Explore The NRA Universe Of Websites

APPEARS IN Legal & Legislation

Self-Defense is a Basic Human Right

Thursday, April 3, 2008

As the Supreme Court deliberates whether or not the District of Columbia’s 30-year-old gun ban is unconstitutional under the Second Amendment, a deep background look is critical to understanding what is at stake in terms of our personal liberties and the rights that ensure them.

This case--District of Columbia v. Heller--is about whether the Second Amendment is an individual right. And it is about whether such an individual right can be abrogated by government to render it meaningless in word and in practice for individual Americans.

If peaceable citizens are disarmed of firearms, do they still possess a right?

For Americans who believe in the Second Amendment--especially for District of Columbia residents--the day of reckoning before the United States Supreme Court has been 30 years in the making.

The story of the plight of disarmed D.C. residents really begins on the night of March 16, 1975, when three women, sharing a townhouse, were awakened by the sound of their door being kicked in. This was no ordinary burglary or home invasion; this was a horrific, unspeakable crime.

Two of the three roommates had rooms upstairs. They were awakened by the screaming of their friend downstairs who was being beaten, raped and sodomized by two men.

Carolyn Warren called the police and was told help was on the way. She and her other upstairs roommate watched in horror as a police car passed their home, merely slowing down. They called the police a second time. This time, there was no response at all. After an hour, hearing no sounds from the floor below, they called down to their friend, but merely alerted the rapists to their presence.

After that, all three women were forced to endure 14 unspeakable hours of sexual torture.

The women sued the District of Columbia and after two years--during which time D.C. instituted its gun ban--they lost. The case is Warren v. District of Columbia.

The D.C. Superior Court ruled, “ ... a government and its agents are under no general duty to provide public services, such as police protection, to any particular individual citizen.” (Emphasis added.)

Thus the rule that the District had no duty to protect its individual citizens was in place when, in July 1976, the D.C. City Council enacted its draconian gun ban.

If the lower court ruling in Ms. Warren’s case was devastating to her and every law-abiding resident of the District of Columbia, the ruling of the D.C. Court of Appeals, 444 A.2d 1(D.C App. 1981), was worse:

“The duty to provide public services is owed to the public at large, and, absent a special relationship between the police and an individual, no specific legal duty exists.” (Emphasis added.)

It begs the basic question: If the police have no duty to protect individuals in their homes, who does?

The individual does. You and I do. Average citizens.

That is why the Second Amendment has such deep relevance in modern times. There is nothing archaic and outmoded in the notion that people must have the means to defend themselves against violent criminal predators. Self-defense is a basic human right. It is the fundamental reason that countless tens of millions of Americans own firearms.

The protection of that bedrock human right--eviscerated by a tyrannical government--lies at the heart of the historic challenge to D.C.’s gun ban supported by a host of civil liberties groups including the NRA, the oldest such organization in the nation.

Yet in the District of Columbia that right--for 30 years--has been denied to its law-abiding residents.

It is clear that the D.C. gun ban law denies that most fundamental basic human right of self-defense by criminalizing possession of handguns by peaceable citizens, and criminalizing armed defense in the home with any legally possessed, operable and ready firearm. Think about this. A disassembled or disabled gun is no gun at all, and that is what D.C. residents are “allowed” to possess in their own homes. (Emphasis added.)

The D.C. gun ban is, in essence and in fact, a ban on armed self-defense.

Under the D.C. law, registered long guns (and the few remaining legal handguns) must be broken down, unassembled, trigger-locked or otherwise kept inoperable at all times in the home. It is a crime to keep any firearm loaded.

As for handguns, the D.C. ban, in reality, banned compliance with the long-existing gun registration law. Under that ban, owners of registered handguns were allowed to re-register their arms by an absolute deadline--September 24, 1976. There-after, no handguns could be registered by honest citizens. Thus, by shutting the door on registration, new legal possession of handguns was banned.

During the short time when D.C.’s law-abiding handgun owners could re-register their arms, many citizens believed the law was open for them to register their handguns for the first time. They were turned away and told they would not be allowed to comply and that their guns would become contraband. If they kept those unregisterable guns, they could be tracked down and prosecuted.

But there is something else that made the D.C. ban even more evil: The D.C. gun registration law itself--under a 1968 U.S. Supreme Court ruling--Haynes v. U.S. (390 U.S. 85, 1968)--arguably exempted criminals. So, those under federal law prohibited from owning guns were exempt, while ordinary citizens could be punished for owning an unregistered gun. Under that decision--which many top legal experts tell me still applies in the District of Columbia--the court ruled:

“We hold that a proper claim of the constitutional privilege against self-incrimination provides a full defense to prosecutions either for failure to register a firearm ... or for possession of an unregistered firearm ... “ (Emphasis added.)

On top of all this, in 1994, the City Council made it a criminal act for anyone to carry a handgun in the home without a license. The D.C. registration law and the ban made potential criminals out of peaceable citizens, whose only relationship to criminal violence was being thrust into the role of unarmed innocent victims in their own homes.

