car from a dealership (or at least drive it off the lot). In order to get insurance you need to provide your license info.

Posted by: Dan | June 26, 2008 2:41 PM

In the Court's opinion, Scalia writes
A purposive qualifying phrase that contradicts the word or phrase it modifies is unknown this side of the looking glass (except, apparently, in some courses on Linguistics). If "bear arms" means, as we think, simply the carrying of arms, a modifier can limit the purpose of the carriage ("for the purpose of self-defense" or "to make war against the King"). But if "bear arms" means, as the petitioners and the dissent think, the carrying of arms only for military purposes, one simply cannot add "for the purpose of killing game." The right "to carry arms in the militia for the purpose of killing game" is worthy of the mad hatter. Thus, these purposive qualifying phrases positively establish that "to bear arms" is not limited to military use.

In my opinion, Scalia's argument here is dead right ... for the purpose of teaching how foolish assumptions may lead to mistaken conclusions.

Posted by: Simon Rippon | June 26, 2008 2:47 PM

To all you folks fearing that DC will turn into the wild west, do some research on how CCW laws have affected crime rates and accidental shooting rates in the 30 or so states where they've been enacted over the last 20+ years. Without exception, both rates have declined measurably - i.e. your fears have no-where proven valid where similar legislation has been passed.

Further, if you want vivid evidence of how unsafe societies become when strict gun-bans are enacted, do some research on how crime stats in the UK were affected by their total ban 10 years ago. Every form of violent crime (including rape and murder) has skyrocketed.

Gun crimes committed by CCW holders are in the 1/100th of 1% range (almost non-existent). Where CCW has been legalized, accidental shooting deaths have dropped by over 20%. In the meantime, 2.5 - 3.5 million crimes are averted each year in the USA due to (responsible) actions taken by valid CCW holders.

Understand this - law abiding gun owners do not use (or misuse) guns in the same manners in which criminals do. Criminals love gun-bans because they provide comforting advantages for their way of life.

The coffee's on .... take a whiff.

Posted by: Michigander | June 26, 2008 2:47 PM

Southerner--

Nice southern gentility in the language at the end there.

As it happens, I do live in a suburb with a higher-than-average crime rate here and there's been one body dump & one point-blank murder in my immediate neighborhood in the last couple of years. Of course I'd consider self-protection at this point. I just think that people there ought to be a variety of ways for people to address issues of community/personal safety. We're not all natural gunslingers, y'know. Some of us do have to rely primarily on more conventional things like commonsense security measures, alert & caring neighbors, community policing efforts, 9-1-1, traditional law enforcement, etc.

I respect your decision to arm yourself, now how about refraining from the insulting language?

--Marylander for D.C. self-determination

Posted by: M.M. | June 26, 2008 2:50 PM

Now why do I have a craving for coffee all of a sudden?

Posted by: M.M. | June 26, 2008 3:06 PM

And Southerner, the worst insult was when you called me a man.

"Women who seek to be equal to men lack ambition."--T. Leary
;}

Posted by: M.M. | June 26, 2008 3:13 PM

Michigander said: "Further, if you want vivid evidence of how unsafe societies become when strict gun-bans are enacted, do some research on how crime stats in the UK were affected by their total ban 10 years ago. Every form of violent crime (including rape and murder) has skyrocketed."

Really? Did YOU do any research, Michigander? No, I didn't think you did:
http://www.crimestatistics.org.uk/output/Page40.asp

Compare to the USA:
http://www.ojp.usdoj.gov/bjs/homicide/weapons.htm#weapons

Pssst, the murder rate is 5.4 per 100,000 in the US, and most homicides involve guns. It's 1.1 per 100,000 in the UK.

Posted by: Simon | June 26, 2008 3:25 PM


"Sorry Marley, but Obama has never been in favor of a handgun ban.

Better luck next time, ace."

Actually as a State Senator in Ill he was one of the very few that aoopsed the use of deadly force to protect oneself in his/her own home - and while he sates he is in favor of the right to keep arms "he was entirely in favor of 'common sense' regulations as enacted by DC to keep guns out of the hands of street punks"

In short he is a lying politician, another one desparately trying to Not irritate Union Democrats who believe in the 2nd Amendment as an individual right.

