Court to DC: "'Because We Said So' Isn't Good Enough."
When I arrest a person, I temporarily intervene with their rights. It's true. Sadly, it's a necessity. Freedom of travel is restricted, by definition. Your right to peaceable assembly may well be interrupted. And your right to bear arms will be temporarily withheld. Privacy basically goes out the window. (This last right being a "penumbral right," under Griswold.)
I'd better be able to show a compelling reason why I (as a very minor agent of the state) am denying a citizen his or her rights.
In the case of the 2nd Amendment right to bear arms, my reason is that prisoners may not carry arms because they will be in a jail. In a jail, the issue is one of officer and inmate safety. It's just a plain fact that most people don't want to be in jail, and that a higher percentage of people in the jail will use arms against each other and against their jailers, if they have them. Impulse control is notably low among the inmate population.
So there you are-- a compelling reason by the state to deny one's second amendment right. Jail time. Or Prison time. Or temporarily detained while the cops on scene try to figure out who's the good guy and who's the bad guy time.
In the case of Washington D.C., the reason that was put forth to deny all non-law-enforcement persons in the District to even possess a pistol was "Because there have been a lot of murders." Uh, come again? It's really, really dangerous to live there, so you're going to take away the people's right to defend themselves? Their Constitutional right... you're just going to take it upon yourselves to deny it, completely, on the idea that it would make the city safer.
The fact is, the murder rate in the District of Columbia climbed:
See that drop in the mid-nineties? It reflected the national crime trend toward dropping crime that reflected the economic situation. But note-- gun laws didn't do a damned thing to change the crime rate in Washington DC.
In fact, in July of 2006, the mayor of Washington D.C. declared a crime emergency in the district.
For 33 years, the District has enforced this ban on a Constitutional right. (Oh, I know-- they could still keep their long guns. Disassembled and locked up.) And every year, the question would be raised again-- how is this making the nation's capital city safer?
I am not going to say that, across the board, the murder rate* will decrease when citizens in DC are allowed to exercise their rights.
I will say that, across the board, the amount of freedom will increase. If there is no empirical harm to a person's exercise of freedom, then how can anyone justify restricting the rights of that person?
Finally, enough was enough. A group of Washington residents sued the District on the basis that their rights were being infringed. Heller v. D.C.
The federal district court dismissed the suit.
The appellate court overturned the dismissal.
Today, the Supreme Court of the United States upheld the appellate court, and held that the right to keep and bear arms is an individual's right. In so doing, it struck down the Firearms Control Regulations Act of 1975, and made the first definitive 2nd Amendment ruling since Miller in 1939.
While the 5-4 margin is uncomfortably tight, I've still got to agree with my friend Tamara: "Baby, the sun is over the yardarm early today."
I believe a dram of Scotch is in order.
*Note: The FBI UCR considers all "Non-negligent homicides" to be worthy of inclusion to the murder stat. That means that every time a good guy zaps a bad guy who was threatening his life, the murder rate goes up. Talk about a stacked deck.