Citizens in the District of Columbia had plenty of reason to celebrate over July 4th weekend. In addition to our nation’s birthday, countless barbeques, and a fabulous fireworks display, citizens of D.C. could finally enjoy their rights as set forth in the Bill of Rights.
For more than thirty years, D.C. has robbed its citizens of their Second Amendment rights through a draconian handgun ban. And D.C.’s gun restrictions don’t stop at handguns. D.C. also requires shotguns and rifles to be bound by a trigger lock or kept unloaded and disassembled. So much for home protection.
The justification for forbidding law abiding residents from owning weapons was that making guns illegal would lead to a reduction in violent crime. D.C.’s history is a vivid illustration of the folly of this presumption. Despite the nation’s strictest gun control laws, D.C. has one of the nation’s highest murder rates. Unfortunately for D.C.’s lawmakers and citizens, when you outlaw guns, only criminals have them.
In contrast, states with relatively loose gun rules, such as Vermont, New Hampshire, and the Dakotas, have the lowest murder rates in the country. States with high gun ownership rates (over 40 percent), such as Utah, North Dakota, and Iowa, boast firearm death rates below the national average. When criminals know that would be victims could be prepared to defend themselves, committing a crime becomes less attractive. That’s why, counterintuitive as it may seem, more guns often mean less crime.
Gun bans like D.C.’s aren’t only bad policy; as the Supreme Court decided last week in a landmark 5-4 decision that will be studied for years to come, they are also unconstitutional. In District of Columbia v. Heller, the Supreme Court struck down the ban, further stating that the Second Amendment confers an individual right to bear arms. Writing for the majority, Justice Antonin Scalia wrote, “We hold that the District's ban on handgun possession in the home violates the Second Amendment, as does its prohibition against rendering any lawful firearm in the home operable for the purpose of immediate self-defense."
And as Justice Scalia pointed out in his opinion, “the American people have considered the handgun to be the quintessential self-defense weapon.” All citizens of D.C. should rejoice at their new found freedom. But for women especially, guns are the ultimate equalizer in self-defense.