Monday, February 27, 2012

DC's Plantation-like Gun Control

[Granting Negroes the full rights of citizenship] would give to persons of the negro race, who were recognized as citizens in any one State of the Union... the full liberty... to keep and carry arms wherever they went.
Dred Scott v. Sandford, 60 U.S. 393 (1856)

In my recent column Shall Not Be Infringed, I summarized the four-month ordeal that Emily Miller, the Senior Editor of The Washington Times Editorial and Opinion Pages, underwent in her efforts to legally obtain a handgun as a resident of Washington, D.C. Here's her one-sentence summary.
"Law-abiding citizens have to take a five-hour class that is only taught outside of the District, pay $465 in fees, sign six forms, pass a written test on gun laws, get fingerprinted, be subject to a police ballistics test and take days off work."
After all that, Emily ended up with permission to keep, but not bear, arms. There are no provisions for either concealed carry or open carry within the District. Its citizens must perform their jobs and conduct their daily travels defenseless; only those ordained by the establishment to keep the peace may travel armed. Of course, this includes private, licensed security firms, so the wealthy can travel fully protected by bodyguards; only those not on the top rungs of the economic ladder need be vulnerable to rampant crime.

It's hardly surprising that there are only about 1,500 registered guns in the District, or one for every 400 citizens. In comparison, national gun ownership (registered and unregistered) is estimated by Reuters to be nearly one-to-one. At the same time, the District has the highest firearms murder rate in the country, at 16 per 100,000 citizens. The District also has the highest firearms robberies rate; 256 per 100,000 people. These crimes are not committed with legally registered weapons. And with only 1,500 registered weapons in the population, none of which are permitted on the street, criminals, with or without guns, have little to fear from their victims.

As I also mentioned in the earlier column, violent crime in Washington D.C. is more than three times the national average of 404 reported offenses per 100,000 people in 2010. The actual rate is 1,330, or 330% that of the national average. The laundry list of crimes visited against those 601,723 people in 2010 alone is frightening.
  • 8,004 incidents of violent crime
  • 132 murders
  • 187 forcible rapes
  • 4,325 robberies
  • 3,360 aggravated assaults
  • 28,756 property crimes
  • 4,231 burglaries

The correlation between restrictive gun laws and violent crime I will leave to the consideration of the reader. That the 49 states that make concealed carry permits available to their citizens all have substantially lower crime rates is also worthy of consideration. Only Illinois has no provision for concealed carry anywhere in the state, making it the only state with licensing as restricted as that of our nation's capitol.

In Interstate Travel for a D.C. Gun, Emily considers the constitutionality of the District's gun laws.
"How can it be constitutional for D.C. residents to be forced to go to another state to exercise their 2nd Amendment right to keep and bear arms?"

"In order to register a gun for self defense in the home, the city requires residents to take four hours of classroom instruction and one hour on the shooting range with one of the firearms instructors they have certified.

"But, here’s the kicker: the instructors aren’t allowed to teach any part of it -- even the classroom -- within the city limits.

"Therefore, residents must go to another state - at their own expense - in order to fulfill the requirements of D.C.'s gun laws. Also, D.C. citizens have to take a day off work to do it since the whole trip and class time takes at least seven hours to complete."

"I finally found four instructors -- all in Maryland -- who were willing to teach the gun class. I would have to drive anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour each way to take the class.

"I’ve yet to find a class offered near a Metro stop. I don’t know what a D.C. resident without a car would do to take the class."

"I am going to ask local officials in D.C. how this gun safety class requirement can be constitutional if it can’t be completed within the city."
In Transporting a gun through D.C., she points out yet another disturbing factor that prevents regular practice by many of the District's citizens.
If you use public transportation, you can’t bring ammo and the gun stays in a locked box. But there are no shooting ranges on the Metro or bus lines. Once again, gun ownership in D.C. seems to require car ownership, thanks to the city's laws.
These issues are particularly troubling given the demographics of Washington D.C. While many people think of politicians, high-level bureaucrats, wealthy lawyers and lobbyists when they think of the District, the vast majority of those people live well outside the District limits in the wealthier surrounding communities, and commute to work.

A substantial portion of the residents of the District are those who do the cooking, the cleaning, the toting of goods, the maintenance and other menial chores that assure a comfortable life for the masters of the plantation. Those who perform such menial tasks are on the bottom rungs of the economic ladder in a city where the cost of living is 143% of the national average.
  • 63% are minorities, compared to 28% across the nation
  • 19% live below the poverty level -- 34% above the national average of 14%
  • 44% own their own homes, as opposed to 66% nationwide
  • 62% of housing units are in multi-unit structures, compared to 26% nationally
  • 53% are female, 2% higher than the national average

In addition, there are only 162,148 privately owned automobiles (2009 data) (roughly 1 per 4 citizens) and only 3/4 of driving-age citizens are licensed, the lowest rate in the country except for New York State. Based on all these statistics, it seems apparent that many District residents are in no position to legally acquire a handgun for self-defense.

Conclusion

Now that you fully understand the situation in our nation's capitol, I'd like to call your attention to a Supreme Court decision from the era of the earliest gun control laws.

In Dred Scott v. Sandford, 60 U.S. 393 (1856) (the "Dred Scott Decision"), the Supreme Court indicated that: "[Granting Negroes the full rights of citizenship] would give to persons of the negro race, who were recognized as citizens in any one State of the Union... the full liberty... to keep and carry arms wherever they went."

The draconian handgun licensing requirements in place in the District of Columbia, including repeated out-of-district travel and punitive fees that approach the cost of the handgun itself, are reminiscent of poll taxes and Jim Crow laws that kept minorities in the South defenseless for nearly a century after the Civil War. The disadvantaged of the District are legally kept as defenseless as the slaves on Southern plantations.

It is possible for a citizen of Washington D.C. to legally own a gun, assuming that they are in a financial position "to take a five-hour class that is only taught outside of the District, pay $465 in fees, sign six forms, pass a written test on gun laws, get fingerprinted, be subject to a police ballistics test and take days off work," as Emily explained. However, even those citizens are forbidden from legally protecting themselves from the nation's highest crime rates as they travel, perform their jobs, or otherwise participate in society.

Hardly an enlightened position in the capitol city of a nation touted as "the land of the free" and dedicated "to liberty, and justice for all."

...and that's all I have to say about that.

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