Monday, August 04, 2008

District of Columbia continues to violate civil rights

In the aftermath of the Supreme Court's decision shooting down the District of Columbia's total handgun ban, the D.C. government passed emergency legislation to regulate handguns owned by its subjects - I mean, citizens. The new gun registration law was developed to be as difficult and inconvenient as possible with no regard for its effectiveness. In fact, the new law retains much of the previous gun ban, including provisions that the Supreme Court called unconstitutional.

Despite the Supreme Court ruling, the new law outlaws an entire class of weapons in common use -- semi-automatic pistols -- by redefining them as machine guns, a purely arbitrary designation (a semi-automatic weapons fires one shot with each pull of the trigger; a machine gun or automatic weapon fires until the trigger is released). The law still requires that guns be locked or dismantled unless there is a "threat of immediate harm". Those two provisions have sparked another lawsuit by Dick Heller, whose case led to the historic decision by the Supreme Court. The court determined, once and for all, the right to keep and bear arms is an individual right, not related to any militia service.

To make gun registration by D.C.'s law-abiding citizens more difficult, D.C. now requires an FBI background check which can take up to two weeks. For what purpose? In most states, the National Instant Check System (NICS) provides dealers with eligibility of gun purchasers in as little at 5 minutes. I have never waited more than 15 minutes for a NICS check.

Apart from the District's arrogance, what I find most surprising is the absolute silence of the ACLU and NAACP. D.C.'s new registration scheme requires citizens to take a written exam in order to register a gun. Back when those groups actually cared about the civil rights of African-Americans, they objected vociferously to literacy tests designed to keep Blacks, especially in Southern States (run by Democrats) from voting. According to Wikipedia:
"Literacy Test refers to the government practice of testing the literacy of potential citizens at the federal level, and potential voters at the state level.. As used by the states, the literacy test gained infamy as a means for denying the franchise to African Americans. Adopted by a number of southern states, the literacy test was applied in a patently unfair manner, as it was used to disfranchise many literate southern blacks while allowing many illiterate southern whites to vote. The literacy test, combined with other discriminatory requirements, effectively disfranchised the vast majority of African Americans in the South from the 1890s until the 1960s. Southern states abandoned the literacy test only when forced to by federal legislation in the 1960s."

So now, the government of the District of Columbia is effectively requiring a literacy test to register a gun. A literacy test required in a city that is majority African-American. And the NAACP, ACLU and the civil rights establishment are completely silent. Do any of these groups care about the civil rights of the residents of the nation's capital? It appears not.

In broader terms, why does D.C. require a written exam at all? For what other enumerated Constitutional right does any American have to take an exam? I know of no examination requirement for an American to exercise freedom of speech. No journalist or publisher is required to take an exam to exercise the freedom of the press (although it might prove beneficial). No exams exist as a requirement for freedom of religion, freedom to assemble, or to petition the government for redress of grievances. And that just covers the First Amendment.

In fact, the courts have determined that we are ignorant of our rights. Why else is there a requirement for law officers to recite Miranda warnings to inform us of our Fifth Amendment rights? The onus is on the government to inform us of our rights, not on us to take a test before we are arrested. Our unalienable rights of Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness are endowed by our Creator. Those rights are not contingent upon passing an exam by any government entity.

All of these requirements and regulations are meant to be onerous, inconvenient, and to discourage people from registering weapons. The government of D.C. does not care if it infringes on a Constitutionally-enumerated civil right - an individual's right to keep and bear arms. The District is defiantly running roughshod over the Constitutional rights of its people, thumbing its nose at the Supreme Court, and is opening itself up as a target for more lawsuits. The measures D.C. has taken in its emergency legislation have nothing to do with crime prevention, nothing to do with reducing crime, nothing to do with keeping guns out of the hands of criminals. If that were the case, the city legislators would actually do the research and review the evidence of laws that actually work (More Guns, Less Crime by John Lott would be a good starting point).

But the District of Columbia is not interested in crime control, allowing citizen self-defense, nor is it really interested in effective gun control. The District of Columbia is interested in people control. And the D.C. government does not care if it violates its citizens' civil rights in the process.


New Yorkers' Gun Rights May Rest on Hot Dog Vendor's Case

New Supreme Court Ruling Is Cited Repeatedly in City Gun Cases

If New York's strict antigun laws are overturned in the near future, it may be the work of a hot dog vendor. The vendor, Daniel Vargas, is due next month in court to fight misdemeanor charges that he kept an unlicensed revolver loaded on a basement shelf in his apartment. The case, which has generated 23 hearings and been heard by no fewer than 10 different judges as it winds through Brooklyn's lowest criminal court, would be of little general interest, except for the fact that the U.S. Supreme Court recently ruled that the Second Amendment protects a right to keep a handgun at home for self-defense.

