Mayor Vincent Gray celebrated a federal court ruling upholding the District's gun control laws on Thursday, declaring it "an important win for public safety in the District of Columbia."
District Judge James E. Boasberg upheld the District’s firearm-registration requirements — some of the most restrictive in the nation — as consistent with the Second Amendment. The case was a follow-up to the 2008 U.S. Supreme Court decision in District of Columbia v. Heller that struck down D.C.’s ban on handgun possession. "I appreciate the court’s affirmation of our sensible gun control laws and urge other jurisdictions to follow our lead," Gray said in a statement.
In light of the ruling, Del Eleanor Holmes Norton, D-D.C., is calling on congressional Republicans to withdraw support for bills to overturn the District's gun laws.
Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, has proposed legislation to wipe out all of the city's gun control laws, and effectively make the District one of the most gun-friendly jurisdictions in the nation.
Rep. Phil Gingrey, R-Ga., is seeking to exempt active duty military personnel from D.C.'s gun control laws. He proposed a bill to that effect as an amendment to the fiscal 2014 National Defense Authorization Act.
“The District’s new gun laws keep winning in court, even though they are strong gun safety laws in keeping with the needs of a big, complicated city and our role as the nation’s capital with many high-level officials and visitors from all over the country and the world,” Norton said. “It’s time for Representatives Jordan and Gingrey to finally recognize that their D.C. gun bills violate their own stated principles of local control of local affairs."
There was no immediate reaction from the offices of Jordan and Gingrey.
Boasberg's opinion noted that the city earned a notorious reputation as the "murder capital" of the nation during the 1990s, and mentioned recent events, including the 12 people gunned down in the September 2013 Navy Yard massacre.
The court said the D.C. requirements that firearms registrants appear in person with the weapon to be registered, and submit to fingerprints and photographs, “help to effectuate the District’s firearm-registration scheme by preventing fraud, enabling more comprehensive background checks, and allowing police to more easily verify the true owner of a registration certificate.”
Boasberg determined that, while the firearms-safety, training, and knowledge requirements impose more than a minimal burden on Second Amendment rights, it is “common sense” that these requirements will encourage compliance with the law and reduce gun accidents. He concluded that city officials acted “in a constitutionally permissible manner.”
The lawsuit also challenged D.C.'s one-gun-a-month registration limit, but the court rejected that, finding that the limit is narrowly tailored to meet the District’s interests in reducing illegal gun trafficking and promoting public safety. The ruling also upheld the requirement of regular renewal of gun registration, finding that the requirement is “hardly an oppressive burden” and will help maintain an accurate gun registry and make residents more accountable for their weapons.
D.C. Attorney General Irvin B. Nathan said the "well reasoned, well documented ruling is a significant affirmation of the Council’s work in helping protect the District from gun violence," adding that he hopes the ruling will help stem the tide of violence.