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Awaiting a Second Amendment Decision

Thursday, May 29, 2008

The year 2008 will go down as an historic one in America--for the dramatic choices we`ll face in the presidential election, among other things.

But before talking about 2008, I would like to take readers back 33 years. On March 16, 1975, three women living in a Washington, D.C., townhouse were awakened by the sound of their back door being kicked in.

Two invaders violently attacked one of the women, who had been asleep on the second floor. They beat and raped her. Her two roommates called the police from the third floor. Assured that help was coming, the women crawled out a window onto the roof, seeking safety.

They saw a squad car slowly drive past. It never stopped. Terrified, the women crawled back into the house. Once more they called the police. Then they hid.

Half an hour passed. The women, hearing no noises downstairs, assumed police had arrived and that they were safe. They went down to the second floor. The rapists were waiting. The three women were beaten and raped repeatedly--for 14 hours. The police never came.

Thankfully, all three women survived. A lawsuit was brought against the D.C. police department. Ruling on the last appeal in 1981, the D.C. Court of Appeals said: "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."

In short, the police can`t be everywhere they are most needed. When you are attacked, it`s between you and the criminal. Law enforcement--despite the best of intentions and its officers` dedication--has no legal duty to help you.

Now, I don`t know if any of those three women wanted to own a gun, but I do know that for the last 30-plus years, they never legally had that choice.

This brings us to 2008, when the U.S. Supreme Court will decide District of Columbia v. Heller, a challenge to the D.C. law that makes it illegal to keep an operable firearm in your home for self-defense.

The question before the Supreme Court is clear: Does the D.C. law violate the Second Amendment rights of individuals who wish to keep handguns and operable firearms in their homes?

D.C. takes the revisionist view that the Second Amendment protects only a right to possess firearms for active duty in a militia. And some important politicians outside D.C.`s city hall also possess an anti-gun bias that blinds them to the historical record and clear intent of our Founding Fathers.

Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama wear such blinders, even as they claim--because it`s politically profitable--to support our individual right to own a gun. But their voting records expose their campaign rhetoric and their actions expose their lies.

Let`s look at the record. A bipartisan majority in Congress recently filed an amicus brief in the Heller case, supporting the individual right view of the Second Amendment. Fifty-five U.S. Senators, 250 U.S. House members and Vice President Cheney (as president of the Senate) signed on. In fact, that`s the largest number on any congressional brief in history.

All three presidential candidates had an opportunity to sign this brief. John McCain signed. Obama and Clinton refused.

This brief argues that D.C.`s categorical ban on handguns and self-defense in the home is unreasonable and unconstitutional under any standard of review. That`s because the core issue before the court transcends legal hair splitting and rises above the politics of gun control. The issue before the court is literally one of life and death.

Americans use firearms more than 2 million times in acts of self-defense every year. And in the vast majority of incidents, not a single shot is fired. These victories over violent criminals are won every day and every night all across America--everywhere but in Washington, D.C.

In D.C., the basic God-given right of self-defense is a right denied. If you live in D.C., you face an obscene choice: either place yourself at the mercy of criminals, or become a criminal yourself by possessing the most effective tool with which to defend your life.

The Supreme Court justices, appointed by the president who in turn is elected by us, and confirmed by senators who are elected by us, will soon decide the Heller case. They will rule on the meaning of the Second Amendment.

We hope they will rule wisely and agree that D.C.`s reckless gun ban is unconstitutional. The Supreme Court should reject the political cowardice of a government whose failure to trust honest citizens has helped turn our nation`s capital into a crime capital.

The court should recognize and respect that the right of self-defense is an unalienable right . . . the right of men and women everywhere . . . including those who live in Washington, D.C.

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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.