An excellent juxtaposition of local stories on the Washington Post’s website today caught my eye:
DC was once known as the ‘murder capital’ of the US. In 1991, a record-breaking year, there were 479 homicides. This excellent BBC article credits urban regeneration with sorting out the city’s crime problems, but neglects the issue of gun laws. Guns were a big problem in DC. So much so that when the owner of Washington’s basketball team felt he wanted to make a difference, he changed the name of the team from the Washington bullets to something less gun-related (see this Washington Post article on that story).
When I arrived in the states I was amazed to hear how difficult it was to get a gun in DC. It’s not technically illegal, but you can only buy from a licensed dealer and the city has been refusing to give licences to stores in DC for quite some time. It was also illegal in DC to carry a firearm for a while – until a federal judge declared this ban unconstitutional. In response, DC brought forward a new law, that requires people to have a ‘good reason’ in order to obtain a permit to carry a gun. Despite the fact that there are similar laws in Maryland and Virginia, this too has been struck down as ‘unconstitutional’.
The story today about this saga, was that DC had obtained a stay of this ruling until it can be appealed. Juxtaposing this with a story of how a woman was shot by her ex-boyfriend in Maryland felt to me like a comment, both on the stupidity of trying to get DC to change its successful gun laws, and on the inefficacy of a lesser law that people need ‘good reason’. [note – these stories have now been moved and the title of the gun law story changed to ‘DC wins minor victory over gun law ruling’ – what’s that about?]
Apart from the irony of federal judges talking about certain laws as unconstitutional in DC when people here don’t even get full representation in Congress (the DC licence plate reads ‘taxation without representation’), I just can’t believe it’s more important to these people that they protect the abstract right of people to carry guns than it is to protect the safer society that DC has struggled to create.
Maybe it’s because I’m from the UK, but this is one of those political stances I’ll never understand.
[Also – as you might see from the screenshot, the debate over college campus rape continues to rage. Finally the Washington Post has admitted that the incidence is as high as 1 in 5 – after far too many stories quibbling this.]