D.C. Shocker: Federal Judge Strikes Down Carry Ban

Law Shield wants to pass along to our members shockingly good news: on Saturday, after five years, a federal judge in the District of Columbia unexpectedly ruled on Palmer v. District of Columbia, overturning the city’s ban on residents being allowed to register and carry firearms outside their home.

It is a landmark decision for gun-rights activists — at least for the time being. The District of Columbia has said it will appeal the decision.

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.”

Alan Gura, the lead attorney for the Second Amendment Foundation, which funded the fight, twice asked the 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.

Tom G. Palmer, George Lyon, Edward Raymond, Amy Mcvey, and the Second Amendment Foundation, Inc., were named as plaintiffs in the case. The defendants are the city government and Police Chief Cathy L. Lanier.

Gura 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.”

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 [certain 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.” These laws include prohibitions against registration of handguns to be carried in public for self-defense by law abiding citizens, and the open and concealed carry of pistols on the person in public.

The court also ordered the city not to enforce these same laws against individuals based solely on the fact they are non-residents of D.C.

“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.”

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.’

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.”

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