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Friday, November 11, 2011

D.C.’s Gun Registration Law Gets Mixed Review by Court

The D.C. Court of Appeals has provided yet another benchmark in the evolving world of local gun regulation in Heller v. Dist. of Columbia (Heller II) (not to be confused with the 2008 U.S. Supreme Court case District of Columbia v. Heller (Heller I)).  You may recall that in Heller I, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a Washington D.C. law that prohibited handgun possession and that required firearms in the home be stored unloaded and disassembled or locked, holding that the Second Amendment protects an individual’s right to possess an operable handgun in the home for self-defense. Just two years later, the U.S. Supreme Court extended the Heller I decision to state and local government gun laws in McDonald v. City of Chicago.

In Heller II, plaintiffs challenged provisions of D.C's gun laws requiring the registration of firearms and prohibiting semi-automatic assault weapons and the possession of magazines with a capacity of more than ten rounds of ammunition.  The Appeals Court upheld D.C.'s ban on assault weapons and large-capacity magazines.  However, D.C.'s registration regulations got a mixed reaction.  Regulations that required detailed background information on handgun owners were upheld as constitutional.  But, regulations that limited the sales of multiple guns and that required detailed registration of "long gun" owners were set aside unless and until D.C. could provide studies identifying the need for these regulations.

Heller II provides a great overview of the current state of Second Amendment law and the legal standards that may apply to future Second Amendment challenges (i.e., gun shop regulations).  Most notably, Heller II stresses the need for studies to support gun regulations, similar to the “secondary effects” studies required to support regulations on adult uses and businesses.  Municipalities that have, or are considering, gun regulations (beyond basic handgun registration) may want to begin the process of compiling data demonstrating that their efforts are substantially related  to an important local concern.

Post Authored by Brent Denzin. 


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