The District of Columbia, where government restrictions prompted the landmark Heller decision in which the U.S. Supreme Court found individuals have a right to be armed, still doesn’t understand the Second Amendment, according to a new lawsuit.
The Second Amendment Foundation told WND its new lawsuit on behalf of three D.C. residents and a man from New Hampshire seeks to compel the city to issue carry permits to law-abiding citizens.
The U.S. District Court lawsuit was filed on behalf of Tom Palmer, George Lyon and Amy McVey of the district as well as Edward Raymond of New Hampshire.
They are being represented by attorney Alan Gura, who successfully argued the landmark District of Columbia vs. Heller case last that overturned the district’s handgun ban on the grounds it violated the Second Amendment.
“Once again we’re heading back to court because the anti-gun city administration refuses to abide by the law,” said SAF executive vice president Alan Gottlieb. “It is beginning to appear like residents of the district are up against a rogue city government that simply does not want to ease its stranglehold on the most important civil right of all, the right of self-preservation.”
U.S. Supreme Court
“In most major American cities,” said Gura, “where the right to bear arms is respected, licensed permit holders have proven themselves safe and effective. Washington, D.C. already requires handgun registrants to complete the background checks and training classes required of carry permit holders throughout the country. It is pointless to deny these individuals the right to bear arms.”
The action already is the second followup to the Heller decision. SAF previously sued the district over restrictive handgun registration policies, prompting the city to change the policies.
The new challenge is that city officials now have simply revoked the authority once held by the police chief to issue licenses to carry handguns to individuals. The case seeks a permanent injunction against a continued ban on carrying handguns by law-abiding citizens for personal protection.
“Obviously the city has been brought into this kicking and screaming,” Gottlieb told WND. “Washington historically had a law on the books allowing people to get a permit to carry a firearm. But the issuing authority, the police chief, has had the authority to issue those permits canceled.
“There’s no issuing agency,” Gottlieb said. “They’re saying nobody can carry in any manner any way. Period. Anywhere.”
Although the Heller decision struck down gun restrictions in Washington, D.C., the ruling did not address the specific issue at hand. It addressed only the issue of having a functional firearm in a home, he said.
He said the organization isn’t arguing that the city cannot regulate who carries and how, but there cannot be an effective total ban.
The Second Amendment Foundation is the nation’s oldest and largest tax-exempt education, research, publishing and legal action group focusing on the constitututional right and heritage to privately own and possess firearms.
Foundation spokesman David Workman said the dispute is simple.
“They’ve just been dragging their feet on this ever since the Heller ruling came down. They just don’t want citizens in that city to have firearms.
“Up until last December there was a process in place that would have the police chief issue these kinds of permits. The city council repealed that authority, so that the police chief couldn’t issue those permits.
“There was no reason for the city council to do that other than to prevent the issuance of permits,” he said. “The city needs to be told by the court to comply with the spirit of the Heller ruling.”
The Second Amendment says: “A well regulated Militia being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms shall not be infringed.”
“The Second Amendment guarantees individuals a fundamental right to carry
functional handguns in non-sensitive public places for purposes of self-defense,” the case explains. “The District of Columbia retains the ability to regulate the manner of carrying
handguns, prohibit the carrying of handguns in specific, narrowly defined sensitive places, prohibit the carrying of arms that are not within the scope of Second Amendment protection, and disqualify specific, particularly dangerous individuals from carrying handguns.”
However, it continued, “The District of Columbia may not completely ban the carrying of handguns for self-defense, deny individuals the right to carry handguns in non-sensitive places, deprive individuals of the right to carry handguns in an arbitrary and capricious manner, or impose regulations on the right to carry handguns that are inconsistent with the Second Amendment.”
But because of the city council’s decision to repeal the police chief’s authority, “the District of Columbia lacks any mechanism to issue handgun carry licenses to individuals.”
Plaintiff Palmer, for example, “previously used a handgun, successfully, to defend himself from a gang of men who chased him while uttering death threats,” the lawsuit explains.
“By requiring a permit to carry a handgun in public, yet refusing to issue such
permits and refusing to allow the possession of any handgun that would be carried in public, defendants maintain a complete ban on the carrying of handguns in public by almost all individuals,” the lawsuit says. “Defendants’ laws, customs, practices and policies generally banning the carrying of handguns in public violate the Second Amendment to the United States Constitution, facially and as applied against the individual plaintiffs in this action, damaging plaintiffs.”
The 2008 Heller decision was the U.S. Supreme Court’s first conclusive interpretation of the Second Amendment, affirming an individual right to own firearms and not merely a right for states to form armed militias.
Writing for the majority, Justice Antonin Scalia said the Constitution does not permit “the absolute prohibition of handguns held and used for self-defense in the home.”
Scalia said the ruling should not “cast doubt on long-standing prohibitions on the possession of firearms by felons or the mentally ill, or laws forbidding the carrying of firearms in sensitive places such as schools and government buildings.”
Scalia was joined by Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Samuel Alito, Anthony Kennedy and Clarence Thomas.
The case, District of Columbia v. Heller, came to the Supreme Court after the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit ruled the ban unconstitutional, reversing a U.S. District Court decision.
Security guard Dick A. Heller, 66, was one of six district residents who filed the challenge to the ban. The others were determined by the appeals court to not have legal standing.
The district earlier had required residents who owned handguns or rifles before the 1976 ban took effect to keep the weapons in their homes. Any legal firearms had to be kept unloaded and fitted with trigger locks or disassembled.