- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 20, 2008

The U.S. Supreme Court’s justices are making noises that suggest they will restore the Second Amendment rights to residents of the nation’s capital, as they should be.

The D.C. Council imposed a handgun ban on its citizenry in 1976, ostensibly to save lives. The measure has not worked out as envisioned, predictably enough.

The nation’s capital earned the dubious distinction of being the nation’s murder capital in the early ‘90s, when the violence spiked because of the crack epidemic. The number of murders in the city peaked at 479 in 1991. There were 181 murders in the city last year, with more and more neighborhoods in the city undergoing gentrification and some of the violent crime spilling over into Prince George’s County.

This is the demographic reality that no city lawmaker is apt to utter in public. City lawmakers are more apt to blame the murder rate on the easy accessibility of handguns in Maryland and Virginia, a thin argument that ignores the vagaries of the human condition. If a gang member or drug dealer wants a handgun, regardless of the law, you can be certain he can make a quick call to secure one in short order.

Not that the nine justices are inclined to make their ruling based on an interpretation of the murder statistics of the city. Theirs is a higher pursuit of the Constitution, of what the Framers actually intended with the Second Amendment, whether its reference to service in a militia extends to individuals having a right to bear arms.

City officials note that residents are permitted to own shotguns and rifles, so long as they are unloaded and have a trigger lock on them. The latter leads to an absurd scenario in the event of a burglar trying to enter your home.

Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. suggested that he might support trigger locks because of the risk of children being around firearms. But he also wondered about a trigger locker’s actions in an emergency.

“So then you turn on the lamp, you pick up your reading glasses,” he said.

He could have added that you spend the next couple of minutes fumbling around in pursuit of the key before actually loading the gun.

Of course, those who mean harm to your property and welfare lack the courtesy to wait on the multistep process of activating a shotgun or rifle.

That terror-filled scenario is difficult to quantify in the clinical debate on handgun ownership. It is all too easy to argue that guns kill, as if that somehow silences the debate. And it is equally easy to argue that if a ban on handguns saves just one life a year, then the measure is worth it.

Alas, we humans find all kinds of creative ways, accidental or otherwise, to snuff out one another. No one, for instance, would argue that automobiles should be banned, although we know that 40,000-plus lose their lives on America’s roadways each year.

Difficult as it may be to accept, the criminal element is destined to be armed. That leaves the law-abiding in a vulnerable position, especially in the tougher sections of the city where residents live behind multiple deadbolt locks on their doors and bars on their windows.

That hard truth is far removed from the debate. Residents of the city should not have to live in fear. They should not have to live behind bars, as virtual prisoners in their homes. They should have more recourse than an unloaded rifle or shotgun with a trigger lock on it, which is almost no recourse at all.

D.C. Mayor Adrian M. Fenty wants the Supreme Court to keep the ban in place, because “more guns anywhere in the District of Columbia is going to lead to more crime.” Mr. Fenty does not say how he knows this. But he means well, as do all gun-control advocates who ignore the evil that lurks in our midst.

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