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Posted at 12:05 PM ET, 09/10/2009

Nickles Responds to Gun Suit

Attorney General Peter Nickles has filed a formal response to a lawsuit in which four gun rights activists argue they should be allowed to carry loaded handguns on the streets of the District.

The individuals, backed by the Second Amendment Foundation, filed their suit last month in federal court. In arguing against the District's ban on carrying weapons outside the home, the plaintiffs cited the landmark 2008 District of Columbia v. Heller Supreme Court decision. That ruling threw out the District's longstanding ban on handguns, forcing the District to come up with new regulations permitting individuals to register firearms that they plan to keep in their home.

The plaintiffs, who are represented by the same attorney who argued the Heller case, are now also arguing the '"Second Amendment guarantees the right to carry handguns in public for self-defense."

In his response, filed today, Nickles counters the plaintiffs are attempting "to stretch the language of Heller far beyond what the Supreme Court found to be protected by the Second Amendment."

"The District's regulation of handguns at issue here is squarely in the mainstream and eminently reasonable, minimally intruding on the right announced in Heller to bear arms for the protection of 'hearth and home,' while at the same time safeguarding public safety under traditional police powers," Nickles wrote, asking that the plaintiffs lawsuit be dismissed.

He goes on to argue the city's current restrictions safely confirm to the "reasonable restrictions" standard outlined in the Heller decision. The District also notes that least at least 15 states currently ban the open possession of handguns, and many of those laws have already been upheld by the courts. And in the 37- page filing, Nickles stressed that the District faces unique public safety challenges that justify the ban.

"It has been illegal to carry 'deadly or dangerous weapons' in public in the District since before the Civil War," the filing states. "Prohibiting the carrying of weapons in public, and restricting registration of handguns to District residents, serve important goals of public safety, especially here, in the nation's capital."

By Anne Bartlett  |  12:05 PM ET, 09/10/2009

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