Yesterday, Dick Heller filed another lawsuit against Washington, DC for their refusal to follow the spirit of the Supreme Court’s recent decision declaring the city’s ban on handguns unconstitutional. City officials have made clear that they will do everything within their perceived power to create barriers to lawful gun ownership in the District.
They city maintains a ban on semi-automatic handguns, considering them machine guns under current rules. Public officials have also made clear that even if District residents manage to get through the hoops of registering a firearm legally, they are still restricted in home storage and defensive uses, despite clear statements from the Court in support of easing the burden on a citizen’s right to self defense.
Unfortunately, plaintiff Dick Heller must go to the federal courts in order to force the city to comply with the historic ruling confirming our individual Second Amendment rights because Congress has refused to act on legislation that would ensure the District’s gun laws allow law abiding citizens like Dick Heller, a government security guard, to purchase and keep firearms for self defense in the home. (The District has a City Council that governs only with the approval of Congress. Congress retains Constitutional authority over the city since it is not a state.)
Since the Congressional leadership has refused to release the bill for a vote, over 100 members of the House of Representatives have signed a discharge petition in order to allow the legislation to come to the floor. The importance of the petition and allowing a vote on H.R. 1399, “To Restore Second Amendment Rights in the District of Columbia,” that would clarify DC’s gun laws cannot be overstated. At this time, Pennsylvania’s Congressman Patrick Murphy has refused to sign the petition and refused to co-sponsor the legislation. The bipartisan bill currently has 249 sponsors, including 13 from Pennsylvania.
However, this is not a completely unexpected move on the part of Pennsylvania’s 8th District Representative. When the original case of DC vs. Heller was before the court, 250 Representatives and 55 Senators signed a bipartisan amicus brief emphasizing the support in Congress that the Second Amendment protects an individual right.
As Federal officials, we have a fundamental interest in protecting the constitutional rights of our constituents and the American people in general.
The Congress has a long history of protecting the right of the people to keep and bear arms. Like the rest of the Bill of Rights, the Second Amendment was proposed to the States by the Congress in 1789. On several occasions, in different epochs of American history, the Congress enacted statutory texts which explicitly declared its understanding of the Second Amendment as guaranteeing fundamental, individual rights.
When presented with the opportunity to sign the brief, Congressman Murphy refused to take a stand for individual liberty. He may well have been influenced by the $1,000 donation from the Brady Campaign whose litigation wing authored the following brief in support of the DC gun ban during the original case:
Contrary to the lower court, the Framers did not envision the guarantee of a right to possess guns for private purposes as the means of arming the militia. The arming of the militia was a matter of government command, not individual choice, and was regulated by statute.
By contrast, 13 of Rep. Murphy’s colleagues representing Pennsylvania in the House of Representatives signed on to the brief and made clear their belief that the Bill of Rights actually does protect individual rights.