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D.C. Court Upholds Controversial Gun Restrictions

Friday, October 7, 2011

This week, a divided federal appeals court upheld the District of Columbia's controversial ban on semi-automatic rifles and so-called "large capacity" magazines, but asked a lower court to reconsider certain aspects of its gun registration system.  

The 2-1 decision by a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit leaves in place, for now, the regulations passed by the D.C. Council following the U.S. Supreme Court's landmark 2008 District of Columbia v. Heller case.  In the Heller case, the Court struck down the city's nearly three decades-old ban on handgun ownership and found that the Second Amendment protects an individual right.  The Court also concluded that D.C.'s City Council violated that right by enacting a 1976 ordinance that effectively banned handguns in the city. 

In the case ruled on this week, Dick Heller, the plaintiff in the original Heller case, had challenged the D.C. Council's new laws--which banned countless semi-automatic firearms and also banned magazines capable of holding more than 10 rounds, and imposed many new requirements for legal gun ownership--claiming the gun and magazine bans and burdensome registration requirements violated the intent of the Supreme Court's 2008 decision.  Heller's attorney, Stephen P. Halbrook, also argued that the District violated a 1906 congressional act that said the city could impose only "usual and reasonable" firearms rules.

In his majority opinion, Judge Douglas Ginsburg likened D.C.'s requirement to register handguns "to other common registration or licensing schemes…"  Judge Karen LeCraft Henderson joined Judge Ginsburg in the majority, while Judge Brett M. Kavanaugh issued a strongly worded and lengthy dissenting opinion expressing his view that the city's firearms rules violate the U.S. Constitution.  While the panel upheld the gun and magazine bans outright, it asked the trial court to reconsider some of the details of the registration requirements.

NRA-ILA supported this case and disagrees with the court's ruling.  NRA-ILA and the plaintiffs are considering all our options.  When it comes to self-defense, semi-automatic firearms of all types are an increasingly popular choice for Americans, and the court itself admitted that semi-automatics are in common use, with millions of these guns sold in recent years.  Law abiding residents of the District should have the same access to these tools as residents of nearly all of the 50 states and need to have their Second Amendment rights fully restored.

Stay tuned to future Grassroots Alerts for new developments.  If you would like to sign up for the NRA-ILA Legal Update, please click here.

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Established in 1975, the Institute for Legislative Action (ILA) is the "lobbying" arm of the National Rifle Association of America. ILA is responsible for preserving the right of all law-abiding individuals in the legislative, political, and legal arenas, to purchase, possess and use firearms for legitimate purposes as guaranteed by the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.