Just to be clear on this every anti -2nd Amendment Right Senator and Congressman keep the same mantra - know it made the difference in 2000 and 2004. That list specifically include Schumer, Clinton, Feinstein, Lautenburg (and Obama).

Bill Marshall, Cave Junction Or

"

Posted by: Anonymous | June 26, 2008 3:32 PM

Thank you to the "5" Supreme Court Justices who sided with the constitution, and not with the Marxist Left. It's scarry it was even 5-4, and that there were 4 who were willing to Amend the constitution from the bench.

Obama keeps talking about how the law is about keeping illegal guns off the streets. As usual how wrong he is. Its not about keeping "illegal" guns off the streets, its about law abiding citizens having the right to protect themselves, their families, city, state and country, and in some cases their neighbor.

Posted by: American Jingoist | June 26, 2008 4:08 PM

Simon chastised Michigander about his statment and false statments. Simon: Just because its a gun related homicide does not make the homicide itself illegal. Its just a statment that the homicide as gun related. The statistics you quoted just showed the homicide rates. What you failed to sho is how many gun related homicides were in fact illegal, and not the fact that the homicide was a result of someone protecting themselves with a gun. resulting in a homicide!!

Posted by: American Jingoist | June 26, 2008 4:16 PM

Simon chastised Michigander about his statment and false statments. Simon: Just because its a gun related homicide does not make the homicide itself illegal. Its just a statment that the homicide as gun related. The statistics you quoted just showed the homicide rates. What you failed to sho is how many gun related homicides were in fact illegal, and not the fact that the homicide was a result of someone protecting themselves with a gun. resulting in a homicide!!

Posted by: American Jingoist | June 26, 2008 4:16 PM

J. Tyler, thanks for the offer, but we really don't any parts of DC. Give it to Virginia (or West Virginia).

Posted by: Maryland | June 26, 2008 4:17 PM

No Thanks, we don't want it (DC) back.

Posted by: Virginia | June 26, 2008 4:41 PM

The most frightening piece of this whole affairs is the 5-4 vote. How many times must we endure a slight simple majority on such matters of great importance.

Thanks to our great political appointees and there own motivations and indentured servitude, these massive decisions will swing from one side to another.

Well at least the founding fathers knew to keep arms in the hands of the people, should this country fall into the hands of tyrants.

Posted by: MG | June 26, 2008 4:51 PM

American jingoist: You are uninformed. If you want to win an argument (or indeed, contribute to one), try to become informed first.

The statistics I used, here:
http://www.ojp.usdoj.gov/bjs/homicide/weapons.htm#weapons that show the very high homicide, and homicide by shooting, rates in the USA (4 times the rates of the UK, which has a handgun ban) were for a restricted class of *illegal* homicides. In fact,if you had looked down the page you would have seen a link to here:
http://www.ojp.usdoj.gov/bjs/homicide/addinfo.htm
where it specifically says:
"Homicide as defined here includes murder and nonnegligent manslaughter which is the willful killing of one human being by another. The general analyses excluded deaths caused by negligence, suicide, or accident; justifiable homicides; and attempts to murder."

Also, the gun fanatics keep making this distinction between "illegal" guns and your utopian ideal of "people protecting themselves and their loved ones" with legal guns, as though the latter pose no danger. You should tell that to the families of the roughly 1,000 people murdered by their husband, wife, boyfriend or girlfriend with a gun each year in the USA - about one in eight of all gun murders. Then tell it to the families of the 17,000 gun suicide victims. Legalizing guns won't, unfortunately, change human nature.

Posted by: Simon | June 26, 2008 5:43 PM

Simon, Guns are LEGAL. There is no need to legalize them. Leave the spin at the door.

Posted by: MG | June 26, 2008 5:52 PM

MG: Thanks for the comprehensive engagement with my arguments. I guess you gun-toting types just aren't interested in an open and honest discussion ... that might well lead to a very wise constitutional amendment. Things have changed since 1776.

