The Supreme Court issued its decision in DC v. Heller on
Thursday, and the elected officials of the District greeted it with the
same warmth that Governor Orval Faubus displayed toward the Court’s
decision in Brown v. Board of Education. It remains to be seen
whether the DC government will react constructively, or whether it will
attempt its own twenty-first century version of massive resistance. The
government could, for example, issue regulations that make it
prohibitively difficult and expensive to get a handgun license. It could
take the advice of Attorney General nominee Peter Nickles to defy the
Court and pass another trigger-lock requirement, challenging the Court’s
finding that, “The handgun ban and the trigger-lock requirement (as
applied to self-defense) violate the Second Amendment.” It could
require firearms training by DC licensed instructors, and then delay
writing requirements for instructor licensing. DC has no federally
licensed gun stores, so the government could make it illegal for DC
residents to buy guns out of state, thus making it impossible to
purchase a handgun legally. It could be obstructive in any number of
ways, and certainly a number of elected and appointed officials have
signaled their desire not to comply with the Court’s decision, or to
do so in only the most grudging and minimal way. We’re either in for a
smooth transition to having full Second Amendment rights to keep and
bear arms, or in for decades of obstruction and further expensive
litigation to get the DC government to obey the Supreme Court decision
fully. We’ll know soon which course our elected officials will choose.
I have only two observations on the decision that haven’t been
widely reported in the press. First, the vote was five to four, but the
Court was unanimous on one point: the linchpin of the District’s case
was wrong. All nine justices held that the Second Amendment right to
keep and bear arms is an individual right, not a right of states to
raise militias. The Scalia majority opinion took that position, of
course, but the four dissenters agreed, in the very first paragraph of
the Stevens dissent, that, “The question presented by this case is not
whether the Second Amendment protects a ‘collective right’ or an ‘individual
right.’ Surely it protects a right that can be enforced by
individuals.” The Stevens dissent then goes on to argue that
individual right into incoherence and irrelevance, so that it’s
impossible to see what individual right the dissenting justices think
the Bill of Rights protects, but the concession still stands.
Second, the majority and both of the minority decisions are
particularly significant for us as citizens of the District of Columbia
because of something they didn’t say and an argument that they did not
address. The Williams administration argued to the Court of Appeals for
the District Circuit, and the Fenty Administration argued in its Supreme
Court appeal of that Court’s decision, that residents of the District
are lesser citizens of the United States, and that even if residents of
the fifty states did enjoy the full guarantees of the Second Amendment
and of the Bill of Rights, residents of the District did not, because we
are not citizens of a state. In the interest of denying the
applicability of the Second Amendment to residents of the District of
Columbia, our government was willing to sacrifice our equality and our
full rights as citizens of the United States. It declared that we
possessed, and we should possess, only second-class citizenship. All
nine of the justices of the Supreme Court thought so little of this
argument that neither the Scalia opinion nor the Stevens and Breyer
dissents deigned even to mention it. Regardless of your position on the
Second Amendment, you can at least be glad that the Supreme Court did
not consign us to the inferior status of second-class citizens, as our
local elected officials wanted them to.
The Supreme Court decision is posted at http://www.dcwatch.com/issues/gun080626.pdf,
and links to the reactions of local officials and others to the decision
are at http://www.dcwatch.com/issues/gun.htm.
A Report Card for DCPS
Dorothy Brizill, firstname.lastname@example.org
A report released in the past week by the District’s Inspector
General is must reading for anyone following the ongoing efforts by
Mayor Fenty and Chancellor Rhee with regard to DCPS. On June 20, Charles
Willoughby released “District of Columbia Public Schools FY2007 Report
on Internal Control over Financial Reporting and Advisory Comments,” http://tinyurl.com/5wum9q.
