WASHINGTON (AP) -- A federal appeals court overturned the District of Columbia's long- standing handgun ban Friday, rejecting the city's argument that the Second Amendment right to bear arms applied only to militias.View the decision here (it's 75 pages but interesting I read it yesterday)
In a 2-1 decision, the judges held that the activities protected by the Second Amendment "are not limited to militia service, nor is an individual's enjoyment of the right contingent" on enrollment in a militia.
The ban on owning handguns went into effect in 1976.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit also threw out the district's requirement that registered firearms be kept unloaded, disassembled and under trigger lock.
In 2004, a lower-court judge told six city residents that they did not have a constitutional right to own handguns. The plaintiffs include residents of high-crime neighborhoods who wanted the guns for protection.
"The district's definition of the militia is just too narrow," Judge Laurence Silberman wrote for the majority Friday. "There are too many instances of 'bear arms' indicating private use to conclude that the drafters intended only a military sense."
Judge Karen Henderson dissented, writing that the Second Amendment does not apply to the District of Columbia because it is not a state.
The Bush administration has endorsed individual gun-ownership rights, but the Supreme Court has never settled the issue.
"I think this is well positioned for review of the Supreme Court," said Jonathan Turley, a constitutional law professor at George Washington University. He said the D.C. circuit is historically influential with the Supreme Court because it often deals with constitutional questions.
"You also have a very well-reasoned opinion, both in the majority and the dissent," Turley said.
If the dispute makes it to the high court, it would be the first case in nearly 70 years to address the Second Amendment's scope.
Silberman wrote that the Second Amendment is still "subject to the same sort of reasonable restrictions that have been recognized as limiting, for instance, the First Amendment."
Such restrictions might include gun registration, firearms testing to promote public safety or restrictions on gun ownership for criminals or those deemed mentally ill.
Wayne LaPierre, executive vice president of the National Rifle Association, said the decision gives the district "a crack in the door to join the rest of the country in full constitutional freedom."
A spokeswoman for the district attorney general's office declined to comment on the ruling.
Saturday, March 10, 2007
Knocking gun control advocates for a loop, and proving that the normal loss of historical context and reading skills is voluntary, and not the result of a surgical removal when ascending to the Federal bench, the D.C. Court of Appeals correctly ruled yesterday that the Second Amendment to the Constitution confers an individual not a collective right.