DC V. Heller – debriefing

March 18, 2008 at 6:25 pm (Guns, Politics)

Well, I went. I got up early, caught the very first bus available, and arrived at the steps of the Supreme Court promptly at 6:00 this morning. I thought it looked promising, because the only people I could see were the news crews (5 of them) on the right side of the stairs to the plaza. I asked one of the guards where to go for the full session, and he pointed me to the line that was behind the news people. It was worse than Best Buy on Thanksgiving. As I walked down the block and around the corner, I guessed that I passed about 150 people. Apparently I’m not the only person interested enough to get there early. These people had been in line since Sunday night!

So, I got in line. Knowing that I wouldn’t be able to view the entire hearing, I got in line. It was cold, but not too bad, as there was a construction barrier on the other side of the sidewalk that blocked the wind. One lady (who had been camping up front – from IL or IA if I remember correctly) walked back and was asking people their views. According to her, there weren’t more than 2 or 3 people in line that sided with DC.

About 7, security moved the front of the line from where the news crews were to the base of the steps leading from the plaza to the court building. That shifted my place from East Capitol Street to First street, next to the news crews. There were now 7 of them. That pleased the head of security for a little while, and then they shifted the entire tail end of the line from East Capitol St. to Maryland Ave. At this point, there were about 75 people in line behind me. This wasn’t a good choice, because the wind had picked up, and it was quite cold without the barrier blocking it. A single guy with a sign (actually several that he flipped through) was there. One of his signs was:

Gun Murders
1900-2000 = 500,000
2000-2100 = 1.3 million

Feel free to critique on your own…

While I was standing literally on the corner of Maryland and First St, the grounds crew was cleaning trash. One of them in a Cushman drove up and honked at the other, who was on the sidewalk. Apparently he had found a half-full bottle of Jack Daniels. Both of them had a good laugh, and then dumped it down the storm drain before throwing the empty bottle away. I assume that it came from the hedges where the overnight camping had taken place.

About now, a lot more security became apparent. The number of officers tripled to about 15. The move to Maryland Ave only lasted a little while. About 30 more people had shown up, and it was obvious that the line would quickly block the employee entrance to the court. We were shifted around one more time, and I ended up back near the news crews again.

By now, another guy with a sign was there – his sign said

McCain says Guns for DC – But No Vote

I think (from a conversation he had later) that he thought that DC should have a vote, but still no guns.

About 8:45, the 2nd Amendment Sisters unfurled their banner. They had been joined by a group Maryland Shall Issue, who were easily spotted by their distinctive blue hats. Shortly after that, 8 DC police cars pulled up across the street, and remained there throughout the morning. There were two new guys with a signs, which were:

Criminals Prefer Unarmed Victims


Don’t Kill DCs Gun Ban

About 9, the Brady bunch showed up with 5 or 6 people. One of them had a canvas bag with 30-40 of their placards. Shortly after they showed up, another guy with a jacket with ‘Tyrany Response Team‘ and a sign that read ‘Ban the leaders in Washington, Not Guns!’.

About 9:30, I thought that the rest of the Brady bunch had arrived, as the guy was passing out placards, but it appears that it was just a tour group passing by, leaving only about 6 with signs there.

About 9:45, another group (sorry, didn’t get the name) showed up with a banner and had a discussion with security about the use of the boards & PVC pipe for their sign supports. Their sign read:

Firearms = Safety, Security, Freedom

The first group, which was seated for the entire session, was about 70 people. Fortunately everyone who had camped out overnight was in that group. That moved me up to about halfway to the door – on the plaza. About 20 minutes later, a second group of about 40 was taken in for 5 minutes in the gallery. Another 15 minutes, I was # 34 of the next group of 40 and I was inside the atrium to the Court. It was WARM (Yay!). The guard gave us a brief lecture on what happened next, where the lockers & coat check were, and then we went through the first security check. I dumped everything in a locker (no cell phones, cameras, pagers, etc) allowed in the courtroom, and then got in line to go through the second security check to go into the courtroom.

I was seated in the gallery at about 18 minutes into the hearing. When Chief Justice Roberts was questioning Mr Dellinger about how a total ban can be considered ‘reasonable regulation’. The seat gave me a view of Chief Justice Roberts and everyone on his right.

The transcript of the oral arguments is available from the Supreme Court in PDF format. An video version with slideshow is available from c-span.org (RealPlayer)  For the extra scholarly (or if you just have trouble sleeping) the NRA has made all of the amicus briefs in the case available at http://www.nraila.org/heller/.

I really must commend the Supreme Court staff, who obviously went to extreme lengths to seat as many people in both the observer’s gallery and the temporary gallery. It appeared that extra chairs were in the regular gallery, and it looked like they had to scavenge other offices to find chairs to put in the temporary gallery.

When my time was up, I went downstairs to the museum and giftshop. After I left the building, I talked briefly with a few of the Maryland Shall Issue, and then headed home.

I was surprised that I didn’t see any obvious representatives of the NRA, GOA, SAF, JPFO, PinkPistols, or anyone else there.

If you were there and noticed a man in a black suit and tie, wearing a red-white-and-blue tie-die button down shirt, that was me.



  1. Elaine said,

    I’ll check out your links after I send my husband and another friend the link to your blog so that they’ll have this info as well to peruse at their leisure. Thanks for the report. So far I’ve not seen anything on the news (I’m watching NBC right now) so can’t say that I saw you in line. I couldn’t be there, unfortunately, but I sure thought about the whole thing today and the ramifications if the Court rules in favor of DC.

  2. capitalggeek said,

    As I said in my previous entry, I expect that the court will find for an individual right. Beyond that, I’m not sure – they’ll probably punt on anything more sweeping than that. BUT… If they don’t use this case to overturn Miller AND they find for an individual right, then we end up with an individual right to regular military weapons (think infantry).

    I’d really like more, but I doubt it. The opinions won’t be out until mid-summer.

  3. Anonymous said,

    Maybe it’s not so surprising that the NRA wasn’t there. They tried to derail Parker/Heller quite a few times.

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