tv Dick Heller at Conservative Political Action Conference CSPAN February 26, 2018 9:54am-10:12am EST
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national constitution center interactive constitution. heller is the respondent in the court case district of columbia v heller that challenged gun laws in the capital. he spoke at the cpac conference. following that, a discussion on supreme court and second amendment. dick heller. this is dick heller. those of you that heard of heller supreme court, this is dick heller. it's a real man. right? >> a real dude.
>> it's a real dude. he's a real dude. he is a dude. we're great friends and he has changed my life in the sense that i have the right and have a gun at home legally in district of columbia solely because of this man's fight. >> thank you. >> so dick, take me back because people hear about the heller decision and don't realize it was one man that fought and fought and fought for so many years. take me back to, i am sure it was before i was born, when this all started. >> i moved to washington, d.c. in 1976, three months later said oh, my favorite television program is "gunsmoke" i like matt dillon guns, i went and bought one because there were no regulation o
regulation or restrictions. i bought that in july, 1976. and in october they passed a law that said you were no longer allowed to own any kind of firearm in d.c., but you could not buy one after that, but you could be grandfathered in by coming down to the police station and registering your firearm. >> think about that. >> that did not sound right to me. i said why would i want to register it, it is because they want my address. why do they want my address? because they want to come get my gun for confiscation. i said no. so i had some options. i could turn the gun in to the police station, i could throw it in the dumpster, or i could go to jail. so i took my gun out of the district to my brother's house, i said there's got to be a fourth option. >> so you had this gun and you saw that, for those of you from normal parts of the country, i
always have to explain it so you understand it. there were until dick heller fought this fight and won it in the supreme court in 2018, this is the tenth anniversary, what we're celebrating today, tenth anniversary of restoring our second amendment right to keep arms. the man himself. it was illegal. they made it, obviously unconstitutional, in d.c., new york, chicago, in these liberal urban places. they actually made it illegal to own a gun. not talking about carrying it, talking about owning it at home for self defense. that's what he fought for. he fought for the individual right to keep arms and the supreme court decided in your case. what did you do, how did you fight and how did your case get to the supreme court level? how many years did it take? >> when they took my right, my second amendment right away in 1976, i said there is a second amendment right, somehow i am allowed to own this firearm.
but i didn't know anything about the law. i was just a computer programmer. so in 1976, i started doing research, talking to everybody i could over a period of time in the think tanks, getting ideas. in 1993, we met think tanks that sort of liked the idea. a couple of us paired up and got some people to support us. and at the same time, the cato institute had the same idea, and we paired up and eventually we had six plaintiffs that decided we're going to fight the city. we sued the city sometime thereafter, and the rest, i don't remember the dates exactly, it is in the law books. >> that's boring. keep going. the lawyers are next. we'll get into the boring stuff. we're focusing on you the man,
as you tell your story, i never knew you went to think tanks. how many of you go there to change constitutional laws? >> what's a think tank, right? out in the real world. >> you had to do all this research on your own, you got all these people. like you said, neither of us are lawyers, you don't know about this. this case builds. people start coming and supporting it, and it goes through. what was the first ruling that it had, when you appealed and said i can't own a gun which the constitution second amendment all of you who have your constitutions out, pull them out, second amendment, the right to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed except in washington, d.c. and other liberal cities. no, no, no. so when you started getting building the case, what was the first decision made in the courts on your right to have a gun at home? >> let's see. the first decision would have been since it was a federal issue, firearm constitutional issue was a federal case, went
to the d.c. district court it is called. and let's see. a struggle to get there. but decisions flip flop back and forth. finally we won in the appellate court, and d.c. said we're going to challenge this. >> by saying you won, you got to the appellate court, which you know they're regional around the country. d.c. appellate court said you won, meaning d.c. can't ban completely owning guns. then d.c., the mayor, said we're going to appeal to the supreme court. >> exactly. >> and that was a tactical mistake well known now by the d.c. mayor, city council, because it opened up which a lot of people did not see coming, supreme court made a ruling in 2018 in the landmark heller case that said what? >> the supreme court, my favorite quote.
there's a lot of stories, interesting stories to get to the supreme court, but my favorite story about the supreme court is that i didn't know anything about the law, i didn't know how the decision might go, but when they announced that justice scalia was going to read the decision, and i like to -- this is my quote. here is what scalia said. we are not here today to erase the second amendment from the united states constitution. unquote. i didn't know anything but i know we had won something. >> god rest his soul, justice scalia. >> rest in peace. that's what he will be famous for forever. >> and what was it like, i never asked you this. you go to the supreme court, it is i suggest it is an amazing american experience, understanding that, we don't get
to see it on tv. when you're there, this case, it is lawyers and governments and cities and stuff, but it is all about the case comes down to dick heller. that's it. what was it like sitting in the front row with all of the justices in front of you? >> it is amazing. the supreme court gallery for observers is not much bigger than this inner area. >> it is very small. unexpectedly. >> very small. it was full of people. and you could hear your heartbeat. it was like being in a quiet room, if you're familiar with that. and if a mouse ran across the floor, you would have heard it. >> you've sat in that front table, looking up at the supreme court justices. >> well, the other thing is it was so quiet, how quiet was it, other than the mouse, it was so quiet, total silence, and then the court clerk smashes the gavel and says oh yea, oh yea,
and the justices come through the curtain, and the noise was the swishing of their robes as they climbed four steps to the bench. that's how quiet it was. this was a solemn moment. >> that's very cool. i mean, and you're like oh, here they come. >> what is that noise? and you're looking for it. >> and swoosh. >> while you're sitting there thinking, as you all know, but we forget, supreme court hears a case and doesn't make a decision for many, many months later. when you're sitting in the courtroom, are you thinking i can't believe i started this 20 years ago, and here we are in the supreme court with the swishing robes? >> i said it's not the victory, it's the journey. 20 years of journey, maybe 30, 35 years.
