Category Archive 'Washington DC'
20 Jul 2008

DC Denies Heller Gun Permit

, , , reports that the District of Columbia is insolently evading compliance with the Supreme Court decision affirming an individual right to bear arms based on the Second Amendment by playing games with definitions.

Dick Heller is the man who brought the lawsuit against the District’s 32-year-old ban on handguns. He was among the first in line Thursday morning to apply for a handgun permit. But when he tried to register his semi-automatic weapon, he says he was rejected. He says his gun has seven bullet clip. Heller says the City Council legislation allows weapons with fewer than eleven bullets in the clip. A spokesman for the DC Police says the gun was a bottom-loading weapon, and according to their interpretation, all bottom-loading guns are outlawed because they are grouped with machine guns.


Apparently, Dick Heller has started filing petition signatures to get on the ballot to run for Eleanor Holmes Norton’s seat in the House of Representatives on the Libertarian Party ticket.

DC Wire:

Heller, Duggan reports, was at the doors at 6:30 this morning. He did not bring his weapon with him as D.C. regulations require, however. He did raise his frustrations with the District’s continued ban on semiautomatic weapons. It’s that issue that city officials and gun rights advocates both say is likely to land the city back in court at some point.

But we’re burying the real news here. It seems that Heller may not have brought his gun with him to register, but he was armed with a load of candidate petitions, Duggan said.

Seems that Heller is planning to run for the House seat currently held by Eleanor Holmes Norton. Heller is seeking signatures to be on the ballot as a libertarian candidate.

A man identifiying himself as J. Bradley Jansen, who said he was Heller’s campaign manager, said Heller must get 3,000 signatures and has until the end of August to collect them.


Dick Heller registering his H&R revolver

Heller came back on Friday and registered a Harrington & Richardson Longhorn nine-shot .22 revolver. WaPo

DC residents can theoretically, therefore, still arm themselves with the top-loading Mauser C-96 Broomhandle semiautomatic pistol, the same gun Winston Churchill used on the dervishes at the battle of Omdurman in 1898.

The one in this 1:06 video is chambered in 9mm Parabellum. The original 7.63 Mauser cartridge is much hotter.

26 Jun 2008

Supreme Court Affirms Individual Right to Keep and Bear Arms

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As predicted, Justice Scalia wrote the majority opinion in District of Columbia v. Heller, which was naturally decided by Justice Anthony Kennedy in his capacity as decisive swing vote.

On first glance, I would say that the Court’s ruling primarily represents a strong rebuke to intellectually farcical sophistry and the kinds of whimsical and creative legal analysis which divorce themselves from the Constitution’s historical background, the expressed views and intentions of the framers, commentaries on the Constitution, and the entirety of history before 1932.

Justice Scalia writes at length, and with ill-concealed contempt, for efforts to eliminate the individual right to keep and bear arms by facile manipulation of the prefatory “well-regulated militia” clause, happily following the jurisprudential practice of recent decades of including a thorough and comprehensive survey of the relevant history.

And he concludes:

There seems to us no doubt, on the basis of both the text and history, that the Second Amendment conferred an individual right to keep and bear arms.

But, no sooner does Justice Scalia arrive at his bold conclusion than he begins retreating from its implications and striving actively to limit its practical consequences.

Like most rights, the right secured by the Second Amendment is not unlimited. From Blackstone through the 19th-century cases, commentators and courts routinely explained that the right was not a right to keep and carry any weapon whatsoever in any manner whatsoever and for whatever purpose. …

Although we do not undertake an exhaustive historical analysis today of the full scope of the Second Amendment, nothing in our opinion should be taken to cast doubt on longstanding prohibitions on the possession of firearms by felons and the mentally ill, or laws forbidding the carrying of firearms in sensitive places such as schools and government buildings, or laws imposing conditions and qualifications on the commercial sale of arms.

We also recognize another important limitation on the right to keep and carry arms. Miller said, as we have explained, that the sorts of weapons protected were those “in common use at the time.” 307 U. S., at 179. We think that limitation is fairly supported by the historical tradition of prohibiting the carrying of “dangerous and unusual weapons.”

It may be objected that if weapons that are most useful in military service—M-16 rifles and the like—may be banned, then the Second Amendment right is completely detached from the prefatory clause. But as we have said, the conception of the militia at the time of the Second Amendment’s ratification was the body of all citizens capable of military service, who would bring the sorts of lawful weapons that they possessed at home to militia duty. It may well be true today that a militia, to be as effective as militias in the 18th century, would require sophisticated arms that are highly unusual in society at large. Indeed, it may be true that no amount of smallarms could be useful against modern-day bombers and tanks. But the fact that modern developments have limited the degree of fit between the prefatory clause and the protected right cannot change our interpretation of the right.

