Federal judge rules D.C. handgun ban unconstitutional
July 27, 2014
WASHINGTON — A federal judge struck down the District of Columbia’s ban on carrying guns outside of a person’s home, concluding it violates Second Amendment rights.
The ruling from U.S. District Judge is the latest in a protracted fight over gun laws in the District; In 2008, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a landmark decision striking down the city’s 32-year-old ban on handguns. Since then, the city has rewritten its laws, lawsuits have been filed and even Congress has waded into the fight.
In a decision made public late Saturday, Scullin concluded that the Second Amendment gives people the right to carry a gun outside the home for self-defense. He cited two U.S. Supreme Court cases as important to his ruling – the 2008 opinion striking down the District of Columbia’s ban and a 2010 ruling involving Chicago’s handgun ban.
“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,” wrote Scullin, who was appointed by President George H.W. Bush and is a retired Army colonel.
The city rewrote its rules after the 2008 Supreme Court decision. Residents were required to register their guns and keep them in their homes. Gun owners also have to take a safety class, be photographed and fingerprinted and re-register their weapons every three years. Those requirements were challenged in court but upheld by a federal judge in May.
Earlier this month, 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. Massie has conceded his amendment is unlikely to get through the Senate and become law.
The lawsuit before Scullin was filed in 2009 by the Washington state-based Second Amendment Foundation on behalf of three District of Columbia residents and a New Hampshire resident who said they wanted to carry guns for protection but were denied permits by the city.
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.
“If you have the right to bear, that is carry a gun, it wouldn’t make any sense to understand it is limited to just inside your living room,” Gura told ABC 7 News.
Northwest D.C. resident George Lyon, one of the plaintiffs in the case, also applauded the decision.
“I have my guns for personal protection and I’m also a firearms instructor,” he explained to ABC 7. “If I decide to walk my dog at 2 or 3 in the morning and I think I need to carry a hndgun to be safe, then I can do so.”
A spokesman for D.C. Attorney General Irv Nathan told ABC 7 News on Sunday that the city would seek an immediate stay of the judge’s ruling while it considers an appeal.
Mayor Vincent Gray issued a statement Sunday saying that he would be working with Nathan “to ensure that our gun laws remain strong.”
Councilmember Muriel Bowser, the Democratic mayoral nominee and leading contender to succeed Gray, also called the ruling “troubling” and said it posed “a serious threat to public safety in the District.” She too supported efforts to seek a stay while appealing the court decision.