Posted by: Simon | June 26, 2008 6:53 PM

The REAL bottom line of Heller is only tangentially about "guns". It's actually an economics issue.
The real issue is the absolute right of the INDIVIDUAL to self-ownership and self-determination in the face of disordered wannabe-clever fascists and feudalists who have always been doggedly determined to steal his labor via such ingenious devices as "the state", "government", "law", "money", "taxes", "voting", ad infinitum.
NONE of the disordered control freaks who call themselves "government", and who want to control the individual so they can steal his labor, regardless of their talking points, want the individual to be able to own guns to defend himself with.
The bottom line of Heller: "legal" recognition of the absolute universal right of self-defense facilitates self-ownership, something people of all political persuasions, regardless of how ignorant, sincerely desire.
The Founders, who had only recently defeated King George and his mercenary thugs in armed combat knew full well that gun control = slavery.

Posted by: Able Goodman | June 26, 2008 8:27 PM

Simon, have you ever had your house broken in to while you were at home? Have you ever been robbed at gunpoint? Or did you just stand there and pee in your pants while you allowed the criminal to take everything you owned and follow that up with assult to a family member?

Posted by: Just Asking | June 26, 2008 8:42 PM

Virginia, surely you jest! Swamp lands are in great demand right now. Just look at the deal that Florida made with the sugar company in the Everglades area. Here's your chance at expansion. Consider the historical richness that you will gain. PLUS, as an added bonus, you can butt up to Montgomery County and it's richness. Huh? Huh?

Posted by: Maryland | June 26, 2008 8:58 PM

Sorry Spectator2, you extremely wrong, get the facts correct before you open your rat trap. Obama supports banning all handguns and concealed carry. He states that sportsman have a right to own a gun. The Constitution makes no mention of hunting.

Posted by: JMK | June 26, 2008 9:39 PM

Simple Simon, guns are legal. More people are killed by cars than guns. Are you going to outlaw cars too? Get a few braincells and try to use them.

Posted by: JMK | June 26, 2008 9:44 PM

Ya mean da fools gonna cap us when da home invasion goes down?

D-a-a-a-m. Dat's not right! Da guns should only be used for drive-bys, not home defense.

Us guys gotta be able to make a livin'

Posted by: SECrew | June 27, 2008 8:33 AM

Simon: Yes, things have changed since 1776. But if you are recommending we rewrite the Constitution to 2008 standards and morals we can't, in all fairness, limit that rewrite to the 2nd ammendment.

We will need to examine the entire document and determine what, if anything, applies to society today.

For example: No cruel and unusual punishment. That one doesn't seem necessary anymore either. And if we get rid of that, we can start executing child rapists like we should have been doing all along.

Posted by: DC Voter | June 27, 2008 9:04 AM

MG: Thanks for the comprehensive engagement with my arguments. I guess you gun-toting types just aren't interested in an open and honest discussion ... that might well lead to a very wise constitutional amendment. Things have changed since 1776.

Posted by: Simon | June 26, 2008 6:53 PM

Simon -- an open and honest discussion is welcome. BTW, I am a concealed carry permit holder so that puts me in the "gun-totin" category.

