Statement of Violence
Policy Center on Supreme Court Ruling in District of Columbia v. Heller
Overturning DC Handgun Ban
Supreme Court Ruling
Overturning DC Handgun Ban Should Allow Ban on Semiautomatic Handguns
todayís 5-4 Supreme Court opinion authored by 2007 Sport Shooting Ambassador
Award winner Antonin Scalia (see http://www.huffingtonpost.com/josh-sugarmann/sport-shooting-ambassador_b_109367.html
for more info) overturning Washington, DCís handgun ban, but apparently
allowing for the retention of the law's ban on most semiautomatic weapons,
including semiautomatic handguns (see background information after statement),
Violence Policy Center (VPC) Legislative Director Kristen Rand states:
turns legal logic and common sense on its head. As measured in gun death
and injury, handguns are our nationís most lethal category of firearm:
accounting for the vast majority of the 30,000 Americans who die from
guns each year. Handguns are our nation's leading murder and suicide tool.
Yet the majority opinion offers the greatest offender the strongest legal
protection. Itís analogous to the Court carving out special constitutional
protection for child pornography in a First Amendment case.
"In its ruling,
the Court has ignored our nation's history of mass shootings, assassinations,
and unparalleled gun violence. It has instead accepted an abstract academic
argument with dangerous real-world results for residents of the District
of Columbia. Thankfully, because the plaintiff in Heller did not challenge
the District's ban on "machine guns," Washington, DC's ban on
most semiautomatic weapons, including semiauto handguns, should be unaffected."
The ruling comes one
day after a Kentucky factory worker killed five co-workers with a handgun
before taking his own life. For a copy of the amicus brief submitted by
the VPC in the case, please see http://www.vpc.org/hellerbrief.pdf.
The Court's ruling
today does not appear to affect the District's ban on "machine guns,"
which under DC law includes any gun "which shoots, is designed to
shoot, or can be readily converted or restored to shoot semiautomatically,
more than 12 shots without manual reloading." This definition would
include virtually all semiautomatic handguns. As a result, the District's
ban can remain in force for those types of handguns, commonly known as
pistols. In essence, the Court's ruling for the most part will only affect
revolvers and derringers.
fire one shot per trigger pull, have greater ammunition capacity, and
can be quickly and easily reloaded. They are the weapon of choice in mass
shootings and police killings, and are the most common type of handgun
manufactured in America, representing 73 percent of the 1,403,329 handguns
manufactured in the United States in 2006 (the last year for which figures
are available). In contrast, revolvers hold only five to six ammunition
rounds, fire more slowly, take time to reload, and represent only 27 percent
of the handguns manufactured in 2006.
The Violence Policy Center is a
national non-profit educational foundation that conducts research on violence
in America and works to develop violence-reduction policies and proposals.
The Center examines the role of firearms in America, conducts research
on firearms violence, and explores new ways to decrease firearm-related
death and injury.
Thursday, June 26, 2008
Violence Policy Center
(202) 822-8200 x110