United States District Court Judge Frederick Scullin Jr. has finally handed down a ruling in Palmer v. District of Columbia overturned the city’s total ban on residents on carrying firearms outside their home. The litigants repeatedly went to court to try to force Scullin to rule during the five year wait for a decision. They probably now feel it was worth the wait. The court held the D.C. law was unconstitutional under the Second Amendment. The D.C. Attorney General’s Office and city council has continued to resist the rulings in District of Columbia v. Heller (2008) and McDonald v. Chicago (2010) and have spent copious amounts of money and time defending this law. The city could have drafted more tailored laws but seemed intent to re-fight aspects of its historic loss in Heller. The Office of Attorney General continues to dig a deeper hole both legally and financially for the citizens in such litigation.
D.C. Code § 7-2502.01(a) provides that “no persons or organization in the District shall possess or control any firearm, unless the persons or organization holds a valid registration certificate for the firearm.” However, D.C. Code § 7-2502.02(a)(4) provides that individuals who are not retired police officers may only register a handgun “for use in self-defense within that person’s home.”
The court held:
Thus, having concluded that carrying a handgun outside the home for self-defense comes within the meaning of “bear[ing] Arms” under the Second Amendment, the Court must now ask whether the District of Columbia’s total ban on the carrying of handguns within the District “infringes” that right.
This question is not difficult to answer. As the Seventh Circuit stated in Moore v. Madigan, 702 F.3d 933 (7th Cir. 2012), “[a] blanket prohibition on carrying gun[s] in public prevents a person from defending himself anywhere except inside his home; and so substantial a curtailment of the right of armed self-defense requires a greater showing of justification than merely that the public might benefit on balance from such a curtailment, though there is no proof that it would.” Id. at 940. This does not mean that the government cannot place some reasonable restrictions on carrying of handguns; for example, “when a state bans guns merely in particular places, such as public schools, a person can preserve an undiminished right of self-defense by not entering those places; since that’s a lesser burden, the state doesn’t need to prove so strong a need.” Id. The District of Columbia appears to be the only jurisdiction that still has such a complete ban on the carrying of ready-to-use handguns outside the home. That does not mean that other jurisdictions are indifferent to the dangers that the widespread public carrying of guns; rather, those jurisdictions “have decided that a proper balance between the interest in self-defense and the dangers created by carrying guns in public is to limit the right to carry a gun to responsible persons rather than to ban public carriage altogether[.]” Id. at 940. In addition, to “the usual prohibitions of gun ownership by children, felons, illegal aliens, lunatics, and in sensitive places such as public schools, the propriety of which was not questioned in Heller . . . some states sensibly require that an applicant for a handgun permit establish his competence in handling firearms.” Id. at 940-41 (internal parenthetical omitted). Some states “also permit private businesses and other private institutions (such as churches) to ban guns from their premises.” Id. at 941.
In light of Heller, McDonald, and their progeny, there is no longer any basis on which this Court can conclude that the District of Columbia’s total ban on the public carrying of ready-to-use handguns outside the home is constitutional under any level of scrutiny. Therefore, the Court finds that the District of Columbia’s complete ban on the carrying of handguns in public is unconstitutional.
The case is Palmer v. Fjs Dist. of Columbia & Cathy Lanier, 2014 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 101945
Here is the decision: Palmer