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Archive for Saturday, March 15, 2008

Effectiveness of Washington’s 31-year handgun ban unclear

Guns line the walls of the firearms reference collection at the Washington Metropolitan Police Department headquarters in Washington, D.C., in this Sept. 28, 2007, file photo. Most of the guns, used now for police research, were seized from crimes under a 31-year-old law in the nation's capital that bars handgun ownership for nearly everyone except law enforcement. The ban is up for review in the Supreme Court.

Guns line the walls of the firearms reference collection at the Washington Metropolitan Police Department headquarters in Washington, D.C., in this Sept. 28, 2007, file photo. Most of the guns, used now for police research, were seized from crimes under a 31-year-old law in the nation's capital that bars handgun ownership for nearly everyone except law enforcement. The ban is up for review in the Supreme Court.

March 15, 2008

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— On Sept. 24, 1976, one of the toughest gun laws in the nation took effect in the District of Columbia, essentially outlawing the private ownership of new handguns in a city struggling with violence.

Over the next few weeks, a man with a .32-caliber pistol held up workers at a downtown federal office at midday, a cab driver was shot in the head, and a senator was mugged by three youths, one carrying a revolver, near the U.S. Capitol.

Since the ban was passed, more than 8,400 people have been murdered in the district, many killed by handguns. Nearly 80 percent of the 181 murders in 2007 were committed with guns.

On Tuesday, the Supreme Court is scheduled to hear arguments in a challenge to the city's handgun ban. The case is likely to produce the most important firearms ruling in generations and could undermine other gun control laws nationwide if the court takes an expansive view of the right to bear arms.

The central question is whether the Second Amendment guarantees the right of individuals to bear arms, or instead protects the collective right of states to maintain militias. The court probably won't base its ruling on the effectiveness of Washington's law.

Outside the court, however, a long-debated question is whether a strict gun law like Washington's has any effect on violent crime.

City leaders say the law has kept many guns off the street and warn that violence could increase without it. Firearms still flow in from states like Maryland and Virginia, but District of Columbia officials say the ban reduces the number of legally owned firearms that are stolen or used in domestic killings and suicides.

"Whatever right the Second Amendment guarantees, it does not require the district to stand by while its citizens die," the city wrote in its petition to the Supreme Court last year.

To gun rights advocates, the numbers prove a different point: Violence continues unchecked despite the ban. And while criminals seem to be able to get guns with ease, law-abiding people are being denied the means to protect themselves, they say.

"I should be able to live in the district and protect myself," said Shelly Parker, who said she was harassed and threatened in her former Capitol Hill home by a drug dealer who once tried to break down her door. Parker was a plaintiff in the original case against the city.

Comments

Devon Kissinger 6 years, 1 month ago

DC v Heller is going to be a landmark case either way it goes. No other SCOTUS has really decided, or had the opportunity to decide what the framers of the constitution had in mind when they wrote it. I have to wonder if, while they are deciding if the right to keep and bear arms is an individual or collective right, they will take into account the impact their decision will have on the Bill of Rights as a whole. This case could even impact what we say on these forums if the right (or wrong) attorney were to argue that freedom of speech is a collective right were DC to win the case before the SCOTUS.

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Jim Phillips 6 years, 1 month ago

Why, You are soooooo right. Guns are a terrible tool for self-defense. But my light saber is broken, so my SIG will have to do.

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WHY 6 years, 1 month ago

Guns are a terrible tool for self defense, but a great tool for aggression. Most cops never fire a round and they are threatened all the time. Brains, muscle, and a little luck work much better.

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unite2revolt 6 years, 1 month ago

US citizens that choose to live in the District of Columbia, are denied many of the privledges of US citizenship. Presumably thats by choice since they could simply go live in one of the 50 states.

The last time I was in DC I couldn't go anywhere with out going through metal detectors, xray machines, searches, etc. I felt pretty "safe" the entire time I was there. I would hazard a guess that most of the people getting shot and killed are not law abiding citizens on their way to work or school.

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Dollypawpaw 6 years, 1 month ago

What's that old saying?

Ban guns and only bad guys will have them?

Inner city bangers will find a way to kill each other.

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madmike 6 years, 1 month ago

It was an unconstitutional and useless ban. Denying citizens the basic right of self-defense is horrible.

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