California court uses technicality to support Constitutional rights

It shouldn’t be news, but it is: a Court of Appeal in California held that San Francisco cannot unilaterally make itself a little gun free oasis by the Bay:

San Francisco’s ban on handguns, blocked by a legal challenge since voters approved it in November 2005, suffered a possibly fatal blow Wednesday when a state appeals court ruled that local governments have no authority under California law to prevent people from owning pistols.

The First District Court of Appeal in San Francisco agreed with a June 2006 ruling by Superior Court Judge James Warren, who said state laws regulating gun sales, permits and safety leave no room for a city or county to forbid handgun possession.

State courts have upheld some local restrictions, including prohibitions on the sale or possession of guns on public fairgrounds, Presiding Justice Ignazio Ruvolo noted in the 3-0 ruling. But in general, “when it comes to regulating firearms, local governments are well advised to tread lightly,” he wrote.

San Francisco’s ban was challenged by the National Rifle Association, whose lobbyist Chris Cox called Wednesday’s ruling “a big win for the law-abiding citizens and NRA members of San Francisco.”

Alexis Thompson, spokeswoman for City Attorney Dennis Herrera, said the ruling was disappointing, “particularly in light of the continuing plague of handgun violence here in San Francisco.”

The city could ask the state Supreme Court to review the case. History would not be on the city’s side, however, as the state’s high court refused to review a 1982 ruling by the same appeals court striking down an earlier San Francisco ordinance that prohibited handgun possession in the city limits.

Drafters of the 2005 measure, Proposition H, sought to comply with the 1982 ruling by limiting the handgun ban to San Francisco residents. The ordinance allowed only law enforcement officers and others who needed guns for professional purposes to possess handguns.

It also prohibited the manufacture, sale and distribution of any type of firearms and ammunition in San Francisco.

Prop. H was approved by 58 percent of the voters but was challenged by the NRA a day after the election in a suit on behalf of gun owners, advocates and dealers. The proposition has never taken effect.

Read the rest of this article here.

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Rendering them inoperative

San Francisco tried to do away with guns entirely, but was forced to back off of that one because of a little thing called the Second Amendment.  It’s now trying a new tactic, which is to say that you can have guns, you just can’t have them in a way that would render them useful in an emergency.  To make matters worse, even the people supporting these rules admit that they’ll only hamper legal gun owners, while leaving the illegal gun owners with a significant advantage:

San Francisco residents will be required to keep their guns in lock boxes or have trigger locks on their firearms under a law signed Wednesday by Mayor Gavin Newsom.

The law also makes it illegal to possess or sell firearms on city and county property and requires firearm dealers to submit an inventory to the police chief every six months.

The measure’s co-sponsors concede that it will have little effect on the proliferation of illegal firearms. The prohibition of guns on county property does not apply to Housing Authority sites, and the ban on selling guns on county property does not apply to the annual gun show at the Cow Palace. The firearm inventory list applies to the one gun store and five licensed firearm dealers in the city.

Officials did not say how they plan to enforce the lock box and trigger lock requirements, but District Attorney Kamala Harris said that once people are aware of the new law, “they’re going to follow it.”

Did you catch the last paragraph about enforcement?  There are only two ways to enforce it:  The first is house to house searches of gun owners, which sounds mighty unconstitutional to me.  The second is to go after gun owners after they’ve used their guns.  If the gun owners used their guns illegally in the first place, it will simply layer on another charge to the indictment.  However, what you can easily foresee is a situation in which a legal gun owner legally defends himself against a robber, only to be prosecuted afterwards for having his gun readily available.

In any event, I suspect that the law is redundant.  Gun owners who worry about having their guns misused while on their own property will already store them in lock boxes (as hunter friends of mine do) or have trigger locks (the favored approach, I suspect, of people who worry both about gun safety and protection against break-ins).  Legal gun owners who don’t worry about these matters, for whatever reason, will convince themselves that they can ignore the law.  And the criminals, of course, will continue to pack their weapons and use them with abandon.

A new spin on the old Constitution

This is what the Second Amendment says:

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.

This is what the District of Columbia did:

It passed a law in 1976 holding that all guns in the home must be “unloaded, disassembled, or bound by a trigger lock or similar device.”

Here’s the inevitable effect of the D.C. law:

Between 1976 and 1991, while the U.S. murder rate increased at an unseemly 9%, the D.C. murder rate, which had been declining before 1976, increased by a staggering 200%.

Clearly, while bad things can happen if there are guns around the house (children inadvertently killing themselves or friends, impulse suicides, impulse murders), worse things can happen when there are no guns around the house. (And no, I do not personally own a gun.)

On March 7, 2006, the Federal District Court issued a 75 page long opinion holding that the Washington, D.C. law violates the Second Amendment (that bit about not infringing the People’s right to keep and bear arms).

And here’s how the New York Times characterized the court’s ruling:

Interpreting the Second Amendment broadly, a federal appeals court in Washington yesterday struck down a gun control law in the District of Columbia that bars residents from keeping handguns in their homes. (Emphasis mine.)

Now, much as it always pained me to admit when I was a card-carrying, gun-control liberal, there’s no “broad” reading necessary to conclude that a law making gun ownership entirely ineffectual does, in fact “infringe” upon “the right of the People to keep and bear arms.” The only way to get around this language is to change the language, not to try to nitpick it and narrow it to death.

