Remember my analysis and prediction, yesterday? Which made me feel kinda dumb, since I said I figured we’d see some licensing movement in two months, but then Fenty made statements about 21 days. I wasn’t quite as wrong as I thought – the 21 days aren’t necessarily when they’ll start, but is when the police will release the requirements and processes. When they’ll then start accepting applications is not so concrete.
My disappointment, though, is that I was so silly as to think that the D.C. government, faced with the obvious and inevitable, would decide to just do what they have to do. No, instead Mayor Fenty et all have decided they haven’t pissed away enough of the city’s money on this battle, and rather than focus on writing gun licensing regulations that might make all of us safer and survive the inevitable legal challenges, they’re going to attempt to enforce other gun laws on the books that obviously are out of line with yesterday’s decision.
[interim D.C. Attorney General Peter] Nickles said the District will continue to enforce a separate decades-old D.C. ban on the possession of most clip-loaded semiautomatic handguns, which are popular with gun enthusiasts.
That regulation, which outlaws machine guns and was not part of the Supreme Court case, defines a machine gun in broad terms, encompassing semiautomatic weapons that can shoot, or be converted to shoot, more than 12 rounds without reloading, officials said. Nickles said that law remains on the books and will be enforced.
I can only hope that (a) the Washington Post will prod article writers Paul Duggan and David Nakamurato be a little more precise with their language in the future, since a ban on “semiautomatic weapons that can shoot, or be converted to shoot, more than 12 rounds without reloading” isn’t a limit on machine guns, it’s a limit on almost any self-loading type of pistol and (b) Nickles will read the opinion issued by the court and notice how often Scalia talks about “common” weapons. Self-loading handguns outsell revolvers 3 to 1, which pretty well fits into the definition of common.
So like it or not, enforcing this other law is just an expensive guaranteed return trip to the court in order to lose. It’s unlikely it will get far; this is so obvious on its face that the lower courts are going to rule against the city and appeals likely won’t get far. However that doesn’t mean it’s not a waste of resources we can’t afford. Let’s accept reality and work within it, and be ready for the inevitable other lawsuits that are going to come up over license restrictions. The universe – and the NRA – give away trouble for free. There’s no need to go looking for it.
UPDATE: Just noticed that Ben Winograd over on SCOTUSBlog addresses this idiocy, provides a salient example, and suggests that DC should fix this statute before the courts or the congress fixes it for them. Starts on paragraph 6.
First off, if you’re a Nats fan headed to the game with the Orioles on Sunday, good luck. You’re hosed.
Heads up to everyone travelling across the District this weekend: every single Metro line is seeing major track work and rail testing from Friday night through early Monday morning.
Sad to say, this one’s been hit the worst. First, customers traveling between the Franconia-Springfield and Van Dorn Street Metrorail stations should add up to 30 minutes of travel time for their trips because of track maintenance. Inbound and outbound trains between these locations will share one track from 10 p.m. to closing (3 a.m.), Friday, June 27, 7 a.m. to 10 a.m., Saturday, June 28, 10 p.m. to closing (3 a.m.), Saturday, June 28, and 7 a.m. to 10 a.m., Sunday, June 29.
Additionally, if you’re traveling between the Pentagon City and Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport Metrorail stations, you should add 15 minutes of travel time for your trips because of track maintenance. Inbound and outbound trains will share one track between these locations from 10 p.m. to closing (midnight), Sunday, June 29.
You get to piggy-back on the Blue Line’s woes. See above for sharing issues between Pentagon City and Reagan National.
Riders traveling between the Stadium-Armory and Cheverly Metrorail stations should add up to 20 minutes of travel time for their trips because of bridge repairs. Inbound and outbound trains between these locations will share one track from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m., Saturday, June 28.
If you’re traveling between the Greenbelt and College Park Metrorail stations, add 15 minutes of travel time for your trips because of rail car testing. Inbound and outbound trains will share one track between these locations from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., Saturday, June 28.
And finally, riders traveling between the Friendship Heights and Medical Center Metrorail stations should add 15 minutes of travel time for their trips because of track maintenance. Inbound and outbound trains will share one track between these locations from 9 p.m. to closing (midnight), Sunday, June 29.
A few weeks ago the Washington Post ran an editorial by Patrick Smith, a pilot and writer whose work I have been enjoying on Salon for several years now. I missed it at the time, but caught some of the letters to the editor in response, and honestly was kind of surprised by the vitrol. What are these people angry about, I wondered? This is the guy who has never failed to rail against airline stupidity and TSA uselessness and these folks are responding as if he’s some sort of apologist?
