Federal Judge Goes after Gun Owners; District Court Upholds D.C. Firearm Restrictions

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The gun grabbers in Washington are celebrating a federal ruling handed down Friday that upheld the tangle of rules that effectively prohibit District residents from owning firearms for the purpose of home defense.

While the Supreme Court in its landmark 2008 Heller decision recognized the individual's right to own a gun, it also conceded that reasonable regulations on gun ownership might be acceptable. U.S. District Judge Ricardo M. Urbina took this concession as a green light to approve D.C. rules designed to create a gun ownership ban in everything but name. The District outlawed semiautomatic pistols, instantly removing the vast majority of handguns sold in the United States from the reach of law-abiding residents. Guns that can hold more than 10 bullets are also prohibited. What few remain must be stored unloaded, disabled and unusable for any reasonable form of self-defense. Judge Urbina ruled that all of these onerous restrictions were justified by public safety concerns.

The decision will almost certainly be appealed, but that, too, may place gun ownership rights in further jeopardy as the case record appears flawed in one critical respect.

Stephen P. Halbrook, the attorney who filed this suit against the District, correctly argued that gun ownership for the purpose of self-defense is a fundamental right. Such rights compel the courts to apply a strict scrutiny to restrictive laws to ensure that they are narrowly tailored to serve a significant governmental interest. Gun control advocates insist that public safety is just such an interest, but Mr. Halbrook declined to cite the direct empirical evidence needed to establish a record for higher courts on whether gun control reduces crime. Under strict scrutiny, such laws must be struck down unless the District can show that gun control is essential to reducing crime rates. …