- The Washington Times - Monday, June 3, 2002

The city's ban on private handgun ownership is about to be challenged as unconstitutional in large measure because of Attorney General John Ashcroft's recent, refreshing affirmation that the Second Amendment does, in fact, protect an individual right to possess firearms. Although the Bush administration has beckpedaled a bit recently, Mr. Ashcroft's interpretation of the Second Amendment amounts to a significant reversal of policy for the federal government, which, since 1939, has taken the position that the guarantee applies only to "militias," not ordinary citizens. Mr. Ashcroft rightly noted that "the text and original intent of the Second Amendment clearly protect the right of individuals to keep and bear arms." Even a cursory reading of colonial-era documents, including the views of the men who wrote the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, supports Mr. Ashcroft's interpretation.
Privately owned firearms were ubiquitous in America during the lifetimes of the Founding Fathers and well after that. It was taken as a given that individuals had the right to keep and bear arms. It was only the willful disregard of original intent and the clear statements of the founders on the subject that allowed Franklin Roosevelt's activist, liberal Supreme Court in 1939 to disavow what had been a uniquely American birthright. Gun-control agitators have based all their arguments on the post-1939 history of federal regulation of firearms and assiduously avoided any acknowledgement of what the founders themselves wrote and intended. Thus, the social engineering of activist judges clearly hostile to the Constitution as written and determined to remake it more to their own liking has come to take precedence over what the founders attempted to bequeath to subsequent generations of Americans.
The District of Columbia has had a near-total ban on the private ownership of handguns since 1976, along with tough penalties for mere possession. The result has been that only criminals have guns, and gun-related violence within the city has been appallingly high relative to the surrounding Northern Virginia and Maryland jurisdictions the absence of strict gun-control laws in those areas notwithstanding. This may change if challenges to the city's law based on the federal government's new stance on the Second Amendment are successful.
D.C. residents may soon enjoy their Second Amendment rights and have the right to defend themselves. There will be much wailing and gnashing of teeth from the gun-control lobby, but more than 25 years of strict gun-control laws have demonstrated the bankruptcy of disarming law-abiding citizens. It's time to change course. By taking such a bold stance, Attorney General John Ashcroft may have paved the way to making it possible.

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