WASHINGTON - The District of Columbia's ban on carrying handguns outside the home is unconstitutional, a federal judge has ruled.
In a 19-page ruling made public Saturday, U.S. District Judge Frederick J. Scullin concluded that the Second Amendment gives people the right to carry a gun outside the home for self-defense.
The lawsuit challenging the city's ban on carrying handguns outside the home was filed in 2009 by three District of Columbia residents, a New Hampshire resident and the Washington state-based Second Amendment Foundation. It came shortly after the city rewrote its gun laws following a landmark 2008 U.S. Supreme Court decision that struck down the city's 32-year-old ban on handguns.
New rules allowed residents to keep guns in their homes but required that they be registered. Gun owners now have to take a safety class, be photographed and fingerprinted and re-register their weapons every three years. Those requirements have also been challenged in court but were upheld by a federal judge in May.
In finding the city's ban on carrying handguns outside the home unconstitutional, Scullin cited two U.S. Supreme Court cases, including the 2008 case that struck down the city's handgun ban and a 2010 case involving Chicago's handgun ban.
Scullin, who was appointed by President George H.W. Bush and is a former Army colonel, wrote that following those decisions, "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."
Alan Gura, the lawyer who represents the group challenging the ban, said Sunday he was "very pleased with the decision."
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 is studying the opinion and its options. Those include appealing the judge's ruling but also asking the judge to stop his ruling from going into effect during any appeal.