The report was prepared by BDO Seedman, LLP, the firm responsible for
the District’s annual audit, or CAFR (Comprehensive Annual Financial
Report). It details serious “material weaknesses and significant
deficiencies” in DCPS’ fiscal management with regard to disbursement
practices, processing of journal entries, human resources and payroll
system, indirect costs, recording of expenditures, management of the
student activity fund, grants management, budget reprogrammings,
Medicaid costs reports, and inadequate support for car allowances
expenditures. BDO’s report raises concerns about the District’s
fiscal management and controls over DCPS’s billion dollar budget.
Also of interest is Keith Rishburg’s article on a “Setback for
Philadelphia Schools Plan” in Sunday’s Washington Post, http://tinyurl.com/5zvoqk.
Richburg details the apparent failure of the initiative launched six
years ago by the Philadelphia School District to put “schools under
private management to see if the free product could educate children
more efficiently than the government.” The article notes that, “This
month, the experiment suffered a severe setback, as the state commission
overseeing Philadelphia’s students voted to take back control of six
of the privatized schools, while warning twenty others that they had a
year to show progress or they, too, would revert to district control”
Given Chancellor Rhee’s penchant for privatization within DCPS, the
Philadelphia example should sound an alarm bell in district government.
Business Encroachment on Public Sidewalks
Annie McCormick, email@example.com
Are there regulations about private businesses taking over public
areas in front of their buildings? The Park at Fourteenth (a club on
14th between I and K Streets) regularly puts out its carpet and velvet
ropes around 4:30-5:00 p.m., cutting off access to over one half of the
sidewalk. This forces pedestrians heading to and from the McPherson
Square Metro into a bottleneck where some are even forced to walk into
the street. Later at night, trying to get through their patrons is like
running a gauntlet, as they won’t let you walk through. This is
obnoxious, to be sure, but is it also illegal for a business to encroach
on the sidewalk that much and that often? Are they also responsible for
controlling their patrons so that others who aren’t entering their
club can at least walk down the sidewalk itself and not have to walk
into the street because they refuse to let you pass?
Klingle Road Report
Taylor Simmons, ttsimmons at aol dot com
Large chain link gates were installed this past week. On Saturday,
both gates were closed. By Sunday evening, both gates were open. Walkers
and bikers must pass through the upper gate to get through. Pedestrians
could step up on the curb and go around the gate at bottom, but by
Sunday evening, that gate had also been opened. The roadway seemed to
have less debris on it.
Vehicular access is likely intended for those doing work on the
Connecticut Avenue bridge, where signs indicate a lead removal area: “No
smoking, no drinking, no eating.” Nothing is actually blocking traffic
but the fallen tree, which most cars would fit under, even mini-vans,
but perhaps not tall SUVs.
On Thursday evening, June 26, residents of Barry Farms gathered at
2616 Martin Luther King, Jr., Avenue. One of the first topics discussed
was where to go for food assistance in these difficult times. A number
of churches offer such help with regular attendance at a church.
Also discussed was a new Barry Farms initiative which requires that
each and every Barry Farms resident eighteen years and up have his/her
picture taken for an ID. Mr. Richard Thomas, Area Manager of the Potomac
Region, said the ID “is helpful for the police when they come on site
and want to know if you live on the site” and “want to know who you
Residents expressed mixed support for the ID program. One woman
questioned why a driver’s license is not sufficient ID for Barry Farms
residents when it is good enough for other residents of the District.
Sugar Coleman Hall raised concerns over what happens when family is
visiting and they don’t have ID and no one is home or reachable by
phone: Will they be turned away? Another woman mentioned that her
sixteen-year-old grandson was required to get an ID even though the
program is supposed to be only for those eighteen and up. When asked to
comment further on the new ID initiative Mr. Thomas declined and
referred questions to the Housing Authority 535-1500). The next Barry
Farms meeting will take place July 10.
Why does it seem that whenever I see Metro employees on the train,
they’re always standing by (i.e., blocking) the doorways? Happened
again on Friday as I exited an Orange line train at Federal Center, SW.
So much for those constant reminders to move to the center of the car.
