Gun Ban Based on Junk Science, Researchers Say

A group of researchers told the Supreme Court that Washington, D.C.’s municipal ban on handguns and functional firearms is based on junk science. After banning guns, Washington, D.C. became the murder capital of America, although the crime rate had been falling in the years immediately before the ban, as a brief filed on behalf of the researchers by the Claremont Institute reminds the Court.

To justify the ban, the D.C. government is relying on “studies,” like a Colin Loftin article in the New England Journal of Medicine, that engaged in deliberate cherry-picking of data and other statistical manipulations in order to reach a preordained conclusion that the ban kept homicide rates lower than they otherwise would have been (Loftin defined even killings in self-defense as “homicide”). Even those studies, however, showed at best a modest effect.

The national government, in a brief filed by the Solicitor General, admits (contrary to the D.C. government) that the Second Amendment confers an individual right to keep and bear arms, but argues that the gun ban should be subjected to “intermediate scrutiny” and be upheld if it is necessary to public safety.

But the Claremont researchers’ brief shows that it does not advance public safety. And in any event, even under intermediate scrutiny, the burden of proof is on the government — not the citizen challenging a government restriction — to show that its regulation is necessary, and the government must accordingly show that its restriction on an a citizen’s rights “directly” and “materially” advances important societal interests that cannot be advanced in a less intrusive alternative way, as the Supreme Court observed in decisions like Greater New Orleans Broadcasting Association v. United States (1999) and United States v. Virginia (1996). The gun ban does not satisfy that test.