Fight Against D.C. Gun Ban Grew Out of Fear, Frus­tra­tion

Wo­man Says Statute Puts Neigh­bor­hood Ac­tivists at Risk

The Washington Post Sunday - - Metro - By Elissa Sil­ver­man

Shelly Parker did ev­ery­thing she could to keep her home safe. She owned a dog. She called D. C. po­lice when she sus­pected il­le­gal ac­tiv­ity on her block. She in­stalled a se­cu­rity cam­era on her front win­dow.

Her crime- fight­ing ef­forts made an im­pres­sion. One night, Parker found her car win­dow smashed and saw rocks scat­tered around the ve­hi­cle. She felt it was re­tal­i­a­tion for her vig­i­lance.

“ That re­ally dis­turbed me to my core,” re­called Parker, who said she of­ten re­ceived ver­bal taunts while walk­ing her mala­mute, Bar­ney, near her home on the north­east­ern edge of Capi­tol Hill.

A po­lice of­fi­cer gave her some ad­vice, Parker said. Get a gun, he told her. Parker later joined five other D. C. res­i­dents who took the Dis­trict gov­ern­ment to court in an ef- fort to over­turn the city’s 31- yearold hand­gun ban. In March, a panel of the U. S. Court of Ap­peals for the D. C. Cir­cuit ruled in their fa­vor, strik­ing down key el­e­ments of the re­stric­tive statute by a 2 to 1 vote. Among other things, the judges said the Sec­ond Amend­ment gives res­i­dents the right to keep loaded guns in their homes.

The law­suit bear­ing her name, Parker vs. the Dis­trict of Colum-

Pre­lim­i­nary Sup­port of School Takeover Coun­cil Says Stu­dent Ex­o­dus Must Be Stopped

The Dis­trict is on the path to join sev­eral other big cities, most no­tably New York, in tak­ing con­trol of its pub­lic schools away from an elected board and mak­ing it the mayor’s re­spon­si­bil­ity.

The D.C. Coun­cil has granted pre­lim­i­nary ap­proval for a dra­matic power shift, giv­ing the mayor con­trol over the bud­get, key ad­min­is­tra­tive func­tions and the blue­print for mod­ern­iz­ing ev­ery di­lap­i­dated build­ing in the 55,000-stu­dent sys­tem.

Coun­cil mem­bers ap­proved the takeover 9 to 2 on the first read­ing af­ter speak­ing of the need for sweep­ing change to stop the ex­o­dus of stu­dents from pub­lic schools. They said they are putting their trust in Mayor Adrian M. Fenty (D), who lob­bied for the takeover af­ter tak­ing of­fice in Jan­uary.

Coun­cil Back­ing HPV In­oc­u­la­tions Bill Al­lows Par­ents to Make Fi­nal De­ci­sion

The Dis­trict might be­come one of the few ju­ris­dic­tions in the coun­try to re­quire pre­teen girls to get in­oc­u­lated against a virus that can cause cer­vi­cal can­cer.

In a 7 to 3 vote that por­tends fi­nal pas­sage at its sec­ond and fi­nal read­ing this month, the D.C. Coun­cil sup­ported adding a vac­cine for hu­man pa­pil­lo­mavirus, or HPV, to the school im­mu­niza­tion sched­ule. The de­ci­sion came the same day that direc­tors of Chil­dren’s Hospi­tal rec­om­mended that the three-dose vac­cine Gar­dasil be made manda­tory for pre-ado­les­cent and ado­les­cent girls.

Un­der the pro­posed D.C. law, girls would have to get in­oc­u­lated be­fore en­rolling in the sixth grade. A pro­vi­sion al­lows their par­ents to have their girls ex­cused from the re­quire­ment, adding a level of flex­i­bil­ity that some ex­perts worry could de­crease com­pli­ance not only with the HPV vac­cine but with other vac­cines as well.

New Anti-Ter­ror­ism Leader Named Co­or­di­na­tor Shielded U.S. Build­ings Abroad

The De­part­ment of Home­land Se­cu­rity has named a new anti-ter­ror­ism co­or­di­na­tor to the of­fice re­spon­si­ble for the Dis­trict, Vir­ginia and Mary­land.

Christo­pher T. Gel­dart, 38, was ap­pointed to head the Na­tional Capi­tol Re­gion of­fice, which is as­signed to guard the re­gion against ter­ror­ist at­tacks and other dis­as­ters.

Gel­dart spent 12 years in the Marines, where one of his as­sign­ments was pro­tect­ing U.S. gov­ern­ment fa­cil­i­ties abroad from weapons of mass de­struc­tion. He worked most re­cently in Mary­land as as­sis­tant di­rec­tor of home­land se­cu­rity in the Ehrlich ad­min­is­tra­tion.

Lanier Con­firmed as Po­lice Chief Force Will Be­come More ‘Proac­tive,’ Leader Says

Cathy L. Lanier, vow­ing to make sweep­ing changes in how to tackle crime, was con­firmed as the Dis­trict’s first per­ma­nent fe­male po­lice chief.

