City officials and other observers have been scratching their heads over the odd timing of a federal judge’s ruling that tossed out D.C. gun laws banning the carrying of handguns in public.
The ruling, which was dated Thursday, was made public Saturday — when courts are closed and city government is shut down for the weekend. Was it a conspiracy to prevent the city from filing for a stay that would prevent the order from taking effect? Was it a politically calculated effort to bury what might be an unpopular piece of news?
Turns out it was just a computer glitch.
“Our courtroom deputy’s computer was down and she wasn’t able to docket it,” said Rosemary Riley, judicial assistant for U.S. District Court Judge Frederick J. Scullin Jr., who is normally assigned to the Northern District of New York and who issued the ruling.
Unable to publish the opinion on Thursday, an employee came in Saturday to catch up on work and attached the ruling to the case docket then, Ms. Riley said.
The delay “had nothing to do with anything other than computers were not our friend,” she said.
The five-year-old lawsuit had been pending so long that plaintiffs had sought intervention by a higher court to move the case forward. So the ruling over the weekend caught all parties involved by surprise — including D.C. police who were sent scrambling to draft instructions for officers on new protocol over the city’s now gutted gun laws.
City attorneys on Monday requested a stay of the ruling for at least 180 days, hoping to forestall its effects to give officials time to draft a licensing mechanism for those seeking to carry a handgun in the District. Previous D.C. law limited individuals to possessing a gun at their home or place of business.
The judge had not included a stay in his initial ruling on the case because neither of the parties had sought one, Ms. Riley said.