Equal rights under the Second Amendment

Posted: Mar 29, 2007 12:00 AM
Equal rights under the Second Amendment

On March 9, a good thing happened for people living in the central and inner cities of America: the DC gun ban was declared unconstitutional. The blanket ban on all operational firearms - and every handgun even if that gun doesn't work - was struck down as unconstitutional by a federal appeals court. As a guy who lived in the projects, served as mayor of Cincinnati, and who serves as a member of the National Rifle Association's urban affairs committee, I say, "Three cheers for justice."

Many cities have bad gun laws, and the worst is the DC gun ban. Under the ban, you cannot have any handgun, even in your own home. What's worse, you can't even have a shotgun or rifle, unless it's locked away (unloaded) or disabled with something like a trigger lock. The end result is the same; you cannot have a functional firearm handy in your house. If something happens in the darkness of night, you cannot have a usable firearm to defend your house, your children, or even your own life. That's the outrage of laws like the DC gun ban.

Gun control laws hurt law-abiding people because they're the only ones who obey those laws. Criminals, by definition, don't obey the law. When you pass broad gun control laws criminals still get guns. What's worse, when you ban guns, the criminals know their intended victims are almost certainly unable to fight back.

And, what types of citizens are disadvantaged the most by these laws: low income families and poor people living in our inner cities. Many of my fellow African-Americans, Latinos, and other racial minorities are burdened under such laws. If some thug tries to pull a gun or bust through a door, there's little decent people can do to protect themselves.

Every man has the right, and the duty, to put his life on the line to defend his wife or mother or child. A single mother of any race shouldn't have to worry about protecting her little girl. A grandfather, regardless of where he lives, shouldn't fear for his grandson's safety when they go to bed. Women, the elderly and the disabled are the ones left most vulnerable by gun control laws. The inner city is full of them.

Gun control laws like the DC gun ban leave these good people defenseless.

That is not what the Founders intended. They put into the Bill of Rights an express provision to protect people: the Second Amendment. Declaring that "the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed," the Second Amendment gives every American the right to defend their life, liberty and property against anyone who tries to take it away. The Second Amendment is an insurance policy to protect freedom for every citizen. That includes Americans living in DC.

The framers of the Constitution understood that an armed society is a safe society. They understood that everyone is safer when criminals do not know who is armed, that foreign nations don't relish the thought of attacking an armed people, and that no government wants to oppress a citizenry that has the power to resist.

At long last, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit has validated that view. The DC Circuit held that the Second Amendment guarantees an individual right for private citizens to keep and bear arms, and invalidated the DC gun ban as unconstitutional. In doing so, they affirmed that owning a gun is a civil right of all law-abiding citizens.

The implications of this case are enormous as the city government decides how to proceed. Eventually, this matter may be decided by the U.S. Supreme Court.

Constitutional lawyers explain that if this case is affirmed, it would lay the foundation for changing gun control laws all over the country. At the same time, if the appeals court decision is reversed, the impact could be enormous, as it could begin to erode support for the idea that owning firearms is a basic right.

Every American should care about this case, and every American should hope the Supreme Court clearly reaffirms this fundamental right guaranteed by the Second Amendment.

But, those who should want this most are people who grew up like me: blacks from the inner city, living in the projects. Good and decent people. They deserve to be safe too. They deserve security in their homes also. They are Americans, and the courts should respect their dignity and vindicate their rights.