- The Washington Times - Sunday, July 27, 2014

Attorneys for the District said Sunday that they will seek to forestall a judge’s landmark ruling that struck down as unconstitutional the city’s ban on carrying handguns outside the home.

U.S. District Court Judge Frederick J. Scullin Jr. released a decision Saturday that guts the city’s gun laws, which allowed residents to possess guns only inside their homes or businesses.

In light of Supreme Court decisions that struck down near total bans on handguns in the District and Chicago in recent years, “there is no longer any basis on which this Court can conclude that the District of Columbia’s total ban on the public carrying of ready-to-use handguns outside the home is constitutional under any level of scrutiny,” Judge Scullin wrote in the opinion dated Thursday.


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The ruling, five years after the original case was filed, took city officials by surprise and sent police, politicians and attorneys scrambling for a response.

The District’s attorney general’s office was “studying the ruling and considering our options,” spokesman Ted Gest said. In the meantime, city attorneys will seek to block the ruling from taking immediate effect.

“The District of Columbia will seek a stay of the judge’s order regarding the D.C. gun-carrying law pending a potential appeal,” Mr. Gest said in a statement.


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Officer Paul Metcalf, a spokesman for the Metropolitan Police Department, said he was unsure how the department was handling enforcement of gun laws while the city decided on its legal strategy.

A lawyer representing the gun owners in the case said he interprets the ruling as taking immediate effect.

“The decision is in effect, so unless or if it is stayed, people who have a lawfully registered handgun in the District could be outside with it,” attorney Alan Gura said.

Judge Scullin’s 19-page opinion orders the city to cease enforcement of the law that restricts residents from carrying handguns outside the home “until such time as the District of Columbia adopts a licensing mechanism consistent with constitutional standards enabling people to exercise their Second Amendment right to bear arms.”

It was unclear to what extent city lawmakers might try to regulate the carrying of handguns.

Since the Supreme Court’s 2008 District of Columbia v. Heller decision struck down the District’s near total ban on gun ownership in the city, residents have been able to purchase guns but were barred from carrying them outside their homes. Under city law developed after the ruling, gun owners have had to register firearms and submit to fingerprinting and training requirements.

The year after the Heller decision, four gun owners joined the Second Amendment Foundation in this lawsuit, challenging the police department’s denial of a gun registrations through which they sought to carry their handguns in public for self-defense.

Although Judge Scullin, an Army veteran appointed to his position in 1992 by President George H.W. Bush, recognized the right to carry guns outside the home, lawmakers have plenty of room to restrict that right. The Supreme Court last year declined to hear a case challenging a Maryland law that requires applicants to provide a “good and substantial reason” to carry a weapon in public.

D.C. Council Chairman Phil Mendelson said the city needs to maintain strong gun restrictions.

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