This article was published at The McAlvany Intelligence Advisor on Monday, September 21, 2015:  

photograph of the justices, cropped to show Ju...

Antonin Scalia

The results of the annual survey, “Best States for Gun Owners 2015,” just released in July, showed little change at the top, or the bottom, of the states’ ranking: Washington, DC still ranks dead last, while Arizona continues at the top of all states for gun freedom. In its introduction, G and A noted:

Gun rights vary from states that have all but made it impossible to own firearms and related accessories to states where few restrictions exist….


Every effort has been made to create a ranking system that is fair, equitable, accurate and objective. States were ranked numerically in each of five categories: right-to-carry, right to own “black rifles” (i.e., firearms possessing a tactical appearance), presence of the Castle Doctrine, subjects relating to the National Firearms Act (NFA), and a catchall miscellaneous column.

In its previous surveys Arizona has consistently topped the list. But the biggest improvement was Kansas:

went from one of four states without a CCW statute in 2005 to one of few states approving permitless carry in 2015. What a difference 10 years and a pro-gun governor can make!


Open carry has always been legal in Kansas, but local governments used to ban it by municipal ordinance. That’s no longer true as of July 2014. CLEOs [chief law enforcement officers] “shall sign” NFA forms within 15 days in Kansas, giving the state full points in the NFA column.


Taxpayer-funded firearm “buyback” programs have also been banned by the state legislature. Under the leadership of strong pro-gun advocates such as Speaker of the House Ray Merrick, has become one of the strongest states for gun owners in the nation.

And then there’s Washington, DC, bringing up the rear:

While D.C. is hardly a home for America’s gun owners, things have improved slightly in the last few years. After the U.S. Court of Appeals ruled that the District’s ban on carrying a firearm outside the home for self-defense was unconstitutional, D.C. abandoned its attempt to enforce an outright ban on the carrying of handguns.


Instead, the District is in the process of imposing a “may issue” permit system that is unlikely to issue many, if any, permits to law-abiding citizens within the city. D.C. residents must still register all firearms with the Metro Police Department, and legal shooting opportunities within the District are nonexistent.


If you’re a gun owner looking to move to the D.C. area, take a hard look at Northern Virginia [Number 24] instead.

The District of Columbia’s “slight” improvement was confirmed last month when the U. S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit dampened the anti-gun sentiments of its rabidly anti- city council by removing just a few of the more onerous gun registration requirements it put in place following the ’s decision District of Columbia v. Heller in June, 2008. As Dick Heller, the lead plaintiff in the case, said, virulent anti-gun members of DC’s city council enacted “every gun restriction they could find from every other state and gave them to us as thumbtacks on the road to our march to freedom.”

Heller filed suit immediately after the original Heller decision, which became known as Heller II. The court affirmed that the District’s gun registration scheme was “reasonably related” to an “important government interest” and left most of that scheme’s mandates in place.

When Emily Miller, a resident of the District, tried to get a permit, she wrote about her experience, and her frustrations, in a series of articles that later became her book, Emily Gets Her Gun But Obama Wants to Get Yours. There were 17 steps involved, including completing an “eligibility” form and getting it notarized, taking a firearms safety course, including four hours of classroom instruction and one hour of live fire range time, proving that the applicant could pass a vision test, taking and passing a 20-question test on DC’s gun laws and regulations, taking the completed paperwork in person to the Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) for fingerprinting and photographing, and paying $465 for the privilege of exercising a right.

Following Heller II, Dick Heller filed again with Heller III in which the appeals court softened the requirements somewhat, but left the most egregious infringements in place:

The district court’s final order is AFFIRMED with respect to: the basic registration requirements as applied to long guns … the requirement that a registrant be fingerprinted and photographed and make a personal appearance to register a firearm … pay certain fees … and complete a firearms safety and training course.


The district court’s order to REVERSED with respect to the requirement that a person bring with him the firearm to be registered … the requirement that a gun own re-register his firearm every three years … the requirement that conditions registration of a firearm upon passing a test of the District’s firearms laws … and the prohibition on registration of “more than one pistol per registrant during any 30-day period.”

What this ruling does, unfortunately, is confirm the District’s right to restrict the exercise of a power that the Constitution grants without restrictions. As Constitutional scholar and Harvard-trained lawyer Edwin Vieira noted in The New American in 2008:

Though Heller struck down the then-existing D.C. prohibition against handguns, it also allowed for the regulation of guns. D.C.’s post-Heller regulations still make it virtually impossible for a law-abiding citizen to have a gun ready for immediate self-defense in his home….


Unfortunately, the actual language of Heller makes clear that it is far from a major victory for gun owners. As we will show, the majority opinion by Antonin Scalia in Heller is the legal equivalent of a squib load.

After reviewing Scalia’s comments, Vieira concluded that his “loose language” gave great encouragement to anti-gunners:

Having explicitly treated some “gun control” measures as “presumptively lawful” … Scalia encouraged “gun controllers” to defend the panoply of modern “gun control” legislation, and to enact new legislation of the same ilk….


So, what good is Heller in the grand scheme of things? It protects only a narrow right for an individual to possess a handgun at home for purposes of self-defense.


It leaves open a wide hole for old and new regulations which will aim at inhibition, constriction and ultimately effective prohibition of even the right Heller recognizes.

Not all of this came to pass, thanks to Heller continuing to press the matter. Last month’s modest pushback against DC’s infringements is encouraging, but a long, long way from actual repeal of the Act of 1968. It does, however, point in the right direction.

Gun owners considering moving from the District of Columbia could do worse than or Arizona.

Sources: Third Time’s the Charm: Federal Appeals Court Voids Provisions of D.C. Gun Control in Heller III

Washington Times: 17 steps to register a gun in DC

The New American: Edwin Vieira’s Gun Rights on Trial

Heller I

Washington Times: MILLER: Dick Heller challenges D.C.’s gun registration scheme, files for quick ruling in Heller II APPEALS COURT RULES AGAINST GUN OWNERS IN HELLER II CASE

Gun laws in the District of Columbia Ruling in Heller II challenge to DC’s replacement laws

Edwin Vieira’s CV

Heller III ruling Best States for Gun Owners 2015 Emily Gets Her Gun But Obama Wants to take Yours

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