Calling this city's gun laws the most "radically restrictive" in the country, a lawyer for a group of District of Columbia residents urged a federal appeals court in Washington today to strike down laws that requires gun owners to register all firearms and pass a training course.
A three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals is scrutinizing whether the District's registration laws trample the Second Amendment right of individuals to keep and bear arms. The city’s law bans assault rifles and magazines that hold more than ten bullets.
The case in the appeals court is the sequel to the landmark U.S. Supreme Court ruling in 2008 in District of Columbia v. Heller, where the high court voided the city’s handgun ban and declared that individuals have a right to possess a firearm in a house for self-defense.
Lawyers who are following the latest case say a ruling in favor of the District residents, including lead plaintiff Dick Heller, would threaten gun laws around the country. Background on the case is here.
Stephen Halbrook, the attorney who argued for the plaintiffs today in the D.C. Circuit, told the panel judges—Karen LeCraft Henderson, Douglas Ginsburg and Brett Kavanaugh—that the District’s anti-gun measures are “highly unusual” in that they require the registration of all firearms. “This is a most unusual law, to say the least,” Halbrook, a solo practitioner in Fairfax, Va., said in court.
Halbrook also said District officials wield too much power in deciding which firearms to ban. He said the city can ban a weapon that officials deem against the “public interest.”
The District’s top appellate lawyer, Todd Kim of the D.C. Office of the Attorney General, argued the city’s gun regulations do not infringe a person’s right to keep a firearm in a house for self-defense.
Kim said the Constitution guarantees the right to keep and bear arms “but not to keep guns secret from the government or to possess military-style weapons and high-capacity magazines.”
During one courtroom exchange, Ginsburg questioned Kim on why the District considers assault rifles “offensive weapons.” Kim argued that such firearms are not useful for self-defense and are designed for “mass murder.”