DC Gun Laws Again Declared Unconstitutional in Federal Court

Ruling represents third time in just over a year that DC gun laws have been declared unconstitutional

• September 18, 2015 5:00 pm


A federal appeals court struck down several provisions of the District of Columbia's gun registration law on Friday.

The United States Circuit Court of Appeals for Washington, D.C., ruled two to one that a number of sections from the city's Firearms Amendment Act of 2012 are unconstitutional. The court found that laws requiring citizens of the district bring their firearms to the Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) headquarters for registration, to re-register their firearms every three years, to only register one gun per month, and to pass a test on local laws violate the Second Amendment.

The court also upheld some of the provisions of the law including the city's requirement that all gun owners be fingerprinted and photographed as part of registering their firearms.

The ruling represents the third time in just over a year that Washington, D.C., gun laws have been declared unconstitutional by a federal court. In July 2014, a federal district court ruled the city's total ban on the carry of firearms in public unconstitutional. The same court ruled in May 2015 the gun carry law D.C. passed in response to the earlier decision was also unconstitutional.

The city has appealed that ruling and the case is set to be argued again later this year.

The Second Amendment Foundation, a plaintiff in the case, said Friday's ruling was good news for their case against the city.

"Any time a Federal Appeals Court strikes down any anti-gun law it is a great victory for gun rights," said Alan Gottlieb, the group's founder. "I think this ruling is going to really help the Second Amendment Foundation's Wrenn v. District of Columbia case that is challenging the DC carry law requiring ‘good cause’ or ‘special need’ to get a permit that is now before the same Federal Appeals Court."

The National Rifle Association also applauded the court's ruling.

"Today’s ruling is a substantive win for the Second Amendment and the residents of our nation’s capital," said Chris W. Cox, executive director of the group’s Institute for Legislative Action. "For too long, the D.C. government has violated the constitutional rights of law-abiding citizens. The city has among the most restrictive gun laws in the nation; and yet one of the highest crime rates. This opinion makes it a little easier for lawful D.C. residents to own firearms for self-defense."

The District of Columbia's Office of the Attorney General praised part of Friday's ruling and said it would continue defending the city's gun laws in court.

"This ruling is further confirmation that the people of the District of Columbia, acting through our elected officials, have complied responsibly and constitutionally with Supreme Court precedent in requiring that firearms be registered for the promotion of public safety," said D.C. Attorney General Karl Racine. "We will continue to defend our gun laws against challenges from those who would impose their views on our residents."

The case against D.C.'s gun registration requirements was filed by Dick Anthony Heller, who was also the plaintiff in the Supreme Court's decision knocking down the District of Columbia's total ban on handguns.

Update 6:10 P.M.: This piece has been updated to include comment from the National Rifle Association and D.C. Attorney General.