Law Enforcement Brief in DC v. Heller:

Today the Independence Institute filed my amicus curiae brief with the United States Supreme Court, in the case of District of Columbia v. Heller.

The Independence Institute brief is joined by a broad coalition of law enforcement: the Maryland State Lodge of the Fraternal Order of Police (by far the largest rank-and-file police organization in Maryland), 29 of California’s District Attorneys, the San Francisco Veteran Police Officers Association, the Texas Police Chiefs Association, the Southern States Police Benevolent Association, and many others.

Notably, the lead amici in the brief are the two national organizations of police firearms instructors, the International Law Enforcement Educators & Trainers Association (ILEETA) and the International Association of Law Enforcement Firearms Instructors (IALEFI). The brief explains how widespread civilian ownership of handguns contributes to the efficiency and success of police firearms training.

Part One of the brief summarizes the vast body of evidence showing how law-abiding citizens with handguns contribute to public safety. Surveys of criminals and of law-abiding citizens both indicate that defensive gun use is frequent in the United States, and provides a substantial deterrent to crime. Most notably, because approximately half of all American homes have a gun, only 13% of American home burglaries take place when the victim is home. In nations where handgun ownership is rare or illegal, the home invasion rate is about 50%.

A large number of confrontational burglaries (nearly a third) result in assaults or rapes, so defensive gun ownership in the home also reduces the assault and rape rates. The assault reduction alone makes the U.S. violent crime rate about 9% lower than it would be if home invasions took place at the rate typical in other countries. But in DC, the use of any gun for self-defense in the home is illegal.

DC and its amici claim, in effect, that ordinary, law-abiding citizens are too hot-tempered and clumsy to own a handgun for home protection. Part II of the brief refutes this invidious prejudice. The brief shows that the large majority of murders, including domestic homicides, are committed by people who already have criminal records--not by previously-law-abiding citizens. A half-century of data show that gun accidents have declined by 86% in the U.S.

Before the 1976 handgun ban, only 1/2 of 1% of crime gun seized by the D.C. police were lawfully-registered to District residents. Thus, the DC City Council cracked down on a population group (gun owners who obeyed the city's registration and licensing laws) which had almost nothing to do with the city's crime problem.

Part III relies on practical police experience to explain why handguns are the best arms for home defense, particularly in an urban area such as Washington, D.C.

Part IV suggests that strict scrutiny is the proper legal standard of review for most Second Amendment issues. Precedents from the U.S. Supreme Court and from state supreme courts point to the unconstitutionality of the DC ban on handguns and on self-defense.

Social science data about self-defense were little discussed in the briefs of D.C. and its amici, except that the American Public Health Association (APHA) brief does have a section arguing against Gary Kleck's figure of 2.5 million annual defensive gun uses. Some empirical issues related to the law enforcement brief are also discussed in the American Academy of Pediatrics brief, and the D.C. brief itself.