In the end, the ruling merely affirms the existence of the individual right to keep and bears arms, and strikes down the District of Columbia’s ban on handgun possession in the home and its requirement that lawful firearms kept in a home be inoperable. It specifically declines to address licensing requirements (which Heller failed to challenge). Insofar as the Court affirms a right of self defense, it has done so only with respect to one’s home.

The moderation of Scalia’s opinion is likely to make its power as a decision stronger rather than weaker though, and District of Columbia v. Heller signals a major reversal in the direction of Constitutional Law at the Supreme Court level.

25 Jun 2008

Reading the Tea Leaves on Heller

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Tom Goldstein at the SCOTUS blog:

There is very little information that can be gleaned with confidence about the authorship of the remaining opinions from the Term.

It does look exceptionally likely that Justice Scalia is writing the principal opinion for the Court in Heller – the D.C. guns case. That is the only opinion remaining from the sitting and he is the only member of the Court not to have written a majority opinion from the sitting. … So, that’s a good sign for advocates of a strong individual rights conception of the Second Amendment and a bad sign for D.C.

It would certainly be nice if he’s right.

13 Jun 2008

SCOTUS Maybe Giveth as Well As Taketh Away

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The head of the Brady Campaign told ABC News he expects to see the Supreme Court throw out DC’s handgun ban.

The nation’s leading gun control group filed a “friend of the court” brief back in January defending the gun ban in Washington, D.C. But with the Supreme Court poised to hand down a potentially landmark decision in the case, the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence fully expects to lose.

“We’ve lost the battle on what the Second Amendment means,” campaign president Paul Helmke told ABC News. “Seventy-five percent of the public thinks it’s an individual right. Why are we arguing a theory anymore? We are concerned about what we can do practically.”

While the Brady Campaign is waving the white flag in the long-running debate on whether the Second Amendment protects an individual’s right to bear arms or merely a state’s right to assemble a militia, it is hoping that losing the “legal battle” will eventually lead to gun control advocates winning the “political war.”

“We’re expecting D.C. to lose the case,” Helmke said. “But this could be good from the standpoint of the political-legislative side.”

14 Jan 2008

Bush Administration Defending Federal Gun Control

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LA Times:

A D.C. ban on home handguns may not be constitutional, the solicitor general tells the Supreme Court, but rights are limited and federal firearm restrictions should be upheld.

In their legal battle over gun ownership and the 2nd Amendment, gun- control advocates never expected to get a boost from the Bush administration.

But that’s just what happened when U.S. Solicitor General Paul D. Clement urged the Supreme Court in a brief Friday to say that gun rights are limited and subject to “reasonable regulation” by the government and that all federal restrictions on firearms should be upheld.

Reasonable regulations include the federal ban on machine guns and other “particularly dangerous types of firearms,” he said in the brief. Moreover, the government forbids gun possession by felons, drug users, “mental defectives” and people subject to restraining orders, he said.

“Given the unquestionable threat to public safety that unrestricted private firearm possession would entail, various categories of firearm-related regulation are permitted by the 2nd Amendment,” Clement said. He filed the brief in a closely watched case involving Washington, D.C.’s ban on keeping handguns at home for self-defense.

The head of a gun-control group said he was pleasantly surprised by the solicitor general’s stand.

Paul Helmke, president of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Handgun Violence, said he saluted the administration for recognizing a need for limits on gun rights.


19 Dec 2007

Brutalism, the Architecture That Doesn’t Work, But Won’t Go Away

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Brutalist buildings of the mid-last century have often proven a major problem to the institutions that were silly enough to commission them. Cyclopian monuments to modernist self importance, Brutalist buildings tend to resemble Darth Vader’s vacation home, all of them being one sort of variant or another on the theme of prison, tank garage, or military bunker from some dystopian future.

Ugliness is not really their primary problem, though. Brutalist buildings tend to have been designed as thoroughgoing expressions of superbia, in a spirit of utter and complete indifference to reality. Their unhappy owners too frequently discovered that basic systems, like heating and cooling and roof drains, simply didn’t work, that maintenance was impossible, and repair costs prohibitive.

