Court Overturns DC Gun Ban

By Nathan Burchfiel | July 7, 2008 | 8:23 PM EDT

(1st Add: Includes comments from the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence.)

( - The United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia on Friday overturned the city's extensive gun ban, giving gun rights advocates a major victory in their long battle over the restrictions.

Six D.C. residents brought the suit against the city arguing that the gun ban, which in practice prohibited the possession of a functioning firearm, violated their Second Amendment right to "keep and bear arms." A district court dismissed the claim, ruling that the Second Amendment did not apply to individual citizens.

The Court of Appeals on Friday reversed the lower court's decision, ruling that the Second Amendment does apply to individual citizens.

The complaints focused on restrictions on gun ownership, storage and handling in a private residence. Five of the appellants wanted to possess handguns in their homes for self-defense. One wished to keep a registered shotgun assembled and unlocked in her home.

The court ruled that "the bar on carrying a pistol within the home, amounts to a complete prohibition on the lawful use of handguns for self-defense. As such, we hold it unconstitutional."

The decision offers some leniency for restrictions on gun ownership, noting that "this is not to suggest that the government is absolutely barred from regulating the use and ownership of pistols. The protections of the Second Amendment are subject to the same sort of reasonable restrictions that have been recognized as limiting, for instance, the First Amendment."

But while the court left the door open for some restrictions, gun rights advocates consider the decision a major victory. Alan Gottleib, founder of the Second Amendment Foundation, called it a "huge victory for firearm civil rights."

"It shreds the so-called 'collective right theory' of gun control proponents and squarely puts the Second Amendment where it has always belonged, as a protection of the individual citizen's right to have a firearm for personal defense," Gottlieb said in a statement.

Opponents of gun rights expressed disappointment and anger over the decision.

Paul Helmke, president of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, issued a statement calling the decision "judicial activism at its worst."

"By disregarding nearly 70 years of U.S. Supreme Court precedent, two Federal judges have negated the democratically expressed will of the people of the District of Columbia and deprived this community of a gun law it enacted 30 years ago and still strongly supports," Helmke said.

"While acknowledging that 'reasonable restrictions' to promote 'the government's interest in public safety' are permitted by the Second Amendment," Helmke said, "the two-judge majority substituted its policy preferences for those of the elected representatives of the District of Columbia."

Even though the nation's capital had one of the strictest gun bans in the country, it also suffers from one of the five-highest murders rates of major cities nationwide.

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