Washington, D.C., will become a safer place to live and work thanks to the U.S. Supreme Court ruling Thursday against the city's absolute ban on handguns. The Court ruled that the Second Amendment's guarantee of the right to bear arms is an individual right, not just one that permits states to maintain militias, striking down one of the nation's toughest anti-gun laws. As someone who lived in the District at the time the city imposed its ban 32 years ago, I say it's about time.
I bought my first gun in 1974 after my husband was mugged in broad daylight just blocks from the White House. My husband was picking up our 6-year-old son from school when a man approached him and demanded money. When my husband refused, the man picked up a two-by-four and hit him on the back of the head, knocking him to the ground.
The event traumatized all of us and sent me to a local gun shop to purchase a handgun. I properly registered the .357 Magnum, according to the District law in effect at the time, learned how to shoot it, and kept it safely in my home for the next two years.
But in 1976, the city changed its law, grandfathering in people like me who already owned guns, provided they bring their guns to a government building downtown to re-register them. By that time, I was pregnant with my second child. As the deadline approached, I tried a couple of times to stand in line to re-register the gun but gave up as the wait stretched into hours. On the final day, I went downtown again, gun in tow, only to see a line extending for blocks. As pregnant as I was, there was no way I could stand in line for several hours. So, I returned home, knowing my gun would be illegal if I kept it in my home.
For the next several years, I stored my gun in Virginia, where we owned a small cabin, to comply with the law. Ironically, there was no crime in the area where my cabin was located, so I had no need of the gun there. But I had several brushes with crime in D.C.
Soon after the gun ban went into effect, an intruder hid in my house one day in what was one of the most terrifying incidents in my life. I happened to see the man lurking near my staircase as I headed into the kitchen. I managed not to scream but continued walking away and quietly phoned the police. I confronted the intruder once I knew the cops were on the way. He acted as if I had somehow wronged him by calling the police but didn't stick around to explain to the authorities what he was doing in my house.
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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