- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 17, 2003

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch fired a shot heard around the District of Columbia this week. Three days ago, he introduced legislation to repeal the draconian gun-control laws that prevent Washington residents from owning handguns. Since 1976, the city has maintained the strictest, or close to the strictest, gun-control laws in the nation. Despite the gun ban, Washington has frequently had the highest homicide rate in the country. According to FBI statistics, it was the murder capital again last year, with its rate of 48.5 killings per 100,000 residents far ahead of other urban centers. Reflecting on this situation, Mr. Hatch said that the District’s policy is “as ineffective and deplorable as it is unconstitutional.” We could not agree more.

Eleanor Holmes Norton, the District’s delegate to Congress, only puts forth a lame argument against loosening gun-control laws. Contrary to nationwide trends that reveal crime drops in areas with a high percentage of legal gun ownership, she protested that, “The only thing that would cause more murder and mayhem in this city is allowing freer access to guns.” With this line, she also ignores national statistics which show that only a minuscule number of crimes are committed with legally owned guns.

The position of city government is equally senseless. Police Chief Charles Ramsey’s much-heralded crime-prevention manifesto is comprised of 22 initiatives, including ride-along programs in police cruisers, gun buy-back deals and what to do about so-called hate crimes. No. 2 on this crime-fighting agenda is automated traffic enforcement, and on Monday, the chief extended the hours of operation of speed cameras to between 10 p.m. and 4 a.m. at 65 locations. No comparable deployment of technology or manpower has been launched to fight violent crime — such as through community policing, foot patrols or private gun ownership — so law-abiding people can protect themselves. Mr. Hatch’s bill merely plans to do what the city won’t do for itself, and what national law allows. The U.S. Constitution guarantees the right to bear arms and gives Congress jurisdiction over the District.

On the Metropolitan Police Department’s Web page, Chief Ramsey states that his policing strategy is to work with the community to prevent crime. “Sometimes the first step can be as simple as picking up a broom to clean the streets and sidewalks in front of your home,” he says. “One person with a broom can set the example for the whole neighborhood.” This might be true, but it is hardly relevant to the violence on city streets. A broom will not deter an armed attacker. If Chief Ramsey and the D.C. Council appreciate the trickle down effect of beautifying the block, they should also understand that word will get around pretty fast when a homeowner legally shoots a criminal breaking into his house.

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