Iíll make my last comments, at least for awhile, on the lessons to be
learned from DCís efforts at enforcing a gun ban before the Heller
decision. It was not successful for a least three reasons. First, it was
impossible to hermetically seal off the District of Columbia, both from
surrounding states and from the past. Guns flowed in both from other
states and from past decades, when large numbers of the DC public owned
large numbers of guns. (Even public high schools had gun safety and
target shooting classes up until the early 1960ís. Archery classes
lasted a bit longer, until schools banned everything with a sharp point,
including penknives and parodies.) The Prohibition era showed that a ban
cannot be enforced, even when it is in place for the entire nation.
Liquor was bootlegged freely from Canada and the Caribbean. Second, a
ban on high-capacity magazines cannot be enforced, because, as with
guns, millions of high-capacity magazines already exist, and anyone with
a few metalworking tools can make a high-capacity magazine. (Well,
anyone more skilled than me. Only the patience, good will, and mercy of
my junior high school shop teacher allowed me to squeak by that class
with a barely passing grade.) That is again similar to the Prohibition
era, when anyone with a few simple ingredients could make bathtub gin or
home-brewed beer. Eliminating guns, like eliminating alcohol, would
require draconian measures, house-to-house searches, and confiscation.
Some people see that as desirable, but a free society cannot tolerate
Third, bans on guns have no effect whatsoever on criminals, because
people who intend to commit crimes do not hesitate to own guns
illegally. A criminal who intends to rob a house or assault a person
doesnít decide to commit his crimes without a gun because owning a gun
is a crime. England and Australia have shown that gun bans lead to a
rise in crime, because criminals find it convenient that those countries
have disarmed their victims. In America, the cities with the strictest
gun laws have the highest crime rates, and it is more reasonable to find
that the causality is in that direction, rather than the reverse. As was
pointed out in the last issue of themail, with the example of Carl
Rowan, some otherwise law abiding and honest citizens, even those who
speak publicly in favor of banning guns, will break the law and keep
their guns, because they want to protect their homes and their families
and do not trust that the police force is speedy and efficient enough to
respond at times of need. But the general rule stands, that gun bans
affect only the law abiding.
Washington had reluctantly began to reach toward reasonable gun laws
that began to comport with the Second Amendment and to allow the public
to participate in its own self-protection. I hope that the current
political passions will not encourage our politicians to retreat to the
failed policies of the past.
Earlier this month the Office of Planning (OP) held a Twitter Town
Hall in which a handful of "tweeters" participated. The previous attempt
at a town hall only elicited tweets from OP staff. Whatís important is a
figure OP tweeted regarding the numbers of participants at the first
seven ward zoning meetings ó "over 560 residents have attended the first
seven ward based ZRR community meetings." This is an astounding
admission! OP is all atwitter because 560 out of a total population of
632,323 residents participated in seven of the eight ward meetings.
Thatís 0.00089% (or eight one-thousandths of one percent) of the
population of the city. OP is tweeting about this absurd figure because
they have fulfilled their responsibility with regard to the charge given
to them by the Zoning Commission.
In her lengthy presentation to the public at the beginning of the
ward meetings, Harriet Tregoning waxes eloquent on the huge increase in
population the District has enjoyed since 1950. Her handout indicates
the Districtís population was 802,178 in 1950 and 632,323 in 2012. It
appears OP is not using figures the way the rest of us do, because this
indicated the District has lost 169,855 residents since 1950, or about
27 percent. The city may be experiencing some growth today, but there
are still many more new residents needed to give OP something to tweet
about. Actually, college students, who may not be here after they
graduate, are included in these numbers.
The Zoning Commission also played a role in this citywide canard.
They instructed the Office of Planning to hold at least one public
meeting in each ward and to tape one of them for future viewing on
Channel 16. The tape isnít on the Channel 16 web site because there were
more OP staff and other ward residents than residents of Ward 8 at the
meeting, where the taping took place. This citywide education effort has
been either an abject failure or a deliberate attempt on the part of OP
to go through the motions and attract the least number of participants.
