7.24.2008

Guns & D.C.: Far from a Ceasefire

by Molly Kenney

A 13-year-old boy was killed by gunfire last week in the D.C. neighborhood of Trinidad, still surrounded by military-style checkpoints after months of intensive gun crime. And earlier this summer, after Washington, D.C.’s 32-year-long gun ban was struck down by the U.S. Supreme Court, police chief Kathy Lanier admitted that the Metropolitan Police Department has no idea how many guns are in the District.

So the gun ban didn’t work.



That much is clear from the District’s reputation as the homicide capital of the U.S., but recent gun violence, seemingly unchecked since April, has coincided with the Court’s rejection of the gun ban’s constitutionality. (Although D.C. has a poor reputation for violence, statistically, New Orleans has the highest rate of homicide for major cities in the U.S. The FBI also rates Baltimore and Detroit ahead of D.C., with worse homicide rates.) Second Amendment feelings aside, if the complete ban failed miserably at its goal of stopping gun crime, how will less stringent legislation solve the problem?

Last week, the D.C. Council announced the Firearms Control Emergency Amendment Act of 2008, an obvious scramble to fill the void left by the Court’s decision and enact some type of meaningful gun control. According to The Washington Post, the new act allows gun possession by an application that includes a written exam, criminal background check, fingerprinting, vision test, ballistic testing, and proof of residency. Handguns in homes are now allowed, though the act maintains the original ban’s restrictions on automatic and semi-automatic weapons, a move that will likely draw legal challenges. After wavering on the acceptability of loaded, unlocked guns, the Council decided that guns must be unloaded and locked in the home unless an immediate threat is present.

Several groups have already threatened to challenge the new law, largely based on its continued ban of automatic and semiautomatic weapons and the storage requirements. While D.C.’s gun crimes remain in the national news and the police struggle to count the guns they need to control, it’s up to the D.C. City Council to balance the cries for Second Amendment freedom and public safety. Can D.C.’s revised gun legislation limit gun control and control gun crime? It’s a long shot.

(Photo by e53 of Cedar Rapids, Iowa via Flickr, using a Creative Commons License.)









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