Charges against two men whom Capitol Police allegedly stopped from bringing 9 mm handguns to Capitol Hill could change, as attorneys scramble to interpret the effect of a federal judge overturning the District's handgun ban.
On July 26, Judge Frederick Scullin Jr. ruled in Palmer v. District of Columbia that D.C.'s complete ban on the carrying of handguns in public is unconstitutional. In the 19-page decision, Scullin wrote that he was stopping enforcement of the law “unless and until” the city adopted a constitutionally valid licensing mechanism.
D.C. police were subsequently instructed not to enforce the law against carrying pistols in public. In two separate incidents that are raising questions about campus security , Hill staffer Ryan Shucard and pork executive Ronald William Prestage were charged with violating that law when police uncovered handguns and magazines during administrative searches at the Cannon House Office building. The order not to enforce the law came from Metropolitan Police Chief Cathy L. Lanier on Sunday and is being implemented "until further notice," according to her notice.
The U.S. Attorney's Office for the District of Columbia is reviewing the court's opinion, spokesman Bill Miller told CQ Roll Call on Monday. Federal prosecutors had charged Shucard and Prestage with a felony under the now unenforceable D.C. law.
Beyond the District of Columbia gun law, there is also a specific prohibition on possessing a firearm at the Capitol building or grounds, Miller said in an email. The U.S. attorney is considering proceeding with both prosecutions under that provision, he indicated.
The D.C. attorney general's office could seek a stay of the ruling, or appeal.
Under Lanier's order, police have been instructed that D.C. residents cannot carry unregistered firearms. People who live outside the District could still be subject to other criminal firearm charges in D.C.
For instance, if D.C. police stop a man carrying a firearm who lives in Virginia, where no license or permit is required to openly carry a handgun, they would run his name. If no criminal record is apparent, he would be free to leave.