During his presidency in the early part of the 19th Century, Andrew Jackson famously challenged the United States Supreme Court to try and enforce a ruling with which he disagreed. The high Court, absent any physical means to force a commander in chief to obey its order, could do little in the face of Jackson’s defiance. The government of the District of Columbia in 2010 is emulating Jackson’s defiant attitude. The issue involves the extent to which law-abiding citizens in the nation’s capitol – which has long been a city that believes the safest citizenry is a disarmed citizenry – may possess a firearm in their own home.
Two years ago, in a case involving a direct challenge to the three-decades old D.C. gun ban, the Supreme Court ruled that the Second Amendment did indeed protect a pre-existing individual right to “keep and bear arms”; and that the local government’s complete ban on keeping a firearm in one’s home (or anywhere else) was an impermissible restriction on that right. In the wake of that ruling, however, the District government has been doing everything it can to avoid allowing the citizens within its jurisdiction any meaningful Second Amendment rights.
For example, when forced to actually take steps a year after the 2008 Supreme Court ruling, the D.C. city council adopted procedures governing the circumstances under which one of its law-abiding citizens might be able to lawfully maintain a firearm at home. The list of requirements a prospective firearms owner must meet is extensive; and includes, for example:
The above list is neither exhaustive nor does it reflect the many additional restrictions imposed on the physical aspects of maintaining a firearm in one’s home. For example, the District government requires that the firearm be maintained in an unusable condition unless the citizen can demonstrate that its use is required to meet an “immediate” threat imposed by an “intruder” in their home! Also, the authorities prohibit the citizen from possessing any handgun that is semi-automatic and which has an ammunition clip capable of holding more than 10 rounds.
So-called “assault weapons” are of course banned. This category includes a list similar to that incorporated in the 1994 federal gun ban (a law that expired 10 years later); meaning essentially rifles that look nasty but are no more or less deadly than many other hunting rifles, are verboten.
Following the District’s promulgation of these regulations “permitting” its citizens to protect themselves in their homes, Dick Heller (the D.C. citizen who successfully challenged the old gun ban) brought another legal action, claiming this latest permutation was overly restrictive of his rights guaranteed under the Second Amendment and failed to comply with the 2008 Supreme Court opinion bearing his name. Late last month, a federal judge, applying a standard preordained to uphold a government restriction, found the District’s actions to be “reasonable.”
Hopefully, Mr. Heller will not stop here, but will appeal his case and eventually afford the Supreme Court a chance to revisit this issue and put a stop to the District of Columbia’s Jackson-esque defiance.