Navigating the Second Amendment

Published 10:33 am Thursday, July 15, 2010

“When you get mugged, there are certain rules you must follow,” my friend and his wife explained to me as we walked from a Washington, D.C., pub to their condo.

“When I get mugged?”

“Muggers are polite when you follow their instructions, but they get surly when you are rude,” said his wife.

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“How can you be rude to a mugger?”

“Ignoring the mugger is rude,” said my friend. “This will give him license to strike you with a blunt object.”

“I see.”

“Making eye contact is also rude,” said his wife. “Look only at the mugger’s feet.”

“Why not just run?”

“Running might affect the mugger’s self-esteem,” said my friend. “You’ll give him little recourse but to club you with a blunt object.”

“Then what should I do when we get mugged?”

“Always make an offering of some kind,” said his wife.

“Hand over my watch?”

My friends laughed.

“You don’t wear a watch in this city!” said his wife. “You give up your wallet.”

“But my wallet contains my license, credit cards and other vital information.”

“You don’t hand over your real wallet,” said my friend, looking at his wife like I was an idiot. “You give up a dummy wallet. You carry your real wallet in your sock or your underwear.”

“I keep my credit cards in my bra,” said my friend’s wife.

“What if the mugger looks in your sock?”

“Muggers never do that,” said his wife. “They’re eager to complete their transaction, so they can move on to the next mugging.”

“Can’t you call for a policeman?”

“Ha!” said his wife. “If you can find one.”

“How about Mace?”

“If a mugger catches you reaching for Mace, that gives him license to –”

“Strike me with a blunt object?”

“Precisely,” said my friend.

“What if you were able to carry a gun?”

“The gun laws are very strict here,” said my friend. “It seems the only people who have them are the police or the criminals.”

“But two years ago, the Supreme Court held that D.C.’s handgun ban violated individuals’ Second Amendment right,” I said. “The court affirmed that ‘the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed’ in federal enclaves.”

“It did?”

“The Supreme Court just ruled on a similar case from Chicago, which is not a federal enclave. It affirmed that the Second Amendment provides Americans with a fundamental right to bear arms that cannot be violated by state and local governments.”

“So the average law-abiding citizen is now permitted to own a handgun anywhere in America?”

“Local jurisdictions are still free to impose a variety of restrictions,” I said. “However, plenty of lawsuits will follow as the details are worked out. In D.C., for instance, law-abiding citizens may own guns but are not permitted to carry a concealed weapon as they walk home.”

“Too bad,” said my friend. “If the muggers feared we had a gun, they might be inclined to leave us alone.”

“But then again,” said his wife, “if the mugger discovers we have a gun, that might give him license to –”

“Shoot us with a blunt object?” I said.”Whatever the case, Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr., writing for the majority, said the right to self-defense is fundamental to the American conception of ordered liberty. It would appear you could use more ordered liberty in your neighborhood.”

As we approached their condo, my friend and his wife sprinted to the door. They scanned for suspicious movement in the shrubs, then ushered me inside and slammed the door.

“We made it!” said his wife.

“That was a close one!” said my friend.

“You have developed an interesting process for dealing with muggers in Washington, D.C.,” I said. “How long have you lived here?”

“We moved in last Friday,” said my friend.

Tom Purcell is a freelance writer and also a humor columnist for the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. E-mail Tom at