DISTRICT BRIEFING

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

SUPREME COURT GUN CASE

City Asks Appeals Court To Preserve Rifle Rule

Attorneys for the District government told a federal appeals court yesterday that the city's requirement that shotguns and rifles be kept unloaded or outfitted with trigger locks should remain in effect until the Supreme Court decides whether it will consider the constitutionality of the gun law.

This spring, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit struck down as a violation of the Second Amendment the city's virtual ban on handguns and a related provision on how rifles and shotguns must be stored in private homes. However, the court kept the law in effect while the city appealed.

Attorneys for the residents who challenged the law pointed out that the city's petition asked the court to consider whether "the District of Columbia's longstanding law banning handguns but authorizing private possession of rifles and shotguns violates the Second Amendment." The residents' attorney said the city was, in effect, conceding the unconstitutionality of what they called the "functional firearms ban."

District attorneys denied that, saying that the city has recognized that residents may keep rifles and shotguns as a form of self-defense but that the law "is more fairly characterized as a safe-storage provision."

They said it would be premature to act before the Supreme Court has decided whether to review the appeals court decision.

-- Robert Barnes

SOUTHEAST FIRE

Death of Woman, 74, Is Tied To Smoking-Related Accident

D.C. fire officials said yesterday that a smoking-related accident led to the death of a 74-year-old woman in a fire in Southeast Washington.

The fire was discovered about 6:45 p.m. Saturday in an apartment in the 2700 block of Texas Avenue. Authorities identified the woman yesterday as Lillian Steele and said that she died in bed.

Officials said eight people have died in the District since January 2005 in smoking-related fires. Steele's apartment did not have a smoke alarm, they said.

HISPANIC HERITAGE MONTH

Week of Events to Include Parade and Street Festival

The District started its Hispanic Heritage Month celebration yesterday, which this year includes a week of events culminating in a parade and street festival.

Mayor Adrian M. Fenty (D), noting that one of his grandfathers was born in Panama, briefly addressed the inaugural event for Fiesta DC: an homage to the city's Hispanic elderly, who have been served since 1974 by the District-funded Educational Organization for United Latin Americans, a Spanish-language senior center.

Educational programs geared toward Latino women are scheduled for today and tomorrow, and a reception will honor Latino arts and cultural organizations on Thursday. A town hall-style meeting to discuss immigration issues will be held Friday, and on Saturday, there will be a health fair and activities geared toward Latino youths.

The parade, street festival and children's fair, which includes a book giveaway, are scheduled for Sunday in Mount Pleasant. Details can be found at http://www.fiestadc.org, the Web site of Fiesta DC, the nonprofit group organizing the events.

-- Sylvia Moreno

COLLEGE AWARENESS WEEK

Effort Aimed at Doubling Number Earning Degrees

The District's first annual College Awareness Week will feature college-preparedness activities at District high schools today and tomorrow, a two-day college fair sponsored by Mayor Adrian M. Fenty beginning at 9 a.m. Thursday at the D.C. Armory, and a college expo at 11 a.m. Saturday at the Carnegie Library.

The events, sponsored by the Double the Numbers coalition, are an effort to bring together government, educational and nonprofit organizations to double the number of District high school graduates who complete college.

A 2006 analysis of D.C. students indicated that only 9 percent of ninth-graders go on to graduate from college within five years of enrolling.

For more information, contact the Office of the State Superintendent of Education at 202-727-6436, or go to http://www.doublethenumbersdc.org.

-- Timothy Wilson

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