40-50 years later these dinosaurs are typically eyesores and falling apart, but Brutalism is the gift that keeps on giving. Any building of the sort is a) unusual and b) inevitably the intellectual handiwork of a big-name architect. Consequently, architects and preservationists dote on them, and the institution foolish enough to build it in the first place is highly likely to meet major resistance when it wants to give up and tear the monstrosity down.

Yale’s Art and Architecture Building (designed by Paul Rudolph) is a notorious example, but is nonetheless being restored. (Hey! It’s only money.)

And, Charles Paul Freund, in the American Spectator, relates the sad (but amusing) story of the Third Church of Christ, Scientist in Washington, D.C.

How many dollars does it take to change a light bulb? Well, if the defunct bulb you’re replacing has been illuminating the Third Church of Christ, Scientist in downtown Washington, you could be looking at a bill of up to $8,000. That’s because unscrewing a blown bulb in that concrete monument to impracticality is tantamount to a construction project. According to one church official, you’ve got to build scaffolding just to reach some of the bulbs.

Why should anybody care about the Christian Scientists’ maintenance budget? Because their light bulbs, along with the rest of their building, are at the center of a series of issues from property rights to the separation of church and state that may be coming soon to a courthouse near you.

If you haven’t yet had enough of Washington and religion this campaign season, take a stroll a couple of blocks north from Lafayette Square to 16th and I Streets, where one of the country’s least welcoming houses of worship sits in sight of the White House.

If at first you don’t at first recognize the Third Church of Christ, Scientist, as a church at all, don’t be embarrassed; most people probably mistake it for a fortress intended to protect the president’s house against a tank assault. It’s a largely windowless octagonal tower made of raw, weathered concrete, and it’s surrounded by a sterile “plaza” that seems to have been emptied to keep the line of fire clear. The site inspires few people with a sense of spirituality.

That includes its own congregation, which has always disliked the building and dearly wants to be rid of its ugliness and its crushing costs, but which has been prevented from replacing the structure by Washington’s local preservation authorities.

Not that the church is either old or historic. It was designed in 1971 in an effort by the Christian Science church to establish a signature architectural presence in the heart of the capital. (The office building surrounding the “plaza” was part of the project, too.) The church tapped I.M. Pei’s firm for the design; Araldo Cossutta, who was also responsible for the city’s unloved L’Enfant Plaza, was the architect.

In terms of fulfilling its function, the project misfired. It’s uninviting to the community not only because it has the feel of a bunker, but because its front door is, by design, hidden. The cold plaza is generally avoided by the church’s neighbors.

The sanctuary seats 400, though the active congregation has shrunk to some 50 worshippers. The building’s concrete exterior is already deteriorating, and the maintenance costs are overwhelming. Money that would be better spent on the church’s mission, members say, is eaten up by the building itself.

So why has the city’s Historic Preservation Review Board unanimously declared the Third Church of Christ, Scientist to be an official D.C. landmark, preventing not only its demolition, but even its unauthorized alteration? Because, it turns out, it is a sterling example of the mid-century school of design known as Brutalism.

Admirers of Brutalism include numerous architecture and design specialists, and some of these persuaded the preservation board that when it comes to raw concrete and the rejection of ornament, the church “is in a league of its own” and must be preserved.

That action has drawn harsh criticism, especially from Washington Post Metro columnist Marc Fisher, who called the building “antagonistic to human spirituality” and an “example of a failed and arrogant architectural experiment.”

Defenders of the building have dismissed Fisher and others like him as design philistines, and regard the whole issue of the building’s aggressive ugliness as an irrelevant matter of taste. “Preservation isn’t always about whether we like and not like buildings,” one of the board members observed before she voted to make the church a landmark. “You can learn enough to have an appreciation for it.”

Read the whole thing.

21 Nov 2007

Predicting the Court’s Decision

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Glenn Reynolds offers, in the New York Post, his view of the Supreme Court’s options in the DC Gun Ban case.

It can find that the Second Amendment doesn’t really do anything – that it’s merely a relic of an older era. But that’s a rather dangerous approach: What other parts of the Constitution might be considered relics? And can a judicial approach that leaves a tenth of the Bill of Rights meaningless possibly be sound?

It can find that the Second Amendment doesn’t grant individual rights, but only protects the right of states to arm their militias (or “state armies,” as some gun-control advocates put it). This would make the DC case go away, but at some cost: If states have a constitutional right, as against the federal government, to arm their militias as they see fit, then states that don’t like federal gun-control laws could just enroll every law-abiding citizen in the state militia and authorize those citizens to possess machine guns, tanks and other military gear.

