Monday, June 23, 2008

Cities will pay a heavy price if handgun ban is overturned

Cities will pay a heavy price if handgun ban is overturned

By Shirley Franklin
For the Journal-Constitution

Published on: 06/23/08

The U.S. Supreme Court will soon rule on
whether Washington, D.C.'s decades-old handgun ban is constitutional.

It's been nearly 70 years since the high court has heard a firearms case
that tests the scope of the Second Amendment. The outcome of this one, D.C. v.
Heller, will have extraordinary implications —- not just for the District, but
for the ability of cities to respond effectively to gun violence.

more evidence is needed that the stakes could not be higher, a steady drumbeat
of headlines is supplying it. In the first few days of March alone, just before
the justices heard oral argument in the case, three kids were killed and five
more wounded in Chicago. And in West Palm Beach, Fla., a gunman killed an
off-duty firefighter and wounded five others before turning his gun on himself.

Elected officials and law enforcement in those areas have a lot riding
on the court's decision. The case stems from a lower-court ruling that D.C.'s
ban violated the Constitution. Breaking with decades of Supreme Court precedent
and hundreds of lower-court decisions, a federal appeals court held for the
first time that the Second Amendment guarantees an individual right to bear arms
not related to service in a "well-regulated militia."

If the justices
agree with the lower court's ruling, cities and states throughout the country
may face challenge after challenge to the constitutionality of firearm
regulations enacted to protect the public and prosecute criminals. And city
attorneys may find themselves spending as much time fighting lawsuits as they do
fighting crime.

Those resource-draining challenges would come at an
inconvenient time. Gun violence is a national crisis, but one that
disproportionately affects those of us who live in urban areas. According to the
U.S. Department of Justice, more than 340,000 homicides were committed in large
American cities between 1976 and 2005. About 64 percent of those homicides
involved firearms.

Very often, it's our first responders who pay the
harshest price. In the decades between 1976 and 2006, more than 2,251 law
enforcement officers were killed in the line of duty —- more them 90 percent of
them by firearms.

The problems are obvious —- and they do have
solutions, some of which are already being implemented around the nation. A
decision from on high that limited our authority to craft local solutions would
be yet another tragedy. Different gun laws make sense in different areas.
Community leaders are plainly in the best position to determine the policies
needed to curb the crime, fear and disorder that gun violence creates in each
city —- not a special interest lobby and gun industry more concerned about
dollars than lives.

It's the nation's mayors who get the call from
police when a shooting occurs. It's the local leaders who comfort the families
of gunshot victims, who walk with police and residents on the neighborhood beat,
who meet with block watch groups and who grapple with the demanding budget
ramifications of violent crime. For those very reasons, policies affecting guns
and community safety historically have been —- and should be —- made at the
local level.

And when communities have the authority to enact
regulations that respond to local needs, they're often aggressive and
successful. New York City has experienced a dramatic decline in crimes involving
firearms after tailoring creative local regulation to curb gun violence. The
city of Oakland, Calif., prohibits firearms dealers from selling ultra-compact
(and easily concealable) handguns. Washington, D.C.'s handgun restrictions have
led to one of the lowest suicide rates in the nation. And Chicago, like the
District, bans the possession of handguns.

For the sake and the safety
of all Americans, let's hope the Supreme Court will allow local leaders and law
enforcement the tools they need to do their jobs.

> Shirley Franklin
is mayor of Atlanta. Contributing to this column were: Tom Barrett, mayor of
Milwaukee; Manuel A. Diaz, mayor of Miami; Gavin Newsom, mayor of San Francisco;
Greg Nickels, mayor of Seattle; and Douglas H. Palmer, mayor of Trenton, N.J.

Dear Shirley,

As I'm sure you are aware - and yet conveniently fail to mention - it is criminals that use guns in violent crimes. Taking guns away from law abiding citizens does nothing to dissuade criminals from getting guns, it only removes the ability of the population to defend itself. How is it that DC was the murder capitol of the USA for so long even with a handgun ban in place? Oh yes, it's because criminals are considered criminals because they ignore the law. Murder is already against the law, yet year after year thousands of criminals ignore that law and commit it anyway. What makes you think taking a right from a law abiding citizen makes them safer?

You know it doesn't, yet like all politicians you don't want to be mistaken for doing nothing, so you try to do the wrong thing just to say you did something. It's akin to burying your head in the sand, and it helps even less than that. Instead of addressing the outcome, our leaders should be addressing the underlying problems. Until that is done, you can ban all guns, knives, and anything you think might be used for a weapon, and it won't do you any good at all.

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