MILLER: When only criminals have guns – Washington Times


MILLER: When only criminals have guns – Washington Times.

D.C. puts rights of bad guys above public safety

By Emily Miller – The Washington Times

In the nation’s capital, it’s a fair question to ask: Who gets the better deal, innocent citizens who want to own a gun, or dangerous criminals? The District’s deliberate policy of releasing criminals back onto the streets shows the liberal city council’s answer has little to do with public safety.

Take the case of Ramad Speight, an admitted psychotic and alleged cop-shooter. He was in custody from March until July 16 when a D.C. judge freed him to travel around the city with a few restrictions. Mr. Speight was under arrest following a shootout with Montgomery County, Md. police that left him shot three times in the torso. The officers had responded to a 911 call about shots fired on the north side of Eastern Avenue, just inside the District line.

According to prosecutors, Mr. Speight stood outside his home, yelled “Game over,” raised his loaded revolver and opened fire on the officers. They ran for cover, but Mr. Speight allegedly kept shooting, hitting one officer in the hand.

Mr. Speight was hospitalized and then held without bond on 11 charges, including having an illegal gun. Public defender Michael Satin petitioned for his release, citing Mr. Speight’s use of antipsychotic medication since June as evidence that he’s now less dangerous. The lawyer added the defendant’s right arm is paralyzed from the shooting, which “reduces his ability to commit a crime in the community.”

D.C. Superior Court Judge Florence Pan, who was appointed by President Obama, released him from home confinement, setting lenient terms that allowed Mr. Speight to leave his mother’s home for school, medical or mental health appointments and court matters. Bill Miller, a spokesman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office, wouldn’t comment on the ruling, but said Assistant U.S. Attorney Allison Barlotta opposed Mr. Speight’s release based on “our belief that he presents a danger to the community.”

This wasn’t an isolated case. The idea to make it easier for judges to hold defendants in jail before trial orginated in then-Mayor Anthony Williams’s administration. In Jan. 2008, Phil Mendelson, then the chairman of the Judiciary Committee, held a hearing on the proposal. The at-large Democrat told the police and government witnesses that he opposed the concept on civil liberties grounds, adding that, “our laws favor release, not detention.”

While violent crime is down nationwide, it’s up 7 percent in the District so far this year. “One of the reasons for that is Phil Mendelson and his policies of the last six years that have put all criminals, including violent criminals, out on the streets pending trial,” said Kristopher Baumann, head of Washington’s police union. “It’s a recipe for disaster.” Mr. Mendelson’s office didn’t respond to a request for comment.

Law-abiding citizens who want to get a gun legally receive no such leniency. The District makes them pay fees, take a written test, travel to police headquarters at least twice and wait 10 days. The bad guys just walk down the street and buy a gun quickly. However, if someone uses an illegal gun to commit a violent crime, all of a sudden the city starts to worry about his civil liberties.

As Officer Baumann said, “Only in D.C. can you shoot a police officer and be sent home to think about what you did wrong, instead of going to jail.” The District needs to reverse its priorities to make the city safer.

Emily Miller is a senior editor for the Opinion pages at The Washington Times.



MILLER: Gun owners win a round – Washington Times

MILLER: Gun owners win a round – Washington Times.

Second Amendment rights advance in District and Maryland

By Emily Miller – The Washington Times

After four years of trying to hide from the Supreme Court’s Heller decision, Washington realized its gun laws had to change. On Tuesday, the D.C. Council voted unanimously to relax firearm registration requirements. The process to fix the law started just a few weeks after The Washington Times began a series documenting the District’s excessive hurdles to gun ownership.

The proposal will eliminate the five-hour training course requirement, ballistics test, vision test and ammunition restrictions. It also delays for two years the new re-registration and micro-stamping requirements and allows the mayor to act as a gun dealer if there is no other federal firearms licensee in the city.

The bill can still be amended in the minimum two weeks before final passage, but Judiciary Committee Chairman Phil Mendelson does not expect significant changes. Mayor Vincent Gray supports the bill and is expected to sign it.

The liberal council went along with the change only because of pressure from the federal legislative and judicial branches. Councilman Marion Barry, Ward 8 Democrat, told The Washington Times that he voted in favor because “D.C. gun laws are in danger of being tampered with or overturned by Congress.”

The former mayor added that, “The NRA doesn’t even want registration. They don’t want nothing. You have to keep track of these guns. It could get stolen from you and used in a crime and it’s easier to trace it back to the owner.” No registered gun in the District has ever been used in a crime.

Council Chairman Kwame Brown favored the bill because, he told us, it does “everything possible to allow for a smoother process.” As recently as September, he responded to the question of whether he supported the Second Amendment by saying, “I don’t think we need more guns on our streets.”

The bill, however, does not lift the city’s ban on the use of guns for personal protection outside of the home. D.C. and Illinois are the only places in the country that refuse to allow any form of open or concealed carry for residents.

On Friday, the U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland ruled that the Free State’s restrictive concealed carry laws violated the Second Amendment. Judge Benson Everett Legg concluded, “A citizen may not be required to offer a good and substantial reason why he should be permitted to exercise his rights. The right’s existence is all the reason he needs.”

Mr. Mendelson said that his committee will not address the carry laws in D.C. until the Maryland case “plays out.” He called it “new ground in jurisprudence” that will be appealed. The at-large Democrat said that the Woollard decision wouldn’t relate to the District because the plaintiff was in a rural area far from political big shots.

“I do think carrying has severe implications for the nation’s capital,” he told The Washington Times, citing the common rationale given by local officials. “We’re different from Maryland because we have motorcades, the president around town, members of Congress going to the supermarket unescorted.”

Different or not, the District needs to realize that it cannot choose to exempt itself from a fundamental provision of the Bill of Rights.

Emily Miller is a senior editor for the Opinion pages at The Washington Times.