Once upon a time, a group of all-knowing legislators in Washington, D.C., passed a law that violated one of the basic principles upon which this country was founded.
The law–the Firearms Control Regulations Act of 1975–was implemented by the District of Columbia City Council in 1976 and banned residents of the city from owning handguns, automatic firearms, high-capacity semi-automatic firearms and unregistered firearms.
More than 30 years passed before a three-judge panel of the United States Court of Appeals overturned the law, citing its unconstitutionality and forcing a nation-wide debate in March of 2007.
That ruling was appealed, and the Court heard oral arguments last month. The highest court in the land is expected to reach what could be a precedent-setting decision by the end of June.
But it really shouldn’t be this hard, should it?
Too often in the recent past, the debate on gun control has followed distinct party lines, with the Democrats calling for stricter weapons regulation and the Republicans demanding the opposite. The truth, however, is that this not a partisan issue. It is a constitutional issue.
And the Second Amendment to the United States Constitution guarantees every citizen’s right to own a gun.
While some people may disregard the constitutional argument, citing technicalities with comma placement or original intent when it comes to those exact lines in the document, facts are harder to ignore.
And the simple fact is this: Gun laws don’t stop gun crimes.
According to the FBI, the national murder rate in 2005 was an estimated 5.6 murders per 100,000 Americans. But in Washington, D.C.–a city of about half a million people–there were 195 murders in 2005. That equates to an astounding 35 murders per 100,000 people, more than six times the national average.
Keep in mind that all of these murders are taking place in a city that outlawed most firearms three decades ago.
At this point, many people will say that the criminals are just buying the weapons from the neighboring states that have fewer restrictions, such as Maryland or Virginia. Following this course of logic, those two states must be hotbeds for gun crime, right?
Well, in nearby Arlington County, Va., which is home to about 200,000 people, there were five murders in 2005. Arlington County, which has no gun ban, averaged just over 2.5 murders per 100,000 people.
In that same year, there were 21 murders in Montgomery County, Md., an area that was home to 918,000 people. That means that for every 100,000 residents, there were approximately two murders.
Although those two states are much more relaxed when it comes to gun regulation, the violent crime rates are nowhere near those of Washington, D.C.
This is mainly due to the fact that, nine times out of 10, a violent criminal has no respect for a gun law. And that same criminal will have no respect for an unarmed populace that is unable to fight back.
The biggest problem in Washington, D.C. right now isn’t that the criminals might leave the state to buy a handgun. The problem is that an honest citizen is not able to.
Thirty years ago, when the District of Columbia City Council chose to ignore the average citizen’s right to carry a firearm, they also chose to ignore that citizen’s right to protect themselves.
And that is unconstitutional.
You can find part 1 of the “Dueling Columns” here.