By Alan Gottlieb and Dave Workman

Martin Luther King put it best: “A right delayed is a right denied.”

The lesson appears to have been lost on the Department of Justice and Solicitor General Paul D. Clement in the amicus curiae brief submitted recently for the government in the case of District of Columbia v. Heller, which challenges the city’s 31-year-old handgun ban, a horrible gun law that has had its day in court, and lost.

In a transparent exercise of political pandering, Clement and his colleagues named on the brief have strenuously, and correctly, argued that the Second Amendment protects an individual civil right, yet they insist that every restrictive gun law currently on the books should stand. They want this case sent back to the lower courts for further consideration. Translation: Legal sleight of hand is being used to make the Second Amendment a right “in name only.” And Mr. Clement appears to suggest that the longer the Supreme Court can put off deciding whether a restrictive gun law violates that important civil right, the better.

While it is gratifying that the government properly holds the Second Amendment to be protective of an individual right, that gratification is greatly diminished by the argument that this case requires further review. That would be a great injustice, and as Dr. King once noted, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”

The good citizens of Washington, D.C. have waited long enough for this Draconian law to be challenged, and to further delay a ruling is to spit in the faces of all of those people who have waited for years to simply exercise their right of self-defense. The ban has been an utter failure, with violent crime actually rising after its inception.

By Mr. Clement’s logic, the high court should have ruled that women have abortion rights, but they would be forever waiting to exercise those rights while their cases would be remanded back down the legal chain for further consideration.

By Mr. Clement’s logic, segregation laws would still be under lower court review, and Rosa Parks would still be sitting in the back of the bus.

Many District residents are African American. Aren’t they as deserving of the same rights as black citizens in Cleveland, Ohio? In our new book, America Fights Back: Armed Self-Defense in a Violent Age, we recount the story of Damon Wells, a Cleveland resident who was targeted by teenage street thugs illegally armed with a handgun, as legions of violent criminals now running the streets of Washington, D.C. are armed. The difference in Wells’ case was that he was also armed, and when the punk with the gun threatened to kill him, Wells shot first. Cleveland’s black community rallied around Wells, with whom they identified as an “everyman” faced with the genuine threat of being victimized in his own neighborhood by predators that live there.

Perhaps the Clement brief should have come as no surprise. After all, the current Department of Justice has not been friendly toward individual rights – portions of the Patriot Act, for example, have horrified civil libertarians and conservatives alike – and it appears DoJ is simply trying to delay a ruling it fears will challenge what they describe in their brief as “the government’s interest.”

Here’s a new flash: We’re talking about a constitutionally-protected civil right, and the only interest government should have is enforcing that right, not eroding it. The Clement brief reflects cowardice on the part of the Justice Department, and a desire for expediency over what is right when an insidious, but politically correct gun law just might be struck down.

Dr. King put this philosophy in its proper perspective when he wrote, “Cowardice asks the question, ‘Is it safe?’ Expediency asks the question, ‘Is it politic?’ Vanity asks the question, ‘Is it popular?’ But, conscience asks the question, ‘Is it right?’ And there comes a time when one must take a position that is neither safe, nor politic, nor popular, but one must take it because one’s conscience tells one that it is right.”