The Thugs Win the Case

By Colbert I. King
Thursday, June 26, 2008; 12:28 PM

There's one group of District residents absolutely unfazed by today's U.S. Supreme Court ruling shooting down the District's strict handgun ban: the dudes who have been blowing away their fellow citizens with abandon since the law was put on the books 32 years ago.

Operating under the notion that it's better to beg forgiveness than to ask permission, our shooters long ago decided not to wait for the high court's thoughts on the matter. They simply arrogated to themselves the right to keep and bear arms and, with that right, license to shoot and kill, with impunity, whatever and whenever the evil spirits moved them.

The record will show that our home-grown shooters have blown through the city's so-called strict handgun ban like John Riggins going up the middle. Over the past 20 years, there have been more than 6,500 homicides in the nation's capital, most committed with firearms, predominantly handguns. In 1976, the year the ban was put in place, the District had 135 gun-related murders, according to CNN. Last year, the number reached 143. Thus far this year, we've had 85 murders.

You thought D.C. stands for "District of Columbia? "Dodge City" is more like it.

If D.C. street thugs are pleased by anything, it's probably the fact that five of the justices -- a slim majority, but that's all it takes to win -- have come around to seeing things their way.

But if our murderers are blasé, city leaders have no cause to be nonplussed by the ruling. The groundwork for throwing out the city's gun-control laws was laid last year by a panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Curcuit, which ruled that the Constitution gives an individual the right to possess a handgun. Senior Judge Laurence H. Silberman, a conservative hero, wrote the majority opinion for the appellate panel.

Today in a statement, D.C. Mayor Adrian M. Fenty, Interim Attorney General Peter Nickles and Metropolitan Police Chief Cathy Lanier announced their disappointment in the Supreme Court's ruling. Are they on something? The city had every reason to expect the Supreme Court's conservative majority would validate Silberman's interpretation of the Second Amendment.

It didn't have to turn out this way. City leaders had options.

In light of last year's appellate decision, they could have tried to fashion new gun-control regulations to address issues of registration, licensing of gun ownership, and waiting periods for background checks. Instead, the city went for the whole enchilada, hoping against hope that the a Supreme Court led by John Roberts and dominated by Antonin Scalia would agree that an individual does not have a right to own a gun.


Writing for the majority, Scalia said that the Constitution doesn't allow "the absolute prohibition of handguns held and used for self-defense in the home." Folks have a right to keep and bear arms -- and, by golly, a right to use 'em, too, if necessary.

Scalia also wrote this hymn to the handgun: "The American people consider the handgun to be the quintessential self-defense weapon." He went on to argue: "There are many reasons that a citizen may prefer a handgun for home defense: it is easier to store in a location that is readily accessible in an emergency; it cannot easily be redirected or wrestled away by an attacker; it is easier to use for those without the upper-body strength to lift and aim a long rifle; it can be pointed at a burglar with one hand while the other hand dials the police. Whatever the reason, handguns are the most popular weapon chosen by Americans for self-defense in the home, and a complete prohibition of their use is invalid."

And if machine guns one day should become the weapon of choice for home protection -- what say ye then, Justice Scalia? With the exception of that reference to dialing the police, D.C. street thugs' response to Scalia's ode to the handgun was undoubtedly, "Hear, hear!"

And to make sure that D.C. gun owners are free to fire their loaded handguns at will, the Supreme Court went one step further and killed the city's sensible requirement that weapons be equipped with trigger locks.

So now it has come to pass that D.C. residents can keep handguns, as well as rifles and shotguns, in their homes. A well armed, informal militia we shall be -- ready to fire back in self-defense at the shooters who believed they had the right to their guns all along.

Flush with victory, a giddy National Rifle Association has announced its intention to file lawsuits in other jurisdictions with tough handgun laws. For starters, the NRA has taken aim at San Francisco and Chicago. See what we have unleashed, D.C.?

America, more body bags, please.

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