Appeals Court Vacates Previous DC Gun Ruling

Says judge didn't have authority to take the case

• December 15, 2015 2:30 pm


A federal appeals court vacated a lower court judge's ruling that Washington, D.C.'s gun carry law is unconstitutional over a technicality involving the judge's ability to hear the case on Tuesday.

The appeals court ruled that federal judge Frederick J. Scullin did not have the authority to hear a challenge to the District of Columbia's gun carry law, the Associated Press reported. Scullin, a New York-based judge, had been temporarily assigned to hear a challenge to the city's original complete ban on gun carry and ruled it was unconstitutional. He then heard a follow-up case that challenged the law passed in response to his ruling and again declared it unconstitutional.

Judge David B. Sentelle, who wrote the appeals court's opinion, said that while it was "quite understandable" that Scullin took the case his ruling was illegitimate because he was not specifically authorized to take the case. "We realize that we are undoing the work of litigation to date, but we have no choice," he wrote.

The case will now have to be reheard by a different judge. The plaintiff's attorney Alan Gura said they would continue to challenge the law. The dispute at the center of the case deals with the law's requirement that those who seek a gun carry permit must have "good reason" to be granted a permit. Since the D.C. police have final discretion over who does and does not have "good reason," the plaintiffs argue the law is unconstitutional.

There is no word on when a new judge will be selected to rehear the case or when a hearing might be set.