Assault-gun ban stands in D.C.; some registration rules upheld

Gray sees ‘victory’

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D.C. laws prohibiting assault weapons and large-capacity ammunition-feeding devices do not violate the Second Amendment, a federal appeals court ruled Tuesday.

A three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit also upheld as constitutional some of the city’s basic gun-registration requirements, such as those mandating that applicants provide certain personal information.

But the court sent other “novel” registration requirements — including a knowledge test of local gun laws, a vision requirement, ballistics identification tests, and fingerprinting and ongoing background checks of applicants — back to a lower court to consider.

Judge Douglas H. Ginsburg penned the 45-page decision, stating that the District showed a “substantial relationship between the prohibition of both semi-automatic rifles and magazines holding more than ten rounds and the objectives of protecting police officers and controlling crime.”

Judge Karen LeCraft Henderson joined Judge Ginsburg in the majority, while Judge Brett M. Kavanaugh said he was sympathetic to the police department’s goal of reducing crime by restricting access to guns but that the prohibitions were unconstitutional.

The decision was lauded by D.C. Mayor Vincent C. Gray, who called it an “important victory for the District of Columbia.”

D.C. Council member Phil Mendelson, at-large Democrat and chairman of the Committee on Public Safety and the Judiciary, said laws against assault weapons were important for public safety.

“Some opponents of the District’s gun law argue there should be no regulation. In fact, that’s really what this was about — no regulation.”

The regulations were crafted in the wake of the 2008 District of Columbia v. Heller Supreme Court case, which overturned a 30-year near-total ban on handgun ownership in the city and recognized the right for D.C. residents to register handguns and keep them in their homes.

Dick Heller, the plaintiff in the landmark Supreme Court case, was among a group of D.C. residents who challenged the new regulations, claiming the registration procedures, the ban on most semiautomatic weapons and other limitations violated the intent of the high court’s decision.

A U.S. District judge in March 2010 dismissed the lawsuit, and the plaintiffs appealed.

The National Rifle Association, which backed the lawsuit, said in a statement that it disagreed with the decision and would be reviewing the decision and considering all its options.

“When it comes to self-defense, semi-automatic firearms of all types are an increasingly popular choice for most Americans, and the court itself admitted that semiautomatics are in common use, with millions of these types of guns sold in recent years.”

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