Federal Judge OKs D.C.'S Latest Set of Gun-Control Laws

By Richey, Warren | The Christian Science Monitor, March 26, 2010 | Go to article overview

Federal Judge OKs D.C.'S Latest Set of Gun-Control Laws


Richey, Warren, The Christian Science Monitor


Washington, D.C., enacted new gun-control laws after the US Supreme Court in 2008 invalidated its previous gun ordinance. On Friday, a federal judge upheld the new rules, though the decision is expected to be appealed.

A federal judge has upheld the new regime of gun laws passed in Washington, D.C., after the US Supreme Court invalidated the city's handgun ban in a landmark Second Amendment ruling two years ago.

The plaintiff in the new case was the same man, Dick Heller, who brought the initial challenge to the handgun ban and won the historic 2008 ruling.

Mr. Heller did not fare as well in his latest round of legal challenges.

US District Judge Ricardo Urbina ruled on Friday that the city's new gun registration regime, including bans on assault weapons and large capacity ammunition feeding devices, do not violate rights guaranteed under the Second Amendment.

The decision is expected to be appealed.

The D.C. gun case is being closely followed because it raises a critical question left unanswered in the high court's 2008 ruling. The key issue is what standard of review should judges impose while assessing the constitutionality of gun regulations.

Last month, the US Supreme Court heard oral argument in a second major gun rights case involving a handgun ban in Chicago. In that case, the question is whether the protections of the Second Amendment that apply in the District of Columbia are binding on state and local governments as well. A decision is expected before the end of June.

But legal analysts are already scouting potential cases that might bring the next big issue - the standard of review question - to the high court. This second Heller case could be that case.

In reaching his decision, Judge Urbina applied an intermediate level of judicial scrutiny. He decided against applying the toughest test, reserved for fundamental rights. He also rejected the city's suggestion that he apply a highly permissive test.

The judge upheld a registration regime that gun owners complained was excessive and unduly burdensome. It includes requirements for a background check, fingerprints, and photos; a ballistic identification procedure that will allow the police to trace a spent shell to that particular weapon; and a declaration to police of how the weapon will be used and where it will be kept. …

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