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Self-Defense and the Right to Bear Arms

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          The Second Amendment to the United States Constitution states that "[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."  Earlier this year, the United States Supreme Court decided the case of District of Columbia v. Heller in which the Court held that a District of Columbia ban on handgun possession in the home violated the Second Amendment as did a prohibition against rendering any lawful gun in the home operable for the purpose of immediate self-defense.

          The relevant facts in the Heller case are that Dick Heller was a District of Columbia special police officer who was authorized to carry a handgun while on duty at the Federal Judicial Center.  He applied to register a handgun that he wanted to keep at his home, but the District of Columbia denied his request.  Heller then filed a lawsuit in federal court in which he sought to prevent the District of Columbia from doing the following three things:

          1.  Enforcing a ban on the registration of handguns;

          2.  Enforcing a licensing requirement that prohibited the carrying of a firearm in the home without a license; and 

          3.  Enforcing a trigger-lock requirement that prohibited using an operable firearm within a home.                                                                                                                  

          Although the U.S. Supreme Court ultimately ruled in favor of Officer Heller, it nevertheless pointed out that the Second Amendment, like most constitutional rights, does have its limits.  For example, the Court noted that the law has long prohibited such things as:

  • concealed firearms
  • the possession of guns by convicted felons
  • the possession of guns by mentally-ill individuals
  • carrying guns in places like schools and government buildings
  • the commercial sale of firearms without restriction

         If one looks today at the website for the District of Columbia Metropolitan Police Department, one sees that the following eight restrictions apply to anyone who is currently attempting to register a firearm in the District of Columbia:

          1.  He cannot have been convicted of a crime of violence or have any prior weapons offenses; 

          2.  He cannot currently be under indictment for a crime of violence or weapons offense;
 

          3.  He cannot have been convicted within the past five years of a narcotics or dangerous drug offense, threats to do bodily harm, or assault;
 

          4.  He cannot have been found not guilty of any criminal charge by reason of insanity or adjudicated as a chronic alcoholic by any court within the past five years;
 

          5.  He cannot have been voluntarily or involuntarily committed to any mental hospital or institution within the past five years;
 

          6.  He cannot suffer from a physical defect which would make it unsafe for that individual to possess and use a firearm safely and responsibly;
 

          7.  He cannot have been found negligent in any firearm mishap causing death or injury to another human being;

          8.  She cannot have been convicted of any felony or prostitution-related offense.

          Additionally, this website states that properly registering a gun still does not permit a person to carry that gun outside her home or place of business except to move it for a lawful recreational purpose.