Wednesday, January 14, 2004

A federal judge upheld the District’s 28-year-old gun-control law yesterday, rejecting a legal challenge from a group of citizens backed by the National Rifle Association.

U.S. District Judge Reggie B. Walton dismissed a lawsuit in which the plaintiffs had contended that the law violated their Second Amendment right to own guns. The D.C. law prohibits ownership or possession of handguns and requires that other arms, such as shotguns, be kept unloaded, disassembled or equipped with trigger locks.

In a 64-page opinion, Judge Walton ruled that the Second Amendment is not a broad-based right of gun ownership.

“The Second Amendment does not confer an individual a right to possess firearms. Rather, the Amendment’s objective is to ensure the vitality of state militias,” Judge Walton wrote.

He went on to say that the amendment was designed to protect the citizens against a potentially oppressive federal government.

He also ruled that the Second Amendment does not apply to the District because it was intended to protect state citizens and the District is not a state.

A gun-control advocate called the ruling intelligent and well-reasoned.

“It’s a big victory for those who overwhelmingly believe that we need fewer guns on our streets, not more,” said Matt Nosanchuk, a spokesman for the Violence Policy Center.

Andrew Arulanandam, an NRA spokesman, said the group’s lawyers had not seen the ruling last night, but noted that other courts have taken the opposite position.

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