How do you go from a writer who writes this:
I don’t know about you, but each time I settle into one of those blasted seats, the first thing I wonder is what malformed extraterrestrial creature it could possibly have been designed for. Clearly it was not intended for a human being
to a reaction like “Nice try, Mr. Smith,” implying that he’s a co-conspirator?
It’s a fair reaction, I suppose, to someone not familiar with his work and previously stated opinion. Smith is no more a passenger advocate than industry apologist – he’s a writer about the flying experience and not afraid to give a moronic passenger their lumps either. It’s to his credit that in his followup on Salon this week he takes his lumps – which he, rightly I think, identifies as partly caused by the headline WaPo stuck on his piece for him – and uses it as a jumping off point for some interesting facts about pilot careers. The swipes he takes at poor industry service on page 2 would probably come as a significant surprise to the people who think he’s an airline shill.
I highly recommend his work. He’s an entertaining writer and full of neat facts about the flying life. Some of it I knew by virtue of my amateur pilot dad, but there’s plenty more in there that’s new to anyone who’s never been behind the throttle of some big iron. Check it out.
Mayor Fenty, Interim Attorney General Nickles and Chief of Police Lanier are starting their press conference momentarily on the steps of the Wilson Building downtown. WTOP Radio (103.5FM/1500AM) will be broadcasting the event live, and we’ll have a liveblog going here.
Mayor Fenty is speaking now: He’s welcoming everyone, including Chief Lanier and AG Nickles, and several of the City Council.
“Unfortunately and disappointedly, the Supreme Court did not hold up the three-decade old ban.”
Mayor Fenty has directed the Police Department to begin an orderly process for licensing handguns to citizens for home defense. Before you may lawfully possess a firearm, handgun or not, it must be licensed.
There must be a process within 21 days to register new handguns. During that time, the old law remains in effect. You MAY NOT POSSESS A HANDGUN INSIDE YOUR HOME at this time.
The City Council will be working with the Mayor to create effective regulations for storing firearms in your home.
It seems to have been a pretty short event, as WTOP has now cut away.
If you’re sitting there pondering what you’ll purchase for your arsenal at home – or stewing in dread over an influx of weaponry – you should take note of one section from the court’s opinion.
Before this Court petitioners have stated that “if the handgun ban is struck down and respondent registers a handgun, he could obtain a license, assuming he is not otherwise disqualified,” by which they apparently mean if he is not a felon and is not insane. Brief for Petitioners 58. Respondent conceded at oral argument that he does not “have a problem with . . . licensing” and that the District’s law is permissible so long as it is “not enforced in an arbitrary and capricious manner.” Tr. of Oral Arg. 74–75. We therefore assume that petitioners’ issuance of a license will satisfy respondent’s prayer for relief and do not address the licensing requirement.
The court hasn’t said there’s a problem with licensing, and in other places in the opinion stated outright that some restrictions on the what, where, and how of having a weapon are perfectly okay. So what’s probably going to happen – any grandstanding to the contrary – is that the DC government is going to have to set up some structure for license applications and start processing them. The people who have been waiting with baited breath for this decision are probably going to wet themselves with anger, but the reality is that it’s unlikely any court will order them to have this done and operational in a very short period of time. Personally I’d wager that the process will be set up and operational no sooner than 60 days from now, very possibly even longer.
The devil here is in the details, though, and what exactly the licensing rules look like. Will the council be involved in drafting the rules or will they hand it off to an existing department? If you want press credentials in DC you go to a police spokesperson – will the council put the police in charge of issuing licenses or will they create a new body? What information will they want, and how many lawsuits are we going to see over that, given federal restrictions on how long you can jerk around with background checks and the like? Tom says the AG indicates you can expect to be fingerprinted, but what the city will want to do with those fingerprints is an interesting question.
All those questions assume that there’s not going to be a lot of pointless grandstanding and refusals, or writing of deliberately bad law. Maybe I’m giving the District leaders too much credit, but I presume they know better than to pass a licensing law that is so restrictive that nobody can qualify. That would surely be a one-way ticket to a court order, assuming the congresscritters don’t get involved. Aside from the fact that I think we have what could be the basis of a pretty good compromise here (you can have a gun but you need a license and you have to keep it at home), we don’t do the case for D.C. independent rule any good when the people who do the ruling look like unlawful jackasses.