Equally insane is the fact that, in the ensuing 30 years of ever-metastasizing criminal violence, D.C. officials have totally ignored the truly effective anti-criminal tools at hand.

As violent crime by armed criminals has steadily escalated over the 30 years since the D.C. ban, District officials and the media have blamed what they have called the “lax” laws in neighboring states. Let me put that another way: They blame freedom of others for the failure of their tyranny. (Emphasis added.)

As for D.C.’s armed criminal predators, as any NRA member knows, federal firearm law--then and now--provides harsh penalties for possession, acquisition, use, and interstate transportation of any firearm by violent felons and fugitives. However, the District has utterly failed to use that law to arrest, prosecute and jail armed predators. As a result, illegally armed criminal

TRENDING NOW
Washington: NRA Files Legal Challenge Against Misleading Ballot Title for Gun Control Initiative

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Washington: NRA Files Legal Challenge Against Misleading Ballot Title for Gun Control Initiative

Yesterday, NRA filed a legal challenge in the Thurston County Superior Court objecting to the misleading and inadequate ballot title for Initiative 1639, which seeks to further restrict the Second Amendment rights of Washington's law-abiding citizens.  The Thurston ...

Hard Times for Dick's as Second Amendment Supporters Respond to Company’s Anti-Gun Bent

Hunting  

News  

Friday, May 11, 2018

Hard Times for Dick's as Second Amendment Supporters Respond to Company’s Anti-Gun Bent

We have recently been reporting on the bizarre anti-gun activism of one of the nation’s larger firearm retailers, Dick’s Sporting Goods and its affiliated Field & Stream stores. First, the company announced it would stop selling most centerfire semi-automatic ...

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

ALERT! Can't Wait for Your YETI Cover Up Stickers?

Approximately 100,000 free stickers, proudly displaying the message "I STAND WITH THE NRA FOUNDATION," were distributed at the NRA Annual Meeting in Dallas, Texas last week.  These stickers were designed to cover up the YETI ...

Sorry, Alyssa, But We're Glad We Came

News  

Friday, May 11, 2018

Sorry, Alyssa, But We're Glad We Came

You likely recall we mentioned a new anti-gun organization recently formed, which was billed as the brainchild of actress Alyssa Milano.  You may also recall that we reported her group, NoRA, had made the vaguely threatening proclamation, ...

Anti-Gun Democrat Proposes Banning Semi-Autos and Going After "Resisters"

News  

Friday, May 11, 2018

Anti-Gun Democrat Proposes Banning Semi-Autos and Going After "Resisters"

The headline of the USA Today op-ed said it all. Anti-gun Congressman Eric Swalwell (D-Calif.) last week advocated for legislation to ban an as-yet undetermined class of semi-automatic firearms and to “go after resisters” who refuse to relinquish their ...

Oregon: NRA Files Comments Against Initiative to Restrict Your Right to Self-Defense

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Oregon: NRA Files Comments Against Initiative to Restrict Your Right to Self-Defense

On May 15th, NRA filed comments with the Oregon Secretary of State opposing the proposed ballot title for Initiative Petition 44, which seeks to restrict the self-defense rights of Oregon’s law abiding citizens.  The state Attorney ...

Illinois: Senate Passes Another Bill to Shut Down Your Gun Store Despite Veto of Previous Two

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Illinois: Senate Passes Another Bill to Shut Down Your Gun Store Despite Veto of Previous Two

Today, the Illinois state Senate voted 35-18 to pass Senate Amendment 3 to Senate Bill 337, which would shut down your local gun stores with onerous red tape and regulations.  Governor Bruce Rauner has previously vetoed two ...

Guide To The Interstate Transportation Of Firearms

Gun Laws  

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Guide To The Interstate Transportation Of Firearms

CAUTION: Federal and state firearms laws are subject to frequent change. This summary is not to be considered as legal advice or a restatement of law.

News  

Friday, April 27, 2018

NRA Statement on Yeti

The National Rifle Association released the following statement from in response to Yeti’s inaccurate statements:

Swiss Gun Rights Supporters Refuse to Capitulate to International Gun Controllers

News  

Friday, May 11, 2018

Swiss Gun Rights Supporters Refuse to Capitulate to International Gun Controllers

As NRA-ILA reported on April 27, peaceful Switzerland is in the crosshairs of international and domestic gun control advocates who are intent on abolishing the idyllic nation’s tradition of an armed citizenry. Using the 2017 changes to ...

MORE TRENDING +
LESS TRENDING -

More Like This From Around The NRA

NRA ILA

Established in 1975, the Institute for Legislative Action (ILA) is the "lobbying" arm of the National Rifle Association of America. ILA is responsible for preserving the right of all law-abiding individuals in the legislative, political, and legal arenas, to purchase, possess and use firearms for legitimate purposes as guaranteed by the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.