Does the Second Amendment Apply to D.C.?

By Hoar, William P. | The New American, August 20, 2007 | Go to article overview
Save to active project

Does the Second Amendment Apply to D.C.?


Hoar, William P., The New American


ITEM: "Plagued by high homicide rates," said the Associated Press on July 16, "officials in the U.S. capital said Monday they will petition the Supreme Court as they seek to defend Washington's 30-year-old ban on most handguns." The wire-service story continued: "'We have made the determination that this law can and should be defended,' Mayor Adrian M. Fenty said in a statement Monday. 'The handgun ban in the District of Columbia has saved many lives since then and will continue to do so if it remains enforced,' he added. Police Chief Cathy Lanier said 75 of Washington's 97 homicides this year were committed with firearms."

ITEM: The Washington Post for July 19 said the decision to seek a Supreme Court review of a court opinion that struck down the District's stringent gun-control laws was "fraught with risk." Editorialized the paper: "As a matter of public safety and public policy, we support the District's gun control regime. We believe that compelling public safety concerns allow regulation of weapons even if a right to bear arms is recognized. But the D.C. Circuit's decision, written by Senior Judge Laurence H. Silberman, is not without merit--and that's where the risk comes in. The idea that the Second Amendment recognizes an individual right to bear arms is not exclusive to right-wing gun nuts, as adversaries sometimes call them. Some of the brightest liberal minds in the legal community have come--albeit reluctantly--to the same conclusion."

The Post urged the Supreme Court "to balance constitutional principles with modern-day realities."

CORRECTION: In striking down the gun laws in the District of Columbia, the most pertinent point--as recognized by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, if not by the mayor of the District of Columbia or the Washington Post--is that this ban against gun ownership and self-defense is plainly unconstitutional. Moreover, the prohibition has clearly not kept guns out of the hands of criminals, nor has it made the citizens of the federal district safer.

The Post now says it wants the Supreme Court to "balance" constitutional principles about the Second Amendment with today's "realities." Now, that's not what you would call a firm principle. One doesn't have to wonder too hard what the Post would say about the First Amendment if the government, in an effort to balance the rights of readers with a campaign against the spread of feeble-mindedness, decided it would shut down the newspaper.

In a landmark decision in March, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit ruled that the gun-control laws imposed by the City Council in the mid-1970s violated the U.S. Constitution. District citizens have been outlawed from possessing handguns not registered with the police before September 1976, and prevented from legally using a firearm for protection in the home by requiring that they be "unloaded, disassembled, or bound by a trigger lock or similar device."

Here are some highlights of the appellate ruling, in which the court held that the Second Amendment protects the individual fight of the named plaintiff (Shelly Parker) to own a firearm, and that her rights had been infringed. The court's reasoning dismayed those who have maintained that the Second Amendment is archaic or refers only to a collective right of the states to maintain militias.

For example, wrote Judge Laurence Silberman for the Court:

* In the Second Amendment, "the most important word is the one the drafters chose to describe the holders of the right, 'the people.' That term is found in the First, Second, Fourth, Ninth, and Tenth Amendments. It has never been doubted that these provisions were designed to protect the interests of individuals against government intrusion, interference, or usurpation." (Emphasis in original.)

* "In sum, the phrase 'the right of the people,' when read intratextually and in light of Supreme Court precedent, leads us to conclude that the right in question is individual.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
Loading One moment ...
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited article

Does the Second Amendment Apply to D.C.?
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.

Are you sure you want to delete this highlight?