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News-Sentinel.com Your Town. Your Voice.
Opening Arguments

Bearing arms

It's my gun, not everybody's:

Deep inside Washington's police headquarters is a library like few others, with floor-to-ceiling racks displaying 1,700 guns, from a World War II-era rifle with bayonet to rows of pocket-size revolvers, automatic pistols and big six-shooters that look straight out of the Wild West.

Most of the guns, used now for forensic research, were seized during crimes under a 31-year-old law in the nation's capital that bars handgun ownership for nearly everyone except law enforcement — a measure police have praised as a valuable tool against violence.

But that ban is now in jeopardy. The law was struck down by a federal appeals court this year, and now the District of Columbia is asking the Supreme Court to weigh in. Both sides of the gun debate are apprehensive.

The case represents the first time a federal appeals court struck down a gun-control law on the grounds that the Second Amendment guarantees the right of individuals to own guns. Up to now, courts have generally interpreted the amendment to protect only the collective right of states to maintain militias.

If it takes the case, the high court could issue its first direct ruling on the Second Amendment in 70 years, solidifying some of the nation's toughest gun laws or exposing them to a torrent of new challenges.

"It will be the biggest ruling on the Second Amendment ever," Paul Helmke, president of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence. "You get nervous when you see something with far-reaching implications."

Even the National Rifle Association, which believes it might have an advantage with a conservative-leaning high court, is uneasy.

Notice our own Paul Helmke in there. I think he ought to be more nervous than the NRA, considering the current makeup of the court and an honest interpretation of the Second Amendment. Granted, it is the most ambigious part of the Bill of Rights. Instead of a straightforward "Congress shall not" edict, we have the "well-regulated militia" qualifier.

 But if you read what the Framers considered when they were discussing the issue -- I have -- you cannot possibly believe they meant the right to bear arms as a collective right instead of an individual one. Come on -- the whole point of the Bill of Rights was to reserve rights to the people and the states that the federal government should not ifringe upon. You don't like gun ownership? Then work to repeal the amendment.


Bob G.
Fri, 10/05/2007 - 9:46am

Seems the first concern should be where to purchase a LARGER FAN, because you know how much "stuff" will wind up hitting soon enough.


(gun control WORKS...in every fascist state)
PEOPLE control works much better.

MRev. Kenneth White, Jnr.
Fri, 10/05/2007 - 7:53pm

There is also a legal concern over the property status of Washington D.C. itsself technically Washington D.C. is not the property of the United States of America but Britain

Hence supposedly why when WDC passed Domestic Partnership/Civil Union they had to make sure it would be slightly comparable to British Law.

I think it is a good idea to have a weapon free Capital including the cops. The Seat of our Government of this beautiful land should foster the of gathering of ideas and be a place of peace. But then again I am an idealist.

Steve T.
Sun, 10/07/2007 - 3:34am

Exactly. Any gun law or court decision which has infringed the right to bear arms despite the blanket constitutional guarantee of no infringement is, by definition, bad law in need of repair.

The only question is whether the current SC has the integrity, sense of constitutional justice, awareness of the intent of the Founders, and exceptional historic stature to set aside the body of legal and judicial error (much as a previous court set aside the entire body of law supporting the unconstitutional doctrine called "Separate but Equal").

Be sure to note, in pondering this matter afresh, that the Second Amendment rubs shoulders with the First Amendment in the Bill of Rights. Our estimate of one defines for the future the strength or weakness of the other.