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Lawsuit seeks right to carry guns in public

- The Washington Times - Friday, August 7, 2009

The man whose Supreme Court challenge secured the right of D.C. residents to keep guns in their homes is back in court, this time filing a lawsuit on behalf of a group seeking the right of registered gun owners to carry their guns in public.

Four individuals and a gun-rights advocacy group joined lawyer Alan Gura on Thursday in filing the lawsuit in U.S. District Court. It was an earlier lawsuit by Mr. Gura that forced the District to end its 30-year-old gun ban, the strictest in the United States.

The lawsuit argues that the District's "laws, customs, practices and policies generally banning the carrying of handguns in public violate the Second Amendment" of the U.S. Constitution. It asks that the District issue licenses to carry guns in public to legal gun owners in the city and to people with valid carry permits from outside the city.

"This lawsuit was inevitable in many ways," Mr. Gura said Thursday, adding that most jurisdictions in the country have carry laws. "This is not the end of all gun control."

Mr. Gura said the lawsuit does not take a position on whether the District should allow legal gun owners to carry weapons openly or in a concealed manner. That issue, he said, should be left to city officials to regulate.

The D.C. residents who brought the case are Tom G. Palmer, George Lyon and Amy McVey. The nonprofit Washington state-based Second Amendment Foundation is also named as a plaintiff.

The three D.C. residents, who are licensed gun owners in the District, had gun-registration applications rejected by the Metropolitan Police Department because they stated their intention was to carry the loaded guns on their person outside their homes.

"My right to self-defense shouldn't stop at my front door," said Mrs. McVey, 46, of Northwest Washington. Mrs. McVey in July became the first person to register a handgun in the District after the ban was lifted.

Asked where she might carry her gun, Mrs. McVey responded: "Everywhere it's legal."

Edward Raymond, a Navy veteran enrolled in law school in New Hampshire, is also listed as a plaintiff.

Mr. Raymond, who is not a D.C. resident, was stopped for speeding in the District in April 2007 while he was transporting a gun for which he had permits in Maryland and Florida. He was charged with carrying a pistol without a license and pleaded guilty to misdemeanor unregistered gun and unregistered ammunition charges.

He sought a license that would allow him to transport his gun through the District but was refused.

D.C. Council member Phil Mendelson, chairman of the Committee on Public Safety and the Judiciary, had not seen the lawsuit but said he disagrees with the basic premise.

"Mr. Gura is treading uncharted ground claiming that the Second Amendment offers the right to carry," he said.

Mr. Mendelson said the District's role as home to the president, Congress and the diplomatic corps should be reason enough not to allow carrying.

"In the nation's capital, carrying is perhaps the greatest concern to law enforcement because it makes it very hard for law enforcement to distinguish between a person who is carrying a firearm legally and a potential assassin," he said.

The Supreme Court ruled in June 2008 that the city's near-total ban on handguns was unconstitutional and that residents should be allowed to keep guns in their homes for personal protection.

City officials began rewriting the laws immediately after the decision. The new laws still forbid semiautomatic and other high-powered weapons.

Mr. Gura filed another lawsuit in March, arguing that a roster of handguns deemed acceptable for registration was restrictive. The lawsuit was dropped when the D.C. government in June expanded its list of guns that residents could seek to register.