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HTTP://WWW.WASHINGTONPOST.COM/WP-DYN/CONTENT/ARTICLE/2010/03/26/AR2010032604527_PF.HTMLCORRECTION TO THIS ARTICLE

This article about a federal judge's ruling upholding the District's new gun laws incorrectly said that city law requires registered revolvers to be kept unloaded and either disassembled or secured with trigger locks, unless the owner reasonably fears immediate harm by an intruder in the home. That is the recommendation of D.C. police, but it is not city law, and it applies to all firearms, not just revolvers. The article also incorrectly said that the judge upheld a ban on most semiautomatic pistols. The judge upheld a ban on assault weapons, which includes certain pistols and other semiautomatic weapons but not most semiautomatic pistols.

Federal judge upholds D.C. gun regulations; appeal expected

By Maria Glod
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, March 27, 2010; B01

A federal judge on Friday upheld the gun laws that the District of Columbia passed to comply with the landmark 2008 Supreme Court ruling that struck down the city's decades-old ban on handgun possession.

U.S. District Judge Ricardo M. Urbina found that the new regulations were crafted to make the streets safer and aren't so restrictive that they violate the Second Amendment guarantee of a person's right to own a gun for self-defense.

"It is beyond dispute that public safety is an important -- indeed, a compelling -- governmental interest," Urbina wrote.

The judge ruled that the District's handgun registration process, which requires owners to submit fingerprints and allow police to perform ballistics tests, is constitutional. He also upheld a city ban on most semiautomatic pistols.

D.C. Council member Phil Mendelson (D-At Large), chairman of the Committee on Public Safety and the Judiciary, said the ruling shows the District reached the correct balance between the rights of residents and the need to promote public safety.

"The police remove an awful lot of firearms from the streets every year that are unregistered and owned by criminals, members of gangs and people who rob other folks or shoot other folks," Mendelson said. "Because law-abiding citizens register their guns, it makes it easier for the police to identify and arrest the criminals."

In June 2008, the U.S. Supreme Court knocked down the District's long-standing ban on handgun possession. The court concluded that the Second Amendment grants individuals the right to possess guns for self-defense but said governments may impose reasonable restrictions.

District officials responded by imposing regulations that officials said fit within the high court's ruling.

The city requires that legally registered revolvers be kept unloaded and either disassembled or secured with trigger locks, unless the owner reasonably fears immediate harm by an intruder in the home. Each resident can register one pistol a month, and registrations expire after three years.

Dick A. Heller, who successfully challenged the handgun ban, filed a second federal lawsuit alleging the new regulations were too restrictive and burdensome. He asked the court to toss out the laws.

Heller's attorney, Stephen P. Halbrook, said it is "highly likely" his client will appeal the decision. Halbrook said Urbina "uncritically accepted" the government's position and "simply ignored our evidence."

"We've got one Supreme Court decision, and we think the correct way to apply that decision would have been to invalidate these laws," Halbrook said. Heller could not be reached immediately for comment.

In the 30-page opinion, Urbina said that the regulations aren't unduly burdensome and that the city provided "ample evidence of the ways" the registration requirements are intended to promote public safety. He noted, for instance, that authorities said the required ballistics tests will help them link bullets and shell casings found at crime scenes to the weapons used to fire them.

D.C. Council member Mary M. Cheh (D-Ward 3) said the ruling "shows that we can have strong gun regulations and still comply with the Supreme Court's recognition of an individual right to have handguns for self-defense."

Staff writer Tim Craig and staff researcher Meg Smith contributed to this report.

________________________________________________________________________________________
http://www.scotusblog.com/2010/03/new-d-c-gun-laws-upheld/

New D.C. gun laws upheld
Sequel to 2008 ruling

Lyle Denniston | Friday, March 26th, 2010 2:44 pm

A federal judge in Washington, applying the Supreme Court’s 2008 decision creating a constitutional right to have a gun, ruled on Friday that three new gun control restrictions in the Nation’s capital city survive a Second Amendment challenge.  In the ruling by U.S. District Judge Ricardo M. Urbina, the District of Columbia government’s laws requiring that guns be registered and banning assault weapons and large-capacity bullet-feeding devices are valid.  The case is Heller, et al., v. District of Columbia (District Court docket 08-1289); the opinion can be found here.  (The lead individual in the case, government security guard Dick Anthony Heller, is the same District resident who won the Supreme Court case with the same title in 2008.)

