Gun control and the District of Columbia
The Supreme Court should be deciding in the next couple of weeks whether to grant cert in the case challenging the District of Columbia’s law in essence banning residents from possessing handguns. (Michael O’Shea has done an admirable job over at Prawfs collecting various materials related to the cert petition). As a former assistant U.S. attorney in D.C., I’ve been following the case with interest, and I do expect that the Court will grant cert. I think it’s worth acknowledging the primary functions of the law as it’s used by prosecutors in DC: the gun ban is both a preventive detention statute and an intelligence-gathering tool. At one time when I was a prosecutor, we were prohibited from extending a plea offer in gun cases unless the defendant agreed to come into the office (with his attorney, of course) and be “debriefed” about his knowledge of criminal activity in the city. The statute was also a mechanism for locking up individuals perceived as violent, but against whom other cases could not be brought for whatever reason. It’s pretty simple to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that an individual was in possession of a gun without a license and a lot tougher to prove that he committed a violent crime. These functions may not be relevant to the question whether the statute is constitutional, but it’s worth acknowledging that invalidating the gun ban will surely have a tremendous impact on crime-fighting in the District.