June 17th, 2004 02:34 PM
DC Court to Residents: 2nd Amendment Doesnít Apply to You
by Nathan Paul Mehrens
The U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia this past Wednesday handed those seeking statehood for DC a gift in the form of a ruling that should lead some conservatives to join the push for statehood, or at the very least for more rights for the Districtís citizens.
The movement to gain statehood for the District of Columbia has garnered a lot of attention in recent years including the high profile slogan, ďtaxation without representationĒ on the license plates of cars registered in the District. This slogan being a take off from the call to for representation in England for the colonial states from a time when such representation was denied, this denial being a large contributing factor to the drive for independence from England.
While the drive for DC statehood has been championed mostly by liberals, probably because of high Democratic voter registration in the District, the Courtís ruling may bring many conservatives on board the cause.
The District Court ruled that the 2nd Amendment to the U.S. Constitution does not apply to the District. The justification for the Courtís decision lies in its decision that the ďmilitiaĒ mentioned in the first clause of the Amendment was provided to prevent the federal government from taking over a state by force. The Court reasoned that since the District was to be the seat of the federal government that it is illogical for the framers of the Constitution to have concluded that those in the District would be at risk for forcible takeover by the federal government and thus the 2nd Amendment wasnít designed to apply to the District.
Even if you accept the rationale for the Courtís decision that the 2nd Amendment doesnít apply to residents of the District, the Amendment should still apply to residents of neighboring states that wish to travel in the District because under this rationale a Virginia citizen could still be at risk of attack by the federal government. Itís illogical to apply this standard to the residents of the District without applying it to the residents of the neighboring states as well. However, the Court recognized this problem and ruled not only that the 2nd Amendment doesnít apply to the District, it also doesnít guarantee the right of an individual to own firearms. Instead the Court concluded that this right is held by the collective, not individuals.
The immediate effect of the ruling is dismissal of a lawsuit seeking to overturn DCís gun laws to enable private, law abiding citizens to own operational firearms within their home, something that is presently illegal. The long-term effect of the ruling is likely more of the unfortunate status quo for the Districtís citizens, read more violent crime, keeping these citizens in a situation where they are essentially unable to effectively protect their families and homes.
Every time I cross the border from Virginia into the District I am struck by the huge difference in gun laws between the two. As a firm believer in the right of individuals to possess and carry arms I feel as if Iím leaving friendly territory and entering a danger zone. On more than one occasion I have wished that my Virginia concealed carry permit was recognized in the District and that I could exercise the rights of a Virginia citizen instead of being forced into the smaller sphere of rights possessed by those in the District. The well established right to carry in Virginia is nowhere to be found there, but is instead replaced by a criminal law making the same a felony.
The ruling by the District court once again presents an excellent example of why Congress should act in a decisive manner to restore the right to possess firearms and practice self defense to those living within the District. When the District was established there were good reasons for making the District the seat of the federal government rather than making it part of any state. However, the residentís of the District still should be entitled to exercise the right of self defense that citizens of every other state enjoy. Denying this basic human right to residents of the District is wrong, is bad public policy, and has led to the District being consistently denigrated as the ďmurder capitalĒ of the country. Since the District has among the most restrictive gun laws in the world it stands to reason that if the mantra of gun control was accurate that the District would be the safest place on earth. Sadly this isnít the case. Gun control hasnít worked in the District, nor will it ever work. Since the courts havenít seen fit to remove those laws that infringe the rights of residents to own firearms it is up to Congress to act and to act soon.
Nathan Paul Mehrens is an attorney and firm believer in the individual right to possess arms.
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