September 13, 2007

Lawyer Advocates Second Amendment Rights

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The Second Amendment states in part, “The right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”
Clark Neily is co-council on the Parker v. District of Columbia case that has again raised the question of the right to bear arms.
In a lecture Neily gave yesterday at Myron Taylor Hall, he explained that the District of Columbia currently has a ban on any household pistols that were not registered in 1976 or before. Even for the registered pistols, it is actually a crime for an owner to physically pick up the pistol and move it within his or her home.
According to Neily, this ban may very soon be lifted.
“All that we’re challenging is the ban on the possession of firearms at home, [not the right to carry],” explained Neily.
According to Neily, the case was initiated from a conversation he had with one of his associates.
“We were just talking and said, ‘Hey, D.C. has a gun ban, someone should challenge that! … we should challenge that!” he said.
Neily is a senior attorney for the Institute for Justice, a Libertarian, public interest, non-profit law firm. He was granted permission from his boss to pursue the case, and it took off from there.
“We rounded up six of the most sympathetic plaintiffs we could find,” Neily said.
One of them, Shelly Parker, is a black woman who moved into a “sketchy neighborhood in the D.C. area” as Neily described. She attempted to clean up the neighborhood, threatening drug-dealers and gangs that she would call the police. One night, one of these men tried to break his way into her home, swearing that if he broke in, he would kill her. Neily further said that “the D.C. police response time is 30 to 40 minutes, if they show up,” a statistic that begs the question of whether Parker would have been safer dialing 911, or possessing a handgun.
Neily continued to describe another one of the plaintiffs, Tom G. Palmer, who is an openly gay man. He and his boyfriend were assaulted in California by a gang of skinheads and would have been beaten to death had Palmer not confronted the gang with a pistol he had in his backpack, given to him by his mother for this very purpose.
Neily explained that each of the plaintiffs have compelling stories.
“We wanted to show that this is the face of the person who wants to possess a gun, not to rob or commit crime, but for logistic reasons,” he said.
When the case reached the District of Columbia Circuit of the United States Court of Appeals, the court ruled in favor of Parker et. al, for the right to bear arms. The case was recently re-appealed to the Supreme Court. Neily expects the Supreme Court to either accept or deny the case by October.
Many, Neily included, think that there is a good chance that the Supreme Court will accept the case.
“This is an issue they have been dodging for 200 years,” Neily exclaimed. “Every box that needs to be checked for the case to be cert has been.”
Neily was referring to the writ of certiorari, which, if granted, will allow the case to be heard before the Supreme Court. Of the nearly 7,000 cases that come before the Supreme Court each year, only 100 or fewer are granted the writ of certiorari petition.
For those who are worried about a potential increase in neighboring gun owners, Neily explained that the National Academy of Sciences searched for any study showing that gun laws produce benefits to society. None were found.
“It appears that the number of times guns are used to thwart crimes is 8 times that of using a gun for a crime,” Neily added.
Ricardo Henriquez law, asked Neily, “What position [are they] taking with the middle ground interpretation of the Second Amendment?”
In other words, Henriquez clarified that if it is permissible for residents of D.C. to own pistols, would it also be permissible for them to own semi-automatics and other more serious weaponry?
Neily responded that there are no unlimited constitutional rights, so D.C. will not be armed with machine guns any time soon.
Craig Minerva, law, president of the Federalist Society at Cornell, was responsible for bringing Clark Neily to campus yesterday.
“I met Mr. Neily at a Federalist Society conference in D.C. and thought it would be great for him to come,” Minerva explained.
Neily concluded his lecture by stating, “This case really doesn’t matter all that much in terms of guns in this country.”
He explained that his reason for taking on the case was because of his “broken-window” approach to the constitution: there may be an interpretation of a constitutional right that is highly disrespectful, but that you don’t care about.
Neily cited the legalization of alcohol and the “right to choose who we have sex with” as potential important rights.
Neily concluded, “Eventually it will come to a right that you do care about.”