And regarding that recent directive that train conductors are to give
an explanation for all delays, apparently my Red Line conductor this
morning never got the memo. We were stuck for four to five minutes in
the tunnel between Union Station and Judiciary, but not a peep over the
PA system. I guess the more things change, the more they remain the
I want to recount a Metro experience that happened yesterday. I
arrived at the bus stop at 5:00 p.m. During the next hour five, N-22
busses bound for Union Station came and went, but there were no 90 or 92
busses. While I waited, I saw a pedestrian who was so overcome by heat
that he had to sit down or fall down. An ambulance crew was summoned,
and the last I saw of him they were checking his pulse. I could feel his
pain — I was feeling a bit faint myself and had to hold onto a light
pole for a few minutes.
After an hour’s wait, a 90 or 92 bus came. I told the bus driver,
“We’ve been waiting for you for an hour.” He replied
belligerently: “And?” as though he wanted a fight. I learned from
passengers sitting near me that they were forced to wait a considerable
time for the bus at Anacostia Station. When I got off the bus, the angry
driver said to me “Next time it will be two hours.” By this he meant
that he’d make me wait two hours next time instead of an hour, all
because I pointed out that he was late.
There are two issues here. On a day when the CitiBank clock showed a
temperature of 95 degrees at 5:00 p.m., Metro was unable to provide bus
service and passengers were forced to wait in the sweltering heat. The
second issue is the way the bus driver treated me. How can Metro
tolerate such rude behavior? It would be nice to believe that telling
this story would improve Metro service.
Internet Street Musician
Phil Shapiro, firstname.lastname@example.org
Back in the last century, I used to be a street musician, playing
guitar in the Dupont Circle area. Even with a good quality amplifier, my
classical guitar could not compete against traffic noise. And so I
became an Internet street musician, and now I don’t need to compete
against traffic noise. And in that cozy little community called YouTube
I can share my guitar playing with just a few more people than would
amble by when I was on the street.
For those who might be interested, here’s a ragtime-influenced
rendition of a well-known melody. If you like this music, don’t throw
a virtual coin in my guitar case, though. Just smile upon your neighbor.
Just curious if there are any house-concert organizers in themail? If
so, thanks for sending me an E-mail.
While the timing of the U S Supreme Court’s decision didn’t work
for themail, some other citizens are calling the Supreme Court’s
ruling a hollow victory. Now we may all have to suffer just because
Heller, a Security Guard, wanted to keep his gun at home, DC didn’t
let him, so he sued. It is not surprising that the Supreme Court
rendered a 5-4 decision against the DC gun ban. Also not surprising is
the fact that judges along with other law enforcement personnel are
already allowed to legally possess handgun, firearms, in DC. What did
surprise me was the majority opinion by Justice Scalia. “The
Constitution does not permit the absolute prohibition of handguns held
and used for self-defense in the home,” Scalia said. Okay, I
understand that. Most people do. However, most folks also realize that
guns don’t stay in the home. In fact, in order for a gun to “get to”
a home, it must be transported. While there are safeguards for
transporting hazardous material, I am not so certain that there are laws
on the books for potential DC gun owners to transport weapons as such.
Should I be issued a special license to transport a handgun I purchased
in Virginia to DC? If so, who does the checking if my license is
Also from an AP article I read, “the court also struck down
Washington’s requirement that firearms be equipped with trigger locks
or kept disassembled, but left intact the licensing of guns.” Wow, not
to be sarcastic, but thanks, Supreme Court, for keeping licensing on the
books. Trigger locks are so essential nowadays that even collectors don’t
frown upon them. However, the frowns come from those who don’t want
easy access to their weapons. If the momentary delay to remove a trigger
lock causes the gun owner to think about using it, then I’m all for
it. Let’s be honest here, the sole purpose for a gun is to kill, maim,
or destroy. Anything that causes gun owners to consciously think about
their potential to kill, maim, or destroy is in better interest to
Americans than keeping an archaic right to possess such firearm. From
the same article, Scalia also noted that the handgun is Americans’
preferred weapon of self-defense in part because, “it can be pointed
at a burglar with one hand while the other hand dials the police.”
