- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 13, 2003

Tired of being harassed, threatened and mugged, a group of Washington residents filed suit Monday to overturn the District's outright ban on private handgun ownership. Theirs is a constitutional case. Despite the Second Amendment guarantee that the "right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed," a legal decision in 1939 interpreted this as only applying to members of a state militia. Mainstream legal thinking, however, is moving away from this ruling, and the chances are reasonable that soon this right will be interpreted correctly to apply to individuals, as well.
But judging from City Hall's reaction, Mayor Anthony Williams and his lawyers seem intent on stopping this trend with a full salvo of scare stories. "I think it's a real myth that people would be able to arm themselves and avoid being shot," said Tony Bullock, the mayor's spokesman. "Chances are very good that they would accidentally shoot themselves or that the gun would find its way into the hands of a child, which is not what we want."
Since Mr. Bullock brings up the issue of myths, let's dispel a few. For starters, the inept bureaucrats at City Hall will no doubt be surprised to learn that millions of people are capable of picking up a gun without shooting themselves. Indeed, the District's high crime-rate attests to as much: Self-inflicted gunshot wounds by criminals remain depressingly low. As for Mr. Bullock's concerns regarding guns and children, we're firm believers in the notion that it's incumbent upon gunowners to store their firearms in a safe and responsible manner. Still, if it meant any loosening of the District's onerous gun laws, we would begrudgingly consider supporting measures such as mandatory training, or perhaps gun locks or holding gun-owners to stiffer account for accidental shootings.
The individual ownership of guns is not only constitutional, but contributes significantly to increased public safety. Consider, for example, the results in states that have passed conceal-carry measures, the freest gun laws. While it's not a uniform relationship, there's no doubt that the violent crime rate in cities has decreased measurably after their respective state capitals passed conceal-carry laws Pittsburgh and Dallas come to mind. Cities that maintain restrictive gun policies, on the other hand Chicago, for example, or Washington continue to suffer from rampant crime. "The presence of a weapon changes a situation dramatically, and suddenly people who are full of bravado are brought up short," said Tom Palmer, one of the D.C. plaintiffs. "It's not very fun when the prey can fight back."
Those whom Mr. Palmer and his fellow plaintiffs are fighting are of the same ilk as those who say they oppose hunting because the deer can't shoot back. What these folks really mean to say is that they oppose hunting, period. As such, no matter how factual the rebuttal to City Hall's false concerns, there's little chance of persuading it otherwise. Until the naysayers who populate it pull their heads out of the sand, it's the rest of us who will have our tails shot off. Unless the courts wisely find for the plaintiffs in this case, which we recommend.

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