Decision to Overturn DC Gun Ban Under Fire

By Randy Hall | July 7, 2008 | 8:23 PM EDT

( - An appeals court decision overturning the District of Columbia's extensive gun ban continued to draw strong reaction on Monday, with one group calling the ruling "'judicial activism' at its absolute worst" and another hailing it as "a tremendous victory for the common man."

The United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia ruling on Friday "deprives residents of the District the basic right of self-determination in determining their own public safety laws," said Ladd Everitt, president of the D.C. Chapter of the Million Mom March. "This is 'judicial activism' at its absolute worst."

In a Monday news release, Everitt noted that the 2-1 decision in the case of Parker v. District of Columbia "marks the first time in history that a federal appeals court has struck down a gun law on Second Amendment grounds."

"The majority opinion directly contradicted Supreme Court precedent in the 1939 case of U.S. v. Miller," he added. "There, the highest court in the land held that the 'possession or use' of a weapon must bear 'some reasonable relationship to the preservation or efficiency of a well-regulated militia' to receive Second Amendment protection."

The group also focused on what it called the "human impact" of the ruling.

"Because of illegal gun trafficking, it's easy now for kids to get their hands on guns in D.C.," said B.C. Tara Montgomery, chair of the chapter's Linking With Victims for Change Committee. "Why would we possibly want to make it easier? Haven't we seen enough violence in this city already?"

In addition, the group thanked District Mayor Adrian Fenty and Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton "for their leadership and prompt action in opposing this decision."

"It's like Congresswoman Norton said" in response to the decision, Everitt stated. "We have fought off the National Rifle Association four times in the past to preserve our gun laws, and we will win this fight, too -- together."

As Cybercast News Service previously reported, six D.C. residents brought the suit against the city arguing that the gun ban, which in practice prohibited the possession of a functioning firearm, violated their Second Amendment right to "keep and bear arms."

A district court dismissed the claim, ruling that the Second Amendment did not apply to individual citizens, but the Court of Appeals on Friday reversed the lower court's decision, ruling that the Second Amendment does apply to individual citizens.

Over the weekend, the American Civil Rights Union (ACRU) -- which filed an amicus brief on behalf of the plaintiffs in the case -- lauded the decision as "the first time that a federal court has struck down any 'gun control' statute or ordinance for violating the Second Amendment."

"The reality of gun crime in D.C. is that law-abiding residents of the District are defenseless against street criminals who can easily purchase illegal weapons," the group noted in a news release of its own.

"The one judge who dissented from this decision did so because she concluded that the Second Amendment did not apply to the District because it is not a state," the ACRU indicated.

Still, the group noted that "the U.S. Supreme Court will likely take an appeal of this case since it conflicts with decisions made by some other circuit courts."

For its part, the Citizens Committee for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms (CCRKBA) focused its attention on early reaction to the decision.

"By astounding margins of seven to one, local media Internet snap polls demonstrate overwhelming public support" for Friday's ruling, John M. Snyder, CCRKBA public affairs director, noted in a statement also released during the weekend.

"An NBC4-TV survey showed by midnight that, out of 3,437 votes cast, 3,003 (87 percent) believe that people in Washington, D.C., ought to be able to get guns, and only 434 (13 percent) opposed the idea," Snyder stated.

In addition, a poll by radio news station WTOP "indicated that 88 percent agreed with the court decision, and only 12 percent disagreed with it," he added.

"This shows clearly that the average citizen agrees with the court's decision that the Second Amendment ... recognizes an individual right to keep and bear arms and not with the 'gun-grabber' argument that the Amendment contemplates a so-called collective right, such as would apply to an organized militia or National Guard," Snyder continued.

"This is a tremendous victory for the common man and a staggering defeat for certain elitists who really don't accept the fact that average law-abiding citizens ought to be able to get and use guns, including handguns, for the defense of their lives and the lives of their loved ones against violent criminals," he noted.

"Average citizens, as well as community leaders, ought to be able to protect themselves and their families from criminal violence," Snyder stated. "Since the mid-1970s, residents of the District of Columbia legally have been unable to do this.

However, Friday's decision "is a giant step towards rectifying this injustice," he added. "We hope it stands as it goes up through the appellate process.

"In a number of communities, and especially here in the nation's capital, local self-appointed progressives (SAPS) in politics, media, churches and other areas of activity for decades have eschewed the entire concept of an individual right to keep and bear arms," Snyder said.

"Now, these SAPS themselves are eschewed, and it's about time," he added. "Hopefully, now that they themselves have felt the heat, they'll see the light."

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