Monday, June 30, 2008

Kicking & screaming

The U.S. Supreme Court has affirmed that an American citizen's Constitutional right to keep and bear arms, guaranteed by the Second Amendment, is individual and not strictly collective.

Great -- that means that a resident of the District of Columbia, at the very least, can scoot down to a gun shop and buy a handgun, right?


Here, according to The Washington Post, is the text of a memo to DC residents, issued last Thursday by Metropolitan Police Chief Cathy Lanier:

Unfortunately, the Supreme Court today struck down part of the District of Columbia's handgun ban. I wanted to drop you a note to let you know the immediate impact of this decision.

The Supreme Court's ruling is limited and leaves intact various other laws that apply to private residents who would purchase handguns or other firearms for home possession. It is important that everyone know that:

First, all firearms must be registered with the Metropolitan Police Department's Firearms Registration Section before they may be lawfully possessed.

Second, automatic and semiautomatic handguns generally remain illegal and may not be registered.

Third, the Supreme Court's ruling is limited to handguns in the home and does not entitle anyone to carry firearms outside his or her own home.

Lastly, although the Court struck the safe storage provision on the ground that it was too broadly written, in my opinion firearms in the home should be kept either unloaded and disassembled or locked.

I will comply with the Court's reading of the Second Amendment in its letter and spirit. At the same time, I will continue to vigorously enforce the District's other gun-related laws. I will also continue to find additional ways to protect the District's residents against the scourge of gun violence.

We can be forgiven, I think, for getting a measure of satisfaction from watching Chief Lanier heave on a short stick for a change. And sure, it may be only a matter of time before the notoriously provincial chief and Mayor Adrian Fenty fully grasp their "new normal" -- but no one should've expected DC government to surrender quietly after Heller came down.

The resistance we're seeing from DC will be played out, to a greater or lesser degree, virtually every time we challenge an infringement of our Second Amendment rights -- case in point, the Illinois village of Oak Park. Here's what Village Manager Tom Barwin said about the high court's ruling:
"It's just completely befuddling that our Supreme Court would be in alliance with the gangbangers."
Another Chicago suburb has one of the nation's oldest gun bans, and Mayor Richard Krier's statement is somewhat more realistic:
"The Supreme Court has issued a ruling concerning the Second Amendment. The Village of Morton Grove is in the process of reviewing this decision to determine how it applies to the Village’s ordinance. The Village has every intention of complying with this decision. The Village’s Corporation Counsel will review this U.S. Supreme Court decision and the Village will comply with its direction."
Morton Grove Village Manager Joe Wade, speaking to NPR, is downright encouraging:
"We're going to propose an ordinance that would eliminate the possession-of-handgun ban within the village."
And so it will go from here.

It's important to acknowledge that Heller is foundational, not (by itself) constructive. Last week's landmark affirmation of our individual right to keep and bear arms forms a crucial basis for battles we've wanted to fight for decades -- but it doesn't declare total victory immediately or automatically.

So now it's "game on." Let's be about the business of winning.