I've often wondered how many other gun owners gave up that day and failed to re-register their guns. I was able to keep my gun legally by taking it to Virginia, where I owned a weekend house, and leaving it there until I permanently moved out of D.C. a few years later. But what about the others in line, nearly all of whom were black and appeared to be working people -- laborers, taxi drivers, shopkeepers? My guess is most of them lived in neighborhoods considerably more dangerous than mine. If they didn't make it to the front of the line that day, they faced an uneasy future. They could either keep their now illegal weapons for self-protection or give them up and be defenseless if someone broke into their homes or businesses.
According to a 1993 study by Florida State University criminologist Gary Kleck, gun owners use their weapons to protect themselves approximately two million times per year. Although some studies estimate a smaller number of defensive gun uses, at a minimum, tens of thousands of crimes are prevented each year because citizens can protect themselves when police are not ready at hand to do so. Why then should law-abiding residents of the District of Columbia be left defenseless in a city teeming with illegal guns and criminals willing to use them?
Sen. Hatch's bill has Democrats sputtering about "home rule" since it would overturn a city law, but they'd rather not talk about gun control per se so close to an election year. I don't blame them. There's no correlation between tough gun laws and lower crime. Indeed all the liberal prognostication on Florida's "right to carry" law, the first in the nation in 1987, proved wrong. Not only did Florida's streets not turn into public shooting galleries, as liberals predicted, but 24 other states have followed suit. There has been no discernible increase in violence as a result and not a single conviction of a permit-holder for killing an innocent party.
Sen. Hatch has the right idea. Treat D.C. residents like responsible grownups -- and citizens entitled to Second Amendment protection.
Linda Chavez is chairman of the Center for Equal Opportunity and author of Betrayal: How Union Bosses Shake Down Their Members and Corrupt American Politics .
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