Gun Control Group Braces for Court Loss
'We've Lost the Battle on What the 2nd Amendment Means,' Brady Campaign Head Says
by TEDDY DAVIS
June 12, 2008—
The nation's leading gun control group filed a "friend of the court" brief back in January defending the gun ban in Washington, D.C. But with the Supreme Court poised to hand down a potentially landmark decision in the case, the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence fully expects to lose.
"We've lost the battle on what the Second Amendment means," campaign president Paul Helmke told ABC News. "Seventy-five percent of the public thinks it's an individual right. Why are we arguing a theory anymore? We are concerned about what we can do practically."
While the Brady Campaign is waving the white flag in the long-running debate on whether the Second Amendment protects an individual's right to bear arms or merely a state's right to assemble a militia, it is hoping that losing the "legal battle" will eventually lead to gun control advocates winning the "political war."
"We're expecting D.C. to lose the case," Helmke said. "But this could be good from the standpoint of the political-legislative side."
The D.C. ban prohibits residents from keeping handguns inside their homes and requires that lawfully registered guns, such as shotguns, be locked and unloaded when kept at home.
If the Supreme Court strikes down the D.C. gun ban, the Brady Campaign is hoping that it will reorient gun control groups around more limited measures that will be harder to cast as infringements of the Second Amendment.
"The NRA [National Rifle Association] won't have this fear factor," Helmke said.
Brady Campaign Attorney Dennis Henigan said there are multiple gun control measures that would not run afoul of a Supreme Court decision striking down the D.C. gun ban.
"Universal background checks don't affect the right of self-defense in the home. Banning a super dangerous class of weapons, like assault weapons, also would not adversely affect the right of self-defense in the home," said Henigan. "Curbing large volume sales doesn't affect self-defense in the home."
The Brady Campaign expects pro-gun groups to use the Supreme Court's decision in the DC case to challenge a gun ban in Chicago, the major city whose gun laws come closest to the nation's capital.
Although the Brady Campaign expects the Chicago ordinance to be challenged, it thinks that it may survive because it does not have the restrictions on long guns like the ones found in Washington, D.C.
The Chicago law may also survive because a decision in the D.C. case will likely not resolve the issue of whether the Second Amendment applies to the states and other cities that are not federal enclaves.
Looking beyond the Supreme Court's D.C. gun ban case to the race for the White House, the Brady Campaign views Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., as a better friend to gun control advocates than Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz.
But given that McCain stood by his support for closing "the gun-show loophole" during a recent speech to the N.R.A., the Brady Campaign president hopes that new gun restrictions can make headway regardless of who wins in November.
"For John McCain to be the political candidate of the NRA shows how things have changed," Helmke said.
ABC News' John Santucci contributed to this report.