Now, suddenly, Mr. Vargas's case, as well as a handful of other cases, are testing the authority of district attorneys to prosecute people for gun possession, a strategy that Mayor Bloomberg has emphasized in his criminal justice policies. In about half a dozen New York City cases reviewed by The New York Sun, defense lawyers have filed briefs arguing that the Supreme Court's decision requires the dismissal of gun possession charges against their clients. The briefs question the constitutionality of the city's treatment of all unlicensed guns as illegal guns - mere possession of which can be punished by up to 15 years in prison.

What makes Mr. Vargas's case so singular is that the only issue is the alleged gun. He is not accused of using the gun improperly or of committing any illegal conduct unrelated to its possession. Nor did police find the alleged gun while investigating other crimes, as often happens. For instance, many unlicensed handguns are recovered from homes in the course of responding to domestic violence calls, defense lawyers say. Police records indicate that the officer who arrested Mr. Vargas in October 2006 had received "a tip for a location with firearm." According to the police records, Mr. Vargas consented to the search and police found a loaded .38-caliber revolver in a holster sitting on a shelf, with a box of bullets nearby.

Under New York law, possession of an unregistered gun on the streets in New York City carries a maximum penalty of up to 15 years in prison, while possession of such a gun at home is treated as a misdemeanor, which rarely carries jail time for a first offense. Mr. Vargas's legal aid attorney, Laura Guthrie, wrote in a brief that Mr. Vargas denies possessing any gun or ammunition. The court brief goes on to say that even assuming the allegations are taken as true, the prosecution, "violates the individual right to bear arms protected by the Second Amendment."

"Here the government does not allege that Mr. Vargas possessed the weapon with intent to use it unlawfully, or outside of his home," she wrote. "Mr. Vargas is accused of keeping a gun in his home. This conduct is protected by the individual right to bear arms enshrined in the Second Amendment." The brief, filed last year, cites the appellate court ruling that the U.S. Supreme Court affirmed in the June decision.

In a decision last year rejecting Mr. Vargas's Second Amendment claims, a city judge, Alexander Jeong, focused on another point, which is that Mr. Vargas had never sought a gun license. But that reason for dismissing Mr. Vargas's Second Amendment claim may have been weakened somewhat since the Supreme Court recognized an individual right to keep a gun at home. "The question now becomes which defendants with guns in their homes should benefit from that Constitutional right," a criminal defense lawyer and former president of the city bar, Barry Kamins, said. "One issue becomes whether to allow defendants to make these types of challenges even though they never applied for the permit."

Ms. Guthrie has argued that it should not matter whether Mr. Vargas applied for a permit. "Mr. Vargas is alleged, in essence, not to have submitted himself to the complete discretion and the extraordinary power of the New York City Police Commissioner," she wrote. "The Second Amendment does not permit such interference." New York's permitting system itself could come under scrutiny as these issues in criminal cases are litigated.

Mayor Bloomberg and other city officials have said that the Supreme Court decision does not threaten New York City's regulations, which require that all gun owners go through a lengthy and costly licensing process. Yet, some gun rights proponents and defense lawyers say that New York's licensing system is so burdensome as to be unconstitutional. "An average poor guy who's particularly vulnerable to burglary or break-ins is going to have a hard time getting a license," said a legal aid attorney, Steven Wasserman, who wrote the Second Amendment motion that many legal aid attorneys are now using. It can require multiple trips to One Police Plaza, a wait of more than four months, and fees that can reach more than $1,000 over a decade....

More here

Missouri: Bank customer shoots robber: "A bank customer shot another man who apparently was attempting to rob him about 9 a.m. today, police said. The alleged robber, who was wounded in the head, this afternoon is in stable condition, police said. A man and a woman, described as an older couple, were using the ATM at the Bank of America at North Oak Trafficway and Barry Road, police said, when a man approached with a gun and robbed them. A couple was stopped at the ATM. The robber was walking away when the male victim got out of the car with his gun and yelled for him to stop, said Sgt. Chris Lantz of the department's robbery unit. The robber turned around and pointed his gun at the man, Lantz said. The robbery victim fired his gun, hitting the robber in the head, he said. The man had a permit to carry a concealed gun, Lantz said. Under the circumstances, Lantz said, that would not matter, because he could legally carry the weapon in his car."

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