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Citizens Breathe a Bit Easier in America’s ‘Murder Capital’

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In America's Murder Capital, at least one of the many crimes of an incompetent government has been addressed – and a lot of citizens in Washington, D.C. are breathing a bit easier. Earlier this week the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals declared the city's decades-old ban on personal firearms in the home to be unconstitutional.

The ban was instituted in 1977 and prohibited keeping handguns or even an assembled rifle or shotgun in the home, making citizens subject to arrest just for exercising their Constitutional right to self-defense. Perhaps worst of all, despite the ban, the District consistently had one of the highest urban murder rates in the nation, as well as extraordinary levels of gun violence and property crime. Crime nationwide has been on the decline, but DC still leads other cities of similar size in almost every category. In that kind of environment, prohibiting citizens from protecting themselves and their property was the worst kind of governmental irresponsibility.

The majority opinion declared that the right to bear arms applied to all individuals and was inviolable and in no way dependent on militia service or other qualifications beyond the desire to provide for self-defense. The justices wrote in their conclusion:

We conclude that the Second Amendment protects an individual right to keep and bear arms. That right existed prior to the formation of the new government under the Constitution and was premised on the private use of arms for activities such as hunting and self-defense, the latter being understood as resistance to either private lawlessness or the depredations of a tyrannical government (or a threat from abroad). In addition, the right to keep and bear arms had the important and salutary civic purpose of helping to preserve the citizen militia. The civic purpose was also a political expedient for the Federalists in the First Congress as it served, in part, to placate their Anti-federalist opponents. The individual right facilitated militia service by ensuring that citizens would not be barred from keeping the arms they would need when called forth for militia duty. Despite the importance of the Second Amendment's civic purpose, however, the activities it protects are not limited to militia service, nor is an individual's enjoyment of the right contingent upon his or her continued or intermittent enrollment in the militia."

This ruling follows the reasoning of the 2001 ruling in U.S. v. Emerson which held that "All of the evidence indicates that the Second Amendment, like other parts of the Bill of Rights, applies to and protects individual Americans…The history of the Second Amendment reinforces the plain meaning of its text, namely that it protects individual Americans in their right to keep and bear arms…."

The implications of this ruling are significant, because of the finding that the Second Amendment applies universally to all individuals and is not based on membership in a militia: an argument frequently raised against universal gun rights. It should provide substantial weight to cases against similar gun bans in other jurisdictions, especially coming on the heels of the Superior Court negation of the San Francisco gun ban last year.

The importance of this ruling for citizens was summed up by one of the six plaintiffs, Tom Palmer. He had been assaulted and wanted a gun in his house for protection, but the law kept him vulnerable and afraid. He commented, "The fact is that the criminals don't obey the law and they do have guns. It's the law-abiding citizens who are disarmed by this law." Now the court has given hope back to those citizens.

To reinforce the rights of citizens in the District, Congressmen Mike Ross (D-AR) and Mike Ross (D-IN) have introduced H.R. 1399, the "District of Columbia Personal Protection Act," which would formalize recognition of the validity of the Second Amendment rights of the residents of the District of Columbia, clarifying questions about whether the protections of the Bill of Rights apply in DC. Supporters of the gun ban had argued that residents of the District did not enjoy the full protection of the Constitution because of the District's unique status under direct federal administration. Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX) commented:

"The Constitution guarantees law-abiding citizens the right to bear arms and defend themselves. That is why next week I will reintroduce my legislation to repeal the existing ban. Protection of constitutional rights does not cease when you cross into the borders of the District of Columbia. Not only is Washington, D.C.’s gun ban unconstitutional, but it also has been a public policy failure as seen in the rise in crime since its enactment. The time has finally come to change course."

The legislation is expected to have strong support in the House and Senate, but it couldn't hurt to write your representatives to encourage them to support it. Previous versions have passed the House with strong bipartisan support, but the bill has never made it to the Senate floor for a vote.

About Dave Nalle

  • S.T.M

    Clav: next time I am there, which hopefully will be towards the end of the year, that could be good. In the meantime, contact me through the blogcritics group and I will dig up a a slouchie and stick it in the mail. I will also send instructions on how to make it look right so that you can wear it in public or out on the boat without looking like a dick in an Aussie Army hat :)

  • Ruvy in Jerusalem

    “you mentioned the Ottoman law of Palestine … as you know, I’m interested in this – does Ottoman law still form any of the basis of Israel’s law, it being the one that actually does go back many centuries (along with Jewish law of course)…”

    The place wasn’t called “Palestine” by the Turks – it was called Syria and the governorate of Al Kuds.

