Thousands cleared by judge’s ruling will seek gun arrest damages

By Bob Unruh

The District of Columbia has been one of the most aggressive jurisdictions in the nation in the leftist fight against gun rights.

In 2008, the Supreme Court ruled in Washington’s Heller fight that the Constitutional right to bear arms is an individual right.

The high court followed up two years later in the McDonald case by ruling that right applies against the states.

Courts recently struck down D.C.’s demand that individuals show “good reason” for a concealed carry permit.

But now a decision by U.S. District Judge Royce C. Lamberth in another fight over guns created by the local government in Washington means it could be getting costly for taxpayers there.

It’s because the judge’s decision “has cleared the way for claims for damages by as many as 4,500 people” who were arrested under the now-defunct law against carrying handguns in public.

The problem was outlined by constitutional expert Jonathan Turley, who explained the specific case applies to six people, but the damages could be claimed by thousands.

“Those rising costs do not seem to register with the D.C. City Council,” he explained. “The city could appeal and argue that, at the time of the arrests, it was not clear that the underlying law was unconstitutional.”

Lamberth, however, already rejected that claim and ruled that the law was clearly unconstitutional when the city passed it.

The decision from Lamberth noted how D.C. effectively had “banned non-residents from possessing a firearm,” and prevented anyone “from carrying a weapon in public.”

The six plaintiffs all were arrested and accused of some infraction. One plaintiff, Maggie Smith, a nurse from North Carolina, was stopped during a routine traffic stop, and immediately informed Washington police she was carrying a pistol licensed in her home state.

Cops arrested her, seized her gun and held her overnight in jail.

She was charged not once, but twice, until the charges ultimately were dropped months later. The police still have her gun.

Other plaintiffs had similar experiences.

The judge noted, “At the time of these arrests, the District of Columbia refused to even entertain gun registration applications by individuals who are not residents of the District of Columbia.”

The subsequent lawsuit alleged violations of the Second, Fourth and Fifth Amendments by the district’s “gun control regime.”

The ruling said, “There is no genuine dispute of material fact regarding plaintiffs’ Second Amendment claims, and no reasonable jury could find for the district.”

Even “construing the facts most favorably to the defendants, the District violated the plaintiffs’ Second Amendment rights by arresting them, detaining them, prosecuting them, and seizing their guns based on an unconstitutional set of D.C. laws,” the judge said.

The judge made the same conclusion regarding the Fifth Amendment claims, noting the district law clearly discriminated against non-residents. And on the Fourth Amendment claim, the judge reached a compromise decision.

“Each of these plaintiffs had their gun seized during their arrest. … None of them have recovered their guns,” he wrote. But he said they had the option of having police send them their weapons at an address in another state.

Turley noted the decision is just “the latest loss of the city, which continues to pass legislation that runs afoul of governing Supreme Court precedent.”

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