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Anti-gun D.C. officials move fast to stay landmark carry ruling

(UPDATED 2:10 p.m. PDT) Following the unusual Saturday release of the landmark right-to-carry ruling by U.S. District Court Judge Frederick J. Scullin, Jr., that the Washington Times said yesterday essentially guts the District of Columbia’s gun laws banning carry of firearms outside the home, city officials are already working to put it on hold, the Washington Post reported today.

SAF founder Alan Gottlieb is all smiles over Saturday's ruling that a District of Columbia carry ban is unconstitutional.
SAF founder Alan Gottlieb is all smiles over Saturday's ruling that a District of Columbia carry ban is unconstitutional.
Dave Workman

NBC affiliate WRC in Washington, D.C. is reporting that attorneys for the city have filed a motion for a stay pending an appeal. That motion asks for a 180-day stay to either appeal, or to craft "new licensing laws" that presumably will allow for some type of carry in the District.

The Washington Times reported late Monday afternoon that District Attorney General Irvin B. Nathan said in his motion that, “The public interest is not served by rushed legislation on a foundational public-safety issue or by allowing any and all ‘dangerous or deadly’ concealable weapons to be carried in public, without reasonable restrictions being imposed, during the pendency of any appeal and/or new legislation.”

Regardless, this is another feather in the cap for the Second Amendment Foundation and its founder, Alan Gottlieb. SAF has emerged as a legal powerhouse on behalf of the Second Amendment since its earlier landmark case, McDonald v. City of Chicago, which incorporated the constitutional right to keep and bear arms to the states, via the 14th Amendment.

Likewise, the ruling in Palmer v. District of Columbia is another victory for Virginia attorney Alan Gura, who successfully argued both the 2008 Heller case that struck down the Washington, D.C. handgun ban, and the 2010 McDonald case. Gura and Gottlieb have teamed up frequently over the past six years to wage a strategic battle against onerous gun laws. Their wins have been significant, including forcing the state of Illinois to craft and adopt a concealed carry statute.

Gottlieb issued a statement this morning noting, “Ever since the 2008 Heller ruling by the Supreme Court, the District of Columbia has carried on a campaign of red tape and regulation to discourage citizens from exercising their Second Amendment rights. This has included bearing arms outside the home for personal protection. We applaud Judge Scullin’s ruling, because the time is long overdue for the city to realize that it is the capitol of the United States, not a police state.

“Washington, D.C. is not some political gulag,” he stated, “but the seat of government in a land of free people. A cornerstone of that freedom is the right to keep and bear arms, and where better to exercise that right than in the nation’s capital? We have no intention of letting anti-gun city officials further delay the ability of law-abiding citizens to exercise their rights. As Dr. Martin Luther King said, ‘A right delayed is a right denied'."

Emily Miller, chief investigative reporter for the Fox News affiliate in Washington, D.C. and author of “Emily Gets Her Gun,” appeared Monday morning on Fox & Friends to provide her unique perspective on the ruling. Miller’s book deals with her personal efforts to obtain a handgun legally in the District.

The Washington Times and Washington Post are both reporting this morning that the city will ask for a stay “shortly.” In the meantime, city police have been advised not to arrest anyone for carrying a registered handgun, and that is an important detail, and they will not arrest a non-resident whose gun is not registered in the district.

As the Washington Post story noted, “D.C. Metropolitan Police Chief Cathy Lanier has approved an order which allows District residents to carry a handgun IF AND ONLY IF the handgun has been properly registered with the District Police, pursuant to the District’s handgun registration ordinance.”

UPDATE: Examiner has obtained a copy of Lanier's memorandum to District police officers, which states, "Residents of the District in possession of an unregistered firearm may be charged with Unregistered Firearm and, if applicable, Unregistered Ammunition if they do not also reside in a jurisdiction where they could legally possess the firearm. At this time, individuals who do not live in the District shall not be charged with either unregistered firearm or unregistered ammunition, but other charges may apply."

She spelled out three scenarios dealing with stopping a man on the street carrying a firearm:

  • The man says he is a resident of the District, but the gun is unregistered. You should charge him with Unregistered Firearm.
  • "The man lives in Vermont, which does not require a license or permit for either open or concealed carry of a handgun. You run his name, and no criminal record is apparent. You should record any relevant information for potential further investigation, and he is free to leave."
  • "The man lives in Virginia, where no license or permit is required to openly carry a handgun. However, when you run his name, records indicate that he is a convicted felon. Under District and federal law, felons may not legally possess a firearm. You should arrest him for Unlawful Possession of a Firearm."

What this means is that non-residents are not going to be penalized for having non-registered guns. The registration requirement only applies to District residents.

The most vocal city official so far has been D.C. Council Chairman Phil Mendelson, who told reporters, “The nation’s capital is a very different place than anywhere else in the country. If there is a right to carry, it would have to be more heavily regulated.”

Other council members have also lined up against the ruling. Councilwoman Mary M. Cheh told the Washington Post, “We’re just full of places where guns would be not only inappropriate but highly dangerous.”

Ted Gest, spokesman for the D.C. attorney general’s office, had earlier indicated that a motion for stay was imminent, and Gottlieb had anticipated it might happen sometime Monday. However, he is hardly discouraged.

“SAF’s record of legal victories on behalf of the right to keep and bear arms has set the bar for all current and future firearms civil rights litigation,” Gottlieb said in his statement. “This is not SAF’s last step, but only the latest, in our efforts to win back firearms freedom, one lawsuit at a time.”