Views Diverge over Gun Ruling

There were sharply different viewpoints on the impact of the Supreme Court's ruling striking down the District of Columbia's ban on gun ownership.

Under the district's ban, it was a crime to carry an unregistered firearm, and the registration of handguns was prohibited. The Supreme Court's decision Thursday declared for the first time that the Second Amendment protects an individual's right to self-defense and gun ownership.

Dick Heller, the armed security guard who sued the District of Columbia after it rejected his application to keep a handgun at his home for protection, said he was "thrilled" about the ruling.

Gillian St. Lawrence, a D.C. resident and an original plaintiff in the case, said: "After being involved in this case for 6 years, I'm finally going to be able to defend myself in my own home."

'The Right to Defend Yourself'

One of the fault lines of the debate runs along the boundaries of the city of Chicago.

In that city, area gun owners also praised the ruling. Some have already filed a lawsuit challenging Chicago's ban on the sale and possession of handguns.

At the Shore Galleries gun shop in Lincolnwood, immediately north of Chicago, it's legal to sell and purchase handguns. Some customers at the gun shop praised the Supreme Court's ruling.

"You should have the right to defend yourself," Frank Johnson, who owns a home inspection company in Chicago's northern suburbs, told NPR's David Schaper. "I'm not saying I'm going to defend myself with a grenade cannon or something like that; we're just talking about a regular pistol. So I think that was ... a just ruling."

Mixed Reaction

In D.C.'s Trinidad neighborhood, where police recently set up vehicle checkpoints to reduce gun violence, reaction to the court's ruling was mixed.

Sadie Kirkland said the Supreme Court's decision has "legalized the turf and gun war." Kirkland, whose brother was shot and killed in 1995 by a friend in a dispute over guns, feared the city's crime would soar after the ban's dissolution.

Wilhelmina Lawson, who lives several doors down, disagreed. She believes that as long as people are responsible with guns, they should be allowed to own them. "If they ban honest people from having guns, the people doing the killing will still get them," she said.

But among community activists who work in the district's most violent neighborhoods, there is a sense that the court's ruling will result in more homicides, street confrontations and robberies.

"By upping the percentage of people who are able to purchase guns, you're upping the percentage of the fallout and the violence," says Curtis Watkins, executive director of LifeSTARTS Youth and Family Services, a community organization in southeast D.C.

Not only could disputes on the street and in people's homes escalate more easily, but the number of gun-related accidents in homes could also rise, according to activists.

"There are a lot of children in D.C. whose parents work two to three jobs. Children have idle time," says Ronald Moten of the non-violence group, Peaceoholics. "You're going to see many more accidental shootings."

'I Don't Like Guns'

People offered similar comments near Henderson, Ky., where a worker opened fire at a plastics plant earlier this week, killing five co-workers and himself. The gunman was known to have kept a .45-caliber pistol in his car, which is legal in Kentucky.

Coal miner Kyle Lea, 28, said the slayings reinforced his belief that gun ownership should be closely regulated.

"I just don't believe in guns. I don't like guns, period. And I don't think really anybody should be allowed to have guns," he said.

From NPR staff reports and the Associated Press

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