Guns, D.C. (crime), Police power, and the Constitution

As the Washington Post reports, the D.C. Council approved, last night, emergency legislation to end the city’s hand-gun ban, bringing the city (allegedly) into compliance with the Supreme Court’s Heller decision.

City leaders say the legislation goes as far as it can on gun regulations while respecting the high court’s ruling. Weapons must be unloaded, disassembled or trigger-locked, except when there is a “threat of immediate harm to a person” in the home.

I confess that, my passionate support of the right to bear arms not-with-standing, I can’t remember the last time I fired (or even held) my BB gun, let alone a rifle or shot-gun; I’ve never handled, much less fired, a hand-gun of any sort. This being the case, I can’t say that I know how quickly and easily, particularly under duress, some-one can load, assemble, or un-lock the trigger of his hand-gun. I suspect, though, that these are not the most quickly accomplished of tasks, especially when a “threat of immediate harm to a person” in the home exists. That is, I fear that the wording of the Council’s legislation essentially makes impotent the threatened gun owner who has complied there-with. Legally, he may not have his gun ready to be fired; he can only prepare it so once some-one poses an immediate threat to him, which, likely, makes, as I said, readying the gun all the more difficult.

Furthermore, this un-reasonable legislation seems, to me, to be quite un-enforceable. I mean this not in the sense that speed limits often are un-enforceable, simply because devoting sufficient man-power to this task would force police departments to neglect other, perhaps more imperative matters; rather, I suggest that, maybe, enforcement of this law is possible only if the Fourth Amendment, already savaged by FISA, is rendered wholly void. I should like to think that merely owning a legally registered hand-gun in the city suffices not to justify “probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation”. Then again, this is D.C., where . . .

Opponents of the gun ban say the new legislation and the city’s continued prohibition of semiautomatic weapons are not in accordance with the high court’s decision. Fenty (D) and council members, presenting a unified front on the gun ban, say they are prepared for lawsuits.

I’m neither so foolish nor insularly passionate about gun rights to contend that guns present no harm; in fact, I recognize that they present an immanent possible threat. How-ever, I also know that they can serve as protection against both tyranny and criminals. That a city so plagued by crime and illicit gun violence, despite the thirty-two-year-long ban on hand-guns, seemingly, had no choice but to resort, much to the perturbation of the ACLU, to military-style check-points in the Trinidad neighbor-hood, which experienced seven homicides, six-teen robberies and twenty assaults with dangerous weapons between the first of April and early June, would, I should think, suggest that, just maybe, the leaders of this city, who have, upon other occasions, exempli gratia, with respect to school vouchers and breaking the control of the teachers’ union, shown willing-ness to act intelligently, rather than ideologically (foolishly), ought to try allowing the good people of the District to exercise their Second Amendment right for the sake of their own lives. In-stead, they smugly concede to being ready for law-suits. Glad to know that Senator Obama includes such judicious politicians as Mayor Fenty amongst his supporters!

Even would the mayor and council relent, approving more (in my humble opinion) Constitutionally valid legislation with respect to hand-guns, the ineluctable Euclidian police power, to wit, zoning, almost stands athwart John Washingtonian’s quest legally to protect him-self and his clan, as my friend Rob Goodspeed, a recent graduate of my Community Planning program, notes here.

Just because the D.C. handgun ban has been overturned doesn’t mean you will ever be able to buy one in Washington. The reason? Zoning. This from the Wall Street Journal:

Washington has no federally licensed gun stores, so nowhere in the city can residents buy a handgun legally. Under federal law, buying one in neighboring Maryland or Virginia isn’t an option either. If gun dealers sell a firearm to a nonresident, they have to ship it to a licensed dealer in the purchaser’s home state, which then conducts the relevant background checks. “Without a dealer, there’s no place to ship the gun to,” said Mike Campbell, a spokesman for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

It is unlikely that Washington will get any new dealers, either. Federal licensing requirements mandate that would-be dealers meet local guidelines and zoning ordinances. Representatives of each of the district’s eight council wards said they would vigorously oppose a gun shop in their area. They also said discussions had already begun over which regulations they might use to keep one from opening.

Rob continues

The only problem? As of now, D.C. Zoning Code says nothing about gun shops. Another issue to throw into the mix over in the D.C. zoning update …

I admit, right off the bat, that I am no Constitutional law scholar. How-ever, it seems to me that, ultimately, some-thing has to occur to allow gun shops to operate within the District’s boundaries. As much as the Supreme Court has ravished the Constitution in the name of police power (specifically, the Fifth Amendment, in Berman v. Parker and Kelo v. City of New London), the protections (in the Fifth Amendment case, against takings) still exist de jure, if only in a viciously restricted manner, if not de facto. By the same token, in light of Heller, I can-not imagine that any zoning enacted to prevent the operation of a gun shop, which, in effect, is the exercise of police power to prohibit the exercise of the Second Amendment right to bear arms, would with-stand a law-suit. How any other, non-zoning, ordinance might effectively preclude the opening of a gun store in Washington with-out suffering a similarly appropriate fate, I know not. I can only hope that, some-day, John Washingtonian can exercise the right properly to protect him-self, his family, and his property, against tyrant or thug, as guaranteed by the Constitution and affirmed by the Supreme Court, D.C. nanny-staters be damned.

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One Response

  1. […] right on the money suggesting that Fenty and the people’s council wish to do their best to ignore the Court’s decision in […]

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