Apparently, Scalia hasn’t dialed 911 in a while or been through the
recent changes at the Office of Unified Communications. I’m not saying
that it is a two-hand job, but holding a handgun while talking to an
operator sounds like a recipe for injury to you, the criminal, or both.
There are long-standing ramifications to this that the justices may
not have thought of. How will this affect the Brady Bill? Even with the
NCIS database background checking, there are still folks who slip
through. Considering the state of the Department of Mental Health in DC,
we already know that the records of those who have been admitted might
be inaccurate. As this is still unfolding, it remains to be seen what
the true fallout is.
The Many Faces of Adrian Fenty
Jonathan R. Rees, email@example.com
DC Mayor Adrian Fenty cannot be trusted to keep his word.
Back when there was a debate over building a new Nationals baseball
stadium, Fenty said he would oppose it tooth and nail and never support
it, but in time he did. Back when there was a debate over the smoking
ban, Fenty said he would not support it because of the injury it could
cause businesses, but then he turned around and supported it with gusto.
Now that Fenty has lost out on keeping the DC handgun ban intact, and
knowing his two faces, don’t be surprised if Fenty opens a gun shop in
DC directly or through a quiet partnership.
CLASSIFIEDS — EVENTS
Fun Family Films Under the Stars, July 3, 5
John A. Stokes, firstname.lastname@example.org
The District’s Department of Parks and Recreation (DPR) will hold
“Fun Family Films Under The Stars,” its 2008 Family Movie Night
Season, this summer. “Fun Family Films Under The Stars,” which
continues until late-September, will afford residents of all ages and
families of all sizes the opportunity to enjoy viewing the free,
family-oriented films in DPR’s outdoor settings. As in previous years,
viewers are invited to bring their own snacks, chairs, and blankets.
This year, District residents will have a greater selection of viewing
locations. Movies will be shown from 8:45 p.m. to 11:00 p.m.
Community members who arrive early enough for each screening will
have the opportunity to place a vote between two movies that may be
shown that evening. The movie that receives the most votes will be
Thursday, July 3, Rosedale Recreation Center, 700 Gales Street, NE.
Saturday, July 5, Florida Park, 1st Street and Florida Avenue, NE.
Saturday, July 5, Carver/ Langston Terrace, 21st Street and Maryland
Forum on Buried Chemical Weapons, Public
Health, and Spring Valley, July 17
Lucy Axton, Laxton@foe.org
During and immediately after World War I, the American University
campus and the surrounding areas, now known as Spring Valley, were used
for chemical warfare research and testing. The US Army has spent nearly
$150 million in the cleanup of contaminated properties and the disposal
of chemical munitions from the area, but many are concerned that the
health and safety of District residents continues to be at risk. A
scoping study of potential community health risks was recently conducted
by the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health (JHSPH) at the
request of the DC Department of Health in response to a recommendation
by the Mayor’s Spring Valley Scientific Advisory Panel.
Come discuss the results of this study and its recommendations at an
upcoming forum hosted by DC Environmental Network, Friends of the Earth,
and Global Green. The forum will feature Professor Thomas A. Burke,
Department of Health Policy and Management, John Hopkins Bloomberg
School of Public Health. The event is from 3:30-5:30 p.m. at Friends of
the Earth, 1717 Massachusetts Avenue, NW, #600 (DuPont Circle Metro,
south exit). Please RSVP by calling Chris Weiss, Director, DC
Environmental Network, 222-0746, or Paul F. Walker, Ph.D, Legacy Program
Director, Global Green USA, 222-0700.
CLASSIFIEDS — INFORMATION
African-American Small Business Owners in
Jerry McCoy, email@example.com
The Silver Spring Historical Society is seeking information,
artifacts, and photographs pertaining to African-American small
independent business owners that were located in Silver Spring’s
Central Business District before 1975.
Contact Jerry A. McCoy, President, SSHS, 301-537-1253, firstname.lastname@example.org,
or write PO Box 1160, Silver Spring, MD, 20910.
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