Today is the United States’ Bill of Rights Day, but District of Columbia residents are second-class citizens when it comes to the Second Amendment. President-elect Barack Obama certainly does not support it. When I filed an amicus brief with the Supreme Court supporting the respondent in District of Columbia v. Heller on behalf of 55 senators, the senate president, and 250 representatives, Obama declined. And his voting record in the Illinois legislature and the U.S. Congress has been as hostile to American gun owners as King George III was in 1775. What’s in store for Second Amendment rights come January?
Imagine that at Lexington and Concord, British Major John Pitcairn does not shout “Disperse you Rebels—Damn you, throw down your Arms and disperse!” . . . and that the shot heard ‘round the world is not fired. Imagine that instead he reads to the assembled colonists the following decree by British Commander-in-Chief General Thomas Gage, modeled of course after the newly minted 2008 District of Columbia gun law:
- Bans “assault weapons,” defined by a long list of various rifles, pistols, and shotguns, and concludes with the catch-all: “Any firearm that the Chief may designate as an assault weapon by rule.” Anyone who disobeys will be imprisoned.
- Requires all non-banned firearms to be registered with the Chief, who promises never to confiscate them—unless you forget to register or re-register them, that is—and “registration certificates shall expire three years after the date of issuance unless renewed.”
- A non-banned pistol can be registered but only “for use in self-defense within that person’s home.” You cannot defend yourself outside the home. “The Chief shall require any registered pistol to be submitted for a ballistics identification procedure and shall establish a reasonable fee for such procedure.” Oh, and only one pistol can be registered in a thirty-day period.
- Within two years—1777 for the colonists, 2010 for D.C. residents—you will go to prison if you have a pistol that is not “microstamp ready” or is an “unsafe pistol” as determined by weirdoes in the futuristic state of California.
- Knapsacks with more than ten rounds of ammunition are banned as “large capacity ammunition feeding devices.” Essentially, you will be arrested if you have eleven or more rounds.
Of course the “Chief” is the Chief of Police, and these quotes came directly from the new law. Imagine that the colonists reverently surrendered their “assault weapons” and sought to register their non-banned arms and pay the Chief his “reasonable fee.” Imagine that our founders were sheepish wimps who remained subservient to royal tyranny instead of demanding the American Revolution. Imagine that two centuries later we delegated all power to the California legislature and that in District of Columbia v. Heller (2008), D.C. won instead of lost.
Thankfully, that was not the case. The Supreme Court ruled against D.C. and held its handgun ban to be in violation of the Second Amendment’s “right of the people to keep and bear arms.” But with Obama’s recent appointment of Eric Holder as his attorney general and D.C.’s determination to leave its citizens helpless against the criminals the police can’t control, history shows you can’t hold your breath waiting for others to protect your rights. It seems the colonists at Lexington and Concord had it right.
Stephen P. Halbrook, Ph.D., J.D., is Research Fellow at The Independent Institute in Oakland, Calif., and author of the book, The Founders’ Second Amendment: Origins of the Right to Bear Arms, as well as the books, That Every Man Be Armed (Independent Institute) and Freedmen, the Fourteenth Amendment, and the Right to Bear Arms.