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D.C. Handgun Ban » Key Dates  |   Gun Legislation in the U.S. By State

A History of D.C. Gun Ban

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Thursday, June 26, 2008; 10:30 AM

The District's gun law is among the strictest in the nation, and it has been under attack since it took effect. Here are some key dates:

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June 1976: Eighteen months after Congress established home rule for the District, the D.C. Council votes 12 to 1 in favor of a bill restricting city residents from acquiring handguns. The law exempts guards, police officers and owners who had registered their handguns before it took effect. Under the bill, all firearms (including rifles and shotguns, which were not restricted by the law) must be kept unloaded and disassembled, except those in business establishments.

September 1976: Attempts in Congress to block the District law fail, clearing the way for it to go into effect.

July 1977: The D.C. Council exempts private security firms from the gun bill and removes a requirement that gun owners take vision and gun law tests.

June 1999: A House bill carrying an amendment that would have allowed "law-abiding citizens" to own and carry guns in the District is defeated.

February 2003: Six D.C. residents sue the city, in a case known as Parker v. the District of Columbia, arguing that the gun law illegally prevents them from keeping guns in their homes.

April 2003: Five other D.C. residents, including longtime activist Sandra Seegars, file a separate suit, Seegars v. Ashcroft, against the federal and city governments, saying they have a right to bear arms.

July 2003: Sen. Orrin G. Hatch (R-Utah) introduces a measure to end the District's ban on carrying handguns and keeping them in the home. The legislation would also ease registration requirements for firearms and ammunition. It later dies in committee.

January 2004: U.S. District Judge Reggie B. Walton dismisses the Seegars suit.

March 2004: U.S. District Judge Emmet G. Sullivan dismisses the Parker suit.

September 2004: The House votes 250 to 171 to roll back most of the District's gun laws, but the Senate fails to take up the measure before Congress recesses.

February 2005: The U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit upholds the ruling against Seegars, finding that she and other plaintiffs lacked legal standing.

June 30, 2005: House votes to repeal District's gun restrictions.

November 2005: Congress approves the District's 2006 budget, leaving out a provision that would have prevented the city from enforcing the requirement that guns in homes be kept unloaded and disassembled. The House for the second year in a row votes overwhelmingly in favor of the restriction, but the language is removed in conference before the final passage.

March 2007: The U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit overturns U.S. District Judge Emmet G. Sullivan's decision in the Parker case, finding that one of the plaintiffs has legal standing because he applied for and was denied a registration certificate to own a handgun. The court finds that the D.C. law illegally bars guns in homes. Mayor Adrian M. Fenty (D) says the city will appeal.

May 2007: A federal appeals court in Washington let stand a ruling that struck down a restrictive D.C. ban on gun ownership, setting the stage for a potentially major constitutional battle over the Second Amendment in the Supreme Court.

September 2007: The District asks the Supreme Court to uphold its strict 30-year handgun ban. The high court has not ruled on the Second Amendment protection of the right to keep and bear arms since 1939.

November 2007: The Supreme Court agrees to rule on D.C. gun ban.

January 2008: Acting D.C. Attorney General Peter Nickles selects former acting U.S. solicitor general Walter E. Dellinger to defend the District's handgun ban.

February 2008: Senate, House members file a amicus brief urging the Supreme Court uphold the ruling that the District's handgun ban violates the Second Amendment.

March 2008: Supreme Court hears arguments.

June 26, 2008: Supreme Court strikes down the D.C. ban on handguns.

July, 2008: The D.C. Council passes revised gun laws that require registration, background checks and more. The city is sued again weeks later on the basis that its new rules are too onerous.

Feb. 26, 2009: Republicans in the U.S. Senate attach an amendment to a D.C. voting rights bill that would remove the city's gun-registration requirements, limit its authority to restrict firearms and repeal the District's ban on semiautomatic guns. The bill has yet to come up in the House, but a similar amendment is likely.

-- Compiled by Meg Smith and Leah Carliner


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