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by Sisyphus

April 11, 2003

Last week Fairfax attorney Stephen Halbrook filed an NRA-backed lawsuit in US District Court in the District of Columbia. The case name is Seegar v Ashcroft (DDC).

Wait! Wasn't there already such a test case well in progress, filed a month or two ago? Yes. The first case is Parker v DC (DDC).

In fact the first case, aided by the prestigious think tank The CATO Institute was all ready for a decision on summary judgment. (No one has ever suggested that the NRA is a think tank. NRA probably has the poorest record in test cases of any civil rights organization in the Nation.) There might have been a solid US District Court decision for precedent in a matter of a few months in the Parker case. The DC Corporation counsel was putting up a very weak defense in Parker. It is always wise in DC to sue DC, not Ashcroft, because the defense by DC is rarely well done.

The Halbrook-NRA lawsuit made at least four elementary mistakes that only the anti-gun lobby would praise.

First, the suit is simply unnecessary, a waste of time and resources. Only the NRA lawyers with meters running stand to benefit. This is an NRA-Holbrook ego case, an effort to get involved when in the past the NRA has been slow, retrogressive, a do-nothing in the litigation field, aside from occasional amicus briefs.

Second, the redundant suit will delay the outcome in DC by months. This will enable anti-gun forces to become involved, to intervene, to file briefs, to push to uphold DC's ban on firearms.

It gets much worse.

Halbrook-NRA also sued Attorney General John Ashcroft as a defendant, the powerful US Dept of Justice. That was unnecessary and counterproductive. That means from now on the case will be defended by the highly competent lawyers of the DOJ, with unlimited resources. This is like replacing a sandlot team with the NY Yankees. The NRA is no match for the Yankees. Different league altogether, as shown by the several errors of judgment already made by NRA in filing this suit.

Ashcroft in the last two years had taken the position that the Second Amendment was an individual right. Now he has to defend the opposite view, or at least defend the severe restrictions on gun ownership in the District.

The joinder of Ashcroft means that the US is not likely ever to file amicus curiae briefs in other cases supporting a broad individual right to bear arms. That could make a serious difference.

What to do?

Write Halbrook and the NRA directors exposing this colossal mistake. Ask them to withdraw the suit. Ask them to butt out altogether of test cases in the Second Amendment field. They have no winning strategy or track record in this area.