The Knox Report
From the Firearms Coalition
Heller’s Up and Parker’s on Deck
By Jeff Knox
(November 28, 2007) The Supreme Court will review the D.C. gun ban case. The case, originally known as Parker v. D.C. is now known as D.C. v. Heller. The name change is a source of confusion, which we’ll explain momentarily. Another matter of confusion is who’s behind the case. It is often reported that this case is a project of the libertarian Cato Institute; that’s not true. While several key players in the case are closely associated with Cato, the organization itself did not fund or sponsor the action. It is true however that NRA was not happy about this case going forward but has filed a supporting amicus brief and recently began using it as a fundraising appeal.
The story so far: Last March the Federal Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit ruled in Parker v. D.C. that the District’s rigid gun control laws violated D.C. citizens’ rights under the Second Amendment. The court declared that the Second Amendment refers to an individual right, but left plenty of wriggle room by suggesting that “reasonable restrictions” do not constitute “infringement.”
To get to that point, the court overturned a lower court’s ruling that none of the six plaintiffs in the case had legal standing to bring the suit and instead ruled that one of the six did have standing. That individual was a man named Dick Heller. The other five plaintiffs, including Shelly Parker, were told that they didn’t have standing even though they were clearly within the Supreme Court’s guidelines for establishing standing. The D.C. Circuit Court recognized that their own precedents for establishing standing are much more stringent than the Supreme Court has clearly and repeatedly established, but said they had to follow their own precedents until they were overturned by either the Supreme Court or an en banc hearing of the entire Circuit.
When the District asked the Supreme Court to review the case, they filed as plaintiffs calling their appeal D.C. v. Heller. Attorneys for Heller have filed their own petition encouraging the Supremes to hear the case, and then filed another petition requesting that the Court review the “standing” issue and asking that the other five original plaintiffs be allowed to rejoin the case. That petition is now known as “Parker.”
On November 19, the Supreme Court announced that it would take up Heller. In that announcement the Court said they were going to decide; “Whether the following provisions – D.C. Code §§ 7-2502.02(a)(4), 22-4504(a), and 7-2507.02 – violate the Second Amendment rights of individuals who are not affiliated with any state-regulated militia, but who wish to keep handguns and other firearms for private use in their homes?” The three sections of the D.C. Code they cited are:
• the ban on possession of any handgun not registered in the District by 1976
• the ban on carrying an unlicensed handgun (even in one’s own home)
• the requirement that any gun kept in the home must be disassembled or locked up (making it useless for personal defense).
Those are, of course, the matters of most interest to gunowners, but the question of the D.C. Circuit’s overly-strict rules on standing should be a matter of deep concern for anyone concerned with any aspect of civil rights. The D.C. Circuit often hears appeals in cases involving the Federal government itself. As such, it plays an unique role in civil rights cases, making their deviation from Supreme Court standards even more significant. The Supreme Court has not yet indicated whether they will accept the Parker petition and review the D.C. Circuit’s practices regarding standing. Such a review should have negligible impact on the Second Amendment case, but could weigh heavy on future civil rights cases.
As things stand, the Supreme Court should hear arguments in Heller in the spring and could render a decision by the end of June. “Could” is the operative word here since the Court can do whatever it chooses and may deviate from their typical pattern. Something that could concern the Court is how their decision might affect the 2008 elections. A June announcement would be too late to impact the Primaries, but could result in upheavals at the Nominating Conventions and might play hell with the Congressional Elections. A decision against the Second Amendment could result in a backlash against anti-gun politicians in both parties while a decision supporting the Second Amendment might force politicians off of the fence and make them vulnerable.
Whatever the decision in Heller, neither side will fold their hand and the issue will remain in the political sphere. A decision against gun rights should galvanize GunVoters into defensive action, while a decision supporting the Second as and individual right should push GunVoters onto the offense.
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