We are far from hearing the last word on the U.S. Supreme Court’s Second Amendment ruling on an individual’s right to keep and bear arms. In D.C. v. Heller, the high court gave gun enthusiasts a momentary period of celebration and exultation which quickly turned solemn upon close examination of the Court’s finding.

The Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence maintains that the Heller decision “enthusiastically embraces and endorses reasonable [gun] controls.” In fact, before the ink was dry on the justices’ signatures, District of Columbia council members began formulating new measures that required current and new gun owners to keep their weapons under lock and key, keep them disassembled and unable to function.

Furthermore, the council ruled that semi-automatic pistols are “machine guns” and thus disallowed. This means that the only handguns permissible are revolvers, which are limited to five or six shots, whereas a typical automatic might have 15 rounds in the magazine and another already loaded, for a total of sixteen – a feature that would come in handy during a “home invasion” by two or more felons. Owners of handguns are not even allowed to carry their firearms inside their homes or apartments. In other words, residents of the District of Columbia are still defenseless when it comes to using a gun to ward off imminent danger.

Some editorialists are labeling the council members’ response as “thumbing their noses at the Supreme Court.” Others say that if this scofflaw attitude prevails, other jurisdictions throughout the U.S. will follow suit. So while D.C. v Heller conferred an individual right to bear arms, the council members are saying in effect, “maybe somewhere else, but not here.”

In writing for the majority, Justice Antonin Scalia noted: “The inherent right to self-defense has been central to the Second Amendment right. The handgun ban amounts to a prohibition of an entire class of ‘arms’ that is overwhelmingly chosen by American society for that lawful purpose. The prohibition extends, moreover, to the home, where the need for defense of self, family and property is most acute.”

“Most acute” is somewhat of an understatement. Not only has the District of Columbia repeatedly been given the title of “Murder Capital of America,” in recent days the lead story on Washington TV and on the front page of The Washington Post has been the recent spate of multiple murders. On the weekend of July 19-20, there were thirteen shootings in the downtown area of D.C., two of them fatal. Tourists are finding their vacations effectively cut short, since to be anywhere but securely locked in a hotel room after dark is flirting with misfortune.

Dick Heller, whose legal challenge brought about the Second Amendment ruling, has vowed to continue his fight against the proposed new regulations. In addition to making a handgun in the home totally useless, obtaining a permit in D.C. requires an aspiring gun owner to pass a written test, a vision test, have the gun ballistically tested, and to provide multiple proofs of residency. Then, when purchase of a gun is finally authorized (how long that will take is still unknown) it becomes a useless, unloaded, disassembled, unavailable hunk of metal somewhere in the residence.

But wait, there’s more! as the television ads say. There are no gun stores in Washington, D.C. Why should there be, since possession of a gun was a major crime? In order to purchase a handgun in D.C., one must buy it somewhere else and then have the federally licensed firearms dealer ship it to a federally licensed firearms dealer in the city. But since, as we note, there are no such stores in D.C., acquiring a handgun becomes impossible. Assistant D.C. Police Chief Peter Newsham managed to keep a straight face as he told reporters, “This isn’t a ‘gotcha’ program. We’re trying to accommodate people.”

While some of the gun ownership restrictions that remain in place cannot be reasonably challenged – such as prohibiting possession of firearms by felons or the mentally ill. However, saying that owning a gun is an individual constitutional right, then making it impossible for 600,000 residents to exercise that right, is nothing more than an “in your face” maneuver by what Rudyard Kipling called “little tin gods” in government.

The District of Columbia government can conceivably make mischief for potential gun owners for many months to come. Council members seem to forget that a standing army does not protect an individual citizen in his or her home. The best-trained police force cannot protect citizens around the clock – they can only arrive on the scene after a crime has been committed. And, as was pointed out earlier, violence of every variety is an ongoing and increasing problem in the District. Washington bureaucrats, get out of the way and let the law of the land prevail!

– Chase.Hamil

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