If you own a fully automatic weapon, you should seriously consider selling it now, before the market catches up with yesterday’s ruling. If you keep it, that’s your prerogative, but know this: if yesterday’s ruling stands, you’re screwed. Take a gander at this portion of the ruling:
D.C. Code § 7-2502.02 prohibits the registration of a pistol not registered in the District by the applicant prior to 1976. The District contends that since it only bans one type of firearm, “residents still have access to hundreds more,” and thus its prohibition does not implicate the Second Amendment because it does not threaten total disarmament. It could be similarly contended that all firearms may be banned so long as sabers were permitted. Once it is determined – as we have done – that handguns are “Arms” referred to in the Second Amendment, it is not open to the District to ban them.
Sure, this ruling will be appealed, and maybe it will be reversed or changed significantly on appeal, but then again, maybe it won’t. Let’s assume, for argument’s sake, that it does. If it does, I defy you to show how a different result would obtain if you substituted “fully-automatic weapon” for “pistol,” “1986” for “1976,” and “Congress” for “the District.” Make these mechanical changes and voila, the Hughes Amendment is history, any post-1986 assault weapons (real ones, not just the phony ones Clinton banned in 1994) are legal in every state that allows them, and your M-16 is worth only a trifle more than my AR-15.
Note that I drew no distinction between the possibility that the ruling sticks because the Supreme Court upholds it vs. it sticking because the USSC declines to rule on the issue at all. In most cases, that distinction is huge. In this case, it’s a minor detail, at least for those fortunate enough to live in states permitting their subjects to own fully automatic weapons. Unless the D.C. Circuit reverses itself, the value of your fully automatic weapon will plummet whether the Supremes uphold them or bow out. If they uphold, any post-1986 weapons can be legally sold in every state that does not prohibit them – unless, of course, they extend the ruling to the states, in whcih case they could be sold nationwide. If the ruling only stands in the D.C. Circuit, then post-1986 weapons can only be legally sold in D.C., but so what? Anyone living in a state that allows them could just travel there, and D.C. would be instantly transformed from the cesspool of Second Amendment jurisprudence that it is now to a gun owner’s Mecca. I’d rather pay my sales taxes to Virginia than D.C., but if I have to drive two whole hours to get what I want, oh well.
And yes, the dissent in Parker really is as retarded as the Ass. Press has made it out to be. For once they reported a legal issue correctly.
UPDATE: Lots of good comments. Tam says I’m wrong about interstate transfers; apparently, you can’t just buy an NFA weapon in an area that allows it and then transfer it to an area that does not. Query whether there is some way around that. After all, we’re not talking different local laws, just different circuits interpreting the same law that supposedly applies nationwide. There has got to be some way to get the local authorities into a suit in the DC circuit, at least if your local authorities are friendly enough to the concept to submit to jurisdiction voluntarily.
Another commenter suggests that the Supremes might find a convoluted way to argue that handguns are “arms” under the Second Amendment but submachine guns commonly carried by soldiers on the battlefield are not. I doubt they’ll go that route myself, though I don’t doubt that that may be the end result if they take the case. More likely, they’ll uphold Parker on some other, narrower theory which does not lend itself to such a broad interpretation. For example, they could rule that all weapons are “arms” within the meaning of the Second Amendment, but note in dicta that modest restrictions on some arms (e.g., instant background checks or bans on handgun ownership by violent felons on parole) and general prohibitions on others (e.g., suitcase nukes or handguns capable of evading detection at airports) impose only minor burdens on the individual right to bear arms, and are narrowly tailored to a compelling interest of the state. To the average nonlawyer, that sounds like splitting the baby, and strictly speaking, it is. However, it’s also the strict scrutiny standard, which is the highest level of protection the Supreme Court has afforded to any constitutional right, including the ones they care about a lot more than the Second Amendment. Thus, it’s probably the best we can hope for, realistically speaking. With that, I take back my prior statement that it doesn’t matter whether the Supreme Court upholds Parker or simply allows it to stand. If they uphold it, they will almost certainly narrow its scope. It will, however, guarantee that the Second Amendment means something, so like me dying in a plane crash with 49 of my colleagues, it would be a good start.