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Gun ruling galvanizes groups

- The Washington Times - Friday, June 27, 2008

Within minutes of the Supreme Court ruling overturning the District's gun ban, leaders of the National Rifle Association began work on legal challenges against gun restrictions in Chicago and San Francisco, while gun-control groups said the decision would only strengthen their efforts.

Paul Helmke, president of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, which fought in support of the city's handgun ban, predicted that the decision would "embolden criminal defendants, and ideological extremists, to file new legal attacks on existing gun laws."

"With the help of the Brady Center's legal team, those attacks can, and must, be successfully resisted in the interest of public safety," he said.

The NRA and Gun Owners of America both say they're planning to use the ruling as a springboard to challenge state and local laws across the country.

"Certainly things like the Chicago handgun ban, which is very similar to what Washington, D.C., had, those are the kind of things we would want to look at," said Erich Pratt, a spokesman for Gun Owners of America. "We're definitely going to be in the middle of all of that."

Mr. Pratt also noted comments by Justice Stephen G. Breyer that the decision "threatens to throw into doubt the constitutionality of gun laws throughout the United States."

"When Justice Breyer is sad, we're happy," Mr. Pratt said.

Wayne LaPierre, NRA executive vice president, said the ruling makes the Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms "a permanent part of American constitutional law." NRA chief lobbyist Chris W. Cox said the group will file legal challenges anywhere that gun restrictions result in an undue burden for law-abiding citizens, including in Chicago and San Francisco's housing authority.

Devin Cotter, policy director at the California-based Women Against Gun Violence, said the group is concerned that the ruling could scale back laws aimed at preventing children's access to weapons in the home.

"The ruling will definitely cause us to redouble our efforts," Mr. Cotter said. "We've never had a problem with lawful possession of firearms. But the big question is how they're used and how they're stored."

Bob Ricker, executive director of the American Hunters and Shooters Association, which also favored the Supreme Court ruling, predicted the decision will likely result in challenges filed against assault-weapons ban as well as new restrictions to enforce background checks at gun shows.

"I think for groups like us, we're going to be helping policy-makers focus in and narrowly craft measures that will lead to positive results rather than just blanket restrictions that burden law-abiding gun owners," he said.

Robyn Thomas, executive director of the San Francisco-based Legal Community Against Violence, said she was disappointed but not surprised by the ruling. Still, Ms. Thomas predicted that most gun-control laws wouldn't buckle under the ruling.

"The court's decision clearly contemplates continued regulation of firearms," she said.