NRA Explore
APPEARS IN Legal & Legislation

Court Declares District of Columbia's Ban on Bearing Arms Unconstitutional

Thursday, November 6, 2014

On July 26, the United States District Court for the District of Columbia handed down its decision in Palmer v. District of Columbia. In keeping with a string of recent right to carry victories in the federal courts, the ruling struck down D.C.’s total ban on the carrying of firearms outside the home for self-defense. 

Judge Frederick J. Scullin authored the opinion, in which he conducted a two-step analysis to determine the validity of the laws in question. First, he examined whether the Second Amendment right encompasses carrying outside the home. After answering the first question in the affirmative, he then turned to the matter of whether the challenged laws impermissibly violate that right.

In the opinion, Scullin relied heavily upon the Heller and Peruta decisions in finding that the scope of the Second Amendment right extends beyond the home. He quoted from a section of Peruta, which states, “both Heller and McDonald identi[ied] the ‘core component’ of the right as self-defense, which necessarily ‘take[s] place wherever [a] person happens to be,’ whether in a back alley or on the back deck.” Scullin added: “Based on its historical review, the Court found support for the proposition that the Second Amendment secures an individual right to carry in case of confrontation [which] means nothing if not the general right to carry a common weapon outside the home for self-defense.”

In determining whether D.C.’s carry ban violates the Second Amendment right, Scullin relied on Moore v. Madigan, which stated, “[a] blanket prohibition on carrying gun[s] in public prevents a person from defending himself anywhere except inside his home; and so substantial a curtailment of the right of armed self-defense requires greater showing of justification than merely that the public might benefit on balance from such a curtailment, though there is no proof that it would.” In concluding his analysis, Scullin added, “In light of Heller, McDonald and their progeny, there is no longer any basis on which this Court can conclude that the District of Columbia’s total ban on the public carrying of ready-to-use handguns outside the home is constitutional under any level of scrutiny.”

For a brief period, D.C.’s Metropolitan Police Department, acting on the advice of the D.C. Attorney General’s Office, had suspended enforcement of the laws enjoined by the court’s opinion. Pictures emerged of individuals who took advantage of this historic opportunity to exercise their right publicly to carry handguns in D.C.

By Tuesday, July 29, however, the court had issued an order staying the effect of its decision for 90 days to allow D.C. to revisit its laws and to allow the plaintiffs to file arguments against a longer stay pending appeal. The court’s order effectively reinstated the status quo that existed before its ruling, meaning that D.C.’s laws against carrying firearms in public could continue to be enforced. 

On August 18, D.C. officials requested additional time to react to the decision, asking the court to “grant a stay pending appeal here or, in the alternative, for 180 days … for District officials to craft responsive legislation.”  The court granted a more limited stay and then on October 18 rejected the District’s motion to reconsider the case.  

The District nevertheless has continued to drag its feet and has grudgingly enacted a highly-restrictive “may-issue” concealed carry licensing regime.  That system is only temporary, but the D.C. Council is already moving to enact a more permanent (and equally strict) law. Among other things, the District requires that applicants show an employment-based need to carry or “a special need for self-protection distinguishable from the general community ….” In response, the plaintiffs in the case have asked the court to enjoin any further enforcement of the ban on carrying a handgun because the “may-issue” system enacted by the council is inconsistent with the court’s prior holding that the Second Amendment protects a general right to carry firearms outside the home for self-defense.  

All the while, the District has continued to insist that the court erred in finding that the Second Amendment protects a right to carry a firearm in public for self-defense, or if any such right exists, that the District has sufficient justification for its infringement. In the latter regard, the District emphasizes what it calls D.C.’s unique character as the seat of the nation’s government. 

Media reports as of late October indicated that D.C. officials would appeal Judge Scullin’s ruling. If that proves to be true, the jurisdiction that prompted the Supreme Court to recognize the Second Amendment’s individual right might just set the stage for the high court to rule favorably again on the scope of that right. Gun controllers are slow learners, but their stubbornness has been instrumental in moving the Second Amendment needle in the right direction.    

TRENDING NOW
California: Governor Brown Takes Action on Final Firearm-Related Bills

Monday, September 26, 2016

California: Governor Brown Takes Action on Final Firearm-Related Bills

Today, Governor Brown made his decision on the final firearm-related bills of the 2016 legislative session that made it to his desk.   Governor Brown vetoed two anti-gun bills, AB 450 and SB 1332, and signed ...

Not The Victim Hillary Needs

News  

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Not The Victim Hillary Needs

This feature appears in the October ‘16 issue of NRA America’s 1st Freedom, one of the official journals of the National Rifle Association. “Why can’t everyone just have their DNA on file? Then it would ...

California: Referendum Update

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

California: Referendum Update

On behalf of the National Rifle Association (NRA), we would like to thank all of the volunteers and individuals who participated in the Veto Gunmageddon ballot referendum qualification effort.  Despite the tremendous efforts of all involved, ...

Hillary: Contempt For The Truth And American Freedom

News  

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Hillary: Contempt For The Truth And American Freedom

There is no greater danger to American liberty and to the security of our nation than a Hillary Clinton administration. To see the future if Clinton were to take the White House, look no further ...

Trump: The Official NRA Q&A

News  

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Trump: The Official NRA Q&A

This year’s race for the White House is like no other in our history. Hillary Clinton has made it clear that, if elected, she will come after our firearm freedoms on her very first day ...

War on Terror or a War on Guns?

News  

Friday, September 23, 2016

War on Terror or a War on Guns?

Sadiq Khan, the mayor of London, was in New York City recently on an official visit. Commenting on the bombs that exploded while he was in town, he opined that such attacks are now simply ...

Guide To The Interstate Transportation Of Firearms

Gun Laws  

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Guide To The Interstate Transportation Of Firearms

CAUTION: Federal and state firearms laws are subject to frequent change. This summary is not to be considered as legal advice or a restatement of law.

News  

Friday, July 1, 2016

California Governor Signs Draconian Gun Control Package into Law

Fairfax, Va.— California Gov. Jerry Brown signed into law on Friday a package of gun bills that were rushed through the state legislature with no regard for proper process. The National Rifle Association Institute for ...

Show Your Support—NEW NRA Yard Signs Available!

News  

Friday, September 23, 2016

Show Your Support—NEW NRA Yard Signs Available!

Show your support for NRA and the Second Amendment this election cycle by purchasing an NRA yard sign.  With everything that is at stake this year, including the Presidency, the balance of the U.S. Senate ...

Virginia Politician and Clinton Backer Brands Trump Supporters as “Mentally Deficient”

News  

Friday, September 23, 2016

Virginia Politician and Clinton Backer Brands Trump Supporters as “Mentally Deficient”

With the presidential race tighter than ever as it heads into its final stretch, panicked Hillary Clinton supporters are desperate to find a way to discredit, not just Donald Trump, but anyone who would dare ...

MORE TRENDING +
LESS TRENDING -
NRA ILA

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.