The Justice Dept statistics as well as the statistics from Great Britain are, well, statistics only, and are structurally linked to the question asked in the first place. Of course raw numbers in the form of instances per 100,000 cannot be debated -- these are plain facts like the number of apples on the tree in my backyard. Still, I wonder what was the state of gun violence in Britain prior to the handgun ban. Britain was more homogeneous than the USA until recently, and today one hears anecdotal evidence of rising handgun violence there linked to Jamaican drug gangs. I would ask, what were the handgun deaths per 100,000 prior to the ban? I could find no statistics on this so any help is appreciated.
If you dig into the total crime statistics there appears to be a peak both in Britain and the USA during the early 1990s and then a tapering off. I think this shows a close correlation with demographics -- specifically, the proportion of late teens and young adults more prone to acts of passion. Is a handgun more likely to lead to a fatal confrontation? I would say yes given the relatively impersonal nature of the device and the action at a distance it affords. Knives, claw hammers, axes, fists, demand more personal involvement. When I was growing up handguns were not an ubiqutous fact of life in my neighborhood, and disputes were handled with fists. There can be no doubt that there are simply more guns out there in the world, and unfortunately these find themselves in the hands of the late teens and young adults prone to acts of passion.
I would submit that these types would find a weapon anyway, and it would probably be a gun -- unless the government did an exhaustive house-by-house search of every square foot in the USA and confiscated all guns. But this is precisely why the Second Amendment was added to the Constitution. The memory of the British Army and its depredations during the War was still fresh, and the danger of a strong central government assuming ever greater powers over individual liberty was very much on the minds of those debating the structure of the US polity. A disarmed citizen was not a citizen at all, but a subject. I personally do not think the framers would have equated the State militias with the present State National Guards, because the Guard can be "Federalized" at the stroke of the President's pen.
I am not comfortable with picking and choosing from the Bill of Rights. If one is deleted because "things are different now" one might as well delete the rest. There is a lot of "free speech" out there with which I personally disagree, but in sober reflection I recognize the danger inherent in the alternative.
Disarming the citizenry would de facto reduce deaths from guns, but let's face it, there will still be acts of passion, there will be vitims, there will be those left to clean up the mess. And there will definitely be the prospect that well-meaning zealots in the name of some ideology will gain control of the legal firearms and create slaves out of citizens. Just ask any Cuban who happens not to be good friends with the Castro brothers.
To me, this is the real issue, and the true import of the Heller decision. Having said all that, firearms ownership is a huge responsibility, and even though some frame the argument as a natural right versus a state-bestowed privelege, this does not imply license to sloppiness.
Moreover, Heller does not at all impinge on the powers of local polities to regulate behavior as it relates to firearms ownership. But the power to disarm responsible citizens was beyond the grasp of the DC government -- it did not have the desired result anyway as is well documented -- and the Court rightly decided.

Posted by: Anonymous | June 27, 2008 9:08 AM

DC? No, thank you!

Posted by: WVA | June 27, 2008 10:42 AM

Thank you to the U.S. Supreme Court for finally seeing the light. I believe that residents of the District of Columbia should have the right to make up their minds for themselves if they would like to own a firearm or not. It should not be left up to some phony father figure to decide for us like we are children not beyond the age of 5 .

This is not to say that because of the decision of the court that almost 600,000 individuals will run out tomorrow and get a handgun. That's rediculous, but to take away the right of self-protection in the home is also rediculous. One person previously states that knives, claw hammers, axes and fists demand personal involvment. Well, so does the protection of my family. I ask the question that if the DC Council came out with a rule that all single edged blades, including but not limited to knives of all sizes, forks of all kinds, axes of all sizes were to be banned from the home of all residents in the District of Columbia because they might hurt children and police officers, what would you say? Would this be offensive to you? This is the current but now thrown out rule for District residents who would want to legally own a handgun in the home. The argument that somehow if you bought a handgun, that somehow it would eventually find its way into the hands of a criminal is a criminal way of thinking.

If you are a person that would want to buy a handgun, shotgun or rifle for the first time, I would say that before you even plunk down the money for that purchase, take a gun safety course and get certified. If you have children in your home, you truly need to let them know that these things are not toys and this is not television or a video game. That the use of this tool on an individual will hurt or kill them and they will not be coming back and there is not a reset button. For those parents out there, really, you need to stop being afraid of your children and actually try to teach them something.

The bottom line is this: Not everyone in the District is a gun toting drug dealer looking to protect their stash, nor are they fanatics looking to arm themselves to the teeth, however we are not seeing the Metropolitian Police Department as our personal security guards. In looking around my own home, I do not see anyone but me protecting my house. Now, if someone decided that they wanted to try to break into my home and I was here, yes I would shoot them with no hesitation, then call the police to take them away.

Now, Mayor Adrian M. Fenty and the DC City Council state on the DC Government website that they are disappointed about the decision and that he has instructed Chief Cathy Lanier and the MPD to allow the licensing of individuals and registering of handguns, but they need time to come up with new regulations on how to proceed and fees and taxes. I wonder about two things. Right now, there are no gun shops in the District, only a few licensed individual dealers, would they allow an individual to open a gun store within the borders of the District? I guess sooner or later they would have to. And how many hoops would residents have to jump through with applications, taxes and fees? Would the District make it so expensive that people would give up rather than persuing personal in home protection.

