The D.C. Circuit has declined to rehear a case challenging the District’s gun registration laws — thereby confirming an earlier ruling that most notably struck down a requirement for gun owners to re-register firearms every three years and a prohibition on registering more than one handgun per month.
Attorneys for the District had asked the federal appeals court to rehear the case en banc after a three-judge panel ruled in September to strike four of 10 challenged gun registration provisions. A majority of the court voted against rehearing the case, according to the ruling issued Friday.
The District failed to present enough evidence “to substantiate the difficult policy judgments” that it had asked the court to reconsider, especially with regard to the knowledge test on local firearms laws that the city required gun owners to pass, wrote Circuit Judge Patricia A. Millett in a brief statement attached to Friday’s ruling.
The case was brought against the city by gun owner Dick Heller, who previously saw success in challenging D.C. gun laws when a prior lawsuit led to the landmark 2008 Supreme Court ruling that overturned the District’s 32-year ban on virtually all handgun ownership.
After the District sought to comply with the Supreme Court ruling, city lawmakers enacted a series requirements involving gun registration. Gun owners balked at some of the strict requirements adopted and Mr. Heller sued.
The challenge led to a partial victory for Second Amendment supporters with four of ten challenged requirements shot down by the D.C. Circuit. Those included the “one pistol per month” registration limit as well as the requirements that gun owners re-register firearms every three years, pass a knowledge test of D.C. gun laws, and bring firearms with them to Metropolitan Police Department headquarters to be inspected and registered by police.
Stephen Porter Halbrook, the attorney representing Mr. Heller, said his is “very happy” with the latest ruling.
“D.C. did nothing to justify any law enforcement or public safety value of those things,” Mr. Halbrook said of the provisions that were struck down in the initial ruling.
The ruling does keep in place however six registration provisions that Mr. Heller was unsuccessful in overturning. Those include registration requirements for long guns; fees assessed for registration; the requirement that owners pass a safety training class; and three separate requirements that gun owners appear in person at headquarters, be fingerprinted, and photographed to register.
Mr. Halbrook said his client is still considering appeal options to potentially re-challenge those provisions.
The D.C. Circuit ruling leaves an appeal to the Supreme Court as the last remaining option if the city chooses to fight.
Robert Marus, a spokesman for the D.C. Office of the Attorney General, said Friday that officials are considering options but haven’t made a firm decision on the next course of action.
The recent death of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, who wrote the majority opinion that struck down the city’s handgun ban in a 5-4 decision, leaves open the question of whether the court might rule differently were it to take up another Second Amendment case. However without any circuits having split on the issues at hand, Mr. Halbrook said he doesn’t see the city having an easy time either convincing the court to hear case or winning if they did.
“They got more than a bloody nose when they did this before,” he said.
After the original D.C. Circuit ruling in September, the city won a stay of the order which meant police were able to continue to enforce all of the registration requirements. If the city were to petition the case to be heard before the Supreme Court, if could similarly request a stay of the decision.