Judge strikes down DC ban on handguns outside home

WASHINGTON — A federal judge struck down the District of Columbia’s ban on carrying guns outside of a person’s home, concluding it violates Second Amendment rights.

The ruling from U.S. District Judge Frederick J. Scullin is the latest in a protracted fight over gun laws in Washington. In 2008, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a landmark decision striking down the city’s 32-year-old ban on handguns. Since then, the city has rewritten its laws, lawsuits have been filed and even Congress has waded into the fight.

In a decision made public Saturday, Scullin concluded that the Second Amendment gives people the right to carry a gun outside the home for self-defense. He cited two U.S. Supreme Court cases as important to his ruling — the 2008 opinion striking down the District of Columbia’s ban and a 2010 ruling involving Chicago’s handgun ban.

“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,” wrote Scullin, who was appointed by President George H.W. Bush and is a retired Army colonel.

A city official said Sunday officials would ask for a stay and were weighing an appeal.

The city rewrote its rules after the 2008 Supreme Court decision. Residents were required to register their guns and keep them in their homes. Gun owners also have to take a safety class, be photographed and fingerprinted and re-register their weapons every three years. Those requirements were challenged in court but upheld by a federal judge in May.

Earlier this month, Republican Rep. Thomas Massie of Kentucky, successfully added an amendment to a bill that would block the District from spending any money to enforce local gun laws. Massie has conceded his amendment is unlikely to get through the Senate and become law.

The lawsuit before Scullin was filed in 2009 by the Washington state-based Second Amendment Foundation and three District of Columbia residents and a New Hampshire resident who said they wanted to carry guns for protection.

Alan Gura, the lawyer who represents the group challenging the ban and who won the 2008 and 2010 Supreme Court cases, said Sunday he was very pleased.

Ted Gest, a spokesman for the Office of the Attorney General for the District of Columbia, which defended the city’s ban, said the city was “studying the opinion and won’t comment on its substance.”

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