Other consequences of “state armies” seem even more drastic. As Tom Lehrer put it:

    We’ll try to stay serene and calm /

    When Alabama gets the bomb.

Finally, the court can find – in accordance with the views of law professors as diverse as Harvard’s Laurence Tribe and, well, me – that the Second Amendment supports an individual right on the part of law-abiding citizens to possess firearms of the sort that are in ordinary use. As with other rights, such as freedom of speech, this is subject to reasonable regulation that stops well short of a ban.

This last would be the least radical approach, as it’s consistent with public opinion (most Americans think the Second Amendment gives them a right to own a gun) and with the 40-plus states whose own constitutions already provide for a right to arms. It would probably be the easiest to implement, too, as federal courts could (to a degree at least) look to state law for some guidance on how to implement it.

Finding otherwise would be ticklish for the court in another way. In recent decades, the Supreme Court has found many rights that aren’t specifically spelled out in the Constitution – rights to things like abortion, contraception or sodomy. If the court now follows up by denying a right that does seem to be spelled out, it would put its own legitimacy in the public eye at grave risk.

19 Jul 2007

Car Lynching in Suburbia

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You know you’re living in one of our national centers of higher ethical culture and enlightenment when the neighbors take baseball bats to your new car.

Washington Post:

On a narrow, leafy street in Northwest Washington, where Prius hybrid cars and Volvos are the norm, one man bought a flashy gray Hummer that was too massive to fit in his garage.

So he parked the seven-foot-tall behemoth on the street in front of his house and smiled politely when his eco-friendly neighbors looked on in disapproval at his “dream car.”

It lasted five days on the street before two masked men took a bat to every window, a knife to each 38-inch tire and scratched into the body: “FOR THE ENVIRON.”

“The thought of somebody vandalizing it never crossed my mind,” said Gareth Groves, 32, who lives with his mother in a three-story home in the 4300 block of Brandywine Street NW in American University Park. “I’ve kind of been in shock.”

Now, as Groves ponders what to do with the remains of his $38,000 SUV, he has been the target of a number of people who have driven by the crime scene in his upscale neighborhood and glared at him in smug satisfaction.

“I’d say one in five people who come by have that ‘you-got-what-you-deserve’ look,” said his friend Andy Sexton, 27, who is visiting from Arkansas and has been helping Groves deal with fallout from the crime.

Neighbor Lucille Liem, 37, who owns a Prius hybrid, said that a common sentiment in the neighborhood is that large vehicles are impractical and a strain on the Earth — and Hummers in particular are a symbol of consumer excess.

“The neighborhood in general is very concerned with the environment,” said Liem, whose Prius gets about 48 miles a gallon compared with the Hummer’s 14 miles a gallon. “It’s more liberal leaning. It’s ridiculous to be driving a Hummer.”

1:15 video

26 Jun 2007

Plaintiff in $54 Million Trouser Lawsuit Loses

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No pair of pants is worth $54 million. A judge rejected a lawsuit Monday that sought that amount by taking a dry cleaner’s promise of “Satisfaction Guaranteed” to its most litigious extreme.

Roy L. Pearson became a worldwide symbol of legal abuse by seeking jackpot justice from a simple complaint _ that a neighborhood dry cleaners lost the pants from a suit and tried to give him a pair that were not his.

His claim, reduced from $67 million, was based on a strict interpretation of the city’s consumer protection law _ which imposes fines of $1,500 per violation _ as well as damages for inconvenience, mental anguish and attorney’s fees for representing himself.

But District of Columbia Superior Court Judge Judith Bartnoff ruled that the owners of Custom Cleaners did not violate the consumer protection law by failing to live up to Pearson’s expectations of the “Satisfaction Guaranteed” sign once displayed in the store.

“A reasonable consumer would not interpret ‘Satisfaction Guaranteed’ to mean that a merchant is required to satisfy a customer’s unreasonable demands,” the judge wrote.

Bartnoff wrote that Pearson, an administrative law judge, also failed to prove that the pants the dry cleaner tried to return were not the pants he took in.

Bartnoff ordered Pearson to pay clerical court costs of about $1,000 to defendants Soo Chung, Jin Nam Chung and Ki Y. Chung. A motion to recover the Chungs’ tens of thousands of dollars in attorney fees will be considered later.

Earlier post 1

Earlier post 2

13 Jun 2007

The Great $55M Missing Trousers Lawsuit Goes to Trial

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Overlawyered has an update on this hilarious affair.

Apparently, the plaintiff was moved to tears when he testified about the loss of those trousers by his neighborhood dry cleaner.

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