Wednesday, March 26, 2008

D.C. Gun Crackdown Meets Community Resistance

A crackdown on guns is meeting some resistance in the District. Police are asking residents to submit to voluntary searches in exchange for amnesty under the District's gun ban. They passed out fliers requesting cooperation on Monday.

The program will begin in a couple of weeks in the Washington Highlands neighborhood of southeast Washington and will later expand to other neighborhoods. Officers will go door to door asking residents for permission to search their homes.

Police Chief Cathy L. Lanier said the "safe homes initiative" is aimed at residents who want to cooperate with police. She gave the example of parents or grandparents who know or suspect their children have guns in the home.

Community leaders went door to door in Ward 8 Monday to advise residents not to invite police into their homes to search for weapons. "Bad idea," said D.C. School Board member William Lockridge. "I think the people should not open your doors under any circumstances, don't even crack your door, unless someone has a warrant for your arrest."

Ron Hampton, of the Black Police Officers Association, said he doesn't expect many in the community to comply. "This is one of those communities where the police even have problems getting information about crimes that are going on in the community, so to suggest, now, that the police have enough community capital in their hand that the community is going to cooperate with them, I'm not so sure that's a good idea," Hampton said.

If weapons are recovered, they will be tested and destroyed if they are not found to be linked to any other crimes. A police spokeswoman said that if evidence of other crimes is found during voluntary searches, amnesty will be granted for that crime as well.


Defining the right of self-defense by gun

First, the robber hit Willie Lee Hill more than fifty times with a can of soda, knocking him unconscious. Later, the 93-year-old victim awakened, covered with blood, to find his 24-year-old assailant ransacking the bedroom. When Hill pulled out a .38-caliber handgun from near his bed, the robber lunged at him. Hill stopped his attacker with a single bullet to the throat. "I got what I deserved," the robber told police afterward.

That episode happened in Arkansas last July, but similar acts of self-defense occur by the thousands all across America every year. Overwhelming historical evidence and common sense demonstrate that guns--often called the "great equalizer," for obvious reasons--are a powerful method of self-defense in the precious minutes before police can arrive.

In the District of Columbia, however, citizens may not lawfully possess a handgun for self-defense, even in the home. The Supreme Court will soon hear oral argument in D.C. v. Heller, which is expected to determine whether such a blanket ban violates the Second Amendment. But regardless of how the Court may interpret the Constitution, citizens deserve a legal right to own a handgun for self-defense.

As the Declaration of Independence recognizes, governments are created to protect our individual rights to "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness." The right of self-defense is included and implied in the right to life. In forming a government, citizens delegate the task of defending themselves to the police. But to delegate is not to surrender. Each citizen retains the ultimate right to defend himself in emergencies when his appointed agents, the police, are not available to help.

But what constitutes an emergency? What acts of self-defense are permissible in such a situation? And what tools may private citizens own for emergency self-defense? The law's task is to furnish objective answers to such questions, so that citizens may defend their lives without taking the law into their own hands.

An emergency, properly defined, arises from an objective threat of imminent bodily harm. The victim must summon police, if possible. An emergency ends when the threat ends, or as soon as police arrive and take charge. During that narrow emergency interval, a victim may defend himself, but only with the least degree of force necessary under the circumstances to repel his attacker. A victim who explodes in vengeance, using excessive force, exposes himself to criminal liability along with his assailant.

Many objects commonly owned for peaceful purposes can be pressed into service for emergency self-defense. But unlike kitchen knives or baseball bats, handguns have no peaceful purpose-- they are designed to kill people. The same lethal power that makes handguns the most practical means of self-defense against robbers, rapists, and murderers, also makes handguns an essential tool of government force. Handguns are deadly force and nothing but --a fact that gives rise to legitimate concerns over their private ownership in a civilized society.

These concerns can be resolved only by laws carefully drawn to confine private use of handguns to emergency self-defense, as defined by objective law. Such laws must also prohibit all conduct by which handguns might present an objective threat to others, whether by intent or negligence.

Contrary to an often expressed worry, therefore, a right to keep and bear arms in no way implies that citizens may stockpile weaponry according to their arbitrary preferences. Cannons, tanks, and nuclear weapons have no legitimate use in a private emergency, and their very presence is a threat to peaceful neighbors.

If handguns are confined to emergency self-defense, no legitimate purpose is served by an outright ban such as the District of Columbia enacted. Even if such laws actually deprived criminals of guns (which they don't), they would infringe upon a law-abiding citizen's right in emergencies to repel attackers who are wielding knives, clubs, fists --or cans of soda.

With the aid of his handgun, Willie Lee Hill survived that violent home invasion last July. Self-defense was his right, as it is ours. A proper legal system recognizes and protects that right, by permitting private ownership of handguns under appropriate limits.


Alabama: Man Shoots, Kills Cousin Stealing Gas: "Authorities in Russell County have not filed charges against a homeowner who said today he shot and killed a man who was siphoning gasoline from his truck in the middle of the night, only to discover the victim was a cousin. Robert Lee Warren of Hatchechubee said the man identified by the coroner as 40-year-old Henry Moses made a threatening move toward him after being confronted, so he pulled the trigger in self-defense. Coroner Arthur Sumbry Jr. said Moses died of a single gunshot to the chest about 2 a.m. CDT on Easter Sunday. The body was found near a blue pickup truck under an awning that Warren used as a carport. He said its unclear how much, if any, gasoline was taken. Prosecutor Buster Landreau said it was too early to say whether an indictment could result when a grand jury considers the case. Alabama law allows residents to use deadly force if they feel their life is in danger. With the average price for regular, self-serve gasoline hitting $3.26 a gallon in the United States, gasoline thefts are being reported across the country.

Florida: Intruder Shot, Killed In Break-In: "An intruder who tried to break into a southwest Miami-Dade County home was shot and killed early Tuesday morning, police said. When Miami-Dade police arrived, they found the security chain on the fence that borders the property broken and the body of a 38-year-old man. Police said it appeared two men tried to burglarize the home when the resident fought with them outside and fatally shot one of them. The second intruder fled the scene but was later in the area, police said. He was detained and is being questioned by police. The resident's family and friends said he had a gun because he had been burglarized as many as 10 times in the past six months. Neighbors said the resident, who runs a landscaping business out of the home, had already had thousands of dollars in lawn equipment stolen. Police said they were investigating to determine exactly what occurred."

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