Judge Rules D.C. Gun Ban Unconstitutional

July 30, 2014

A federal judge in Washington, D.C. has ruled that the district's ban on carrying handguns in public is unconstitutional.

Formerly, Washington D.C.'s legal code gave the Chief of Police the authority to issue handgun licenses to individuals residing in the district (though standard practice was not to issue the licenses at all). In 2008, the D.C. City Council officially abolished the Police Chief's power to issue handgun carry licenses.

A number of D.C. residents who sought to carry handguns for self-defense sued. The district denied them licenses to carry the guns and only allowed them to keep their handguns in their homes.

The case, Palmer v. District of Columbia, follows two important gun rights cases that found their way to the Supreme Court:

  • Heller v. District of Columbia involved a D.C. law that banned home handgun possession and required any other firearms to be kept disassembled or bound by a trigger lock. In 2008, the Court ruled that the restrictions violated the Second Amendment.
  • McDonald v. Chicago involved a handgun ban in the city of Chicago. Answering a question that had previously been unclear, the Supreme Court ruled in 2010 that the Second Amendment was applicable to the states.

In Palmer, the judge used these past cases to analyze the D.C. law, finding:

  • The right to bear arms is not limited to the home.
  • The total ban on carrying handguns within the district infringes on the right to bear arms.

Judge Frederick Scullin, who authored the opinion, concluded, "In light of Heller, McDonald, and their progeny, 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."

Source: Palmer v. District of Columbia, Case No. 1:09-CV-1482, United States District Court for the District of Columbia, July 26, 2014. 

 

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