'76 to 2006. is that 40 years, 30 years? i'm not a math major. what was impressive also was the night before, people were lined up to sleep on the sidewalk overnight. and i lived one block from the corner of the supreme court building. so i strolled over on my bicycle. >> he is so normal, right? >> oh shucks, guys, what are you all doing here, what's going on. they were telling me man, this is the greatest thing since -- greatest gun decision that's ever happened. and we're just so excited to be here. they were jumping up and down. i was like yeah, okay, cool. >> they didn't recognize you? >> of course not. i was very unpublic. but it was march 18th. it was very cold in washington as the sun goes down, they're preparing to sleep on the concrete. i went to the local drugstore,
got two great big bags of cough drops, i went down the line and passed them out. said oh, you'll need these. they said thank you very much. >> this is the sweetest story. he went out and gave cough drops so they wouldn't get sick waiting for the case. >> four cough drops per hand that were held out. >> i never heard this before. >> i met a couple, dave and colleen rossen, she had the first smart phone i had seen. she was telling me all about it. so we became real good friends real fast. and the next day when the line was up, ready to go into the supreme court, i went down that line and shook everybody's hands. i said hi, i am dick heller, thanks for coming. when i got to them, i mean, a lot of people met me the night before said you're the guy. short story. dave and colleen talked about it and they said they went back to chicago and they said that dick
heller is such a normal dude, if he can do what he did, see, they think it was me all by myself, it was a battery of lawyers, a team. >> it is always, it was one man. it was one man. sitting in that courthouse. with a lot of fancy lawyers. >> they said that dick heller, he is such a normal, ordinary dude. if he can do that, we can do that. dave and colleen lawson put together the otis and laura mcdonald. mcdonald versus chicago. >> so everybody staunldundersta little constitutional history. when the heller decision was made in 2018, 08, it said the individual right to keep arms, own at home cannot be infringed. there was a lot of confusion whether it belonged to the militia. i suggest highly reading that heller decision. it is so readable, it is not boring legal stuff, it is so
interesting, but it is easy to read, not unapproachable. it said but the problem was overall for the country, d.c. is not a state, thank goodness. so it only applied to d.c. what he is talking about is when this couple went to chicago and started a new lawsuit two years later, supreme court, based on the heller decision, made it for the entire country that we'll always have the right. >> what's fascinating is 15 minutes after justice scalia said we're not here to erase the second amendment, the lawsuit was filed in the city of chicago that same day and that started the ball, kept the ball rolling. >> those of you who are aware know that the battles on gun control, constitutional issues of gun control are not over.
dick and i complain all the time about d.c. put in this crazy registration system, we have to go to the government every time we buy a gun, they have to know about our guns. there's a lot more to fight. this is the time to look back and say it is the first time the united states government through the supreme court ruled that we as individuals have a natural god given right to defend ourselves in our home. and dick, what have you seen in the ten years since how this has impacted our country, impacted our understanding of what one person can do if the constitution and our rights are not adhered to. >> after justice scalia said it is a constitutional enumerated individual right, i was shocked a couple of years later to find there were 75 other law cases, lawsuits that had been brought in states throughout the country. and now if you do the count,
ooici'm shocked to find out it is maybe more than 300 gun cases have been filed to defend our second amendment right, and right now there's a case in hawaii, fisher versus collia for challenging total gun law restrictions in hawaii which will cause a conflict with other supreme courts, some other appellate court cases. so we might see another decision coming down in a few years. >> the fight for the constitution, what we are talking about, to be clear, what both of us talk about, what dick heller valiantly fought for and continues to to this day, he keeps fighting on every other issue is about our constitutional rights of law abiding people to defend ourselves. that's what we're talking about. and he will continue to fight on so many fronts which are what you hope to see in your lifetime, what would you like to
see of the second amendment recognized? >> when i started becoming aware, i had a mantra. i said in a totally free country you do not need permission from the government to defend your life and own a firearm. a fellow walked into my office, i'm a policeman full time, a fellow walked into my office, i said oh, you're from florida or someplace, some constitutional carry state which means you don't need any government interaction to own a firearm. i said oh, you're from say it is arizona. you're from arizona. i said you have constitutional carry there. his response was well, why would you want a piece of paper from the government to own a firearm? and i think that's it. that was beautiful. >> thank you for showing us how any american can fight for our individual rights, take it all the way. when the government ovst