D.C. handgun ban facing challenge, national implications bear on 2nd Am.

By Tim Inwood

In 1976, Washington D.C. passed a draconian law banning the possession of handguns. Today, there are hopes a lawsuit (Shelly Parker et al v. District of Columbia) may bring an end to this era of stupidity.

The D.C. law bans all handguns that were not registered with the city prior to September 24th, 1976. This law also applies to ammunition, and a special license to have "collector ammunition" is required. Special permission and licensing is also required for long guns and all guns must be kept in a disassembled condition or cable locked so they may not be of immediate use.

Ever since these crazy laws took effect, our nation's capital has had some of the highest homicide rates in the USA. Back in the mid 1980's, when I lived just outside of the District in Maryland, the city was dubbed the "Murder Capitol of the USA". With a murder or two every day they were not far off the mark.

As I sat across the border in Greenbelt, Maryland I was bewildered why D.C. citizens did not question why it was that they had a homicide rate so high, but the suburbs of Washington D.C. in Maryland and Virginia did not. The simple answer was that criminals knew their potential victims in those states were legally armed. The sheep in DC were not, and wolves prefer sheep.

The hypocrisy of the advocates of gun control never ceased to amaze me. In the summer of 1988 the late syndicated columnist Carl Rowan, an advocate for banning handguns in the whole United States, did something that turned the town on its head. He shot a teenager who had climbed his security fence and was swimming in his pool at his home in Washington D.C. (See Rowan Case and the Need to Bear Arms [Wall Street Journal, June 24, 1988])

The boy and some friends were taking a late night dip when Carl went to check with a Smith & Wesson .22lr revolver in hand. After arguing with the teens, one tried to walk in to the house. That is when Rowan shot him. The teen was not seriously wounded. The prosecutor in Washington decided that an upstanding and famous media figure like Rowan should not be charged with illegal gun possession. However, the teens were charged. When asked about the incident the following week in a television interview he said he was still "against guns", but until the criminals were under control he would reserve the right to defend himself with a gun." Gun control or prohibition is good enough for you and me but not him. Luckily, his son Carl Rowan Jr., a former FBI agent, views things differently and is actually on the board of directors of the NRA.

About the same time as this shooting, another incident happened in D.C. But this time, the incident did not make the news.

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A co-worker of mine who lived in the District related an interesting story to me. He lived in Washington, despite the crime to protect his Grandmother who lived down the street. She refused to leave the town house she had lived in since prior to World War II. Having been mugged and having his home broken into, he procured a Jennings .22lr pistol for protection.

One night he came home and a thief was in his house. He rushed up the stairs with the criminal hot on his tail. He dove into his bed while sliding his hand under the pillow to grab his gun, and as he turned and aimed it at the door the robber came in. The thug saw the pistol and then calmly said "Man, you better let me go....you are in more trouble for having that than I am for being here."

My friend thought about it, realized the scumbag was right, and let the guy go. He then got nervous about how cool and calm the guy had been about it, ran the gun down to his grandmothers down the street, and hid the gun and his box of ammo there without her knowing it. He visited with her for a bit and then returned home.

When he arrived, about an hour later, a Metro Washington D.C. police car with two officers were waiting for him. They patted him down and said they got a call about a gun in his possession. They already had a warrant to search his house. Naturally, they found nothing. A few days later my friend's home was broken into again. His TV,VCR and other valuables gone. He was convinced it was the same thief he encountered that night. He was also sure it was not the first time someone had pulled their gun on that creep, and then had the thug talk the home owner out of calling the police. My friend thought the guy too calm, cool and collected about it, as though it were well practiced.

There is no doubt the D.C. gun ban has cost thousands of lives. It is certainly the text book example of how gun prohibition is a failure. So many folks denied the ability to protect themselves from the predatory criminals plaguing our capitol, with predictable results - a huge body count.

As I mentioned earlier, those interested in the Second Amendment are carefully watching as Shelly Parker et al v. District of Columbia proceeds through the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. (See Washington Post: Scope of 2nd Amendment Questioned) There is reason to hope for the best as the arguments put forward by the Districts Solicitor General were not going over well. Todd Kim, the District's solicitor general, argued that "We interpret the Second Amendment in military terms," only to be told by Judge Laurence Silberman, "show me anybody in the 19th century who interprets the Second Amendment the way you do. It doesn't appear until much later, the middle of the 20th century."

This same judge noted that despite the law there were many handguns in the District in use by criminal. Clearly he was alluding to the law being an abject failure. My concern is three judges were arguing among themselves about if a well-regulated militia is no longer needed, is the right to bear arms still necessary? Frankly, I think Judge Silberman and the other judge in this particular debate, Judge Thomas B.Griffith are arguing the wrong point. The real issue is the Second Amendment is a right. Rights are not handed down by governments. Rights come from God, or nature. You are naturally endowed with rights. Remember your Declaration of Independence and Thomas Jefferson's eloquence in talking about our "Inalienable rights". Alan Gura, attorney for the plantiffs, understands this as he is quoted saying "That's quite a task for any court to decide that a right is no longer necessary. If we decide that it's no longer necessary, can we erase any part of the Constitution?"

Clearly the quotes of the Founding Fathers show they intended the citizens to have arms not only for their defense but "discourage and keep the invader and plunderer in awe," as noted by Thomas Paine. It was also recognized that firearm ownership would also keep tyrants at bay in our own government too. American History is filled with the quotes of the founders on this subject.:

"A free people ought not only to be armed and disciplined, but they should have sufficient arms and ammunition to maintain a status of independence from any who might attempt to abuse them, which would include their own government." -- George Washington

"The strongest reason for the people to retain the right to keep and bear arms is, as a last resort, to protect themselves against tyranny in government." -- Thomas Jefferson

Though some object to this idea of rising up against the government with violent force, it made perfect sense to men who just over threw a tyrant to recognize the fact there might be future tyrants who would attempt to enslave the American people. I think they were correct and that an armed populace is a good check against tyranny. I am positive that many politicians who support gun control or prohibition do so because they know their political goals would lead to an uprising. Much easier to dictate to unarmed subjects. The founders understood this and abhored the idea.

I shall not bore you with a history lesson. I only hope the three judges of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit know their history and will respect the will of the founders to recognize the right to bear arms for all the citizens of the United States. This lawsuit may have far reaching effects as both sides have indicated that if the ruling goes against them this will be appealed to the US Supreme Court - meaning this case will effect us all in the long run. So keep your eyes on buckeyefirearms.org for updates.

Tim Inwood

Tim Inwood is the current Legislative Liaison and Past President of the Clinton County Farmers and Sportsmen Association, and a volunteer for Buckeye Firearms Association.

For more information:
Pleadings: Parker v. District of Columbia, et al.

Washington DC gun laws

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