D.C. Ban Proponents Ignore the Facts
John R. Lott Jr.: D.C. Ban Proponents Ignore the Facts
Tuesday, March 11, 2008
By John R. Lott, Jr. and Maxim Lott
For gun control proponents and opponents a lot is riding on a former security guard for the Supreme Court Annex. Next Tuesday , the Supreme Court will hear arguments over whether the District of Columbia's ban on handguns and its requirement that any rifles or shotguns remain locked violates the plaintiff, Dick Heller's, constitutional rights.
Whatever the court decides, no one expects them to end gun control any more than the First Amendment's "congress shall make no laws" has prevented the passage of campaign finance regulations. The decision is likely to be limited to just whether a ban "infringed" on "the right of the people to keep and bear arms."
If the D.C. ban is accepted by the court, it is hard to believe that any gun regulation will ever be struck down. If the court strikes it down, where the courts draw the line on what laws are considered "reasonable" regulations will take years to sort out .
Thus far the District of Columbia has spent a lot of time making a public policy case. Their argument in their brief to the court is pretty simple : "banning handguns saves lives."
Yet, while it may seem obvious to many people that banning guns will save lives, that has not been D.C.'s experience.
The ban went into effect in early 1977, but since it started there is only one year (1985) when D.C.'s murder rate fell below what it was in 1976. But the murder rate also rose dramatically relative to other cities. In the 29 years we have data after the ban, D.C.'s murder rate ranked first or second among the largest 50 cities for 15 years. In another four years, it ranked fourth.
For Instance, D.C.'s murder rate fell 3.5 to 3 times more than Maryland and Virginia's during the five years before the handgun ban went into effect in 1977, but rose 3.8 times more in the five years after it.
Was there something special about D.C. that kept the ban from working? Probably not, since bans have been causing crime to increase in other cities as well. D.C. cites the Chicago ban to support its own. Yet, before Chicago's ban in 1982, its murder rate, which was falling from 27 to 22 per 100,000 in the five years, suddenly stopped falling and rose slightly to 23 per 100,000 in the five years afterwards.
Neither have bans worked in other countries. Gun crime in England and Wales increased 340 percent in the seven years since their 1998 ban. Ireland banned handguns and center fire rifles in 1972 and murder rates soared — the post-ban murder rate average has been 144 percent higher than pre-ban.
How could this be? D.C. officials say that the ban will disarm criminals. But who follows a ban and turns their guns in? Criminals who would be facing long prison sentences anyway if they were caught in a crime, or typically law-abiding citizens? By disarming normal people, a gun ban actually makes crime easier to commit.
Unfortunately, the Department of Justice has actually sided with D.C. in important parts of the case, and the court has granted Solicitor General Paul Clement 15 minutes to make his argument. While largely paying lip service to the Second Amendment being an "individual right," the Department of Justice brief argues that an "unquestionable threat to public safety" from unregulated guns requires a lower standard must be adopted in defending it than is used to defend the rest of the Bill of Rights. But if they really believed that their evidence showed this, just as with the classic exception for the First Amendment of "falsely shouting fire in a theater," it wouldn't be necessary to treat the Second Amendment differently .
But what has not gotten much attention is that for the first time in U.S. history an administration has provided conflicting briefs to the Supreme Court. Vice President Dick Cheney has put forward his own brief arguing that the Second Amendment guarantees an individual right that is no different than freedom of speech.
The DOJ constitutional argument is similar to that of D.C. It argues that since the government bans machine guns, it should also be able to ban handguns. And they claim that D.C. residents still retain a right to self-defense because the city doesn't ban locked shotguns and rifles. Locks, they claim , "can properly be interpreted" as not interfering with using guns for self-protection.
Factual errors underlie the rest of the argument — for in D.C., rifles and shotguns become illegal as soon as they are unlocked. That means the city can prosecute anyone who uses one in self-defense, even if it was locked before the incident. Is that a "reasonable" restriction on self-defense? Gunlock requirements are also associated with more deaths and more violent crime as they make defensive gun uses more difficult. Machine guns are also not banned .
It makes sense that the DOJ is backing the ban, given that it would lose regulatory power if it were struck down. As the DOJ lawyers note in the brief, striking down this ban could "cast doubt on the constitutionality of existing federal legislation."
