Court Strikes Down D.C. Ban on Guns; Fenty 'Outraged' at Overturning of 30-Year-Old Law

Article excerpt

Byline: Tarron Lively and Daniel Taylor, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

A federal appeals court yesterday struck down the District's 30-year-old gun ban, ruling that the right to bear arms as guaranteed in the Second Amendment applies to individuals and not only to militias.

"The Second Amendment would be an inexplicable aberration if it were not read to protect individual rights as well," the 58-page ruling said.

The 2-1 decision by a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit overturned a 2004 lower-court decision against six D.C. residents who filed suit to keep guns for self-protection.

"The District insists that the phrase 'keep and bear arms' should be read as purely military language, and thus indicative of a civic, rather than private, guarantee," the ruling said. "The term 'bear arms' is obviously susceptible to a military construction. But it is not accurate to construe it exclusively so."

The court did not consider whether city officials could ban guns in public or in vehicles.

Senior Judge Laurence H. Silberman wrote the majority opinion, which was supported by Judge Thomas B. Griffith. Judge Karen LeCraft Henderson dissented, arguing that the Second Amendment does not apply to the District because it is not a state.

D.C. Mayor Adrian M. Fenty said he was "outraged" by the court's decision, which overturns a law that "has been unquestioned for more than 30 years."

"Today's decision flies in the face of laws that have helped decrease gun violence in the District of Columbia," he said. "The ruling also turns aside longstanding precedents and marks the first time in the history of the United States that a federal appeals court has struck down a gun law on Second Amendment grounds."

Linda Singer, the District's acting attorney general, said the city will appeal the decision to the full 14-member federal appeals panel. The District's gun laws will remain in place through the appeals process.

Wayne LaPierre, executive vice president of the National Rifle Association, celebrated yesterday's decision, though he acknowledged the battle is far from over.

"We're happy to see there's a crack in the door for [the District] to join the rest of the country in full constitutional freedom," Mr. LaPierre said, adding that his organization would be "watching the appeals process like everyone else."

Alan Gura, an attorney for the plaintiffs, called the ruling a "tremendous victory for the civil rights of all Americans."

"The case has implications far beyond the Second Amendment's right to keep and bear arms," he said. "Had the city prevailed, no individual right would be secure from governmental claims that it is no longer practical or beneficial, or from arguments that 'the people' protected in the Bill of Rights are merely a euphemism for the government."

The District has some of the nation's strictest gun laws, prohibiting ownership of most guns that were not registered before 1977. Privately owned rifles and shotguns must be kept at home and stored unloaded, disassembled or bound by a trigger lock or a similar device. …