By Dave Workman,
The federal judge who declared the District of Columbia’s ban on carrying guns outside the home for personal protection was unconstitutional issued a 90-day stay, giving the city until late October to either file an appeal or come up with a workable carry ordinance.
The stay came less than 24 hours after District Attorney General Irvin B. Nathan sought the delay. Initially, the city had asked for a 180-day stay but the Second Amendment Foundation (parent of Women & Guns), which filed the case of Palmer v. District of Columbia, would only agree to a 90-day period.
Nathan said in his motion that, “The public interest is not served by rushed legislation on a foundational public-safety issue or by allowing any and all ‘dangerous or deadly’ concealable weapons to be carried in public, without reasonable restrictions being imposed, during the pendency of any appeal and/or new legislation.”
US District Court Judge Frederick J. Scullin, Jr., issued the ruling, and also issued the stay. In his 19-page opinion, Judge Scullin wrote that, “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.”
SAF founder and Executive Vice President Alan Gottlieb was ecstatic over the ruling, noting in a statement to the press, “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. 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.
“Washington, D.C. is not some political gulag,” he added, “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 has emerged as a legal powerhouse on behalf of the Second Amendment since its earlier landmark victory in McDonald v. City of Chicago. That case incorporated the constitutional right to keep and bear arms to the states, via the 14th Amendment. In this case, as in several others including McDonald, SAF is represented by Virginia attorney Alan Gura, who also successfully argued the Heller case that struck down the District’s handgun ban in June 2008 and established that the Second Amendment protects an individual civil right.
But anti-gunners labored to create the impression that the right applies only to the confines of one’s home, based on the Heller ruling’s somewhat narrow language that said people have a right to keep a handgun in their own home for self-defense. Other judges in lower courts have issued opinions since then that such an interpretation defies logic.
The case of Palmer v. District of Columbia was filed in 2009, and was bogged down in court until the case was transferred from the original judge to Judge Scullin, Gottlieb said. Scullin actually sits on a district court in northern New York. District of Columbia police officers were quickly advised not to arrest anyone for carrying a registered handgun, and that is an important detail, and they will not arrest a non-resident whose gun is not registered in the district. The Washington Post noted, “D.C. Metropolitan Police Chief Cathy Lanier has approved an order which allows District residents to carry a handgun IF AND ONLY IF the handgun has been properly registered with the District Police, pursuant to the District’s handgun registration ordinance.”
W&G obtained a copy of Lanier’s memorandum, which states, “Residents of the District in possession of an unregistered firearm may be charged with Unregistered Firearm and, if applicable, Unregistered Ammunition if they do not also reside in a jurisdiction where they could legally possess the firearm. At this time, individuals who do not live in the District shall not be charged with either unregistered firearm or unregistered ammunition, but other charges may apply.”
She spelled out three scenarios dealing with stopping a man on the street carrying a firearm: •“The man says he is a resident of the District, but the gun is unregistered. You should charge him with Unregistered Firearm.” •“The man lives in Vermont, which does not require a license or permit for either open or concealed carry of a handgun. You run his name, and no criminal record is apparent. You should record any relevant information for potential further investigation, and he is free to leave.” •“The man lives in Virginia, where no license or permit is required to openly carry a handgun. However, when you run his name, records indicate that he is a convicted felon. Under District and federal law, felons may not legally possess a firearm. You should arrest him for Unlawful Possession of a Firearm.”
This means that non-residents are not going to be penalized for having non-registered guns. The registration requirement only applies to District residents, so it appears residents are facing a little stricter regulation. The most vocal city official so far has been D.C. Council Chairman Phil Mendelson, who reportedly told the press, “The nation’s capital is a very different place than anywhere else in the country. If there is a right to carry, it would have to be more heavily regulated.”
Other council members have also lined up against the ruling. Councilwoman Mary M. Cheh told the Washington Post, “We’re just full of places where guns would be not only inappropriate but highly dangerous.” In his press release, Gottlieb gave credit to SAF supporters who have made it possible to pay for the legal battles, which have not come inexpensively. “These victories have been made possible by hundreds of thousands of concerned Americans who have financially supported SAF efforts over the years,” Gottlieb noted. “Thanks to them, we have been able to field a first-rate team of legal advocates.”
Gura has been at the helm of that team and their efforts, while not always successful, have served to advance the overall effort. “SAF’s record of legal victories on behalf of the right to keep and bear arms has set the bar for all current and future firearms civil rights litigation,” Gottlieb said. “This is not SAF’s last step, but only the latest, in our efforts to win back firearms freedom, one lawsuit at a time.”W&G