No one knows what will happen with the case in the Roberts court, but I know what I would do. I have no personal interest in guns, and I'm agnostic as to whether gun bans really do anything to prevent crimes like the one that ended Tim's life. Obviously, the law in D.C. did not save Tim; it seems to have served only to disarm the law-abiding. I believe the District's ban is draconian: It holds that just current and retired police officers can own handguns. You can own a rifle, but it must be disassembled, making it impossible to use for self-defense. It seems crazy that the named litigant in the case, Dick Heller, who carries a handgun for his job as a guard at a courthouse, can't have one in his home because security guards are technically not police officers. It's one thing to regulate gun sales, but a flat-out ban seems like bad policy in terms of its effectiveness and whom it affects.
Still, I hope the court upholds the ban. It's overwhelmingly popular here; no D.C. council member wants it repealed. I'm not a lawyer, let alone a scholar, but I see no reason to interpret the Second Amendment as forbidding a jurisdiction from banning a particular weapon, whether it's an assault rifle or a handgun. As Linda Singer, D.C.'s former attorney general, told me, "Banning one particularly dangerous arm does not mean banning the right to bear arms." She notes that handguns are by far the predominant weapon used in murders and suicides in Washington and elsewhere. In 1976, the District's second year of autonomous home rule, the gun ban was one of the first laws passed, in part because all of the city's rapes in 1974 that involved a firearm were committed with a handgun.
In the wake of Tim's murder, it would be easy to give a knee-jerk liberal or conservative response: We need more gun control; we need less gun control. But the most important thing, to me anyway, is who decides. That ought to be the people of D.C., like Tim's grieving family, through their elected representatives. Tim's life is too precious to be reduced to either side's talking point
There is a lot of illogical drivel spilled on the topic of guns, but this particular piece seems to be gunning for some kind of award. The law, he admits, seems to be useless, and perhaps it violates the constitution; hell, maybe it disarms the law-abiding while leaving criminals armed. But what are these things, in comparison with the right of the people of DC to express themselves? Presumably if they wanted to express themselves by banning free speech, making us all wear uniforms, or burning witches at the stake, that too would be their sovereign right as The People, the standard-bearers of Democracy.
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