- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 8, 2007

A federal appeals court yesterday denied a petition by D.C. officials to reconsider a March ruling that overturned the District’s 30-year-old gun ban.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit ruled 6-4 to deny the District’s request that the entire court review a previous ruling in which a three-judge panel found some of the District’s gun restrictions to be unconstitutional. The one-page order contained no explanation for the court’s decision.

The decision not to rehear the case means city officials must appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court if they hope to preserve what had been considered among the most-stringent gun laws in the nation.

Mayor Adrian M. Fenty yesterday said he was “disappointed” and “surprised” by the denial. He said that he is reviewing yesterday’s court decision and that city officials have 90 days to file an appeal to the Supreme Court.

“We want to say emphatically that the District’s gun-control laws, as have been outlined by many law-enforcement experts, are a critical part of the District’s public safety strategy and have been so for more than 30 years,” said Mr. Fenty, a Democrat. “It is our intent to immediately begin reviewing all of our options over the next few weeks and to soon make a decision and an announcement about how we will proceed.”

Mr. Fenty said his administration is also considering working with the D.C. Council to craft new gun-control legislation that would still fit within the District’s goals for public safety.

The potential legislation could define “exactly how handguns could be stored in the home and what is still not permitted in the District of Columbia,” Mr. Fenty said.

“Our No. 1 priority is the safety of the residents of the District of Columbia,” he said. “We will weigh everything.”

The District’s gun restrictions remained in place through the appeals process. Mr. Fenty said officials will file a motion to keep them intact during the 90 days available to consider a Supreme Court appeal, and he expects no opposition to the move.

The panel ruled in a 2-1 decision issued March 9 that the right to bear arms as guaranteed in the Second Amendment applies to individuals and not only to militias.

The initial ruling revoked portions of D.C. law that prohibit residents from keeping firearms in their homes and require owners of registered guns, including shotguns, to store them with trigger locks or keep them disassembled.

The denial dealt a blow to officials’ hopes of keeping the ban intact in a city that has often struggled with a notorious crime image.

Last year, 137 of the city’s 169 killings were committed using guns, according to statistics from the Metropolitan Police Department. So far this year, the District has recorded 57 killings, up from 49 at this time last year.

The Fenty administration filed its request for rehearing on April 9, arguing that the panel’s decision contradicted Supreme Court precedent and that the “Second Amendment protects private possession of weapons only in connection with service in a well-regulated citizens militia.”

Judge Karen LeCraft Henderson, who wrote the original dissenting opinion in the March decision, was among those who rejected the petition to rehear the case.

Assistant Police Chief Winston Robinson, who appeared at a press conference with Mr. Fenty yesterday to comment on the ruling, said revoking the city’s gun laws would only lead to more violence and said Virginia Tech gunman Seung-hui Cho was a “good example of guns being available to people who should not have them.”

“Having guns available in homes will lend themselves to be available to children and others for crime or to accidentally harm themselves,” Chief Robinson said.

The decision was cheered, however, by Wayne LaPierre, executive vice president of the National Rifle Association.

“We think it’s a vindication for the overwhelming majority of Americans who all along have viewed the Second Amendment as being about their individual freedoms,” Mr. LaPierre said.

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