DC's experiment with disarming the public proved it's better to lock and load

DC's experiment with disarming the public proved it's better to lock and load
© Getty Images

In a major setback for anti-gun activists, a three-judge panel of the District of Columbia Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in July that the “good cause” requirement for firearm licensing was unconstitutional. This past week, the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear the D.C. government’s appeal in the case.

The high court’s punt should put to rest the issue of whether a citizen must seek approval from the government to exercise constitutionally granted rights. In light of the recent tragedy in Las Vegas, it would be appropriate to celebrate the court’s decision to uphold the Second Amendment not as a victory for "gun rights," but as a win for freedom.

At a time like this, when a major tragedy places the Second Amendment under intense scrutiny, the basic point bears repeating. The Second Amendment to the Constitution is not about granting rights to citizens to carry guns. It is about denying government an exclusive monopoly on the use of force and ensuring the preservation of our freedom. Though much-debated, the Constitution's text is simple. "A well-regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”


The Constitution explicitly forbids the government from "infringing" upon the rights of "the people" to keep and bear arms. Why would the framers envision such a statement to be necessary, not on the first drafting of the Constitution, but in hindsight? It is precisely because they knew that they had created a powerful new system of federal government, and they feared that the government could become corrupt and turn against the people. They knew this because they had escaped from despotic regimes in Europe, where corrupt kings and monarchs issued edicts that specifically prohibited citizens from bearing arms and challenging their tyranny.


Some would argue that the Second Amendment is no longer practical in today’s society, where civil remedies are available to citizens who have been abused by the government. Others argue that the harm of allowing firearms in civil society outweighs the good. These arguments are factually and legally indefensible. As a nation of laws, we do not and cannot merely fail to enforce laws that we no longer think are practical. The failure to enforce a law here or there for reasons of mere convenience or "practicality" leads gradually and yet inexorably to a state of lawlessness. If "the people" decide that the government can infringe upon their rights to keep and bear arms, there is a well-organized process for changing the Constitution and amending the law. Absent that occurrence, arguing that the law is impractical is pretty much moot point.

The second point, that citizen firearm ownership causes harm, has become a sticking point for dogmatic arguments on all sides of the debate. The anti-gun dogma rests on dodgy foundations. Its proponents argue that the legal ownership of guns causes more violence. And when a tragedy like the Las Vegas shooting occurs, they are quick to jump on the bandwagon of heavily restrictive gun reform.

I live in the District of Columbia. Legal gun ownership was prohibited within the city until 2008, and yet from the mid-1980s through the early 2000s, gun violence in D.C. occurred at an alarming rate. In some years during the 1990s, D.C.'s homicide rate was the highest in the nation. Other major metropolitan centers with strict gun control ordinances such as New York, Detroit and Chicago also experienced dizzying rates of gun homicides. An overwhelming majority of the violence was perpetrated by criminals wielding illegal firearms.

When the Supreme Court declared D.C.’s ban on gun ownership unconstitutional in 2008, the local government immediately set about implementing regulations that would make gun ownership all but impossible. It sought, for example, to restrict the right to conceal-carry. Such restrictions are a victory for criminals, not law-abiding citizens. Small business owners who carried large sums of cash, and law abiding citizens living in areas victimized by high crime rates, basically found themselves at the mercy of armed criminals who ran rampant and terrorized residents. The government, seemingly oblivious to the obvious power disparity in power between lawless criminals and defenseless citizens, pushed blindly forward with its anti-gun dogma. That state of affairs constituted the very essence of the encroaching tyranny the Constitution’s framers sought to forestall.

Let’s allow common sense to prevail. Legal gun ownership with some regulations promotes peace and prosperity. Are some regulations necessary in order to prevent criminals and murderers from obtaining stockpiles of deadly automatic weapons? Yes. Does that mean we should toss out the considered wisdom of our nation’s founders, who planned to protect the populace from government overreach? Absolutely not.

Armstrong Williams (@ARightSide) is author of the brand new book, "Reawakening Virtues." He served as an adviser and spokesman for Dr. Ben Carson's 2016 presidential campaign, and is on Sirius XM126 Urban View nightly from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. Eastern.