D.C.'s Revised Gun- Control Laws Upheld
(CN) - Gun-control laws that Washington, D.C., amended after the Supreme Court struck down a handgun ban as too restrictive are not unconstitutional, a federal judge ruled Thursday.
"The District of Columbia knows gun violence," U.S. District Judge James Boasberg wrote, going on to describe the nation's capital as the "murder capital" of America.
"The people of this city, acting through their elected representatives, have sought to combat gun violence and promote gun safety," the 62-page opinion continues. "The court finds that they have done so in a constitutionally permissble manner."
In bolstering his opinion, Boasberg pointed to "the violence of the more recent past," including the seven children shot outside the National Zoo on Easter Monday in 2000, a triple murder at a tavern in 2003, five dead in a South Capitol Street shooting in 2010 and the 12 killed in the Washington Navy Yard a few months ago.
"These numbers are just a few of the lives lost to guns in our city's recent memory," Boasberg said.
It was violence of that nature that had initially led voters in the District of Columbia to pass "some of the most restrictive gun laws in the nation," but a challenge of those restrictions by D.C. special police officer Dick Anthony Heller eventually led the U.S. Supreme Court to strike D.C.'s handgun ban down under the Second Amendment.
D.C. officials quickly enacted a rejiggered law called the Firearms Registration Amendment, which "requires that all owners of handguns and long guns in the district must individually register each of their firearmws with the city government." The laws were readjusted again in 2012 after several days of public hearings.
The law banned both assault weapons and large-capacity magazines, and required anyone registering a gun to be photographed and fingerprinted, pass a background check and list a current residence and place of employment for the past five years.
Heller took the city back to court, but U.S. District Judge Ricardo Urbina upheld the law.
The assault-weapon ban and other measures passed muster in the D.C. Circuit as well, but that federal appeals court remanded certain issues for clarification, saying D.C. justification for its registration requirements among other issues were "inadequate" to prove that the requirements "can reasonably be expected to promote either of the important governmental interests it has invoked."
Since Urbina has since retired, Boasberg presided over ensuing discovery.
Appointed to the bench by President Barack Obama, the judge said Thursday that the registration system seeks to screen out "dangerous or irresponsible people who try to obtain a firearm, to ensure that gun owners are familiar with gun safety and D.C. firearm regulations, and to inhibit the illegal trafficking of firearms."
"In other words, the basic registration requirement allows the District to keep track of who is responsible for which guns, while also acting as a 'hook' into which the District can attach additional public-safety regulations," Boasberg wrte. "This interest is particularly compelling in the District of Columbia, a 'densely populated urban area' that 'shares the problem of gun violence with other dense, urban jurisdictions.'"
D.C. mayor Vincent Gray applauded the ruling on his Twitter account as a "win for public safety in D.C.," adding that he appreciated the court's "affirmation of our sensible gun laws."
U.S. District Judge Emmett Sullivan awarded Heller more than $1.1 million in attorneys' fees and expenses related to his initial challenge.
A National Rifle Association officer called the ruling "flawed."
"While disappointed with the lower court's flawed ruling, the NRA is committed to pursuing every available option to ensure the rights of law-abiding Americans are protected - regardless of where they live," Chris Cox, executive director for the NRA's Institute for Legislative Action, said in a statement.