The prolonged battle over gun law in our nation’s capital continues, now that a federal judge declared a gun control law unconstitutional. Judge Fredrick J. Scullin Jr. has ended the prohibition of carrying pistols in public.
This is the latest in a series of cases in D.C., pressed especially by lawyer Alan Guru, representing the Second Amendment Foundation, and, in this case, 3 District of Columbia residents, and a New Hampshire resident, as well, who declare they have a right to carry guns for personal protection. Guru won a 2008 and 2010 Supreme Court case on similar matters: in 2008 he helped strike down D.C.’s 32-year-old ban on handguns, and won a similar ruling in 2010 for Chicago.
Though the issue of gun laws is incendiary, its dispute in Washington D.C. is especially poignant, considering what the location represents, in direct relationship to the Constitution.
“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,” Judge Scullin wrote.
“This is now a decision that the city is required to follow,” said Gura, with aplomb, “The idea that the city can prohibit absolutely the exercise of a constitutional right for all people at all times, that was struck down. That’s just not going to fly.”
Critics of the constitutional law might have a stronger case if they could amend the Constitution itself, but so long as this central American document, which holds all the autonomy of the nation’s DNA, declares, in the Bill of Rights, directly under the celebrated “freedom of speech” amendment, that we also have the right to bear arms, those who conscientiously oppose the use of handguns for the general public will have a pang of patriotic confusion on how to address this important document.
Meanwhile, Gura was quick to remind us of the common argument made for the legalization of gun ownership and gun carrying. “I believe the city is absolutely safer. Make no mistake about it. This is a fantastic improvement in public safety. Yes, we have a problem in America with gun violence. But no, that problem is not the result of law-abiding people carrying guns.”
So we’ve heard, and it’s been stated enough, but what does this mean for Washington? So far, it’s not clear. Police Chief Cathy Lanier was supposed to have received actual notice, but as of Sunday it was not clear the police had. Of course, all parties involves must be informed and given a chance to appeal before a decision takes effect. Ted Gest, spokesman for the Office of the Attorney General for the District of Columbia, who took the city’s side in defending the ban, is studying the opinion and weighing his options. Though Scullin said he was stopping the law’s enforcement “unless and until” the city produced a constitutionally valid mechanism of validating licensing, the city is seeking a stay.
Gun owners are still required to register their guns, as was decided in 2008, and to take safety classes, get photographed and fingerprinted, and to register their guns again every three years: though these safe-gates were challenged in May by a Federal Judge, they held up. Gest’s next move will probably be in the direction of appeal, but as he said, he was “studying the opinion and won’t comment on its substance.”
The case, therefore, is not settled – all the legal ropes must be set in place before the change can be made – but we at least see the suggestion that the representative District of Columbia is making great changes to how gun control is put into law.