Such gun control laws, the judge ruled, are to be subjected to constitutional analysis using an “intermediate” level of review — that is, a challenged law will be upheld if it is “substantially related to an important governmental interest.”  Courts around the country have differed on what level of review should apply to gun regulation, and that issue thus is a likely one for future Supreme Court analysis.  The Justices did not lay down a standard in 2008, other than to say it would take more than simple “reasonable” justification to satisfy the Second Amendment.

The Supreme Court two years ago struck down a District government ban on handguns and a separate requirement that guns in the home be kept locked or disassembled.  In doing so, the Court for the first time read the Second Amendment as protecting an individual’s personal right to have a gun for private use, at least for immediate self-defense in the home.  The Court indicated at the time, however, that some forms of gun regulation — not spelled out in full — might still be valid under that Amendment.  The District government followed up the ruling with City Council adoption of new restrictions that officials thought the Heller decision would allow.  On Friday, Judge Urbina agreed.

In deciding how to weigh challenges in the new District laws, the judge noted that the Supreme Court had not placed gun rights in the category that gets the greatest constitutional protection — that is, rights that are deemed to be “fundamental.”  The judge remarked: “If the Supreme Court had wanted to declare the Second Amendment a fundamental right, it would have done so explicitly.”  Moreover, he added, declaring gun rights to be fundamental could not be squared with the Supreme Court’s remarks that some forms of regulation would remain valid.

Following are the three District laws, described in summary, and Judge Urbina’s rulings on them:

First, gun registration.

The new District law requires that all guns be registered.  The person seeking to do so must submit fingerprints and two photographs, show knowledge of local gun laws, have visual capacity sufficient to get a vehicle driver’s license, prove completion of a gun-use or safety course, show how the gun will be used and where it will be kept, and notify District police if the gun is stolen, transferred, sold, lost or destroyed.  For pistols, each weapon must be submitted for a ballistic ID test, for which a fee is attached, and no more than one pistol a month may be registered.  Registration lasts for three years, but can be renewed.

The judge said that these regulations do implicate the Second Amendment right to defend one’s self in the home, but that they are justified as ways for local officials to monitor gun use, track guns used in crimes, and allow prosecution for failing to register.  Those goals of public safety, the opinion said, will be served by the registration obligations.  “Public safety is a quintessential matter of public regulation,” Urbina wrote.

Second, assault weapon ban.

The new law provides a list of what it considers to be assault weapons, including pistols, rifles and shotguns, or guns that have military-style features such as use of a magazine that can be detached.

The judge concluded that these weapons are not in common use, are not possessed by law-abiding citizens as a general rule, and are dangerous.  Thus, the judge ruled, they are outside the Second Amendment’s protection.  Thus, Urbina said, there was no need to weigh their constitutionality.  If intermediate scrutiny were applied, however, the judge said the ban would satisfy that standard because the ban is keyed to public safety.

Third, large capacity magazines ban.

The new law flatly bans a magazine, belt, drum, feed strip, or similar device that can accept more than 10 bullets.

Just as with the assault weapon ban, Judge Urbina ruled that these restrictions are outside the scope of the Second Amendment but, in any event, would satisfy intermediate scrutiny for public safety reasons

Judge Urbina went on to reject one added challenge to the new local laws: a claim that, because the restrictions go further than those that have been upheld elsewhere, they go beyond the powers of the District’s local government.

Technically, the judge decided the challenge by ruling on competing motions for a ruling without a full trial — that is, summary judgment — because the facts were not in dispute.  Joining Dick Anthony Heller in the challenge were three other District residents, Absalom Jordan, William Carter and Mark Snyder.

The challengers have the option of appealing the ruling to the D.C. Circuit Court and eventually to the Supreme Court.  One or both of those maneuvers seems likely, given the breadth of the new restrictions and the fervor of the challengers.



 


 
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