In 2008, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled 5-4 that the ban on handguns in the nation’s capital was unconstitutional. How did our federal district end up violating the Second Amendment right of American citizens?
In 1976, the city council passed a gun control law to decrease the rate of violent crimes. Residents who’d registered handguns before that year could keep them, but only in the home. Residents were permitted to own and keep unloaded and disassembled or trigger-locked registered rifles and shotguns in the home.
The handgun ban didn’t lower the rate of violent crime, but its existence meant only criminals and law enforcement carried handguns. Law-abiding residents did not, and a group of them challenged the infringing law. The U.S. District Court dismissed the suit, but the D.C. Circuit reversed that ruling. A three-judge panel declared the handgun ban unconstitutional and refused to rehear the case.
The district appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, which contended that the Second Amendment “protects an individual’s right to possess a firearm unconnected with service in a militia, and to use that arm for traditionally lawful purposes, such as self-defense within the home.” The court added that the trigger-lock requirement violated the Constitution.
In July, the U.S. District Court ruled the law against carrying handguns unconstitutional. Last week, the city council “grudgingly” passed a law to authorize concealed carry permits:
The legislation calls for a lengthy safety course to obtain the concealed carry permit, including 16 hours of classroom training and two hours of firing range training.
Open carry would not be permitted.
The council is likely to pass the bill, but it would only take effect for 90 days and give lawmakers time to appeal, The Washington Post reported.
In a surprising move, gun owners want the court to block the concealed carry law; they say it’s too restrictive. Attorney Alan Gura wrote, “They have merely dusted off their earlier statute restricting handgun carry licenses at the police chief’s pleasure, a licensing regime which explicitly rejects the notion that people have a right to carry handguns for self-defense.”
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Photo credit: MMR Dad (Creative Commons)