A 16-year vet­eran of the force, she said she in­tends to make the de­part­ment more “proac­tive” and less “re­ac­tive.” As an ex­am­ple, she said she will have dis­trict com­man­ders study crime trends, eco­nomic data and de­mo­graph­ics to de­velop strate­gies. If new de­vel­op­ment is com­ing to the neigh­bor­hood, de­ploy­ments will shift to re­flect the change.

Lanier said she hopes to an­tic­i­pate when and where waves of crime will oc­cur and to place of­fi­cers in crime-prone ar­eas to de­ter it.

Po­lice Logs Say FBI Aided In­ter­ro­ga­tion War Pro­test­ers Were De­tained in Garage

FBI agents worked along­side D.C. po­lice of­fi­cers to de­tain and in­ter­ro­gate war op­po­nents in a down­town park­ing garage dur­ing a 2002 protest against the loom­ing war in Iraq, ac­cord­ing to newly un­cov­ered D.C. po­lice logs.

The agents were part of a se­cret FBI intelligence unit that worked to sep­a­rate about 20 peo­ple to ques­tion them about protests they had at­tended and their po­lit­i­cal views, ac­cord­ing to court records re­lat­ing to a civil law­suit.

The pro­test­ers had been charged with tres­pass­ing at the garage, but charges were dropped be­cause of a lack of ev­i­dence.

Law en­force­ment of­fi­cials had pre­vi­ously sug­gested that the FBI had no role in the in­ci­dent. bia, prob­a­bly will make its way to the U. S. Supreme Court. The D. C. at­tor­ney gen­eral’s of­fice said that the city will file a pe­ti­tion to­mor­row to have the case re­heard be­fore the full Court of Ap­peals. The gun law is ex­pected to re­main in­tact while pro­ceed­ings un­fold.

The court’s de­ci­sion has been hailed by gun- rights or­ga­ni­za­tions and oth­ers who con­sider them­selves staunch de­fend­ers of con­sti­tu­tional rights. But D. C. of­fi­cials and gun- con­trol ad­vo­cates fear wiping out the ban will pro­lif­er­ate vi­o­lence. Some have ar­gued that the half- dozen res­i­dents who filed the law­suit are out­side the norm in a city once la­beled the na­tion’s mur­der cap­i­tal.

For Parker, the court rul­ing is a vic­tory for Dis­trict res­i­dents who be­lieve a firearm pro­vides pro­tec­tion when fight­ing for safe com­mu­ni­ties. “ The only thing be­tween me and some­body en­ter­ing my home are harsh words,” Parker said. “ That’s all I have.”

Robert A. Levy, the lawyer who bankrolled the law­suit, wanted a di­verse group of com­plainants, and Parker, a 44- year- old soft­ware de­signer, is one of two black fe­male plain­tiffs. She said the ban on hand­guns puts neigh­bor­hood ac­tivists at risk of be­ing sub­jected to threats and ha­rass­ment. Hav­ing a pis­tol in her home would level the play­ing field, she said.

“ It’s a de­ter­rent. I think it would give a crim­i­nal pause,” she said.

Her ex­pe­ri­ence liv­ing in a gen­tri­fy­ing cor­ner of the city in­formed her view. When she first con­sid­ered buy­ing the yel­low house in the 200 block of 14th Place NE, Parker re­called re­cently, she was charmed by the nar­row, one- way street with its clumped row­houses that al­most border the side­walk.

An Army brat who served in the Navy, Parker had lived in many places and was hardly naive about buy­ing a home in an area some might con­sider in tran­si­tion. She did her due dili­gence, she said, re­turn­ing to the area at night and on a week­end be­fore de­cid­ing to make the pur­chase.

She moved in Fe­bru­ary 2002, part of a wave of af­flu­ent new home­own­ers dur­ing that time who con­trib­uted to a swift es­ca­la­tion of hous­ing prices in the area.

Then spring came, and her “ cute, quaint street” took on an en­tirely dif­fer­ent char­ac­ter.

In the warm weather, a group of men loi­tered on the block, drink­ing beer, smok­ing mar­i­juana and at­tract­ing a lot of traf­fic that Parker sus­pected was re­lated to drug sales. Some­times they hung out on var­i­ous front stoops, in­clud­ing her own. Parker no­ticed that the cars stopped for one young man in par­tic­u­lar, who she learned had grown up on the block and whose mother still lived there.

Parker asked her neigh­bors how they had dealt with the is­sue in years past.

Most had set­tled on the path of least re­sis­tance, park­ing their cars and quickly rush­ing into their homes, they told her. Some black neigh­bors said that the po­lice didn’t pay much at­ten­tion to the area and pa­trolled more vig­i­lantly on the other side of Lin­coln Park, which was more af­flu­ent and white. Parker said some even told her that they were ini­tially dis­ap­pointed when they saw she was the home buyer. “ I had some of my neigh­bors say, ‘ I had hoped you were white.’ They had hoped it had been some­body who was white, some­body who would re­ally step in and put the fear of God in the drug dealer and stop some of the non­sense go­ing on,” she re­called.

