For Release: Monday, March 17, 2008
District’s Law Necessary to Protect DC Residents, First Responders Violence Policy Center Warns
Washington, DC—Just two days after a new Washington Post national poll found that 59 percent of the American public supports restrictions identical to Washington, DC’s gun laws–which ban handgun possession and require that legally possessed rifles and shotguns be either disassembled or secured with a trigger lock–the U.S. Supreme Court is scheduled tomorrow to hear oral arguments in a case challenging DC’s handgun ban, District of Columbia v. Heller.
Reiterating the findings contained in its amicus brief filed in the case, the Violence Policy Center (VPC) warned that increasingly lethal handguns being marketed by the gun industry—ranging from high-capacity semiautomatic handguns to next-generation assault pistols based on AK-47 and AR-15 assault rifles—make the handgun ban today even more of a necessity to protect first responders and citizens in the nation’s capital than when it was first enacted in 1976. The VPC’s brief also explains how even pro-gun experts recognize that handguns are not well-suited for self-defense. In addition, because of its low gun ownership rates (only five percent of DC homes have firearms), the District of Columbia routinely has one of the lowest gun suicide rates and lowest overall suicide rates in the nation. In comparison, the states with the top gun suicide and overall suicide rates are states with high levels of gun ownership and weak gun laws such as Alaska and Montana. Data have consistently shown that states with the highest rates of gun ownership also have the highest gun death rates.
In urging the Court to retain the DC ban, VPC Legislative Director Kristen Rand states, “The DC handgun ban is supported by a wide array of mainstream American institutions. In comparison, a significant number of those who oppose it have gun industry or gun lobby ties. In a year that has been defined by mass shootings–from Virginia Tech to Northern Illinois University, from a Nebraska shopping mall to an Illinois Lane Bryant store–the Court should be affirming, not denying, policymakers the tools they need to reduce gun death and injury.”