Friday, February 24, 2012

Shall Not Be Infringed?

A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.
Second Amendment to the United States Constitution

Merriam-Webster defines right as something to which one has a just claim; the power or privilege to which one is justly entitled, and defines infringe as to encroach upon in a way that violates law or the rights of another. Keep those definitions in mind. 1

Also keep in mind that violent crime in Washington D.C. is more than three times the national average of 403.6 reported offenses per 100,000 people in 2010.

Now, on with our story.

Emily Miller is the Senior Editor of The Washington Times Editorial and Opinion Pages, and, not inconsequentially, a resident of Washington DC. On October 5th of last year, she made the decision to legally own a handgun. On February 8th of this year, over four months later, she finally took possession of her handgun, with the caveat that she carry it directly home and keep it there, transporting it only when she takes it out of state to practice, since there is no place in Washington where she can legally fire it.

As she explains in her February 8th column, "The bad guys buy guns off the street in five minutes, and the city has no record of the transaction. 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."

Emily's story is fascinating, instructive, and, to this Tireless Agorist, frightening. In her first column about the process, before she even starts out on her adventure, she explains the dangerous situation facing down more than a dozen criminals that prompted her desire to be able to defend herself. She also tells of speaking to a mayoral candidate and the city council chairman, both of whom seem startled that a resident of their city would even consider owning a gun. The story only gets more bizarre from that point on.

Along the way, she dealt repeatedly with the D.C. Gun Registry Office, ground central in the city's efforts to keep everybody disarmed and helpless, and Washington D.C.'s only legal gun broker (appointment only please). She traveled to another state to learn to shoot (there are no legal shooting ranges in D.C.), went through a long elimination process to find a D.C. certified instructor, took a five-hour gun safety class (also out of the district), and chose a gun to purchase (another trip out of the district).

She also had to jump through a number of hoops to purchase the gun she wanted with a D.C.-legal 10-round magazine instead of the standard 13-round version. This required input from readers around the country who were following her blog; help generally not available to the average purchaser. Then she had to arrange shipment from the seller to that gun broker we mentioned before and get the serial number (but not the gun) so she could register her gun. But her ordeal still wasn't over.

When she went to take the written test, she found out she couldn't take the test until she had paperwork from the gun broker, who wouldn't issue the paperwork until he had the gun in hand. Once the gun arrived, she was able to get the appropriate form, after an FBI background check was completed. Then she was finally allowed to take the written test. After passing the test, there were more forms to fill out, more fees to pay, fingerprinting, and of course lines to stand in for all of that.

Then there was a ten-day waiting period, during which she had to get two passport photos. So her gun stayed with the gun broker for a few more days. Finally she was notified her application had been approved and she could come to finish the process. One last visit to the D.C. Gun Registry Office and the gun broker, a delay while the ballistic tests were performed, and she was free to leave with her new gun. But not until it was securely locked in the carry case and carried by an employee of the Gun Registry Office all the way to the exit.

To accomplish all of the above, she also had to ferret out the process she had to follow from a 22-page packet of forms and instructions, (she provides her 18-step synopsis), learn who was eligible for gun ownership in D.C., discover the legal process for actually getting a gun into the district (even federally-licensed dealers can't bring them in from out-of-state to the gun broker; they must be shipped UPS or FedEx), and the legal process for moving the gun in and out of the district so she can practice -- since there's no where she can practice there. The gun can only be transported in a locked box, unloaded, and the ammunition must be in a separate locked container.

And as part of that process, she learned there was apparently no way to legally buy ammunition or sell a gun in D.C. once you've bought it; the only legal gun broker doesn't do either. However, next week, she'll share how she can legally get ammunition in D.C.

The Bottom Line

Now, if anybody can read that (believe it or not) brief synopsis of her ordeal, (or better yet, read the whole series; the entries are short and entertaining) then look someone in the eye and say, with a perfectly straight face, that Emily Miller's right to self-defense was not infringed, I have some career advice for them.

Run for office. If you're not already a politician, you've missed your calling.

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

Author's Note: Here's more on Washington DC's crazy gun laws, and an update on Emily's ongoing battle to restore some sanity to the District.

DC's Plantation-like Gun Control
Emily Miller Wins Another Battle

Fortunately for anyone interested in the whole story, Emily decided to blog about her experience, and the entire series is available at The Washington Times. However, since her story is interspersed with stories about media coverage of her attempt, a few other gun-related stories, and in reverse chronological order, I created my own index during my reading, which I'll gladly share with my dedicated readers.

Emily Gets Her Gun:
MILLER: Inside D.C.’s gun registry
MILLER: D.C.’s only gun source
MILLER: Steps to gun ownership in D.C.
MILLER: Who’s eligible for a gun in D.C.?
MILLER: Learning to shoot a gun
MILLER: Washington’s unsafe, gun safety class
MILLER: Taking the D.C. gun safety class
MILLER: Interstate Travel for a D.C. Gun
MILLER: Choosing a gun
MILLER: Why I still haven’t bought a gun in D.C.
MILLER: I bought a gun, but…
MILLER: Transferring a gun into D.C.
MILLER: Applying to register a gun in D.C.
MILLER: My gun registration is approved
MILLER: Emily got her gun!
MILLER: Transporting a gun through D.C.

1 To expand on the definitions, here's more detail from Wikipedia:
Rights are legal, social, or ethical principles of freedom or entitlement; that is, rights are the fundamental normative rules about what is allowed of people or owed to people, according to some legal system, social convention, or ethical theory.
And on natural rights:
Natural rights are rights which are "natural" in the sense of "not artificial, not man-made", as in rights deriving from deontic logic, from human nature, or from the edicts of a god. They are universal; that is, they apply to all people, and do not derive from the laws of any specific society. They exist necessarily, inhere in every individual, and can't be taken away. For example, it has been argued that humans have a natural right to life. They're sometimes called moral rights or inalienable rights.
Finally, Wikipedia's take on infringement:
In a legal context, an infringement refers to the violation of a law or a right.

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