D.C. Asks Full Court To Study Gun Law

By Henri E. Cauvin
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Attorneys for the District sought yesterday to preserve the city's gun-control law, asking a federal appeals court to reconsider a recent decision that called some restrictions unconstitutional.

The District urged the full appeals court to review the ruling made last month by a three-judge panel. The 2 to 1 decision declared that the Second Amendment grants a person the right to possess firearms and struck down a part of the D.C. law that bars people from keeping handguns in homes.

Mayor Adrian M. Fenty (D) vowed to fight the decision, and yesterday he was at the courthouse for the filing of a petition seeking a full review by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit.

Flanked by Attorney General Linda Singer, Police Chief Cathy L. Lanier and council members Phil Mendelson (D-At Large) and Marion Barry (D-Ward 8), Fenty said the District cannot afford to accept a ruling that would increase the number of guns in the city.

"More guns quite simply leads to more violence," Fenty said.

In seeking another layer of review, the District argued that the case deals with "questions of exceptional importance" and noted that the decision creates conflicts in federal case law that must be resolved.

For decades, the District has had one of the most restrictive gun laws in the country, prohibiting private citizens from owning handguns and limiting ownership and use of rifles and shotguns. The gun law remains in effect while legal proceedings continue.

The restrictions have drawn the ire of libertarians, gun enthusiasts and others, and this is not the first time the law has come under attack.

But with a decades-old Supreme Court ruling and appellate rulings seemingly in the District's favor, the restrictions did not appear to be vulnerable to a Second Amendment claim -- until last month.

In an opinion written by Senior Judge Laurence H. Silberman and joined by Judge Thomas B. Griffith, the court found that the ban on keeping handguns in homes violates the Second Amendment, which states that a "well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed."

The ruling also struck down a section of the D.C. law that requires owners of registered guns, including shotguns, to disassemble them or use trigger locks.

Judge Karen LeCraft Henderson, who, like Silberman and Griffith, was appointed by a Republican president, dissented.

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