Throughout the process, the Zoning Commission has stood by as a silent
enabler. Those who have kept up on the zoning rewrite know there are
some fairly ambitious changes being proposed, and those changes have the
potential to bring significant change to residential neighborhoods. But
the figures tweeted by OP show that most residents arenít informed.
The zoning rewrite is moving forward along OPís continuum and it
should be before the Zoning Commission sometime this year. By then the
opportunity to educate the public will have passed, and it will be
interesting to hear the praise fall from the lips of the mayor, council,
and the Zoning Commission citing the great effort OP made to inform the
public of the Zoning Regulation Rewrite, when in fact, little was done
for the 631,763 individuals who didnít attend a ward meeting but
currently reside in Washington, DC.
The council appears to be more concerned about investing its efforts
in an enclosed, carpeted, temperature controlled viewing stand in front
of City Hall for an afternoon of inaugural parade watching than in
dedicating its efforts to educate residents about the Zoning Regulation
Rewrite. As an earlier poster pointed out, the council has oversight for
the Office of Planning and the mayor for appointments to the Zoning
Commission, but neither body seems capable of ensuring there is
credibility in the zoning rewrite or the faulty figures upon which the
proposed regulations are based.
Ward 8 Parents Tell Mayor ďEnough Is EnoughĒ
On a cold, rainy night (January 15) an estimated three hundred
parents, students, and concerned citizens took a page from Martin Luther
King, Jr.ís, social action playbook on his official birthday and took
direct action by holding a vigil at the home of Mayor Vincent Gray, who
chose to work late rather than meet with his neighbors. Led by Ward 8
State Board of Education representative Trayon White, the animated group
of parents and children pleaded for the opportunity to keep their
neighborhood schools open. "Enough is enough! Instead of giving our
children less in Ward 8 we should be giving our children more." Parents
say itís more than an inconvenience; itís a threat to their childrenís
Chanting "Save Our Schools," parents and activists were joined by a
number of enthusiastic children from schools such as Malcolm X
Elementary as one particularly angry mother stated, "A lot of people
donít have transportation to get these kids back and forth to school. Is
that what they are trying to do, they are trying to push us out. Itís
not us that is suffering but our children." Kaya Henderson appears to be
tone deaf to the concerns of the Districtís poorest neighborhoods, as
she released a statement saying, "As you will see DCPS will reinvest
funds from consolidate schools to improve programming across the
District. The goal is to use funds and resources more efficiently".
Poor parents are particularly upset at the cavalier attitude that
DCPS has to their desire to keep neighborhood schools open that are in
walking distance of their home. In addition to the cost and the added
burden of busing their children to schools outside the neighborhood,
there are legitimate security concerns, as Ward 8 has one of the highest
crime rates in the city. In addition to Malcolm X, two other elementary
and one middle school were targets for closure in Ward 8, and three
other elementary schools and another middle school in nearby Ward 7.
This represents half of the twenty schools slated for closure.
The Chancellor plans to announce her school closing plan this week
before a long holiday weekend. The irony of the bad timing of these
schoolsí closing during the week when the District commemorates the
heritage of Martin Luther King, Jr., with a parade in the street named
in his honor in Far Southeast, and the nation gears up to celebrate the
inauguration of the President. Across the District the spirit of direct
civic action is being renewed around the issue of public education.
Leading up to the vigil at the mayorís residence was an education summit
on DC school closures, sponsored by Empower DC this past Saturday at
Ward 5ís Guildfield Baptist church, where a packed basement of activists
participated in a social justice training session. Those plans called
for a similar vigil at the home of Chancellor Henderson this past
Thursday, and a protest at the Department of Education to meet with
Education Secretary Arnie Duncan on January 29, where activists from
across the country are expected to come to the nationís capitol to
protest policies that promote the privatization of public education.
Public school closures has finally become the galvanizing issue that has
gotten the attention of a broad cross section of parents, educators and
education policy activists into an effective coalition.
I Survived ó But Still Not Sure I Could Shoot
My father was a hunter with an arsenal. One brother was in law
enforcement and now runs a state gun range. My ex was special forces. We
lived on Corcoran Street in 1981 when four men, three with high-quality
hand guns, pulled off our screen door at 1:00 a.m., tied my ex up with
electrical cords, and . . . well, you donít want to know. They were
there six hours. They threatened to kill us the whole time, but didnít.
