Where limitations begin, rights end
Tuesday, July 1, 2008
The District's gun ban had prohibited residents from registering handguns and keeping them in the city. Immediately after the ban was imposed in 1976, the homicide rate dropped and it has leveled off in recent years, after peaking in 1991.
Ready. Aim, fire, shoot. Bulls-eye! The Supreme Court, in its 5-4 decision last week, hit the mark on the most important gun rights case in the history of the United States.
It came just in time for the summer recess, allowing lawmakers the ability to escape town as they ponder just what the decision will mean in terms of crafting legislation to address state "interpretation" issues and potential loopholes.
In the aftermath of the decision, opinions were swift. President Bush said: "I applaud the Supreme Court's historic decision today confirming what has always been clear in the Constitution: the Second Amendment protects an individual right to keep and bear firearms. I also agree with the Supreme Court's conclusion that the D.C. firearm laws violate this fundamental constitutional right."
Sen. John McCain echoed those sentiments having previously joined 299 lawmakers in signing an amicus brief presented to the High Court in support of lifting the ban. Sen. Barack Obama for his part, did what was politically expedient. He offered a statement without really taking a position, though his voting record (miniscule as it is) clearly reflects his original thinking on the matter: He's fought virtually all efforts by gun-rights advocates.
Then there were the outright indignant.
My good friend and FOX News analyst Juan Williams, on the Sunday show panel, called the Court's decision "reckless." Even after admitting that: "You know, there's been this terrible wave of murders in the District of Columbia, mostly black on black... but don't you think it might have been worse if there was a greater availability of guns?" No, Juan. Criminals are deterred (or at the very least think twice) when presented with the notion that the law-abiding citizen behind the wheel of the car they are about jack, or home they are about to rob, is also packin'.
The FBI's "Crime in the United States" report estimates that 66 percent of murders in 2004 were committed with firearms. Most crimes committed with a firearm end up fatal. Best-case scenario is not to be a victim. Should that fail, it's better to be armed. One recent case in point took place over the weekend in Prince George's County. An off-duty Secret Service officer scared off five would-be carjackers as they approached him in his vehicle. He let off a round from his handgun. The thugs scattered. Problem solved.
If critics want to consider this a "spike in gun crime"(as they've said the lifting the ban will cause), so be it. Better them (the criminals), than us (law-abiding citizens).
Another outspoken dissenter of the Court's ruling (not surprisingly) was D.C. Mayor Adrian Fenty. Gravely disappointed, he declared: "[I] believe introducing more handguns in the District will mean more handgun violence."
It boggles the mind that this "more guns breeds more violence" mantra continues and even more so, goes virtually unchallenged by the mainstream media without the relevant facts to support it. It would seem that the opposite is true. Forty states are now "Right-to-Carry" states. Thirty-six have laws requiring that permits to carry firearms be "issued to applicants who meet uniform standards established by the legislature." In Virginia you don't even need a permit for a handgun in your home. Vermont respects the right to carry without a permit. And nationally, violent crime has held steady (not gone up or down). Where is this "Wild-Wild West" we hear so much about?
Furthermore, thugs don't buy guns legally. A 1997 survey of prison inmates revealed that among those possessing a gun, 80 percent said they obtained it illegally, while fewer than 2 percent got theirs at a gun show.
One glaring issue Mr. Fenty pointed out is that the decision does not mean that D.C. citizens will be able to carry a concealed weapon on their person within city limits. The ability to legally own a handgun is only extended to residents within their dwelling. At least that is his interpretation. Yet he raises what could pose a problem (as it currently does) for those in the border states of Virginia and Maryland who legally own handguns but work in the District.
The Supreme Court declared: "The Second Amendment protects an individual right to possess a firearm unconnected with service in a militia, and to use that arm for traditionally lawful purposes, such as self-defense within the home."
There is hope. Take note of the phrase: "such as." What is apparently implied by Mayor Fenty, but not implicitly stated by the Court, is whether that right can be (or should be) extended beyond the home. So while the National Rifle Association (NRA) has already set its sights on overturning San Francisco and Chicago gun bans, it may want to draw down on Congress to address this glaring oversight. It doesn't make much sense to live and work within a 7-mile radius and have to check your sidearm at the state line.
One more exception I would add to Congress' considerations. On Fox News Sunday, my buddy Juan went on to tell host Brit Hume: "If all of us were sitting on the panel with guns, I think we'd be shooting our husbands and wives." The Court may want to add: "everyone, except Juan is allowed to have a handgun."
By Tara Wall.