And before those of you start making the old argument that guns are only allowed for a “militia,” and that the National Guard is our militia, hold your breath. The only way to harmonize “militia” and “People” in the Second Amendment is to envision a situation in which people have the ability, because they are armed, instantly to form citizen’s brigade separate from the United States Military. Nor is this careless drafting. (As if the Founders were ever careless about these things.) That the Founders viewed these citizens’ militias as entirely separate from forces under Government aegis (including the National Guard) they would not have drafted the Fifth Amendment as they did:

No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a grand jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the militia, when in actual service in time of war or public danger. . . .

“Land and naval forces” (i.e, the standing military) cannot be the same as “militia” because the language then becomes redundant — and it is a standing principle of statutory construction that you would language to avoid redundancies.

In other words, if you don’t like the Second Amendment, take steps to change it. You know what I mean: those extremely difficult steps that most Americans won’t stand for when it comes to gun control, such as convening a new Constitutional Convention or engaging in the painful process of having both houses and all those state legislatures pass the proposed amendment by a supermajority. What you don’t do is pervert the Amendment’s language beyond recognition, and than classify as “broad” a reading that actually interprets the language as written.

Cause, effect, cause, effect, cause, effect

Everybody enjoys a good laugh when they read some version of what Robert Godwin calls “the perennially clueless New York Times, which often publishes variations on the theme of “Crime Down Despite Increase in Prison Population.” That is, we enjoy the fact that the NYTs, and other liberal publications, seem blind to the fact that crime might be done, not in spite of, but because of, the fact that more bad guys are in prison. I just got a glimpse of another one of those liberal disconnects, where a liberal makes a statement oblivious to the fact that his premise might be, just might be flawed.

I was reading Jack’s News Snipet ‘Blog, which headed me over to a news story about increased gun crime in England, and cries that Labour is responsible — or rather, not in control, and therefore irresponsible. The crime numbers are impressive:

Labour has been accused of losing control of gun crime as new figures show a sharp rise in armed robberies.

Guns were used in 4,120 robberies last year – a 10% jump – including a 9% rise to 1,439 in the number of street robberies where guns were used.

There was also a rapid and unexplained increase in the number of times householders were confronted in their own homes by armed criminals. Residential firearms robberies show a 46% leap, a record 645 cases in England and Wales – up 204 on the previous year and four times the level recorded in 2000-01.

It’s the last paragraph in this story that has the money quote, the kind of statement that should have someone in government scratching his or her head and saying, “Wait, maybe there’s a connection.” Here:

Home Office minister Tony McNulty said: “Firearm offences have fallen significantly, by 14% in the year up to September 2006, which amounts to 1,642 fewer incidents.

“While there is a small rise in residential firearm robberies, these account for a tiny proportion of recorded offences overall, although we recognise any firearm incident is traumatic for victims.” He added: “We have some of the toughest firearm legislation in Europe.” (Emphasis mine.)

I’m not saying there’s a connection, but there might be. Especially since studies do show that violent home break-ins in London increased immediately after the City outlawed guns entirely. (You can read Mark Steyn’s analysis of that situation here.) The same thing happened in Washington, D.C., so you have an “n” of at least 2 from which to draw your conclusions.

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Things I learned this weekend

I have a deadline that’s going to keep me hopping for a couple of hours, but I’ll share with you two things I learned this weekend. First, I learned that, in my very blue neighborhood, there are surprisingly large numbers of gun owners, wannabee gun owners, and hunters. Who knew?

Second, I learned from an extremely reputable source that domestic terrorist task forces think Iraq made their job harder at home by becoming, essentially, a terrorist summer camp. Conversation shifted, so I was not able to to ask this person whether the training camps in Afghanistan and Pakistan the war had themselves been significant sources, but we just weren’t watching then; or whether the Sudan, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, etc., would be problems even now, after 9/11, without Iraq in the equation. I also didn’t ask him whether the lack of an attack on Ameican soil meant that, while terrorists are training in Iraq, they’re also easier to kill and/or locate in Iraq.

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The NRA would be proud

Here’s the story:

A knife-wielding grocery store employee attacked eight co-workers Friday, seriously injuring five before a witness pulled a gun and stopped him, police said.

The 21-year-old suspect, whose name was withheld pending charges, was arrested and then taken to a hospital after complaining of chest pains, Memphis Police Sgt. Vince Higgins said. The attack apparently stemmed from a work dispute, police said.

Five victims, one in critical condition, were admitted to the Regional Medical Center, the main trauma hospital for the Memphis area. Three others were less badly hurt and treated at another hospital.

The attacker, chasing one victim into the store’s parking lot, was subdued by Chris Cope, manager of a financial services office in the same small shopping center, Higgins said.

Cope said he grabbed a 9mm semiautomatic pistol from his pickup truck when he saw the attacker chasing the victim “like something in a serial killer movie.”

“When he turned around and saw my pistol, he threw the knife away, put his hands up and got on the ground,” Cope told The Associated Press. “He saw my gun and that was pretty much it.”

What’s unusual is how much prominence the story gives to the fact that a gun stopped the attack. Usually, that fact is buried in a story, if it’s even mentioned at all. That is, I’ve known past stories that say “Witnesses stopped the attacker,” and then I’ve found out months or years later, that the witnesses had guns.

True to my Bay Area roots, I used to be staunchly gun control. I’m moving further and further away from that view, though, as I see the disaster that complete gun control is causing in places such as Washington, D.C., and London. On the flip side, Katrina demonstrated that, when people have guns, they can protect themselves when government can’t. Indeed, since Katrina, I’ve been meaning to take some classes and get a gun. What stops me is (a) laziness and (b) a genuine fear of having a gun in the house with two inquisitive, energetic children, one of whom is very certain that he’s GI Joe.

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