- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 19, 2007


It’s about time the Supreme Court cleared up the confusion surrounding the Second Amendment. For decades, municipalities have passed severe restrictions on firearms, up to and including handgun bans, and the nation’s circuit courts don’t agree on the issue. The high court heard its last Second Amendment case in 1939.

On Monday, Mayor Adrian Fenty vowed to take Parker v. the District of Columbia (in which residents protested the D.C. ban on virtually all handguns, and its requirement that long guns be stored, locked and unloaded) before the court. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit has sided against the city, declaring that the Second Amendment protects an individual right to keep and bear arms.

However much the nation could use a ruling, Mr. Fenty’s choice betrays an inability to look home first. The mayor’s attention, and the city attorneys, could be better utilized elsewhere.

If the court hears the case, the odds of a split decision run high, and it’s unclear which way the majority will rule. Should Mr. Fenty lose, the city will find itself in the exact situation it would have been in without an appeal.

But even Mr. Fenty’s ideal outcome, a Supreme Court endorsement of our city’s draconian gun laws, promises few benefits. The gun ban hasn’t solved the crime problem: While the area’s murder rate fell between 2005 and 2006, there have been 97 homicides so far this year, according to the Metropolitan Police Department. At this time last year, there had been 96.

In January, Mr. Fenty himself observed, “We have one of the highest homicide rates in the country but at the same time have the strictest [gun] law.”

Indeed, there doesn’t seem to be much of a link between the ban, enacted in 1976, and the murder rate. The statistic varied randomly from about a decade before the ban until 1987, after which point the law failed to disarm gangsters in a severe rash of drug killings.

This mirrors larger statistical analyses. In recent years, both the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the National Academies of Science reported they had failed to find any evidence that gun control reduces violence. (Both called for more research.)

The bottom line is that Mr. Fenty is gambling resources and political capital on an even shot at protecting an ineffective policy. A Supreme Court ruling will validate or strike down laws in places like New York City, Chicago and numerous Chicago suburbs, but it won’t improve life for the mayor’s constituents.

Were he concerned only with advancing the city’s interests — in other words, his job — he’d have dropped it. He’d use his position to promote law enforcement measures that actually save lives.

It appears the mayor would rather take the spotlight in a national constitutional debate.

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