Abbott: D.C. Wrong on Guns

AG argues in brief to Supremes that Second Amendment protects right to bear arms

Writing on behalf of 31 states, Texas Attor­ney General Greg Abbott argues in a friend of the court brief that the Second Amend­ment does protect an individual citizen's right to bear arms and urges the U.S. Supreme Court to agree that the Washington, D.C., handgun ban is unconstitutional. Under a 1976 city ordinance, private citizens living in D.C. are banned from owning handguns and are required to keep all rifles or shotguns disassembled or stored with an enabled trigger lock.

The ban is now in legal limbo, however: D.C. Police Officer Dick Heller sued the city after it denied his application to keep a handgun in his home. Heller lost his case in district court but won on appeal when the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit declared the city's ban a violation of the Second Amend­ment. The city, led by Mayor Adrian Fenty, is appealing to the Supremes, who are slated to hear oral arguments in the case next month.

In his brief on behalf of Texas and 30 other states – including Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, and New Mexico, states that have entered reciprocity agreements with Texas allowing individuals licensed by the state to carry concealed weapons over state lines – Abbott argues that private firearm ownership is a "fundamental right," and that D.C. is "markedly out of step" with the 50 states, "all of which protect the right of private citizens to own handguns." He notes that while "reasonable minds" can differ about the scope of the Second Amendment, "that is, about which government regulations are permissible" – for example, whether restrictions on assault-weapon ownership or the imposition of firearm registries are constitutional – questions of scope are not at issue in this case (those "vexing issues ... are appropriately left to another day," he writes).

Instead, Abbott writes, this case asks the Supremes to weigh in only on the fundamental question of whether the Second Amend­ment allows individuals to bear arms or provides only that the state – via the fabled "well regulated militia" – may restrict firearm ownership, a question that "will determine whether the Second Amendment has any modern relevance."

Texas Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchi­son has also joined the crusade to see the D.C. ban overturned and the individual right to bear arms reaffirmed, filing a brief with the Supremes on behalf of 55 senators and 250 House members – the largest group of lawmakers ever to weigh in on a high court case, she told The Dallas Morning News. "Some­times I like to ask gun control advocates what would have happened to the American Revolution if there had been gun control at the time," Hutchison told the daily. "We all know the answer – there wouldn't be an America."

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