The District of Columbia’s strict gun control law, on the books since 1976, has been struck down by the United States Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit. Rejecting the argument that the Second Amendment right to bear arms applies only to militias, the court ruled that a ban on citizens owning guns is unconstitutional. The court also said that the law’s provision requiring licensed handguns to be stored unloaded violates constitutional protections.
Judges Lawrence H. Silberman, Thomas B. Griffith and Karen Lecraft Henderson heard the case. Judges Silberman and Griffith constituted the majority while Judge Henderson dissented. The six D.C. plaintiffs were residents who wanted to keep guns in their homes for protection but unable to do so because D.C. bans its citizens from owning handguns. The D.C. Code § 7-2052.02(a)4), has barred the registration of any new handguns since the gun ban took effect. Guns registered prior to the ban are exempt from the ban but must be stored unloaded under another Code provision.
Road signs on the highways into the District of Columbia warn visitors of the gun control law, generally considered the strictest in the nation.
The full opinion in today’s court ruling in Parker v. District of Columbia, No. 04-7041 (March 9, 2007) can be read at http://pacer.cadc.uscourts.gov/docs/common/opinions/200703/04-7041a.pdf.
This case had a high national profile because of the national interest in gun control legislation both pro and con. Many state attorney generals filed amicus curiae briefs in support of the appellants, while the National Rifle Association and other groups filed amicus briefs in support of reversing the lower court which had upheld the gun ban.
The central issue in the case was the meaning of the Second Amendment clause stating that “a well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed “
The District of Columbia argued that the second amendment applied only to militias. The court rejected this argument and noted that such militias no longer exist and the second amendment would have no meaning today if it applied only to militias. It also rejected another interpretation of the Second Amendment, that the National Guard is the modern equivalent of the militia and since it is fully armed by the government, there is no need for individuals to own guns to protect the states against encroachment on their powers by the federal government.
Of all the Federal Circuit Courts that have ruled on whether the Second Amendment affords individual citizens the right to own handguns, only the Fifth Circuit has said it does prior to today’s ruling.
http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20070309/ap_on_re_us/dc_gun_ban, http://www.foxnews.com/wires/2007Mar09/0,4670,DCGunBan,00.htm, http://pacer.cadc.uscourts.gov/docs/common/opinions/200703/04-7041a.pdf.