DC Interim Attorney General Peter Nickles was interviewed by the Post’s DC Wire blog before the opinion was delivered, and warned people against bringing firearms to the District en masse, as they still have to be registered with the city. DC Wire believes these to be the likely regulations:
Among the likely regulations: Gun owners would have to be 18 or older and could not have been convicted of a felony or any weapon-related charge or have been in a mental hospital for the past five years. Registrants also will be finger-printed and required to pass a written test to be sure they understand the city’s gun laws, Nickles said.
At least initially, he added, residents would be limited to one handgun apiece. The city will set up a hotline for firearm registrations.
In addition, DC wire suggests that in the case that the trigger-lock/disassembly requirement be overturned (and it was), “Nickles said, the mayor’s office likely would propose new legislation to the D.C. Council that would require that guns remain unloaded in the home expect [sic] in the case of self-defense.”
In addition, “Handguns would only be allowed in the home, Nickles added, with residents banned from carrying them on the streets or into other buildings.” So don’t expect Concealed Carry or Open Carry permits to be issued in the District any time soon.
The Supreme Court has upheld the opinion of the DC Circuit Court, in a 5-4 decision, ruling that DC’s ban on handguns is unconstitutional. Specifically, it is the opinion of the court that there is an individual right accorded by the 2nd amendment, not to be infringed upon by any act of the legislature. In addition, it is the opinion of the court that the ban on storing shotguns and rifles in a disassembled or trigger-locked state is also unconstitutional.
There will be a response from the city shortly.
You can read the Opinion written by Justice Scalia. The Dissenting Opinions are after the Majority Opinion, beginning on page 68 and 114. The big quote from syllabus is this one, which affirms that citizens have a constitutionally endowed right to own a firearm:
The Second Amendment protects an individual right to possess a firearm unconnected with service in a militia, and to use that arm for traditionally lawful purposes, such as self-defense within the home.
In addition, it is not a blanket right without exception:
The Court’s opinion should not be taken to cast doubt on longstanding prohibitions on the possession of firearms by felons and the mentally ill, or laws forbidding the carrying of fire-arms in sensitive places such as schools and government buildings, or laws imposing conditions and qualifications on the commercial sale of arms. Miller’s holding that the sorts of weapons protected are those “in common use at the time” finds support in the historical tradition of prohibiting the carrying of dangerous and unusual weapons.
So don’t go thinking you’ll be able to buy a tommy gun or a bazooka for use as part of some wacky and bizarre home defense plan. Do, however, pay close attention to the section on trigger locks and disassembly requirements, which were also ruled as unconstitutional:
The handgun ban and the trigger-lock requirement (as applied to self-defense) violate the Second Amendment. The District’s total ban on handgun possession in the home amounts to a prohibition on an entire class of “arms” that Americans overwhelmingly choose for the lawful purpose of self-defense…Similarly, the requirement that any lawful firearm in the home be disassembled or bound by a trigger lock makes it impossible for citizens to use arms for the core lawful purpose of self-defense and is hence unconstitutional.
There’s going to be a lot to think about in the next few days.
SCOTUSBlog has a snazzy liveblog thing going on that updates quickly and doesn’t require you to repeatedly refresh your browser. C’mon over, it’s less annoying than the tv talking heads.
Update: Tom Goldstein is a funny guy. “Tom Goldstein – The Morgan Stanley opinion holds that FERC was required to apply the Mobile Sierra presumption. There, everyone knows what they came here to find out.”
Heller has been affirmed, and the court says there is indeed an individual right to a firearm. This is pretty big for everyone in the country, not just D.C. – it potentially will impact all kinds of gun regulations, not just overt bans.
Don’t strap on your six-shooter just yet, Marion Barry – there’s a lot of Monday-morning quarterbacking to be done over the actual opinion first.
Update 2: Don’t forget that as official materials come in – i.e., the actual written opinion from the court – they’ll be linked here, on the SCOTUSWiki page for D.C. v Heller.
Update 3: Here’s the opinion. [pdf]
Who’d have guessed that anywhere on the list of places people would want to pay to have sex would be the Dupont Metro Station. Yeah, that’s what I thought. No one. However, that’s what recently arrested Metro employees were hoping for. Interestingly enough, it was the station manager and one of the custodian, both female, who were working on the Dupont Metro Sex Ring.
I’m sure there are train-going-into-tunnel metaphors that could be referenced, here, but I’ll be damned if I’ll make one.
I do wonder, though, if you could pay with your SmarTrip card…