By C.N. Staff Writer
In late July, the District’s ban on carrying handguns in public was struck down by a federal judge who called the restrictions “unconstitutional.” In a 19-page ruling that was released late Saturday July 26, 2014, Judge Frederick J. Scullin Jr. ordered the city to allow residents to carry handguns — a milestone in a case that has been dragging on for five years. The previous law only allowed residents to possess a gun in their home or business.
District Court Judge Scullin, Jr. said, “There is no longer any basis on which this court can conclude that the District of Columbia’s total ban on the public carrying of ready-to-use handguns outside the home is constitutional under any level of scrutiny. Therefore, the court finds that the District of Columbia’s complete ban on the carrying of handguns in public is unconstitutional.” The city has the right to appeal the decision, and a spokesman for the Office of the Attorney General said his office is “studying the ruling and considering our options.”
The court ordered the city to allow residents to carry handguns outside their homes and to let non-residents carry them as well. The fight for handguns goes back to 2008, when the Supreme Court struck down the District of Columbia’s all-out ban on handguns on the basis that it violated the right to bear arms guaranteed by the Constitution’s Second Amendment. Since then, the city has rewritten its laws, lawsuits have been filed and even Congress has waded into the fight. Republican Rep. Thomas Massie of Kentucky successfully added an amendment to a bill that would block the District from spending any money to enforce local gun laws. Mr. Massie has conceded his amendment is unlikely to get through the Senate and become law.
In a challenge to the 2008 law, a lawsuit was filed in 2009, PALMER et al v. DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA, which was based on the Second Amendment Foundation and four gun owners and argued that the District’s “laws, customs, practices and policies generally banning the carrying of handguns in public violate the Second Amendment” of the U.S. Constitution.
The three D.C. residents who are part of the lawsuit, are licensed gun owners in the District who each had gun-registration applications rejected by the Metropolitan Police Department because they stated their intention was to carry the loaded guns on their person outside their homes. A fourth plaintiff in the case is a New Hampshire resident who was charged with illegally carrying a gun in the District after he was stopped for speeding. He later sought a permit to allow him to legally carry his handgun when he traveled through the city, but had his application rejected by the Metropolitan Police Department, which handles gun licensing.
Alan Gura, the lawyer who represents the group challenging the ban and who won the 2008 and 2010 Supreme Court cases, said Sunday he was very pleased. “With this decision in Palmer, the nation’s last explicit ban of the right to bear arms has bitten the dust,” said Gura.
In a blog post about the decision, Gura wrote, “Obviously, the carrying of handguns for self-defense can be regulated. … But totally banning a right literally spelled out in the Bill of Rights isn’t going to fly.”