    In essence, Ottoman law formed the basis for the whole Ottoman Empire. The Turks ditched it in 1923 or 1924, along with the Caliphate, the French threw it out in Syria-Lebanon, but the Brits retained it in Mandate Palestine and the Emirate of Iraq, where it formed the basis for the law as interpreted under English rules of Civil Procedure. Thus by the time the Jewish state arose from the ruins of the Mandate, the precedent had been set for accepting the previous nation’s code of law. So in 1949, it was the basis for the law of the Kingdom of Jordan and the State of Israel.

    In Israel, the law is supposed to be interpreted in the spirit of Jewish law, and six decades of “ndependence” has resulted in most of Ottoman law being legislated over by the Knesset and High Court rulings, but it is still the base upon which the Israeli code is built. In Judea and Samaria, Jordanian law still obtains, and therefore it has a much stronger Ottoman influence.

    In short, it is always helpful to know Ottoman law. Some Ottoman precedent can always be hauled out of the skeleton if nothing else will work in court… Baksheesh helps, too.

  • Jack Burton

    Ah, Jacko, you are barking up the wrong tree as usual. The story in The Age was an excellent piece of journalism, as you’d expect from Gawenda.

    Sure it was… as long as facts and accuracy don’t really matter in the long run.

    I’d say he would have checked his facts thoroughly (they don’t let you work on The Age unless you do).

    I guess they do at that since his facts were wrong. We’re not debating opinions here. His facts were wrong.

    But that really doesn’t matter as long as he has the right agenda, eh?

    Okay, readers, you can see here the true face of the mindset that S is presenting.

    The facts were wrong. Easily verifiable. Easily proven. And what does S do?

    Closes his eyes and ears. Shouts nananananana so he doesn’t have to listen.

    And this is a person who wants to hold his own in a debate between adults.

    What’s next? Him claiming that, Okay, the facts may have been wrong but the story was still good.

    Or… Okay, the facts were wrong but the writer has a good heart and should be understood.

    I know, I know what he’s going to say.


  • Jack Burton

    There’s a vast amount a difference between saying that we’re in deep strife now, which I agree with, and

    Things are looking pretty grim there right now. Apart from the Vietnam era, when democracy really was exercised on the streets, I’ve never seen so much handwringing or navel-gazing or seen the place in so much turmoil or consumed by so much angst. You seem to be living almost permanmently in a climate of fear, you poor bastards.

    I was just correcting your fit of out-of-control hyperbole, old chap. It sounds as if you’re writing for some religious group’s description of the Last Days Before Doom Comes Upon Us All.

    To all intents and purposes, a democracy, arguably in its truest form.

    I’m not going to assume you know a thing about the difference between the two and that’s why I corrected you. You seem to have your own special meanings for words that normal people would not necessarily think of, so I just wanted to nail down for the record the form of government we have here.

  • STM

    Jack wrote: “(I think I am beginning to channel Dr. Suess. Or Winnie the Pooh) :-)”

    Beginning? You seem to have been doing a fantastic job of that these past few days :)

  • STM

    Jack: ” … that normal people would not necessarily think of”

    Forget normal people Jack, what about you, old boy?

  • sr

    Why is it that liberals defend their home and family wearing panties and swing a purse listing to a bunch of Peter, Paul and Mary songs on their frecking IPOD. Frankly Scarlett, I don’t give a dam! I have the 2nd amendment which allows me to have and own the serious firepower I have at my disposal. What can I say other then up yours asshole and YIPPI KAY YA. Sincerely, sr

  • STM

    Up you go SR. Gotta love them panties. BTW, Jack*, why don’t we do something really heroic … and just agree to disagree?? Neither of us is going to convince the other of anything, obviously, so we’re just wasting our bloody time and energy.

  • Jack Burton

    Forget normal people Jack, what about you, old boy?

    I’m normal enough to know that when a journalist writes that four plus four equals nine it’s not in my best interest to defend him and say he’s correct in his facts.

    It’s not that hard, S. Just say, “you know, the journalist did screw up and give us wrong info about the situation in the U.S..”

    You’ll feel better in the end. More clean. Less people will wonder about your ethics.

    And it’s not even like you’re being asked to admit all the times that you were wrong.

    (Although you were initially wrong to say the journalist was right, but we’ll overlook that for the moment.)

    Beginning? You seem to have been doing a fantastic job of that these past few days :)

    I’d be honored to be compared to Winnie. In the book, Winnie the Pooh and the Blustery Day, when Pooh is scared at night he gets out his pop gun and starts pacing with it on his shoulder ready to protect himself from any intruders.

