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The District’s restrictive gun laws have been challenged by residents and diluted by judges in the past, but today, the city posted a win for gun control advocates.
A federal judge ruled that the city’s strict gun registration laws pass constitutional muster and should not be overturned.
Today’s decision stems from the 2008 Supreme Court District of Columbia v. Heller case, in which the court struck down the city’s handgun ban on grounds that the Second Amendment protected handgun possession for self-defense in the home. The city subsequently passed laws that banned assault weapons and large-capacity magazines and imposed strict registration requirements for owners of handguns.
But Dick Anthony Heller and his fellow plaintiffs thought these laws also violated their constitutional rights and challenged the new law in court. A district court upheld the constitutionality of the law, but the decision was appealed, and the D.C. Circuit Court ruled that while the ban on assault weapons and large-capacity magazines was permissible, it wanted the city to justify with evidence its decision to enact these strict registration requirements on handguns in order to show that they are not in violation of the Second Amendment.
That brings us to today’s ruling, in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. “The court concludes that the government has met that burden and that the regulations pass constitutional scrutiny,” the judge, James Boasberg, wrote in his opinion.
The registration requirements call for residents to appear in person with the weapon to be registered and submit to fingerprints and photographs for background checks. Residents would be allowed to register only one handgun per month. The requirements also say that a registrant cannot be blind, a provision that the plaintiffs contested. Boasberg ruled today that the plaintiffs didn’t have standing to challenge this provision because none of them are blind.
Boasberg opened his opinion by writing that “[t]he District of Columbia knows gun violence,” and in order to minimize this violence, the city has, over the last several decades, “passed some of the most restrictive gun laws in the nation.”
Mayor Vince Gray lauded the ruling in a statement, saying, “I appreciate the court’s affirmation of our sensible gun control laws and urge other jurisdictions to follow our lead.”
The ruling today can still be appealed.
Read Boasberg’s ruling below:
Gun photo by Shutterstock