Lawsuit Seeks Right to Carry Concealed Weapons in the District

By Keith L. Alexander
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, August 8, 2009

The lawyer who won the battle to allow District residents to keep handguns in their homes is now fighting to allow residents and visitors to carry their weapons in public.

Alan Gura filed a lawsuit Thursday in U.S. District Court on behalf of four people who want the right to carry and conceal weapons for self-defense.

Gura filed the suit on behalf of three D.C. residents: Tom G. Palmer, George Lyon and Amy McVey. D.C. police rejected the gun registration applications of all three when they informed police that they intended to carry their loaded guns outside of their homes. Palmer and Lyon were also plaintiffs in the 2003 lawsuit.

The lawsuit seeks to afford the right to carry a gun to non-District residents who have gun permits issued elsewhere. The fourth person in the complaint, Edward Raymond, a law school student who lives in New Hampshire, was arrested in the District in 2007 for carrying a loaded handgun in his car when he was stopped for speeding. Raymond had a permit to carry the gun in Maryland and Florida. He pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor unregistered gun.

"We're still fighting for the rights to bear arms," Gura said. "Right now, we're in a situation where people who want to carry a handgun can do it just about anywhere else in the country, but not in the nation's capital."

Gura's lawsuit says that the District's "laws, customs, practices and policies generally banning the carrying of handguns in public violate the Second Amendment" of the U.S. Constitution.

In an interview, Gura disputed concerns from anti-gun groups who worry that arming residents could increase violent crime in the District. "These are law-abiding citizens who do not commit crimes," Gura said of registered handgun owners. "This will not turn into the O.K. Corral."

Also named as a plaintiff in the suit is the Second Amendment Foundation, a nonprofit gun-advocacy organization based in Bellevue, Wash.

Defense attorneys have long argued in D.C. Superior Court cases that many non-District residents who have gun permits from other jurisdictions aren't aware that they cannot bring guns into the District and often are arrested for minor violations and then jailed when officers discover a concealed weapon.

D.C. Attorney General Peter Nickles said he was confident that Gura would not win the suit.

"The last place you want to conceal is in the District, with all of these federal buildings," Nickles said. "It makes the job of law enforcement damned difficult."

In Gura's previous suit, the Supreme Court ruled in 2008 that the city's ban was unconstitutional and that residents should be allowed to keep guns in their homes for personal protection.

In that ruling, conservative Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia wrote that "the right secured by the Second Amendment is not unlimited." Nickles cited Scalia's ruling.

"This is a frontal assault on the District's regulations under the Second Amendment. I don't think that's what Justice Scalia had in mind when he talked about self-defense."

The District has until Aug. 26 to respond to the lawsuit.

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