By Paul Helmke, Brady Campaign president | From the Brady Blog
In a landmark 5-4 opinion written by Justice Antonin Scalia, the U.S. Supreme Court has defined an individual Second Amendment right to own a gun for self defense in the home.
After the decision, the National Rifle Association's Wayne LaPierre said, "This is a great moment in American history.… The Second Amendment as an individual right now becomes a real permanent part of American Constitutional law."
The plaintiff in the case was District of Columbia resident Dick Anthony Heller. As a result of his triumph, he won the right to register his handgun with the local police department.
In fact, he has already done so, calling his handgun registration "Victory!"
All right. At this point you've figured out that this isn't really "breaking news." As most of you know, the Heller decision was handed down last June and Mr. Heller registered his gun a few weeks later in August 2008.
Yet it bears repeating to get the attention of some members of Congress being herded by the shepherds at the National Rifle Association in a bill now pending in Congress.
For the first time in American history, residents of the District of Columbia could get the right to have a voting member in the U.S. House of Representatives. Unfortunately, the NRA is holding that bill hostage with a killer amendment that would strip the District's elected officials of their ability to regulate the ownership and sale of guns to protect the public.
How do they justify robbing DC residents of the right to make their own gun laws as the price for finally giving them the right to a voting member in Congress? According to the NRA's top lobbyist Chris Cox, it is "to restore the Second Amendment rights to lawful residents of the District of Columbia."
I have news for Mr. Cox and those members of Congress stuck in the crook of his shepherd's staff: District of Columbia residents already have Second Amendment rights.
Justice Antonin Scalia, speaking for the Supreme Court, said they did last June. What's more, the plaintiff in that case and other DC residents are exercising their rights.
What's really of concern to the NRA is that Justice Scalia handed down a measured decision that specifically endorsed some restrictions on who gets guns; what kind of guns they can get; how guns are sold, carried and stored; and where guns can be restricted.
What the NRA can't abide is the idea that the Second Amendment and common-sense gun control are now compatible with each other, instead of the false choice they've long portrayed them to be.
While Justice Scalia defined the Second Amendment as an individual right, at the same time he clearly stated that a raft of gun control laws were also "presumptively lawful," and that the list of examples he provided was "not … exhaustive." That happens to be exactly where American voters stand on the issue.
Members of Congress flocking together under the watchful NRA eye should look at the election results in 2008 and 2006, and ask themselves if it's really worth paying for their blessing in the first place.
And such Members should save the District and the country any moralizing about "Second Amendment rights," because it's clearly a non-issue in this bill.
Simply put, duly elected officials of the District of Columbia should have the power to make reasonable gun laws, subject to the Supreme Court's definition, that their residents want to help keep them safe.
It is wrong for Congress to exact one democratic principle as the price for granting another, particularly when the courts have already shown their willingness to deal with the issue of gun rights and gun control.
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