Saturday, March 10, 2007

Free to Shoot the Bastards

Well, not exactly, but the DC Court of Appeals has ruled that DC's handgun ban is unconstitutional. As someone who enjoys freedom and will take whatever freedoms he can get, I think this is a good thing. Maybe some day the residents of DC will no longer need to carry whistles to ward off crime. The really interesting thing about this ruling is that it rests on interpreting the Second Amendment as applying to individuals. Basically, the court ruled that the right of the people to keep and bear arms was being infringed. DC was always the prototypical example of a city that instituted very strict gun laws and still suffered very high violent crime rates. It will be fascinating to see if the change in the law will change the crime rate, once it is allowed to go into effect (after a Supreme Court hearing).

Here are some details about the ban, or as Eleanor Holmes Norton has called them, “Gun Safety Laws,” from Cato-at-Liberty:

First, you can’t own an unregistered gun.

Second, you can’t register a handgun that you didn’t register prior to September 24, 1976, which is a nice Catch-22.

Maybe you’ve somehow managed to leap these two hurdles. Maybe you thought ahead and registered a handgun back when disco was king. If so, you’ve got a gun you can keep in your home. But it must be quote “unloaded and disassembled or bound by a trigger lock” endquote, thus rendering it utterly useless if someone breaks into your home. What you’ve got there is an expensive paperweight.

And as hard as it is to believe, even if you own a lawfully registered pre-1976 handgun, you cannot legally carry it from room to room within your own home without a license. The penalty for carrying a pistol in your own home without a license is imprisonment for up to one year, and a fine of up to $1,000. And you can’t get a license.

That seems a little ridiculous, even for a city where ninety some percent vote Democrat, but the attacks on the ruling have already begun. The Washington Post has a typically shrill example.

In overturing the District of Columbia's long-standing ban on handguns yesterday, a federal appeals court turned its back on nearly 70 years of Supreme Court precedent to give a new and dangerous meaning to the Second Amendment. If allowed to stand, this radical ruling will inevitably mean more people killed and wounded as keeping guns out of the city becomes harder. Moreover, if the legal principles used in the decision are applied nationally, every gun control law on the books would be imperiled.

My favorite part of the article is the line "The NRA predictably welcomed yesterday's ruling. According to its myth, only criminals have had guns in the city and now law-abiding citizens will be able to arm themselves." Aside from the fact that the NRA has fought this lawsuit at every step, as the Agitator says, "isn't this "myth" true on its face? If guns are banned in the city,a everyone in the city who owns a gun is a criminal. And if this ruling stands, law-abiding citizens would now be able to arm themselves for protection."

I would like to take this opportunity to put my cards on the table. This post is far to small a venue to lay out my reasoning, but I can give my conclusions. I don't particularly care if handguns cause crime or prevent it (although I think the evidence points to prevention). The the Constitution gives us the right to bear arms so that we can defend ourselves, not against robbery or muggings, but against tyrants. When the document was written, the authors had just fought a war to cast out a king, and they wanted to ensure that they or their descendants would have that ability in the future. Our right to have weapons is not to allow hunting, or sport shooting, or target shooting, but give us the ability rise up against a government become tyrant. If the ability to drive where we wish is worth the deaths of hundreds of thousands motorists, and our right to swim is worth thousands of drownings, I hold that if the ability to resist a tyrant causes a few thousand deaths a year, that is a price worth paying.


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