Part 7 Citizens Challenge DC Anti-Gun Laws

Larry Pratt

Shelly Parker is one of seven plaintiffs who has gone to U.S. District Court in our Nation’s capital to challenge Washington DC’s anti-gun laws which blatantly infringe the Constitutionally protected right of private citizens to keep and bear arms. In a sworn statement to the Court explaining why she wants to possess a functional handgun in her home for self-defense, Parker says, in part:

    I reside in a high-crime neighborhood of the District of Columbia…. When I moved into the neighborhood, I soon noticed my block was constantly beset by drug dealing and drug use. I started calling the police frequently and encouraging my neighbors to call the police as well. I organized block meetings to discuss the neighborhood’s response to the drug activity at a church on my street….

    The drug dealers… identified me as an anti-drug activist and began threatening me whenever they would see me walking around the neighborhood. They also started threatening my neighbors very loudly.

    On June 12, 2002, the back window of my car was broken. The following month, a large rock came through my front window. I’ve also had a security camera stolen from the outside of my house. On one occasion, a drug user who sometimes acts as a lookout for the drug dealers drove his car into the back fence of my house.

    On the night of February 12, 2003, the date on which the Washington Times carried a front-page article about this lawsuit and my role in it, a drug dealer I knew as “Nanook” started banging on my door and tried to pry his way into my house, repeatedly yelling, “bitch, I’ll kill you, I live on this block, too.”

But, of course, under Washington DC’s anti-gun laws, among the strictest in the Nation, Shelly Parker cannot now legally have a handgun, even in her home, for self-defense. Among other things, these anti-gun laws punish a first offense by a fine of up to $1,000 and imprisonment of up to one year (or both), and a second offense by a fine of up to $5,000 or a jail term of up to five years, or both. Even the movement of a handgun from one location to another on one’s property carries a criminal penalty.

To demonstrate just how absurd, outrageous and irrational Washington DC’s anti-self defense laws are, consider the case of one of Parker’s fellow plaintiffs, Dick Anthony Heller. Heller is a Special Police Officer who works in the District of Columbia providing security for the Federal judiciary. He is already licensed to and does carry a handgun on his job. But when Heller, who also lives in a high-crime neighborhood in Washington DC, applied for permission to have a handgun in his home this was denied!

In any event, to no one’s surprise, lawyers for the District of Columbia and Mayor Anthony Williams — in an embarrassingly incompetent brief — have asked the District Court to dismiss the arguments of Shelly Parker and her fellow plaintiffs.

In opposition to the District of Columbia’s pathetic Motion To Dismiss, the attorneys for Parker, et al — Alan Gura, Robert A. Levy, Gene Healy and Clark M. Neily — have filed what is arguably the finest, most concise and compellingly documented defense of the “individual right” view of the Second Amendment I have ever seen. Among other things, this excellent brief shows clearly:

    * That the Supreme Court’s decision in United States v. Miller did not adopt a “collective rights” view of the Second Amendment. To the contrary, Miller supports interpreting this Amendment as any other individual right.
    * That the District of Columbia’s Circuit Court has read Miller as implicitly adopting the individual rights model of the Second Amendment.
    * That none of the cases cited by those defending the DC anti-gun laws, and asserting the collective rights view, contain any meaningful analysis of the Second Amendment.
    * That the Supreme Court has repeatedly suggested that the Second Amendment secures an individual right.
    * That the framers of our Constitution intended that the Second Amendment guarantee an individual right to keep and bear arms.
    * That the text of the Second Amendment plainly establishes that individuals have a right to keep and bear arms independent of state service.
    * That to the extent the Preamble of the Second Amendment serves as an operative guide, it does not limit the rights of the people since the word “militia” is practically synonymous with “people.”
    * That the people protected by the Second Amendment are the same people protected throughout the Bill of Rights.
    * That the “right to keep and bear arms” is the right to privately possess and carry ordinary firearms.

I repeat: This brief is without a doubt one of the best I have ever read on this subject. You can read it and other documents pertaining to this case online at: I urge you to read it closely, print it out and keep it as a reference document. It is excellent and the attorneys who put it together are to be congratulated.