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District of Columbia continues to violate civil rights

By Charles Bloomer
web posted August 4, 2008

In the aftermath of the Supreme Court's decision shooting down the District of Columbia's total handgun ban, the D.C. government passed emergency legislation to regulate handguns owned by its subjects – I mean, citizens.

The new gun registration law was developed to be as difficult and inconvenient as possible with no regard for its effectiveness.  In fact, the new law retains much of the previous gun ban, including provisions that the Supreme Court called unconstitutional.

Despite the Supreme Court ruling, the new law outlaws an entire class of weapons in common use -- semi-automatic pistols -- by redefining them as machine guns, a purely arbitrary designation (a semi-automatic weapons fires one shot with each pull of the trigger; a machine gun or automatic weapon fires until the trigger is released).  The law still requires that guns be locked or dismantled unless there is a "threat of immediate harm".  Those two provisions have sparked another lawsuit by Dick Heller, whose case led to the historic decision by the Supreme Court.  The court determined, once and for all,  the right to keep and bear arms is an individual right, not related to any militia service.

To make gun registration by D.C.'s law-abiding citizens more difficult, D.C. now requires an FBI background check which can take up to two weeks.  For what purpose?  In most states, the National Instant Check System (NICS) provides dealers with eligibility of gun purchasers in as little at 5 minutes.  I have never waited more than 15 minutes for a NICS check.

Apart from the District's arrogance, what I find most surprising is the absolute silence of the ACLU and NAACP.  D.C.'s new registration scheme requires citizens to take a written exam in order to register a gun.  Back when those groups actually cared about the civil rights of African-Americans, they objected vociferously to literacy tests designed to keep Blacks, especially in Southern States (run by Democrats) from voting.

According to Wikipedia:

"Literacy Test refers to the government practice of testing the literacy of potential citizens at the federal level, and potential voters at the state level….  As used by the states, the literacy test gained infamy as a means for denying the franchise to African Americans. Adopted by a number of southern states, the literacy test was applied in a patently unfair manner, as it was used to disfranchise many literate southern blacks while allowing many illiterate southern whites to vote. The literacy test, combined with other discriminatory requirements, effectively disfranchised the vast majority of African Americans in the South from the 1890s until the 1960s. Southern states abandoned the literacy test only when forced to by federal legislation in the 1960s."

So now, the government of the District of Columbia is effectively requiring a literacy test to register a gun. A literacy test required in a city that is majority African-American. And the NAACP, ACLU and the civil rights establishment are completely silent.  Do any of these groups care about the civil rights of the residents of the nation's capital?  It appears not.

In broader terms, why does D.C. require a written exam at all?  For what other enumerated Constitutional right does any American have to take an exam?  I know of no examination requirement for an American to exercise freedom of speech.  No journalist or publisher is required to take an exam to exercise the freedom of the press (although it might prove beneficial).  No exams exist as a requirement for freedom of religion, freedom to assemble, or to petition the government for redress of grievances.  And that just covers the First Amendment. 

In fact, the courts have determined that we are ignorant of our rights.  Why else is there a requirement for law officers to recite Miranda warnings to inform us of our Fifth Amendment rights?  The onus is on the government to inform us of our rights, not on us to take a test before we are arrested.

Our unalienable rights of Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness are endowed by our Creator.  Those rights are not contingent upon passing an exam by any government entity.

All of these requirements and regulations are meant to be onerous, inconvenient, and to discourage people from registering weapons.  The government of D.C. does not care if it infringes on a Constitutionally-enumerated civil right – an individual's right to keep and bear arms.

The District is defiantly running roughshod over the Constitutional rights of its people, thumbing its nose at the Supreme Court, and is opening itself up as a target for more lawsuits.  The measures D.C. has taken in its emergency legislation have nothing to do with crime prevention, nothing to do with reducing crime, nothing to do with keeping guns out of the hands of criminals.  If that were the case, the city legislators would actually do the research and review the evidence of laws that actually work (More Guns, Less Crime by John Lott would be a good starting point).

But the District of Columbia is not interested in crime control, allowing citizen self-defense, nor is it really interested in effective gun control.  The District of Columbia is interested in people control.  And the D.C. government does not care if it violates its citizens' civil rights in the process. ESR

Charles Bloomer is a Contributing Editor at Enter Stage Right.  His website is Liberty Call U.S. © 2008 by Charles Bloomer






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