Give Us Back Our Bullets

When the Supreme Court struck down Washington, D.C.’s city-wide gun ban as unconstitutional in the D.C. v. Heller decision of June 2008, it seemed axiomatic that similar gun bans around the country would crumble under the weight of unconstitutionality as well. However, more than a year after the Heller decision, the D.C. city council is making it as difficult as possible to get a gun permit in the nation’s capital, Chicago’s Mayor Daley is fighting to keep his city’s total handgun ban in place, and other mayors, like Seattle’s Greg Nickels, threaten to institute gun bans every time a newsworthy crime is committed.

It’s high time to examine the tactics of these gun-banning politicians, as well as others throughout the land, and demand, once and for all, that they give us back our bullets.

While the Heller decision upheld the Founding Fathers' view that the Second Amendment protects an individual’s right to keep and bear arms, it also overturned the D.C. gun ban on grounds that such a ban denied the right of self-defense in the home. Nevertheless, D.C.’s city council has made the requirements for getting a handgun permit so arduous and expensive that only 515 residents have gotten one since the ban was reversed last year. In other words, a de facto gun ban continues.

For example, when Washington Post writer Christian Davenport recently applied for his permit, “it took $833.69, a total of 15 hours 50 minutes, four trips to the Metropolitan Police Department, two background checks, a set of fingerprints, a five-hour class, and a 20-question multiple-choice exam.”

We must understand that this outrageous financial cost, the time commitment, and the repeated (and troublesome) trips to the police department are all simply part of the city council’s way of discouraging would-be permit holders from pursuing a permit in the first place. City council chairman Vincent C. Gray (D) made this clear when he angrily reacted to the overturned ban by “[vowing] that the city was still ‘going to have the strictest handgun laws the Constitution allows.’”

In Chicago, Daley dug in his heals in response to the Heller decision as well, refusing to budge on that city’s handgun ban. Although the National Rifle Association (NRA) filed a suit in federal court to have the ban overturned, the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the Chicago ban by claiming the Supreme Court did not specifically “incorporate” the Heller decision -- did not explicitly say the Heller verdict applies to bans other than the D.C. gun ban. (For the record, Alan Gura, the attorney who successfully argued Heller, contends that no explicit incorporation is necessary because “the 14th Amendment has been interpreted for over a century” as incorporating rights like the Second Amendment.)