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Tuesday, March 26, 2019

By Kathleen Hennessey, Tribune Washington Bureau

WASHINGTON — A federal judge struck down the nation’s last complete prohibition on carrying guns outside the home, declaring the District of Columbia’s strict handgun ban unconstitutional.

The ruling by a federal judge in New York, announced late Saturday, is the latest blow to the decades-long gun law in the nation’s capital, which is plagued by violent crime. In 2008, the Supreme Court struck down the city’s handgun ban, establishing for the first time a personal right to own a weapon under the 2nd Amendment.

Senior District Judge Frederick J. Scullin Jr., a former U.S. Army colonel appointed to the court by President George H. W. Bush, ruled that the right to a weapon extends outside the home both for residents and visitors to the city.

Going well beyond the Supreme Court decision in District of Columbia v. Heller, Scullin found that carrying arms outside the home for self-defense falls within the legal definition of the right to bear arms enunciated in the Second Amendment to the Constitution.

In the Heller case, the Supreme Court did not address whether the Second Amendment Amendment allowed someone to carry a weapon outside the home. The high court has repeatedly turned down invitations to decide that issue.

Scullin, who sits in Syracuse, N.Y., but was assigned the case by Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., relied heavily on U.S. appellate court rulings striking down public-carry bans in San Diego County and Illinois.

Four plaintiffs and the Second Amendment Foundation, a gun-rights advocacy group, challenged the D.C. ban as it was rewritten after the Supreme Court ruling. The revised law allowed police to issue gun permits for self-defense use only inside homes.

That process effectively prohibited nonresidents from obtaining permits and limited an individual’s right to self defense, according to the plaintiffs who challenged the law in 2009.

The case stalled on the District Court’s crowded docket and was eventually reassigned to Scullin with the goal of speeding up the process.

Although Scullin found that D.C.’s law violated Second Amendment rights, he said the government could place “some reasonable restrictions” on the carrying of handguns, such as bans in public schools, age restrictions, and mental-health requirements.

Such measures amount to a “proper balance” between gun rights and public safety, he wrote. A gun owner may simply decide not to enter a school, he said, and would experience “a lesser burden” on the right to self-defense.

Scullin did not stay enforcement of his ruling pending appeal, leading gun-rights groups to assert that it is now legal to openly carry a pistol in the district. The city is expected to seek a stay of the ruling either from Scullin or a federal appeals court.

Photo: Rob Bixby via Flickr

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3 responses to “Federal Judge Rules Against DC Ban On Carrying Guns”

  1. sigrid28 says:

    Now we have to watch right-wing militia parading around on the steps of the Capitol, armed to the teeth, with armed police beside them? Will we have to have one horrific incident to bring us back to our senses? Or have we lost them for good? Senior District Judge Frederick J. Scullin Jr. has.

    Like all judges who routinely have special protections, he is immune from what he has unleashed on the rest of us living in and visiting our nation’s capital, including our leaders in Washington–especially our leaders in Washington. As a judge, Senior District Judge Frederick J. Scullin Jr. has security the rest of us living in and visiting our nation’s capital do not have–wherever he goes.

    Beside extremists parading around in front of the White House, heavily armed and waving Confederate flags, there will be citizens with cameras in their cell phones and other heightened surveillance of all kinds that will now be an expensive necessity. This surveillance will make background checks at gun shows look like child’s play. With this ruling, the privacy of would-be domestic terrorists will become a distant memory. This weapons free-for-all gives other sectors of our nation the go ahead to tighten up records tracking these miscreants, which have been kept for years already by the Southern Poverty Law Center and the NSA.

    • kenndeb says:

      Domestic terrorists as defined by the likes of Harry Reid? I guess anyone that opposes this regime and their lawlessness are terrorists now. That is what happens when you start spying on your own people. Anyone that disagrees with you is an enemy of the state. Welcome to the new United Soviet States of Amerika.

      • sigrid28 says:

        You can’t have it both ways. Whoever wants can carry any kind of weapon anywhere: The tradeoff is that the person who breaks the law by using that weapon in a way that is illegal, is likely to be seen doing so. That goes for police, too, where lawlessness among their ranks need not be tolerated any longer. Our leaders have a Secret Service protection, as do judges, who are often threatened because of the tensions always at work within our society. If you just want to carry your weapon with you wherever you go, what’s wrong with everyone seeing you do it?

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