Over the weekend, a federal judge in the District of Columbia overturned the District’s ban on allowing residents to carry firearms outside their home. Palmer v. District of Columbia is a landmark decision for gun rights — at least for the time being. The District of Columbia has said that it will seek a stay of the decision, which became effective immediately, and the District will appeal the decision. An immediate effect of the ruling was an order approved by Police Chief Cathy L. Lanier, who told her force told that District residents are permitted to carry pistols if the weapons are registered. Those who had not registered their handguns could be charged on that ground, the instruction said.
Lanier’s instructions to police also said that residents of other jurisdictions without felony records would not be charged under the ban on carrying pistols. Tom G. Palmer, George Lyon, Edward Raymond, Amy Mcvey, and the Second Amendment Foundation, Inc., are named as plaintiffs in the case. The defendants are the city government and Police Chief Lanier. Interestingly, Palmer was also a defendant in the landmark Heller case.
In his 19-page ruling, Judge Frederick Scullin Jr. wrote, “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.” “Ever since the 2008 Heller ruling by the Supreme Court, the District of Columbia has carried on a campaign of red tape and regulation to discourage citizens from exercising their Second Amendment rights,” said SAF founder and Executive Vice President Alan M. Gottlieb. “This has included bearing arms outside the home for personal protection. We applaud Judge Scullin’s ruling, because the time is long overdue for the city to realize that it is the capitol of the United States, not a police state.” Alan Gura, lead attorney for the Second Amendment Foundation, which funded the case, wrote on his blog, “In 2012, I won Moore v. Madigan, 702 F.3d 933 (7th Cir. 2012), which struck down Illinois’ total ban on the carrying of defensive handguns outside the home. With this decision in Palmer, the nation’s last explicit ban of the right to bear arms has bitten the dust.” Gura had twice asked a federal appeals court to force Judge Scullin to issue a decision. The five plaintiffs filed in 2009, and the case was argued twice, most recently in Oct. 2012.
In Judge Scullin’s decision, he extensively cited Supreme Court decisions in District of Columbia v. Heller in 2008 and McDonald v. Chicago in 2010, concluding, “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.” Additionally, the court “enjoins Defendants from enforcing the home limitations [of D.C. firearms laws] unless and until such time as the District of Columbia adopts a licensing mechanism consistent with constitutional standards enabling people to exercise their Second Amendment right to bear arms.” The court also ordered the city to allow legally qualified residents from the District and other states to carry weapons within its boundaries.
Gottlieb said, “Washington, D.C. is not some political gulag, but the seat of government in a land of free people. A cornerstone of that freedom is the right to keep and bear arms, and where better to exercise that right than in the nation’s capital? We have no intention of letting anti-gun city officials further delay the ability of law-abiding citizens to exercise their rights. As Dr. Martin Luther King said, ‘A right delayed is a right denied.’ SAF lawsuits have overturned laws not only in Washington D.C., but in several states including Illinois, California, North Carolina, New Mexico, Nebraska, and cities like San Francisco, Seattle, Des Moines and New Haven, among others, Gottlieb noted. Threats of SAF lawsuits have removed well over 100 anti-gun-rights laws across the country as well as stopping hundreds more from being enacted, Gottlieb added.
Gura wrote on his blog, “Obviously, the carrying of handguns for self-defense can be regulated. Exactly how is a topic of severe and serious debate, and courts should enforce constitutional limitations on such regulation should the government opt to regulate. But totally banning a right literally spelled out in the Bill of Rights isn’t going to fly. My deepest thanks to the Second Amendment Foundation for making this victory possible and to my clients for hanging in there. Congratulations Americans, your capital is not a constitution-free zone.”
July 29, 2014 — Judge Scullin stayed his decision for 90 days to give city officials and D.C. police officers time to respond to the ruling that overturned the District’s ban.
Do you think District officials will follow the ruling and enact reasonable carry rules for D.C.? Let us hear your thoughts in the comment section below.
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