Parker started call­ing the po­lice and took to the streets in orange- hat cit­i­zen pa­trols. When men planted them­selves near her house, she told them to take a hike. Her neigh­bors con­firm her rec­ol­lec­tion of events.

“ She didn’t have a prob­lem let­ting them know how she felt,” said Elaine Lockard, who lived two doors down from Parker.

Lockard ad­mit­ted that she had thrown up her hands, driv­ing her car in re­verse at times to avoid the posse usu­ally hang­ing out at the far end of her street.

“ Af­ter a pe­riod of time, you get in that mode — and it’s bad — where you say it’s not hap­pen­ing at my end of the block,” said Lockard, who has lived in her house and known some of Parker’s ad­ver­saries since child­hood.

Early one morn­ing, about 1 o’clock, Parker was awak­ened by a boom­ing noise. Some­one had thrown a rock at her front win­dow, but only the first pane of the dou­ble- paned glass had bro­ken.

She once again felt threat­ened. “ A gun in my sit­u­a­tion would only be used in cir­cum­stances when my alarm goes off, it’s the mid­dle of the night, I’m dead asleep, I hear glass break­ing, and the dog runs un­der the bed. . . . It’s a sit­u­a­tion where you yell down the stairs and say, ‘ I have a gun.’ ”

Walk­ing in the park­ing lot near her of­fice in Tysons Cor­ner one day, Parker spot­ted a car with a bumper sticker that read: www. black­man­with­a­gun. com.

She told the driver about what was hap­pen­ing in her neigh­bor­hood. He put her in touch with one of his friends, Alan Gura, one of the lawyers in the gun lit­i­ga­tion. She agreed to be a plain­tiff but said she was sur­prised to see her last name promi­nently as­so­ci­ated with the case.

By that time, re­la­tions had grown par­tic­u­larly tense with the young man Parker con­sid­ered the mag­net for trou­ble on her block. One night, Parker said, he shook her iron gate and shouted, “[ Ex­ple­tive], I’ll kill you. I live on this block, too.”

He was charged with felony threat but was ac­quit­ted.

Frus­trated by the neigh­bor­hood crime, Parker de­cided about two years ago that it was time to move out of the neigh­bor­hood, and she now lives off 14th Street NW near Columbia Heights. Many of her new neigh­bors do not know of her in­volve­ment in the law­suit, and she was re­luc­tant to be pho­tographed for this ar­ti­cle.

“ I’m try­ing to avoid the no­to­ri­ety of be­ing la­beled a gun- tot­ing mama,” she said.

Parker is still quite mem­o­rable to her 14th Place neigh­bors. Sev­eral said that they un­der­stood, and even sup­ported, her view on the hand­gun ban.

Heather Schoell, who lives around the cor­ner from Parker’s old house, agreed that the ban puts law- abid­ing cit­i­zens at a dis­ad­van­tage. “ You’re not go­ing to go out on a limb and make waves if you don’t have backup,” she said.

In­spec­tor Kevin Kee­gan, who is in charge of the 1st Po­lice Dis­trict sub­sta­tion, said Parker might cre­ate more prob­lems by hav­ing a gun. “ The suc­cess sto­ries of self- de­fense are few and far be­tween com­pared to the ac­ci­dents and neg­li­gence and guns be­ing stolen and end­ing up in crimes and homi­cides,” he said.

That is also the view of sev­eral D. C. elected of­fi­cials, in­clud­ing Mayor Adrian M. Fenty ( D) and the Dis­trict’s con­gres­sional del­e­gate, Eleanor Holmes Nor­ton ( D), who both ex­pressed out­rage at the court’s de­ci­sion.

El­iz­a­beth Nelson, who writes the Buzz, a neigh­bor­hood news­let­ter, said that al­though there are some nui­sance crimes on that block, the greater is­sue is in sur­round­ing streets. The liquor stores in the area, in par­tic­u­lar, are mag­nets for il­le­gal ac­tiv­ity. Nelson said she and her hus­band, who is an ad­vi­sory neigh­bor­hood com­mis­sioner, dis­agree on the gun ban. She said he wants to keep it in place.

“ I’m not that up­set about the gun ban be­ing over­turned,” Nelson said.

Parker said that her fam­ily largely sup­ports her in­volve­ment in the suit. But she said that her sis­ter, who has two chil­dren and lives in the Mary­land sub­urbs, told her she is wary of hav­ing her chil­dren visit if Parker gets a gun in the house.

BY JESSIE CO­HEN FOR THE SMITH­SO­NIAN IN­STI­TU­TION

Root­ing for a Cub Us­ing se­men from a gi­ant panda at the San Diego Zoo, of­fi­cials at the Na­tional Zoo ar­ti­fi­cially in­sem­i­nated Mei Xiang.

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