Personally, I want the right to be able to protect my house and family, and I hope that the District truly does the right thing and think of all people and not selfishly and arrogantly state that they only want to protect children and police ever again...what about the rest of us?

Posted by: nitehawksr | June 27, 2008 12:42 PM

"Now, Mayor Adrian Fenty and the D.C. Council have to create a new architecture for gun regulation in a city where shootings are so common that there are now rooftop sensors deployed across large swaths of Washington to collect the sounds of gunfire and help direct police toward the latest pops in the night".

Gee, I guess that gun ban didn't work out so well, did it?

Posted by: Kevin | June 27, 2008 6:49 PM

I understand why so many are angry about this decision - you think guns are bad. You have a solution - get Congress to pass a new Amendment that says the right to own guns is a collective right, and get the states to ratify it. Good luck with that, by the way.

What proponents of the gun ban really wanted is for the SC to do their dirty work for them, and thankfully, the SC refused.

As Justice Scalia so eloquently noted, "He criticizes us for declining to establish a level of scrutiny for evaluating Second Amendment restrictions. He proposes, explicitly at least, none of the traditionally expressed levels (strict scrutiny, intermediate scrutiny, rational basis), but rather a judge-empowering "interest-balancing inquiry" that "asks whether the statute burdens a protected interest in a way or to an extent that is out of proportion to the statute's salutary effects upon other important governmental interests." . . .. After an exhaustive discussion of the arguments for and against gun control, Justice Breyer arrives at his interest-balanced answer: because handgun violence is a problem, because the law is limited to an urban area, and because there were somewhat similar restrictions in the founding period (a false proposition that we have already discussed), the interest-balancing inquiry results in the constitutionality of the handgun ban. QED.

We know of no other enumerated constitutional right whose core protection has been subjected to a freestanding "interest-balancing" approach. The very enumeration of the right takes out of the hands of government--even the Third Branch of Government--the power to decide on a case-by-case basis whether the right is really worth insisting upon. A constitutional guarantee subject to future judges' assessments of its usefulness is no constitutional guarantee at all."


Posted by: Halls120 | June 27, 2008 10:31 PM

Well, thats all nice. I am glad that they are over turning the ban. But people get real. If some one wants a gun they will get it. Only the law abiding citizens will follow the law.

I am a felon (had the wrong friends growing up and got in trouble 1 time and never again.) But I am not allowed to protect my family or my property at all cause I am not allowed to buy a gun.

So the criminal who does not follow the law and will get a gun despite any ban or law stating he should not own one will still get it and kill with it and I and mine are at his mercy.

How safe am I compared to others who can own a gun?

Posted by: Shawn | June 30, 2008 12:06 PM

I think that being free means that there are risks. You can't ban water because it can drown you or fire because any person could set a whole city on fire in an urban area. We are FREE! That means that the government's job isn't to protect you and keep you safe. If safety is the ultimate goal why not put cameras on every corner and armed guards on the streets doing random checks for illegal activity and have roadblocks searching for illegal weapons? Safe? Sure. Is that what we really want? As for me, NO! We are all capable of making decisions for ourselves. Sometimes they are wise and sometimes they aren't. We will reap the rewards of the wise ones and pay the consequences for the wrong ones. As for you guys talking about a constitutional amendment taking away the right to bear arms....that will start a civil war. If you don't believe in guns what will you do when gun owners including members of the military stand up against your gun bans? You will wish you were armed then! I feel that if anyone tried to take my guns regardless of who they are, they would meet hell fire! You can't rob someone if you are told to do so by the government, you can't rape someone, and you can't take away their basic God given right to protect themselves no matter who you are. I'm sure others feel as strongly as this as I do. One more point..as for getting a gun without training. It's so easy my sons can shoot efficiently and safely. I do supervise them very closely and teach them how to use a gun safely and effectively but COME ON people. Are you that dumb? There are a couple rules that if followed EVERY time would eliminate every accident. Let me know if you want me to spell them out. It's NOT about hunting and it's NOT even about whether or not you are safer. It's about a guarantee to the right to protect our lives from thugs and our duty to protect our liberty against a tyrannical government.

Posted by: Sensible Person | July 13, 2008 11:52 PM

The comments to this entry are closed.

 
 

© 2010 The Washington Post Company