Tuesday, July 17, 2007

District Appeals Second Amendment Case to Supreme Court

This morning's Washington Post reports that the District has decided to appeal the recent U.S. Court of Appeals decision that the city's prohibition against residents keeping handguns in their homes violates the Constitution.

I find this issue particularly interesting because my senior thesis in college concerned the constitutionality of gun control. At the time, it was clear that any Second Amendment case would be dead on arrival in federal court because so many courts of appeal had ruled that way (after a very short analysis). But since that time, abundant scholarship laid the groundwork for recognizing that a right to bear a firearm is an individual right separate from an organized militia. Then, in 2001, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals released a long scholarly opinion finding that an individual right exists.

Although Mayor Fenty has the impression that District residents uniformly support the ban on handguns in the home, the anecdotal information I have is that some residents do support an individual's right to a handgun. After asking for any crime issues that residents wished to raise, I asked an open-ended question concerning the gun ban to every resident at the door I reached in 3 hours (13 people). Five people supported the right, while eight support the District's ban. The supporters of gun rights were three black males, one white male, and one black woman, and supporters of the gun ban were just as diverse. However, supporters of the gun ban tended to be more passionate about their viewpoint.


Anonymous said...

This is a difficult topic in any jurisdiction, but it appears to be doubly-difficult in DC. The reason for this is DC's pervasive culture of law-breaking and looking the other way during the commission of crimes.

It seems most people fully expect DC residents, including DC residents themselves, to be irresponsible if permitted to keep handguns in their homes. For evidence, they point to all the current criminal conduct involving handguns in DC. (aside from the fact that possession of such a weapon is a criminal offense in itself.)

This may have some basis in reality given the multi-generational culture of crime in this city. However, no one will deny that DC is changing. If proper screening and licensing procedures are in place, most handguns will likely be in the possession of responsible adults who intend to keep them for personal defense. That, in turn, may keep DC headed away from its long legacy of crime.

Steve's Blog said...

Kris - buy introducing handgun law we're asking for more gun thefts from law abiding homeowners. Those stolen pistols end up on the street pointed at the unarmed law abider on their way home from work.

Kris Hammond said...

Hi Steve Rynecki,

Your comment is raises an important concern. But I'd like to see some evidence that the criminals are willing to stay in your house searching for a handgun, particularly if an alarm is blaring. The District already permits shotguns/rifles in the home-- the criminal are not interested in those?

We often read the police reports of thieves grabbing small valuable electronics that are located on the first floor of a home. The typical thief is out to make the greatest amount of money with the least effort and penalty. Whereas merely possessing a handgun without a permit will carry a righteous sentence, a thief can claim that the stolen I-Pod or digital camera is his property. So many thieves will likely leave a handgun behind due to the higher stakes. One can pawn an I-Pod, but the gun has to be sold on the street somewhere.

Handguns are permitted throughout the country; the District is one of the very few jurisdictions that ban all handguns. Most legislatures have determined that the right to own a handgun outweighs the theft risk.