The Department of Justice and D.C. politicians can talk all they want about how necessary handgun bans are to ensure public safety and the "reasonableness" of the restrictions. But hopefully the Supreme Court will see past that. At some point, hard facts must matter. This is one point where public safety and individual rights coincide.
have you read the oral arguments, the briefs or listed to the oral tape?
it appears the dc ban is going down along with the impact at chicago and other cities
the dc ban on books now means you can only have rifles and shotguns but they have to be inoperable - discussions centered around what is reasonable
the court is also being asked to make specific rulings
I'm still reading through the transscript, but was interested in the fact that they are looking into whether to "Keep and Bear Arms" describes one right or two. That is, to keep as opposed to bear arms. I'd never thought about that.
And this whole argument that they are trying to put forward, that handguns can be outlawed since people can still defend themselves with rifles and shot guns, is flawed. Handguns are, IMHO, much safer from the standpoint that they are far easier to keep securely stored but remain readily available in an emergency than a long gun is. As such a handgun is more likely to be stored in a secure manner. Also, a rifle, due to the much higher velocity, is way more apt to cause secondary and unintended injury as it passes through stuff.
Last edited by Wyatt; 03-24-2008 at 01:00 AM.
Exactly wyatt! They can pry my rifles, shotguns, and handguns from my COLD DEAD FINGERS. I hate this gun ban BS. At least Class-3 restrictions are simply in place to ban average-joe-wife beater from getting his hands on a m249 and taking down a neighborhood. ANY one could get a class-3 if they bothered. MGs are not 'banned'. Handguns already face way to many restrictions...I disagree with even having to get a permit (I especially disagree with having to pay $25 to go buy a handgun!). People need to just grow up and learn to take responsibilty for themselves and their firearms and stop expecting the Government and the rest of us to wipe their arses and hold their hands!
While I'm sure we all agree here that we have the right of self-protection (through the use of handguns) against any threat, that's not what's being argued in the SC. The Second Amendment describes a right of the people to be armed such that they might be able to defend the people against federal oppression.
Don't you wish they would have worded it a bit more simply...
Actually, MLB, that's not exactly true. While, in an historical context, that may be part of what the founding fathers had in mind in regard to the 2A, the court seems to be indicating the amendment is not limited to that contingency alone. The way the comments sounded from some of the justices during the opening oral arguements seems to indicate that at least some of the court definitely considers the second amendment to have applications to home defense. Consider these excerpts form a source previously posted:
Originally Posted by MLB
-...The Supreme Court’s historic argument Tuesday on the meaning of the Constitution’s Second Amendment sent out one quite clear signal: individuals may well wind up with a genuine right to have a gun for self-defense in their home.
-...As the hearing moved on, it became more apparent that the kind of right Kennedy was supporting was one keyed entirely to the home, and its defense against intruders — beginning with people in the Founding era who lived in the wilderness, and had to fend off, say, Indians. He referred to “the remote settler” seeking to “defend himself and his family against hostile Indian tribes and outlaws, wolves and bears and grizzlies and things like that?” And it also became clear that, in modern times, with high crime rates, individuals in their homes needed a dependable means of defense against urban intruders.
-...It took a little more time for Justice Alito to take part in the exchanges. When he did, he definitely seemed on the individual rights side of the debate. In fact, when Clement was at the podium, Alito commented: “How could the District code provision survive any standard of review whee they totally ban the possession of the type of weapon that’s most commonly used for self-defense…?”
Here's the link to the complete discussion:
Last edited by Wyatt; 03-24-2008 at 03:24 PM.
the brief by the house/senate/vice president was really interesting
over 50% of the house and senate signed it in favor or heller
Thanks Wyatt, I've been reading along as I get the time (there sure are quite a few briefs!)
I noticed while reading the transcript that the Justices were probing a wide range of related topics. I suppose that they will indeed interpret the individual right to keep arms, and maybe even to bear them (that was one of the interesting tangents).
I do believe though, that if it is finally supported, that it will be a side-effect of the right to be armed for the purposes of forming a militia, and not directly for personal protection.
Yeah MLB, it seems one of the things the court is wrestling with is just how much they want to bite off in their decision. Do they want to issue a broad sweeping ruling that will cover alot of ground, or a more narrow one that will still leave alot to be determined in the future.
One thing for sure, it will be interesting.