    He’s a bear who understands that self defense is something that the state cannot, and will never be able, to provide an individual.

    Obviously he wasn’t an Aussie. :-)

  • sr

    Dam this is fun.

  • Jack Burton

    Neither of us is going to convince the other of anything, obviously, so we’re just wasting our bloody time and energy.

    You’ve never really learned the true purpose of these types of conversations?

    I’m willing to call it to an end but your post shows that you’re missing the much greater point.

    I’m surprised. Really.

  • STM

    Jack: Well, then, you could consider it a victory of sorts. Because honestly, I just know I’ll keep missing all those finer points – especially if I can find any :)

    SR: How’s the trusty 7.62mm edge-trimmer BTW? Cats still shitting in the flower beds? What’s left of ‘em …

  • STM

    Last one, I promise: “Obviously he wasn’t an Aussie. :-)”

    Perhaps he was … it was only a pop gun. He didn’t need a proper gun to be a tough bastard.

  • Clavos

    In an interesting editorial available here, American conservative writer Michael Barone has this to say:

    …Witness, also, the robust sales of British historian Andrew Roberts’s splendid “History of the English-Speaking Peoples Since 1900.”

    Roberts points out almost all the advances of freedom in the 20th century have been made by the English-speaking peoples — Americans especially, but British, as well, and also (here his account will be unfamiliar to most American readers) Canadians, Australians and New Zealanders. And he recalls what held and holds them together by quoting a speech Winston Churchill gave in 1943 at Harvard: “Law, language, literature — these are considerable factors. Common conceptions of what is right and decent, a marked regard for fair play, especially to the weak and poor, a stern sentiment of impartial justice and above all a love of personal freedom … these are the common conceptions on both sides of the ocean among the English-speaking peoples.”

    ’nuff said…

  • Ruvy in Jerusalem

    “Ruvy wrote: ‘water goes down the drain the wrong way’.

    Lol. We haven’t go that much water at the moment mate … six years of drought.
    Perhaps you can include a prayer for rain for us next Sabbath. We have also got people doing rain dances. Got to try anything, mate! Six years of official drought, and in some places kids have never seen – or felt – rain.”


    Winter is coming in Oz. Fall should be on its way right now as I type. Ask your Jewish mates (the ones who know, not the ones who just say that they’re Jews to get the odd day off) if the Amidá (a prayer said standing up in silence) said there three times daily includes a blessing for rain in the Australian autumn and winter, or if it is specifically timed to the seasons in Israel.

    There are more problems to living in the southern hemisphere than just the water going down the wrong way, it seems, rights and liberties notwithstanding…

  • Jack Burton

    Buyback has no effect on Aussie murder rate

    HALF a billion dollars spent buying back hundreds of thousands of guns after the Port Arthur massacre had no effect on the homicide rate, says a study published in an influential British journal.

    The report by two Australian academics, published in the British Journal of Criminology, said statistics gathered in the decade since Port Arthur showed gun deaths had been declining well before 1996 and the buyback of more than 600,000 mainly semi-automatic rifles and pump-action shotguns had made no difference in the rate of decline.

    The only area where the package of Commonwealth and State laws, known as the National Firearms Agreement (NFA) may have had some impact was on the rate of suicide, but the study said the evidence was not clear and any reductions attributable to the new gun rules were slight.

    “Homicide patterns (firearm and non-firearm) were not influenced by the NFA, the conclusion being that the gun buyback and restrictive legislative changes had no influence on firearm homicide in Australia,” the study says.

    In his first year in office, the Prime Minister, John Howard, forced through some of the world’s toughest gun laws, including the national buyback scheme, after Martin Bryant used semi-automatic rifles to shoot dead 35 people at Port Arthur.

    Although furious licensed gun-owners said the laws would have no impact because criminals would not hand in their guns, Mr Howard and others predicted the removal of so many guns from the community, and new laws making it harder to buy and keep guns, would lead to a reduction in all types of gun-related deaths.

    One of the authors of the study, Jeanine Baker, said she knew in 1996 it would be impossible for years to know whether the Prime Minister or the shooters were right.

    “I have been collecting data since 1996 … The decision was we would wait for a decade and then evaluate,” she said.

    The findings were clear, she said: “The policy has made no difference. There was a trend of declining deaths that has continued.”

    Dr Baker and her co-author, Samara McPhedran, declared their membership of gun groups in the article, something Dr Baker said they had done deliberately to make clear “who we are” and head off any possible criticism that they had hidden relevant details.

