D.C. Gun Ban Critic: Court Must Clarify Constitution Ted Cruz, Texas solicitor general and the drafter of a friend-of-the-court brief signed by 31 state attorneys general asking the Supreme Court to strike down the Washington, D.C., ban on handguns, says the court should clear up years of arguments and state strongly that the right applies to individual citizens.


D.C. Gun Ban Critic: Court Must Clarify Constitution

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Now, for an opposing view, we're joined by Ted Cruz. He is the solicitor general for the State of Texas. And he drafted the amicus brief signed by attorneys general of 31 states who say the D.C. handgun ban should be struck down. Mr. Cruz, thanks for being with us.

Mr. TED CRUZ (Solicitor General, Texas): Great to be with you, Melissa.

BLOCK: Mr. Cruz, what's the interest of the State of Texas in this case, why get involved?

Mr. CRUZ: The interest of the State of Texas is the same as the interest of all 31 states that joined this amicus brief, which is to defend the basic constitutional right, the individual right to keep and bear arms. The Second Amendment to the Constitution was understood by the framers as a critical individual liberty that each and every American has protected by the Constitution. And what this case is really about is, is that right going to be, in effect, written out of the Constitution? Because the natural consequence of the argument that the District of Columbia is making is that no individual anywhere in America can ever again assert a right under the Second Amendment. And that is a deeply troubling outcome.

BLOCK: There are, of course, all sorts of restrictions on gun ownership around the country, including in your state, and why is that seen as any different that what D.C. is doing here?

Mr. CRUZ: Well, the laws that the District of Columbia has adopted are more restrictive than the laws adopted in any state in the Union. The combination of ordinances that D.C. has, in effect, results in a complete and total ban on ever having an operable firearm in one's own home, which means that, if an individual is at home and has a shotgun at home and someone breaks into their house and is literally assaulting their family, and that person removes the trigger lock from his or her shotgun to defend his or her family, that person has committed a crime in the District of Columbia. That law is more Draconian, it is more extreme than the laws in any state in the union.

BLOCK :What do you say to the states and cities around the country who say that if the handgun ban in D.C. is overturned that their local laws will be challenged and there's a whole range of criminal conduct that would be decriminalized, we just heard this from Michael Troncoso in San Francisco.

Mr. CRUZ: Well, I don't think that is a serious argument, except in situations where you have other jurisdictions that have anything close to what D.C. has done. And the one situation of which I am aware is the city of Chicago, which has a similar set of ordinances to what D.C. has. Short of a blanket ban, the vast majority of regulations - of state laws, of federal laws or city ordinances concerning firearms - in my judgment are unlikely to be affected by this litigation that some of what makes this case relatively easy because it is a threshold case. There are two questions before the court.

One, does the Second Amendment protect an individual right to keep and bear arms? And two, if it does, is a total ban consistent with that right? Talking about other state and federal laws in the brief we filed, we described the many, many laws in other states that, for example, prohibit felons from possessing firearms or ban certain types of machine guns or sawed off shotguns. And to my mind there's no serious argument that any outcome of this case would threaten any of those reasonable regulations. That's what the Federal Court of Appeals concluded here. Is that you have a right but it can be subject to reasonable regulations.

BLOCK: Mr. Cruz, would you agree that whichever way the Supreme Court rules, when it does in this case, that this will be a landmark ruling, something that fundamentally affects how we view the Second Amendment?

Mr. CRUZ: I agree with that. I think this is an extraordinarily important rule. It is quite rare for the court to be addressing a case about whether a right explicitly laid out in the Bill of Rights in effect exists at all. And I absolutely agree whatever the court decides, because this case is likely to be enormously consequential.

BLOCK: Ted Cruz, thanks so much for talking with us.

Mr. CRUZ: Thanks a lot. I enjoyed chatting with you, Melissa.

BLOCK: That was Ted Cruz, Texas solicitor general and before him, San Francisco assistant district attorney, Michael Troncoso. They presented two of the many views the Supreme Court will weigh next week when it takes up the Washington D.C. handgun ban in the Heller case. You'll be able to hear those arguments. The court plans a same-day release of recordings, and you'll hear recording by NPR's Nina Totenberg on Tuesday's ALL THINGS CONSIDERED.

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