Friday, June 27, 2008


RESIDENTS IN ONE of the District's most violence-ridden neighborhoods are mostly indifferent to the prospect that handguns could legally return to the city after a 32-year ban. After al, the city is perennially one of the most dangerous in the nation.

"It doesn't seem like it was doing anything anyway," said Norman Day, who lives on Orren Street Northeast in Trinidad. "People can bring [guns] in from anywhere. You can't put up checkpoints everywhere. It probably won't make any difference. If anything, it might save the District some money by not hauling off anybody with a gun."

Many residents in the Ward 5 neighborhood in Northeast—the site of one of the most violent crime sprees in recent city history—have been hardened to the frequent violence and responses by the Metropolitan Police Department.

Others saw the ban as the last remaining barrier between occasional violence and all-out chaos.

"That's the worst thing they could ever do," Daphne Potter said at the corner of Oates and Staples streets Northeast. "Most of that shootings come from the young kids. I hate to see what's gonna happen now."

Earlier in the day, gun advocates rejoiced outside of the Supreme Court building.

"I'm very pleased with the decision, but at the same time, I am a bit suspicious of the possible restrictions that could come down," said Craig Burgers, 25, a Michigan native now living in Arlington. "You shouldn't have to check your rights to enter the District. I have my gun in my house and I mostly use it for target practice but would definitely use it if someone tried to break in."

Ariel Sarousi, a 25-year-old gun owner who moved to Falls Church from his home in Boston a year ago, pointed out that the District has a much higher crime rate than Northern Virginia, which has no such ban.

"You can easily dispute the idea that the ban on guns has decreased crime in the District," he said. Mr. Sarousi said he is much more likely to consider moving into the District now that he is allowed to bring his gun with him.

Well, one thing is a proven fact DC's gun ban for the past 30 yrs has none nothing to stop the violent nature of DC's citizens. Guns by themselves are not the problem—the culture and violent nature of the people that live in DC are the problem. Change the culture and the violence will subside.

Americans can keep guns at home for self-defense, the Supreme Court ruled Thursday in the justices' first-ever pronouncement on the meaning of gun rights under the Second Amendment.

The court's 5-4 ruling struck down the District of Columbia's ban on handguns. The decision went further than even the Bush administration wanted, but probably leaves most federal firearms restrictions intact.

District of Columbia Mayor Adrian Fenty responded with a plan to require residents of the nation's capital to register their handguns. "More handguns in the District of Columbia will only lead to more handgun violence," Fenty said.

The court had not conclusively interpreted the Second Amendment since its ratification in 1791. The amendment reads: "A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed."

The basic issue for the justices was whether the amendment protects an individual's right to own guns no matter what, or whether that right is somehow tied to service in a state militia.

Writing for the majority, Justice Antonin Scalia said that an individual right to bear arms is supported by "the historical narrative" both before and after the Second Amendment was adopted.

The Constitution does not permit "the absolute prohibition of handguns held and used for self-defense in the home," Scalia said. The court also struck down Washington's requirement that firearms be equipped with trigger locks or kept disassembled, but left intact the licensing of guns.

Scalia noted that the handgun is Americans' preferred weapon of self-defense in part because "it can be pointed at a burglar with one hand while the other hand dials the police."

Scalia's opinion dealt almost exclusively with self-defense in the home, acknowledging only briefly in his lengthy historical analysis that early Americans also valued gun rights because of hunting.

The brevity of Scalia's treatment of gun ownership for hunting and sports-shooting is explained by the case before the court. The Washington law at issue, like many gun control laws around the country, concerns heavily populated areas, not hunting grounds.

In a dissent he summarized from the bench, Justice John Paul Stevens wrote that the majority "would have us believe that over 200 years ago, the Framers made a choice to limit the tools available to elected officials wishing to regulate civilian uses of weapons."

He said such evidence "is nowhere to be found."

Justice Stephen Breyer wrote a separate dissent in which he said, "In my view, there simply is no untouchable constitutional right guaranteed by the Second Amendment to keep loaded handguns in the house in crime-ridden urban areas."

Joining Scalia were Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Samuel Alito, Anthony Kennedy and Clarence Thomas. The other dissenters were Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and David Souter.

Gun rights supporters hailed the decision. "I consider this the opening salvo in a step-by-step process of providing relief for law-abiding Americans everywhere that have been deprived of this freedom," said Wayne LaPierre, executive vice president of the National Rifle Association.

The NRA will file lawsuits in San Francisco, Chicago and several of its suburbs challenging handgun restrictions there based on Thursday's outcome.

Chicago mayor Richard Daley said he didn't know how the high court ruling would affect the city, but said that the ruling was "a very frightening decision." He predicted an end to Chicago's handgun ban would spark new violence and force the city to raise taxes to pay for new police.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., a leading gun control advocate in Congress, criticized the ruling. "I believe the people of this great country will be less safe because of it," she said.

The capital's gun law was among the nation's strictest. Dick Anthony Heller, 66, an armed security guard, sued the District after it rejected his application to keep a handgun at his Capitol Hill home a short distance from the Supreme Court.

"I'm thrilled I am now able to defend myself and my household in my home," Heller said shortly after the opinion was announced.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia ruled in Heller's favor and struck down Washington's handgun ban, saying the Constitution guarantees Americans the right to own guns and that a total prohibition on handguns is not compatible with that right.

The issue caused a split within the Bush administration. Vice President Dick Cheney supported the appeals court ruling, but others in the administration feared it could lead to the undoing of other gun regulations, including a federal law restricting sales of machine guns. Other laws keep felons from buying guns and provide for an instant background check.

Thursday's decision was embraced by the president, said White House press secretary Dana Perino. "This has been the administration's long-held view," Perino said. "The president is also pleased that the court concluded that the D.C. firearm laws violate that right."

White House reaction was restrained. "We're pleased that the Supreme Court affirmed that the Second Amendment protects the right of Americans to keep and bear arms," White House spokesman Tony Fratto said.

Scalia said nothing in Thursday's ruling should "cast doubt on long-standing prohibitions on the possession of firearms by felons or the mentally ill, or laws forbidding the carrying of firearms in sensitive places such as schools and government buildings."

The law adopted by Washington's city council in 1976 bars residents from owning handguns unless they had one before the law took effect. Shotguns and rifles may be kept in homes, if they are registered, kept unloaded and either disassembled or equipped with trigger locks.

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