- - Monday, July 28, 2014

Thugs in the nation’s capital might think twice now before preying on a nighttime stroller — or a stroller in midafternoon, for that matter — in the belief that the prey won’t shoot back. The good guys can now defend themselves.

That’s the promise in an order issued last week by U.S. District Judge Frederick J. Scullin Jr. forbidding the D.C. government and Metropolitan Police Chief Cathy L. Lanier to enforce laws prohibiting the carrying of handguns for self-defense.

Technically, the D.C. ordinance already allows carrying a gun with a permit, it’s just that the District makes sure nobody has one. The city council repealed the police chief’s authority to issue permits in 2008. This ban obviously infringes on the Second Amendment right to bear arms, but in Washington the powers that be think they have the right not to enforce laws they don’t like.

Judge Scullin, a former federal prosecutor appointed to the bench by President George H.W. Bush, took his cue from the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in 2010 in McDonald v. Chicago that applied the Second Amendment to the states and from the Heller v. D.C. ruling in 2008 striking down the District’s prohibition on “keeping” a gun in a home. He logically reasoned that the “bearing” of arms must also be allowed. Even the left’s favorite collection of activist judges, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals based in California, recognized in February that San Diego’s system of issuing concealed-carry permits only to celebrities and wealthy political donors violates the Constitution.

“In light of Heller, McDonald, and their progeny,” Judge Scullin ruled from his courtroom in Syracuse, N.Y., “there is no longer any basis on which this Court can conclude that the District of Columbia’s total ban on the public carrying of ready-to-use handguns outside the home is constitutional under any level of scrutiny.” Or, as Alan Gura, the Second Amendment Foundation lawyer who argued the case, put it: “Totally banning a right literally spelled out in the Bill of Rights isn’t going to fly.”

This ought to be good news for a staff member for Rep. Tom Marino, Pennsylvania Republican, who was arrested earlier this month for inadvertently taking a pistol through the X-ray machine in the Cannon House Office Building. The problem wasn’t bringing the weapon to his office — Congress has given itself permission to keep guns — he was arrested for violating D.C.’s carry ban.

The same thing happened in 2007 to a staff member for Jim Webb, then a Democratic senator from Virginia. Mr. Webb’s aide retained a lawyer who had once worked for the National Rifle Association who was eager to argue that U.S. law, which authorizes the transport of a gun from one lawful place to another, trumps a D.C. city ordinance. The charges were quickly dropped.

The U.S. Capitol Police has yet to clarify whether congressmen, senators and key staffers would now be allowed to take their guns to work. They’re obviously counting on a higher court to make Judge Scullin’s ruling go away.

Given the clarity of precedent, a stay seems unlikely. The D.C. Council is likely working now on a convoluted scheme to overrule Judge Scullin, making the exercise of a constitutional right as difficult as possible. If it succeeds, it will only make life easier for the District’s evildoers, and there are plenty of them.