Monday, March 24, 2008

DC backpedalling under court scrutiny

Defending the Washington, D.C., gun ban before the Supreme Court yesterday, Walter Dellinger insisted it was never the city's intent to prohibit residents from using rifles and shotguns for self-defense in the home. All it wanted to do, Dellinger said, was ban handguns, because they are highly portable, readily concealable, easily stolen, and uniquely suited to urban crime. Even if (as seems likely) the Supreme Court rules that the Second Amendment protects an individual right to arms, he said, it should uphold the handgun ban as a "reasonable regulation":
Chief Justice John Roberts: What is reasonable about a total ban on possession?

Dellinger: What is reasonable about a total ban on possession is that it's a ban only on the possession of one kind of weapon, of handguns, that's been considered especially dangerous....There is no showing in this case that rifles and [shotguns] are not fully satisfactory to carry out the purposes [of self-defense].

But as Roberts, Justice Samuel Alito, and Justice Antonin Scalia noted, D.C. requires that all firearms, including long guns, be kept "unloaded and disassembled or bound by a trigger lock or similar device." The statute does not include an exception for self-defense. It thus seems to rule out unlocking and loading a gun even while under attack, let alone keeping one loaded and unlocked in case of an attack. Dellinger nevertheless maintained that the law does not prohibit the possession of functional firearms in the home, contrary to the interpretation the city has offered in previous cases and the one it implicitly endorsed at the U.S. District Court level in this case.

The District, which initially was openly contemptuous of the argument that D.C. residents should be allowed to defend themselves with guns, apparently has warmed to the idea. "It is a universal or near universal rule of criminal law that there is a self-defense exception," Dellinger said. "We have no argument whatsoever with the notion that you may load and have a weapon ready when you need to use it for self- defense." He added that "there ought to be an opportunity for the District of Columbia to urge its construction, which would allow for a relatively robust self-defense exception to the trigger lock provision." To which Scalia replied:
I don't understand that. What would that be-that you can, if you have time, when you hear somebody crawling in your bedroom window, you can run to your gun, unlock it, load it, and then fire? Is that going to be the exception?

Dellinger said he reads the storage requirement as permitting two options: "unloaded and disassembled" or "bound by a trigger lock" (as opposed to "unloaded and disassembled" or "unloaded and bound by a trigger lock"). In other words, it's OK to keep a gun loaded as long as it's locked, which Dellinger said can be accomplished with a combination lock that can be removed in three seconds. Two justices wondered if the operation would be that fast in an actual emergency:

More here

Right to self-defense extends to national parks

Anti-gun Democrats on Capitol Hill, led by Rep. Norm Dicks of Washington and Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California, are livid about a common-sense effort to allow legally licensed citizens to carry concealed sidearms inside national parks. It's as though they think the proposal was tantamount to condoning genocide.

Despite once insisting that a photo of himself with a dead pheasant be published on the cover of Fishing & Hunting News, Dicks has hardly been a friend to gun owners and Feinstein's record speaks for itself. Both are "F" rated by the National Rifle Association. Dicks and Feinstein have threatened to block a sensible move by Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne to change national park rules to allow concealed carry in the parks. Opponents claim this change will open the parks to rifle-toting poachers. It's not true and they know it.

This change would allow citizens who have gone through state licensing procedures, including background checks, to carry firearms for personal protection only. Such people rarely commit crimes.

So far, only the Colorado Springs Gazette correctly framed this as an issue of self-defense, for good reason. In the years between 2002 and 2007, there were 63 homicides in national parks, 240 rapes or attempted rapes, 309 robberies, 37 kidnappings and 1,277 aggravated assaults, according to National Park Service statistics.

Why are many national park rangers now carrying sidearms and wearing soft body armor? They didn't used to find that necessary. Changing park rules makes sense because visitors do not leave their right of self-defense at the gate. When you are in remote campgrounds, and in the backcountry, there is no 911 and help isn't coming.

More here

Pennsylvania: Suspect Shot In Tattoo Parlor Robbery: "A tattoo parlor on the corner of Fourth Street and Euclid Avenue in Dravosburg was robbed at 9:15 p.m. Saturday night. The suspect, who is described as a 6-foot-5-inch 250-pound male of unknown race, escaped on foot with $200. But that's not all the robber left with. The owner of the business told police that he believes he may have shot the suspect in the back. Shortly afterwards, police responded to a call from a man who said he was shot in the back at an address 1/2 of a mile away from the scene of the robbery. It is unknown whether these two incidents are related.

MO shooting self defense? "Vernon County deputies looking into a fatal shooting this week in the Dederick area were awaiting results Friday of an autopsy to help them determine whether any charges should be filed against the shooter. Vernon County Sheriff Ron Peckman said the shooter, a man in his 50s, claims he was being assaulted by the man he is believed to have shot three times with a .32-caliber handgun. The man killed was identified as Jimmy Dale Duncan, 47, whose last known address was in Neosho, the sheriff said. Peckman said Duncan apparently had been staying in recent days at the home where his body was found, near the intersection of Katy Track and 2900 Road in eastern Vernon County.... Peckman said the man claims he was being assaulted by Duncan and shot him in self-defense. The sheriff said the shooter was on oxygen for medical reasons and was sitting in a chair inside the home when Duncan reportedly began slapping his face. He said the man told investigators he reached for his gun beside the chair and shot Duncan. Duncan had been seeing the woman who lives at the address, the sheriff said. He said the woman and the shooter lived together as friends and may have been related. He said their exact relationship had yet to be determined by investigators. All three had been drinking together, Peckman said. "They admitted they had been drinking beer and whiskey all afternoon and evening," he said. "It makes for a bad combination."

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