    The significance of the article was not who had written it but the fact it had been published in a respected journal after the regular rigorous process of being peer reviewed, she said.

    Politicians had assumed tighter gun laws would cut off the supply of guns to would-be criminals and that homicide rates would fall as a result, the study said. But more than 90 per cent of firearms used to commit homicide were not registered, their users were not licensed and they had been unaffected by the firearms agreement.

    Dr Baker said many more lives would have been saved had the Government spent the $500 million on mental health or other programs rather than on destroying semi-automatic weapons.

    She believed semi-automatic rifles should be available to shooters, although with tight restrictions such as those in place in New Zealand.

    The director of the NSW Bureau of Crime Statistics, Dr Don Weatherburn, said he was not surprised by the study. He said it showed “politicians would be well advised to claim success of their policies after they were evaluated, not before”.

  • sr


  • MCH

    “Sometimes people need to be killed.”
    - Dave (Vox Populi) Nalle

    Who you trying to kid, Populi/Nalle. You’ve already proven you weren’t up to it when you ducked Desert Storm.

  • MCH

    “I’ve got my lawn chair and a six shooter – seemed more appropriate.”
    - Dave (Vox Populi) Nalle

    Oh really? Gonna kill some more stray dogs, eh?

  • STM

    The new gun laws weren’t designed to cut the murder rate, but you’d expect that there wouldn’t be much change as Australia’s population has risen anyway during that time. What your stats don’t point out Jack is that there haven’t been any mass shootings in that period, which is the reason the high-powered weapons were banned in the first place. Most gun crime here now is criminals shooting other crims. The reason for the ban: a series of shootings by lunatics armed with those “assault-style” rifles they seem to favour, which culminated in the Port Arthur massacre (which included a mother and two young daughters chased and then shot and killed at point-blank range while they begged for their lives behind a tree). That’s what changed my ideas. I know you would feel the opposite, with your gun culture, but to tell you the truth, I for one feel a lot safer under the new laws, as do most other Aussies who fully support it. Plenty of cops agree with that, as well, and I guess they’d know.

  • STM

    BTW, we’ve already been through that Sydney Morning Herald story on previous threads, with Clavos particularly so you’re not throwing up anything new here. I don’t disagree with the premise of making more rifles available in the bush, and being a supporter of bushies, believe that in the country, the restrictions placed on ownership of high-powered rifles should be eased (somewhat). They are available, but it is a tedious process for them to get them. However, in modern, urban cities like Sydney and Melbourne, they have no place. You’d never guess it I suppose, but I’ve been a shooter as well – and if I lived in the country, I’d certainly have a rifle of some description. But I live in a city and I’m prepared to stand up for my convictions on this issue.

  • STM

    Also, it might also be worth comparing the homicide rate per head of population in the US to that of Australia and some other civilised western nations, before you start blowing any trumpets. To people living outside the US, they always appear shocking. That’s because they are shocking. IMO, that is the bottom line in all of these arguments.

  • STM

    Clav: I just read the Blame America First article. Great stuff, especially in regard to the default position. As you know, I am not anti-American and I guess, really, in relation to our freedoms, that’s all I’ve been trying to say to Jack. I guess it’s also the reason why Jack and I can have two totally different viewpoints without feeling the need to strangle each other … which is also what I’ve been trying to say, in my convoluted way. Please mate, also contact me through the blogcritics group email so that I can organise this hat for you.

  • Clavos


    Message is on BC group as we speak. email me direct (not through group) at that address, mate.


  • STM

    Clav: Gotcha … I will email later when it’s a bit quiet, as I need hat siz (head circumference etc). That should be a hoot … might give me heaps of ammo for later. Wonder what Jack’s is?? I wonder if he can get his through the door.

  • Clavos

    Lol. The garage door’s probably not a problem.

    Do you measure in CMs or inches? (Ignorant of me, I know).

  • STM

    Centimetres … inches for the IMPORTANT stuff

  • STM

    Jack, let’s move out of the realm of jingoism and into the good stuff. Have a read of this, and try your darrndest to understand why I wasn’t having a go at you, or by inference, America, or even its Constitition. Albion’s Seedlings is a great name for the blog, as that is what we all are, no doubt about it. It’s also worth having a look at Clavos’ link above to Michael Barone’s story.

  • Clavos

    And another bad guy bites the dust in South Florida…

  • Melanie Morrissey

    Amazing how one man, Jack Burton is able to skewer the hot air, ad hominem attacks, lies, codswallop and sheer stupidity of so many of the others in here!!