The next day, a Colt .45 arrived from my father. Yes, there was a ban.
We didnít care. I was glad to have it. And we soon learned that almost
everyone we knew had a gun despite the ban. Even knowing what I do now,
could I shoot if I had a gun in hand when the first man came strolling
through my bedroom door? Not sure. Still not sure. This gun thing is so
fraught, yet these dopey, glib politicians toss it around like a Nerf
football. They donít know squat. Circumstances alter cases ó you have no
idea how you would feel or what you would do unless you get into a bad
situation. By the way, those men were never caught. The statute of
limitations has long run out ó I guess the powers that be figure we
wonít care after three years. But we do.
Imhoffís Attack on New Gun Control Measures
In Gary Imhoffís introduction to the January 17 issue of themail, he
writes about the lack of effectiveness of certain gun laws, and suggests
that such laws could actually have the opposite effect of what was
intended by their passage. Opponents of gun control are quick to argue
that gun laws are not effective, and that they should not be enacted for
this reason. The problem is that these laws were never drafted in a
manner, or in a context that would ever make them effective. For
example, DC had a ban on guns, but DC is bordered by Virginia and saw
guns trafficked in from there. The lack of effectiveness of DCís law was
based on Virginiaís and other statesí overly lax gun laws. The result of
this is that in 2009, more than 98 percent of the guns used in crimes in
DC were imported from other states. Virginia led the way with 265,
followed by Maryland with 247, North Carolina with 99, South Carolina
with 46 and Georgia with 44. The pattern of gun importation to proximity
as you proceed further down I95 is crystal clear. DC is a net importer
of illegal guns. It only exports 2.2 guns per 100,000 inhabitants, while
the average rate for other states in 14.1 guns per 100,000 inhabitants.
DCís export rate is the lowest in the country. That actually suggests
that DCís law, standing on its own, was the most effective. However, it
also shows that a strong law like that is ineffective when surrounded by
very weak laws.
The federal ban on assault weapons was largely ineffective for a
different reason ó the grandfather clause. Gun owners who were in legal
possession of a weapon when the new law came into effect were allowed to
continue to own and use that firearm despite the fact the legislation
will made that weapon illegal to buy or possess going forward. And it
was the firearm that was grandfathered, not the ownerís right to have an
assault weapon. Owners were free to transfer their grandfathered guns to
someone else. Not surprisingly, gun sales exploded through the roof
prior to the ban taking effect. This resulted in more guns in America,
with no provision to reduce the numbers in circulation. Guns can remain
operable and in circulation for many years, so the effect of the ban was
Finally, the alleged correlation to crime rates in DC to gun laws is
laughable. As a longtime resident of this city, you know very well that
the rise in crime and gun crime in particular tracked the proliferation
of drugs. The years you cite match up evenly with the crack epidemic.
The decline in gun crimes and murders has more to do with the
socioeconomic changes in DC as a whole ó something that is also clearly
evident to a longtime observer.
Gun bans in DC are obviously futile, as long as you can drive to
Virginia and buy an unlimited supply of guns and ammo with no control of
any kind. National control would be another thing entirely.
Yes, anyone who has heard, "If you outlaw guns only outlaws will have
them," knows the argument Jeffrey Scott Shapiro puts forth. But it is an
argument that ignores one obvious and large piece of the puzzle: that DC
is effectively a tiny boat in a sea of firearms that is the commonwealth
themail@dcwatch is an E-mail discussion forum that is published
every Wednesday and Sunday. To change the E-mail address for your
subscription to themail, use the Update Profile/Email address link
below in the E-mail edition. To unsubscribe, use the Safe Unsubscribe
link in the E-mail edition. An archive of all past issues is available
All postings should be submitted to firstname.lastname@example.org, and should
be about life, government, or politics in the District of Columbia in
one way or another. All postings must be signed in order to be
printed, and messages should be reasonably short ó one or two brief
paragraphs would be ideal ó so that as many messages as possible can
be put into each mailing.