A Capital View: Let D.C. Keep Its Gun Ban

The Supreme Court will decide next year whether the District of Columbia can restrict handguns in a city with a big murder rate problem. Don't be surprised if the court doesn't go along with gun zealots and declare the ban unconstitutional.

Four conservative justices are probably ready to vote right now. Put Clarence Thomas, Antonin Scalia, and George W. Bush's two choices, John Roberts and Sam Alito, in that already-decided column. That side would then need only one other justice to declare null and void the city's ban of 31 years.

Conservatives are supposed to be for states' rights. While D.C. is not a state, the city council is a ruling body and it has stood behind this law for over three decades. But the court showed in the Gore v. Bush case in Florida seven years ago that states' rights don't mean much with this group.

The Second Amendment to the Constitution does give citizens a right to bear arms. However, it also mentions state militias as a potential controlling force on weapons.

The National Rifle Association is euphoric that the court has decided to hear the case. The NRA and its fellow travelers want to make sure that there are guns, guns, and more guns on America's streets, in D.C. and elsewhere.

The NRA argument has a gaping hole. It says citizens have a right to protect themselves with weapons at home. The problem is that many have no plan to keep those weapons locked up in homes.

The right-wing Washington Times wants the court to make sure all of us in D.C. have those weapons. The paper framed the issue this way, as a question: "Whether [the D.C. law] violates the Second Amendment right to individuals who are not affiliated with any state-regulated militia but wish to keep hand guns and other weapons [my emphasis] for private use in their homes."

Perhaps the other weapons mean automatic weapons, machine guns, mortars, and even an artillery piece if it fits in the living room.

Allow me a personal note. One of my mother's brothers literally shot the leg off an older brother in a hunting accident in North Dakota, where shooting pheasants is a time-honored tradition. He thought the safety catch was on and never got over causing the amputation of a sibling's leg.

So I was raised to fear weapons. It wasn't until my service in the Army that I learned to respect, rather than fear, weapons.

The Supreme Court should respect D.C.'s right to ban handguns, as a strong majority in the city feels that way.

By John W. Mashek