Judge Ricardo Urbina of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia has just ruled that the D.C. firearm ordinances enacted after the Supreme Court's D.C. v. Heller decision in 2008 "permissibly regulate the exercise of the core Second Amendment right to use firearms for the purpose of self-defense in the home." Urbina dismissed a case brought by Dick Heller, the same plaintiff who challenged the previous D.C. ordinance at the Supreme Court.
Heller challenged the District's firearms registration process, its ban on assault weapons, and its prohibition of "large capacity ammunition feeding devices," claiming they violated the Second Amendment. In analyzing the Supreme Court's Heller decision, Urbina said the Second Amendment right to bear arms "is not unlimited." He cited Justice Antonin Scalia's admonition that the Court's decision, while declaring an individual right to bear arms, did not "cast doubt" on a range of firearms regulations. Urbina said he was applying "intermediate scrutiny" to D.C.'s new ordinances, and under that standard, he concluded the regulations were permissible because they serve the District's "important governmental interest" in public safety.
Gun control advocates applauded the ruling as proof that the 2008 Heller decision did not sweep away all forms of firearm regulation. "Today’s court decision is the latest ruling to make it clear that the Second Amendment allows strong common sense gun laws,” said Paul Helmke, president of the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence. “Once again, the courts have rejected the gun lobby’s attempt to transform the core right to guns in the home for self-defense into a mandate for their ‘any gun, anywhere’ agenda. Politicians and legislatures at all levels should stop using the Second Amendment as an excuse for inaction against gun violence. They should follow the District’s example and pass the strong, common sense gun laws Americans need and demand to protect their communities.”
Check back later for further updates and reaction to today's ruling.
UPDATE: D.C. Attorney General Peter Nickles offered this written statement in reaction to the ruling: “I am gratified that the Court repeatedly recognized the reasonable and conscientious efforts that the Council and the Mayor made to strike the proper balance between addressing the legitimate rights of firearm owners, and taking every reasonable action to assure the safety of the District’s residents and visitors.”
Heller's lawyer Stephen Halbrook said this afternoon the decision was disappointing, and "I'd be surprised if we don't appeal." Halbrook, a Virginia lawyer and Second Amendment scholar, commented that even though Urbina said he was using an intermediate level of scrutiny in appraising the D.C. law, he was in fact overly deferential toward the city. "He repeated uncritically whatever the [D.C. Council] committee report said." Halbrook also said the ultimate fate of the D.C. ordinance may depend in part on what the Supreme Court says about how fundamental the right to bear arms is in the pending case of McDonald v. City of Chicago.