Archive for the ‘Crime & Punishment’ Category

Neighborhood Democracy

Hey, have you gone to your local ANC meeting lately?  Everyone should go at least once, in the interest of seeing the sausage made. even has a handy page where you can find your local ANC meeting calendar

R. went to 1C last night to hear the public safety report, after the hilarious attempted armed robbery on the street renamed two and a half years ago that wasn’t in the 911 system.  (But is now.)  And he wanted find out about plans to shut down the uptick in crime the past couple of weeks, but that will be at the Public Safety meeting on Friday.  The stats passed out last night show a 3x rise in assaults and a 5x rise in robbery with a gun in the last month, just in our little PSA.  Wow.

But there were good things, too.  Public art to be installed at 18th and Columbia.  It won’t affect the Kiosk, which is apparently the third rail of 1C politics.  And–bonus–SmartBikeDC is expanding into Adams Morgan.  Groovy!

The Kiosk

The Kiosk, surviving traffic lane construction with aplomb.

Grenade In Rock Creek Park

I have noticed that Rock Creek Park has recently finished some construction to repair some sections of parkway- now there’s a possibility there may also be a big crater in the middle of it.

I was watching the local news and there was a breaking news story on a suspicious package that could possibly be a grenade.

WJLA says that 16th Street between between Longfellow Street NW and Colorado Avenue is closed and police are on the scene.

You may want to avoid that area today.

UPDATE:The Washington Post reports that it the grenade, which was real, was taken care of by the military. Always helpful having those types of people around Washington DC for situations like this.

Well, that didn’t take long…

Photo courtesy of DjulietRemember 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.

April fool, courtesy of Djuliet

Mayor Fenty Speaks

fenty.jpg 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.

Mayor Fenty on U St – Originally Uploaded by DCMatt

You’ll still need a license

licenseIf 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.

ALBERTA, MEDICINE HAT 1915/1921 (horse) Team license plate courtesy of woody1778a

AG Nickles Speaks

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.

Supreme Court Strikes Down Handgun Ban

DesertEagle 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.

Desert Eagle .44 – originally uploaded by Barjack

Live Heller coverage

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]

Thursday is Heller Day. So?

Photo courtesy of barjackAt the close of today’s public session, Chief Justice John Roberts indicated that all the court’s remaining opinions will be issued tomorrow at 10am. That includes District of Columbia v. Heller, which is going to start us off on what will no doubt be a long and loud road towards what new gun regulation will come to be in the District… and likely, everywhere else.

Tom Goldstein wrote on SCOTUSBlog on Monday his speculation that the Heller majority opinion would be written by Justice Scalia, which is probably going to be great news if you’re in favor of an individual right to own a gun versus the more traditional collective militia interpretation. Goldstein points out that Scalia is the only justice who hasn’t penned a majority opinion from the cases in March’s sittings – and this is the last of March’s cases – though of course this assumes (a) Scalia will be on the pro-gun side – probably a fair guess – and (b) that the pro-gun contingent is going to carry this decision, which sure sounded that way from the oral arguments.

That’s divergent from what Mike O’Shea predicted right after oral arguments, when he believed that Justice Roberts or Kennedy would be writing the opinion, though both think there’s going to be an individual right component to the decision.

The reasonable thing to wonder in response to that is, of course, so what? What’s that really mean for people visiting and living in the district? Well, Nina Totenberg’s NPR article here points out that the DC law as it stands doesn’t prohibit residents from keeping what I’d call “long guns” at home for protection, provided that they’re trigger-locked or disassembled, so odds are we’re just going to see that residents will be able to keep pistols as well as rifles at home. Whether they’ll have to continue to be locked is more up in the air. Justice Scalia certainly seemed pretty firmly on the side of self-protection, and DC circuit court ruling said not just that Heller had the right to have the gun at home, but also loaded and unlocked.

I think we can be pretty much certain that at the end of this there’s not going to be any expectation that you’re going to have the right to have a gun out and about with you when you travel through town, visible or not. That might be the next fight Heller and others like him choose to pick, but I’d be overtly astonished if there’s any overt statement on that kind of matter in the decision. The Court likes to give a thumbs up or down to lower court decisions without further narrowing, and the Circuit opinion outright says “Heller does not claim a legal right to carry a handgun outside his home, so we need not consider the more difficult issue whether the District can ban the carrying of handguns in public, or in automobiles.” Or in other words, we’re going to punt and just ignore this sub-issue. Bet on a follow-up case – if this goes as expected and residents are allowed to have guns in their home – over being able to transport them to and fro.

See you at the range.

Guns In Grey, courtesy of barjack

Gun Ruling Today? Looks Like No.

Last we’d heard, the only justice waiting to weigh in on District of Columbia v. Heller was Justice Antonin Scalia (and chances, he’s all for the guns, is my guess) which means that we have to be close to a verdict in the case. The Supreme Court in a special sessions released four verdicts this morning, among them, one Rejecting the Death Penalty for Child Rape, and another to Slash the Exxon Valdez Judgment.

Generally, if Heller were to have come today, we’d know all about it by now, along with the rulings for the Valdez and Child Rape cases linked above. So, looks like we wait another day or two for Justice Scalia to finish his scrivenings. It’s gotta be out by Monday, as that’s when the Court’s term is done. But, worst to worst, it could be extended.

So, who’s setting up the pool?

LA Gun Club — Originally uploaded by seanbonner

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