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Getting a Gun in D.C.: Not as Easy as You Might Think


Location: Washington, DC

Getting a Gun in D.C.: Not As Easy As You Might Think

In response to the Supreme Court's verdict in District of Columbia v. Heller, the D.C. City Council has already passed a new law to restrict gun owners in ways that fall just short of an outright ban. In the Heller case, the U.S. Supreme Court affirmed something that many of us already knew, the 2nd Amendment to the U.S. Constitution provides law-abiding citizens a fundamental right to keep and bear arms. In the majority opinion, Justice Antonin Scalia wrote, "the American people have considered the handgun to be the quintessential self-defense weapon…A complete prohibition of their use is invalid." From that, one could reasonably think that law-abiding citizens in the District of Columbia could keep guns in their homes for self-defense purposes. Not so fast, like most policy questions in Washington, the devil is in the details. While many were quick to praise this integral step towards protecting rights granted in the Constitution, anyone who follows politics knows victories are temporary at best.

When discussing political battles, Lady Margaret Thatcher frequently commented, "You may have to fight a battle more than once in order to win it." And that is certainly the case with securing 2nd Amendment rights in D.C. To say the District is complying with the Supreme Court's ruling is a joke. City officials readily admit that they are inviting additional legal challenges. But the consequences for the city's residents, and their ability to defend themselves, are anything but funny.

While the Court held that the District's handgun ban is unconstitutional, the District will still outlaw handguns for the protection of a business, for recreational shooting, and other lawful purposes that citizens in Wyoming and across the nation enjoy. As for self-defense in the home, the District still prohibits having a gun loaded and ready unless an attack within your home is imminent or underway. Even if a person anticipates an attack in their home, the gun must remain locked up until the gun is actually being used in self-defense, stacking the deck against law-abiding citizens and in favor of criminals.

The District's new law will still prohibit virtually all of the semi-automatic handguns that make up roughly 75 percent of the handguns sold in the United States in the past 20 years. The registration process for the few handguns that are available will be extremely burdensome, requiring multiple visits to the police station and passing a test on D.C. gun laws. So despite the Supreme Court's ruling, the District will still maintain the most restrictive gun laws in the nation.

As a member of the Board of Directors of the National Rifle Association, I have always worked to protect the rights that the 2nd Amendment guarantees. I also want to see our cities and communities safer, but the answer does not lie in curtailing the freedoms of law-abiding citizens. Despite having the most restrictive firearm laws in the nation, D.C. has consistently held one of the highest violent crime rates in the nation. This is not a coincidence and this failed social experiment must end. The ruling of the Supreme Court was certainly a step in the right direction; however, it is by no means the final step in securing the Second Amendment rights that the Constitution provides.

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