Politics & Policy

Let Washington Lead the Way on Gun Rights

(Stephanie Frey/Dreamstime)
Congress should legalize concealed carry for D.C. residents.

Because of his circumspect views on foreign policy, Senator Rand Paul (R., Ky.) isn’t every conservative’s cup of Tea Party tea as a presidential candidate. Whether this assumes a not entirely fair or accurate take on Senator Paul’s foreign-policy views is a debate for another time; with his introduction of the Defend Our Capital Act of 2015, the gentleman from Kentucky reminds us of why he is an invaluable senator, whatever becomes of his presidential aspirations.

The Defend Our Capital Act seeks to put into law the radical notion that Americans’ federal civil rights, as understood by the Supreme Court, apply in the federal District of Columbia, including their right to keep and bear arms. The Supreme Court has unequivocally recognized an individual right to keep and bear arms in Heller (a right incorporated against the states under the Fourteenth Amendment in the later McDonald decision), but the District of Columbia has, it its mulishness, persisted in preventing Americans there from exercising their rights. Being a federal enclave rather than a state, the District of Columbia is directly answerable to Congress, and Senator Paul’s bill would straighten out D.C. on several particulars related to Second Amendment rights.

RELATED: Anyone Who Would Use Terror as an Excuse to Subvert the Second Amendment Should Be Tarred & Feathered

Washington, D.C., is a majority-black city, and the worst of its crime-ridden neighborhoods are overwhelmingly black. The Democratic party, which has a long and ugly history of working tirelessly to deny African-Americans the right to keep and bear arms (as well as other civil rights and, in the case of Lyndon Johnson, the quaint right not to be lynched), remains as terrified as ever of the prospect of black people’s having the same access to firearms enjoyed by the 97 percent white population of Vermont, so its members oppose Senator Paul’s bill.

The great legal scholar Glenn Reynolds, of the University of Tennessee (best known as the man behind Instapundit.com), argues that Senator Paul’s bill is aimed at bringing some aspects of Second Amendment rights out of the penumbras and into the light of ordinary constitutional law. “Penumbras have got a bad name on the right,” he says, but certain broader considerations beyond the core definition of constitutional rights are necessary to make them meaningful. Which is to say that contra that distinguished constitutional scholar Chris Rock, the right to own firearms implies a right to own bullets as well. Other rights in the penumbras suggested by Professor Reynolds cover considerations such as the transportation and repair of firearms, practicing with them, etc. Left-wing jurisdictions can be pretty creative about using the penumbras against the right itself: Professor Reynolds points out incredulously that Chicago required shooting-range practice for anybody seeking to own a handgun — and then banned shooting ranges.

RELATED: No, We Should Not Prohibit Those on the Terror Watch List from Purchasing Guns

Senator Paul’s bill would require the District of Columbia to begin issuing concealed-carry permits (which still would put black Washingtonians at a disadvantage vis-à-vis the whiter-than-white population of Bernie Sanders’s Vermont, where no such permit is required), strip away the most restrictive and obviously unconstitutional of the district’s firearms prohibitions, and require the district to recognize concealed-carry permits issued by the states. It would also ease some important federal restrictions beyond the District of Columbia, permitting those legally entitled to carry guns to do so on federal property (with some exceptions for sensitive sites) and allowing for firearms sales across state lines.

#share#One of the priceless things about libertarian-leaning Republicans such as Senator Paul is the way they bring out the totalitarian leanings in the Democrats. And those have become, unhappily, significant. The Democrats, in spite of two Supreme Court rulings affirming the individual right to keep and bear arms, insist on preserving and enacting legislation that curtails Americans’ constitutional rights in a way that heavily disadvantages minority communities, especially African-Americans, against whom picayune firearms laws are enforced with sometimes savage vigor.

RELATED: The Left’s Cynical Gun-Control Reflex

Consider the case of the black Marine veteran and double amputee on his way to Walter Reed Hospital who was viciously prosecuted when his car broke down and it was discovered he had a gun (legally permitted in his home state of Ohio) in the vehicle. Why did he bring his gun? He was anticipating a lengthy stay in the military hospital and had packed most of his worldly possessions, including his pistol. He ended up having to defend himself in court when his public defender pressured him to plead guilty and the government threatened him with the loss of his disability benefits for an injury sustained defending his country while at war. That’s the kind of prosecution Democrats are fighting for and Senator Paul is fighting against. The Democrats talk a good game about excessive policing and promiscuous incarceration, but try exercising your constitutional rights in the District of Columbia and you’ll see where that gets you.

#related#It isn’t just black disabled veterans the Democrats are after. With their demands to prohibit anybody on the presidential naughty list from exercising their constitutional rights, the Democrats have completely abandoned the entire concept of due process. The presidential watch list is a sloppy document produced by unaccountable bureaucrats with no process of appeal or review, but Democrats are happy to see your Second Amendment rights revoked at the whim of the man in the White House. And why stop at the Second Amendment? Why not the First or the Fourth? I suppose I should be careful making that argument: Senate Democrats voted in 2014 to repeal the First Amendment in order to facilitate their passing laws to silence their political opponents, while in New York the state attorney general is working feverishly to pursue criminal prosecutions against persons and institutions holding unpopular views about global warming.

Which is to say, the Democrats’ behavior in this matter is an excellent reminder of why we need a Second Amendment. It’s also a good reminder that the people of Kentucky did the republic a favor by sending that persnickety Rand Paul to the Senate.

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