The District of Columbia has made it clear that it will not abide by a mere order from the US Supreme Court. So far it has:
- Denied citizens the right to possess semi-automatic handguns, despite their being the most popular weapons for self defense, despite a clear analogy to the Court’s finding that:
It is no answer to say, as petitioners do, that it is permissible to ban the possession of handguns so long as the possession of other firearms (i.e., long guns) is allowed. . . 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.
- Denied Dick Heller a permit for his handgun, violating the Court’s order that:
Assuming that Heller is not disqualified from the exercise of Second Amendment rights, the District must permit him to register his handgun and must issue him a license to carry it in the home.
Now they’ve gone to the ruling’s central holding. The Court found that:
In sum, we hold that the District’s ban on handgun possession in the home violates the Second Amendment, as does its prohibition against rendering any lawful firearm in the home operable for the purpose of immediate self-defense.
“Immediate self-defense” seems clear, doesn’t it? That means that your gun can be assembled, loaded, unlocked, and available. Otherwise you can’t use it immediately. DC doesn’t agree, reports Washington Post blogger Marc Fisher:
The D.C. officials read the decision as an almost academic ruling that although there may be a constitutional right to bear arms to protect yourself, that right is pretty much limited to folks whose house is being broken into right this very second. . . [DC Attorney General] Nickles said “it’s clear the Supreme Court didn’t intend for you to have a loaded gun around the house. . .
D.C. gun owners would be prohibited from keeping their gun loaded unless they could demonstrate that the firearm is “being used against a reasonably perceived threat of immediate harm.”
What does that mean? “Somebody’s approaching your home,” Nickles offered. Or “an actual threat by somebody you believe is out to hurt you.”
How about if there’s been a break-in next door? That’s close, the attorney general said. . .
“I don’t think they intended that anybody who had a vague notion of a threat should have access to a gun,” [DC Mayor] Fenty told me.
(By the way, I was wrong about this and Glenn Reynolds was right. I gave DC too much credit.) They also plan to tie up any gun registrations in red tape:
The mayor and the D.C. Council are enacting emergency law setting up a cumbersome mechanism by which someone who wants to own a gun legally may register a weapon if they clear a background check, pass a vision test and a written test of gun safety knowledge, pay a fee and wait for the bureaucracy to push through all these steps. “There are circumstances where it could take months,” Police Chief Cathy Lanier conceded, and you could almost hear the elected officials around her emitting “heh-hehs” of mischievous delight.
I think this is actually good news, as long as you don’t live in DC, that is. This will keep the legal conflict alive on the most favorable possible terms, in the very place where the Circuit Court and Supreme Court have already found in favor of the right to bear arms.