Our Case for the Right to Bear Arms Argued Today

by Tom Palmer on January 23, 2010


The outstanding lawyer Alan Gura, who won the case before the Supreme Court that struck down the ban on ownership of firearms in the District of Columbia today argued our case for the right, not only to “keep,” but to “bear” arms, i.e., to carry them in public. Alan’s smart and focused and we’ve got a strong case.

Cato Chairman Robert A. Levy, who funded the previous case entirely out of his own pocket, made the case for the right to carry in an article in the Washington Post last year: “Gun Owners’ Next Victory in D.C.” That’s the same Robert A. Levy who wrote “The moral and constitutional case for a right to gay marriage” for the New York Daily News earlier this month. Bob is neither a gun owner nor gay; he’s just a decent person who believes in liberty and the rule of law. Oh, and he’s brilliant, too.

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D.C.'s Gun Carry Ban Challenged - Hit & Run : Reason Magazine
January 25, 2010 at 10:14 am

{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

lysander January 26, 2010 at 8:57 am

“Resistance to sudden violence, for the preservation not onl of my person, my limbs, and life, but of my property, is an indisputable right of nature which I have never surrendered to the public by the compact of society, and which perhaps I could not surrender if I would.” – John Adams
It is my natural right to offer such “Resistance to sudden violence” with tooth, claw or the tool I deem necessary.

theaton January 26, 2010 at 11:17 am

Isn’t it humorous how people are now calling Alan Gura an “outstanding lawyer” and a “super Second Amendment defender.” In Heller, he assisted the anti’s in further turning a right into a privilege.

Tom G. Palmer January 27, 2010 at 1:15 am

It would be difficult to know how to pack so much ignorance into as short a space as “theaton” has done. Alan and his team succeeded in lifting a ban on ownership of guns. As a consequence we now have more freedom than before. There are time, place, and manner restrictions on the exercise of other rights, such as the right to freedom of speech (which does not imply the right to march with a megaphone and a brass band down a residential street at 2 am, nor the right to issue credible threats of murder or mayhem, to take two obvious examples). Thanks to Alan, the authorities can no longer rely on the argument that reasonable time, place, and manner restrictions can include an outright ban, whether on speech or on firearms ownership. Now, having vindicated the right to “keep” arms, he is working to vindicate our right to “bear” arms. And I am glad that he’s on the job.

Charles N. Steele January 27, 2010 at 2:51 am

Keep up the great work on this, Tom (and Alan Gura and the rest)!

theaton January 27, 2010 at 3:17 pm

When you ask Government for permission to do something, it is not a right but a privilege. How many times did Mr. Heller attempt to register a firearm after the decision before a license was granted? Reasonable restrictions are reinforced in Heller. The founding fathers wanted the people to decide what was reasonable, not the local law enforcement. You may have perceived freedom, but you don’t have true freedom. While I agree it is better than it was before, I stand by may statement that Heller helped to make a right a privilege.

Tom G. Palmer January 27, 2010 at 9:17 pm

Theaton, I believe that you are confusing a moral right with a legal right, as well as being confused about the effect of the legal decision. No simple citizen had the legal right to own a firearm or to register a firearm (to be precise in this case, a handgun) in the District of Columbia prior to the Heller decision. Heller attempted to do so, as did I, and we were not allowed to do so. (Heller got a letter explaining that; I did not.) So the restriction took the form of a ban. That ban was lifted by order of the court. When I went to register my firearm, it was not easy, but I was not refused. (I registered my Smith & Wesson .38 first, then attempted to register my Glock 26, specifying that the intended use of the latter firearm was that “I intend to carry this firearm, loaded, in public, for self-defense, when not kept in my home.” That was denied. I later returned and registered it as a weapon to be kept at home. That denial is the basis of the suit.) So we went from no ownership to restricted ownership. The moral right (whatever it may be) was not changed. The legal right was, and it was changed in the right direction. The moral right, which was not respected at all prior to the Heller decision, was not made into anything else.

In all cases, someone has to determine whether the use of a firearm is restricted by reasonable regulation. (Regulation in this case means being subject to a rule, not being subject to arbitrary whim.) If you brandish a weapon, was it in self-defense, or to frighten an innocent person? “The people” don’t make that decision; some person or group of persons does. Was the speech so loud as to inflict harm on others (say, by breaking their windows or awakening them at 2 am)? Someone has to determine that. In the case of DC, the city council (not “local law enforcement”) determined that they could ban handguns. The court ruled that they could not. But they can regulate their use and forbid carrying them on playgrounds, or on airplanes, or in court rooms, to take a few examples. Such regulations do not affect the moral right, nor do they convert either a moral right or a legal right into a “privilege.” You should be more careful and precise in your use of words. It would increase the precision of your thought.

Charles N. Steele January 29, 2010 at 8:44 pm

Very well stated!

When I read critics such as Theaton, I wonder how *they* would propose to assert their (moral) rights in a case like this.

As for “perceived freedom” vs. “true freedom,” if after this lawsuit one can carry where before one couldn’t, they are freer. I want real world freedom, and am not interested in waiting for a hypothetical world of imagined perfect freedom.

Tom David February 2, 2010 at 6:19 pm

Mr. Palmer,
I am extremely interested in this case because, as I am sure you know, Wisconsin is one of the two states that does not allow firearms to be carried concealed. Assuming that you prevail in your case v. DC, and that Mr. Gura is successful in McDonald v. Chicago (as is predicted), Wisconsin will be required to examine their state statutes relating to the prohibition of CCW.

Can you please state the current status of the DC case, and if you know an approximate timeframe when a decision from the court will be expected? If a court decision is in your favor, I will be contacting the Wisconsin Attorney General asking for an opinion on how to overturn Wisconsin’s fringe carry laws. Best Wishes.

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