Heller Versus District Of Columbia II: The NRA Loses A Big One

Ever since the Supreme Court decided in 2008 that the 2nd Amendment gave law-abiding Americans the right to keep a gun in the home for self-defense , the NRA had been racking up a very impressive series of legal wins in various courtrooms around the country, most recently a decision in California that struck down San Diego’s concealed-carry law as being an infringement of 2nd-Amendment rights.  But the music stopped playing last week when the Federal District Court in Washington D.C. upheld the city’s gun registration procedure which had been challenged by the self-same Dick Heller whose lawsuit became the basis for the historic 2nd Amendment decision in 2008.

Dick Heller

Dick Heller

Anyone who wants to own a gun in DC has to go through a pretty lengthy and cumbersome process, including a detailed background check, followed by a safety and proficiency course, and then is required to submit the actual gun to the police department for inspection and registration, the permit for which must then be renewed every three years.  Gun purchases are also rationed, i.e., nobody is permitted to purchase more than one handgun every thirty days.  There is no other political jurisdiction in the entire United States, including New York City with its infamous Sullivan Law, that mandates such a comprehensive registration procedure for all firearms, and it was the requirement that long guns be subject to background checks and inspections that, among other procedures, was challenged by Heller in his new lawsuit.

The District Court’s opinion runs more than 60 pages, based largely on testimony by, among others, the DC Police Chief Cathy Lanier, former ATF agents Mark Jones and Joseph Vince, and Dan Webster, who heads the Bloomberg Center for Gun Policy at Johns Hopkins University.  The plaintiffs produced testimony from Professor Gary Kleck, a long-time academic supporter of the NRA.  I don’t have space to go over every point that was argued in detail, but there was one basic issue that stood out and, not surprisingly, was omitted from a summary of the case posted by the NRA.

The NRA and other pro-gun organizations have consistently argued against any expansion of gun control measures because, according to them, such procedures make it more burdensome for law-abiding citizens to own guns while, on the other hand, criminals will always find a way to get around the law.  To quote the Plaintiffs: “Criminals circumvent the process by purchasing guns on the street and bypassing registration altogether.”  To which the District Court rejoined: “According to the Plaintiffs, municipalities should be limited to enacting only those firearms regulations that lawbreakers will obey – a curious argument that would render practically any guns laws unconstitutional.”

You got that one right, baby.  That’s what it’s all about.  The truth is that pro-gun activists don’t want any laws or regulations on firearms, regardless of the intent of the law.  On the other hand, it has to be said that most people who want more gun control would just as well see the 2nd Amendment go fly a kite.  As future gun litigation rumbles through the legal system, I hope that  jurists will be as candid and forthright as was Judge James Boasberg in speaking for the D.C. District Court, because in a debate that has been too clouded with overheated rhetoric and unsupported facts, it’s refreshing to read a legal opinion which clearly points out the basic issue separating the two sides.

Advertisements

8 thoughts on “Heller Versus District Of Columbia II: The NRA Loses A Big One

  1. Didn’t the District Court also uphold the law in the first Heller?

    That’s what it’s all about. The truth is that pro-gun activists don’t want any laws or regulations on firearms, regardless of the intent of the law.

    BUNK!.
    Nice try at a straw man argument. Unfortunately it is simply not true. I find it interesting that people who argue photo ID shouldn’t be required for voting aren’t accused of “don’t want any laws or regulations”. The free exercise of a right shouldn’t be dependent on governmental approval but that is a long cry from no regulations/laws.

    We already have laws against murder, rape, robbery with firearms. And according to the CDC; there isn’t enough evidence to say that laws like background check, registration, training, waiting periods reduce violent outcomes. So why continue to push failed laws?

  2. Hi, Mike. Found your website cuz I have a question from your book. Don’t see a venue here for asking questions about your books, but I am enjoying my subscription to your blogs.
    Like to hear more of your perspective on the DC gun law / ruling. Well, okay, I might also give out MY perspective.
    QUOTE To quote the Plaintiffs: “Criminals circumvent the process by purchasing guns on the street and bypassing registration altogether.” To which the District Court rejoined: “According to the Plaintiffs, municipalities should be limited to enacting only those firearms regulations that lawbreakers will obey – a curious argument that would render practically any guns laws unconstitutional.” ENDQUOTE
    My perspective on this interchange is that the judge mischaracterized the plaintiffs comment and then responded against something they didn’t actually say. My challenge, on any legislation, is WILL IT BE EFFECTIVE?
    So, from your experience and etc, are there tangible ways that these restrictions could possible reduce crime?
    Look forward to hearing more,
    J

  3. Like to hear your comments on the registration requirements in the bill.
    on pg 8, the judge incorporates the earlier justification for registration QUOTE SA163; see JA99–104. It further explained: Registration is critical because it: gives law enforcement essential information about firearm ownership, ALLOWS OFFICERS TO DETERMINE IN ADVANCE WHETHER INDIVIDUALS INVOLVED IN A CALL MAY HAVE FIREARMS {my caps}…ENDQUOTE
    In this recent ruling the judge said QUOTE Registration is narrowly tailored to compelling interests in that it serves to ENSURE THAT ONLY QUALIFIED PERSONS POSSESS FIREARMS and to discourage gun trafficking and crimes. {my caps} ENDQUOTE page 30
    okay, now we bring in Haynes vs US, 1968, where the Supreme Court said the 5th amendment exempts criminals from firearm registration requirements. QUOTE The original Haynes decision continues to block state prosecutions of criminals who fail to register guns as required by various state law gun registration schemes. ENDQUOTE
    So, yeah, the NRA has told us over and over that criminals who break the law and kill folk are not going to hike down to the local PD and sign in their guns. Duh. But I didn’t realize till recently that criminals are legally exempt.
    So, I’d like to hear your perspective on – well, actually, I guess it’s so obvious we can go ahead and state it. There is no way that the law will even begin to meet its objectives of limiting guns to qualified people, and providing a database cops can use to assess risk before entering a home. “Okay, Johnny, this guy doesn’t own any guns, so we’ll leave ours in the car and just carry the citation book. Apparently he beat his wife to death last night.” “Right Ralph. Ah shore am relieved to know in advance that he ain’t gots any guns in there. Thanks for checking the database before we left HQ”. Posh. Drivel.
    So, I’d like to hear your perspective on the Haynes decision. Is that for real? Is there really such a huge criminal exemption? and by extension, what value could any kind of registration program bring?
    I apologize if you already covered Haynes in one of your books (free advertising comment – “buy Mike’s books”). I’m only half-ways through the first one.
    -J

  4. The way the Courts have gotten around this was to say that it [the Haynes case] only referred to NFA (full-auto) registration and then they re-drafted the NFA registration guidelines to somehow get around it. There is something in the 4473 footnotes which also gets around this issue. I’ll check deeper tomorrow and send you a further comment. Good points, sir. And btw, I never thought that extending background checks would do anything.

Leave a Reply